You know where to get your coupons, and how to organize them all pretty-like. Now what are you supposed to do with them? When do you finally get to shop?!?! Soon, but there is a very important piece of information you need to know first:
Just because you have a coupon does not mean that you should use it! In fact, you won’t use the vast majority (75-90 percent) of them. Using them just because they’re there will backfire quickly, causing you to spend more money than you normally would have before your couponing days.
The real trick to using coupons to score rock-bottom prices on your grocery, personal care, and household items is all in the timing. And once you get the hang of it, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3:
- Simply put, you wait until an item is on sale, add your coupons, and collect your savings. We call that “stacking” your coupons with a sale or promotion, which you can find in your store’s weekly ad. Voila! You are now “extreme couponing.”
- Stacking is the key to saving money. You may also stack your coupons with other coupons. Some stores, like Walgreens and Target, issue store coupons (coupons that can only be redeemed within their own store). You are allowed one store coupon PLUS one manufacturer coupon per item. (You may never use two or more manufacturer coupons for one item.)
- It also helps if you are able to go to a store that doubles or triples coupons. Typically, store coupons can only be redeemed at face value. But some stores allow you to double or triple the value of your manufacturer coupons. For example, Al’s in Michigan City doubles manufacturer coupons up to $0.50. That means your $0.50 coupon is worth $1, your $0.35 coupon is worth $0.70, and so on.
Perfect case scenario: Your store is having a sale. You have a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon. Your store doubles or triples the value of your manufacturer coupon. Cha-ching! Be prepared to stock up.
Of course, the stars cannot align perfectly every time. Maybe you don’t live near a store that doubles coupons or offers store coupons. That’s okay! You can still score some really great deals at stock-up worthy prices. Just remember that timing is everything.
A few Couponing Dos & Don’ts for you to consider before you head to the store:
- DON’T set yourself up for failure. If you go into the store with your shiny, new coupons in your pretty, new binder expecting to get multiple carts full of groceries for free, there is a good chance you will leave disappointed. I suppose it can happen; but realistically, you will have to pay at least a few dollars for your basket full of goods. Extreme couponing means that you save anywhere from 40-90 percent off your normal grocery bill.
- DO start slowly. DON’T try to get every deal at every store. If you’re just starting, try a few deals at one store. Otherwise, you’ll get burnt out on couponing way too soon in your money-saving endeavors.
- DON’T buy an item you don’t absolutely need right now if it is not on sale, whether or not you have coupons.
- If you need an item right now that isn’t on sale, DO buy it. But only one, and try to use a coupon if you can. You’ll find out soon that it physically hurts to pay full price for anything when you have a binder full of coupons in your cart.
- DO stock up if you find a fantastic price (like if you can get four body washes on sale for less than the regular price on one). But the general rule is to only buy enough to get you through to the next sale cycle, basically three-four months’ worth (more on this to come).
- DON’T be a shelf clearer. Leave some for the rest of us, please! There will be more sales on that item. No need to build your entire stockpile in one day.
- If you will not use, gift, or donate an item, DON’T buy it – whether you have a coupon or not. Now we’re bordering on hoarder status.
In the next post, I’ll teach you more about pairing your coupons with sales prices (called match-ups), and understanding the unique language of extreme couponers. If you have any questions so far, please leave them in the comments section. Thanks, guys!