Sunday, March 29, 2009

Couponing Basics - Part 1

Here are a few steps to help you start saving BIG on your groceries, toiletries, and around-the-house expenses.
  1. Buy the Sunday newspaper. Ironically enough, I'm telling you to buy to save. However, this step is worth it! Pull out those coupon inserts! Clip the coupons you know you'll use, and file the rest of the insert in a file folder labeled with the date the insert was issued. Choose the major newspaper for best value coupons (i.e. Pick the Chicago Tribune over the Chicago Sun-Times). The number of inserts varies from week to week, so don't worry if there's only one insert the first week you buy the paper. In addition, ask friends and family to give you their unused inserts.

  2. Stock up when the prices are lowest. Pay attention to the "loss leaders" at the grocery stores. If you know prices, and the sale price is the lowest you've seen at a number of stores, then stock up. It's even better if you can match the sale with coupons!

  3. Be willing to try different brands. When I started serious "couponing," I found myself trying lots of new brands. In fact, I started buying far fewer store brand and Aldi items because I could get name brand products cheaper when on sale and/or combined with a coupon. In some cases, you might not be able to budge on your favorite brand, but if you can, go ahead and give it a try!

  4. Be an observant shopper! Be constantly on the lookout for clearance items and coupon dispensers throughout the store. When our Jewel marked down Domino Brown Sugar to $1/bag, I bought a few and used the coupons in my coupon holder to get some pretty cheap brown sugar! Make use of those coupon dispensers throughout the store (blinkies, they're called). If you'll use the item being advertised, pick up a coupon or two and file it in your coupon organizer. Very likely, that item will go on sale, and you'll be able to use the coupon when the price is right! When Kraft cheese was on sale recently, I was so thankful to have picked up coupons a few weeks earlier. This resulted in my getting FREE cheese.

  5. Learn the coupon policies of the stores in your area. Store coupons (Target, Walgreens, and other stores issue these) can be stacked with manufacturer coupons. Also find out:
    * Do any stores accept expired coupons? (Many Jewel and Dominick's do!)
    * Do any stores in your area double coupons? (I have yet to find any Chicagoland stores that do this.)
    * Do they Price Match? (Wal-Mart is famous for this one.)
    * Do they accept competitor's coupons? (Jewel's policy has been to accept competitor's manufacturer coupons.)

  6. Get ready to make a quick weekly stop at CVS and Walgreens. You'll be amazed at how cheap you can get some common household items including razors, toilet paper, shampoo, napkins, snacks, and more! In the days ahead, we'll talk about these two stores in detail.

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