Using coupons when you purchase groceries can save you thousands of dollars each year. Unfortunately, many shoppers don’t use coupons as effectively as they could. Some people create shopping lists, then check the weekly paper to see if there are any coupons for the things they intend to purchase. Other people check the paper before making a list, but only clip coupons for things they plan to buy on their next shopping trip. These shoppers may save a few dollars per visit to the grocery store. But they never see a significant reduction in their expenses.
If you want to make a serious dent in your grocery budget, the first step is to build a coupon collection. Be diligent about acquiring all the coupons you possibly can, including coupons for items you would not normally purchase. There are many ways to do this. The best advice I can offer is to subscribe to the Sunday paper. This is how most people acquire coupons, but it isn’t the only way. Ask your family and friends to give you coupons they would otherwise throw away. Many people get the Sunday paper and don’t even look at the coupon inserts. They would probably be happy to share. Printable coupons are available not only at popular sites like Coupons.com, but also from specific manufacturers’ websites. Many grocery stores have electronic coupon dispensers in the aisles, right next to the featured products. Quite a few companies will honor written requests for coupons, particularly if you include feedback about their products. I have also heard that some smart shoppers check the newspaper recycling bins in their developments for coupon inserts discarded by others.
Once you’ve accumulated a good-sized stash of coupons, you’ll want to get them well organized. I keep my coupons in hand-labeled, business-sized envelopes held together with a rubber band, stored in an old box. Talk about low-tech! Better-organized savvy shoppers may use accordion-style folders, index card file boxes, binders filled with protective plastic sheets, or even hanging file folders. The most important thing is to use a system that makes sense to you, and allows you to find the coupons you need quickly. With that goal in mind, you’ll want to divide your coupon collection into highly specific categories. When I first started couponing, I made the mistake of using too many broad groupings, such as “toiletries.” I am fairly happy with the categories I have now. I’ve listed them below for you to use as a jumping-off point, but don’t hesitate to experiment with categories that make more sense to you.
Every few weeks, comb through your collection and remove any expired coupons. But don’t just toss them! Military base commissaries accept expired coupons, which means your cast-offs can be a real blessing to families all over the world. Check out The Overseas Coupon Program to find out how you can help.
Now that you’ve built up a coupon collection, you’re ready to start some serious frugal shopping. Stay tuned for the next post in this series, which will teach you how to use make a shopping list the frugal fabulous way!
My Coupon Categories
Air-fresheners and candles
Body wash and soap
Dish soap and detergent
Food storage products
Medicine and pain relief products
Peanut butter and jelly
Potatoes and rice/prepared side dishes
Rolls, biscuits, and bread
Snacks (I’m thinking of breaking this into some more specific categories)
Soup and chili
Toothbrushes and floss
Toothpaste and mouthwash
Vegetables and beans