Couponing can be tough. You walk into your local grocery store and eagerly snatch up a Sunday newspaper. You rush home and carefully cut out scraps of paper that bloggers, TV personalities and even your co-workers promise will drastically reduce your grocery bill. You purchase fancy organizers and dutifully create categories: breakfast, frozen foods, dairy.
When you start going through those coupons, though, it can be disappointing (not to mention time consuming). Once you weed out the ones you won’t use (greasy, sodium-laden breakfast sausage, frozen meals with an ingredients list longer than this blog post, etc., etc.), you’re left with nothing but a measly $2.00 in savings, barely enough to pay for the paper itself. Sooner or later, that adorable coupon organizer makes its way into the Goodwill pile, and you consider yourself doomed to pay full price for groceries for the rest of your life.
Sound familiar? I’ve been there, too – believe me. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can find coupons without picking up a pair of scissors or buying a single Sunday paper (unless you want to, of course). Even better, you can make sure the coupons you do find are useful. I know, because I’ve done it myself. So, my friends, let’s stop wasting time and start saving money – the smart way. Read on for 5 Tips for Finding Coupons You’ll Actually Use.
Zone in on brand loyalty.
Human beings are creatures of habit. Before you even start couponing, it’s helpful to know what foods and brands you buy on a regular basis and identify areas of potential savings. Begin by making a list of the types of items you buy regularly. Be thorough and specific.My boyfriend, for example, is a huge cereal fan. However, he rarely buys anything other than Kashi Cinnamon Harvest. Rather than poring over a Sunday paper, hoping to get lucky (as if he’d ever take up couponing, but we can pretend), he could go to straight to the Kashi website and peruse their current offerings (P.S. – they post their coupons here). This way, he doesn’t waste time going through page after page of coupons for General Mills cereal.
For even better savings, reach out to your favorite companies and make a simple request for additional savings. You’d be surprised at how generous companies can be when you just ask! I’ve received dozens of coupons this way, and as an added bonus, they are usually high value. If you’re really lucky, some companies will throw in free product coupons, too.
Load coupons on your store card.
This may seem obvious to some folks, but I want to take a moment to explain why this is a helpful strategy. Not only are you saving time by not physically clipping coupons, but you’re also taking a “set it and forget it” approach to couponing. This works especially well for people who don’t plan their grocery lists around coupon match-ups.
For example, let’s say I see a coupon for store brand organic milk – awesome, this is something I buy all the time! But hey, there’s also a $1 off coupon for a chocolate bar… that could be good, too. Now, if I use these coupons (like the milk), great. But since I am not physically carrying the coupons around, I don’t feel the pressure to buy something I don’t need. That way, when I do buy a chocolate bar after a long day at work, the savings will just be an added bonus.
Check previews of Sunday paper coupons to see if it’s worth your time.
This blog post isn’t to bash the regular old newspaper coupons. In fact, there are often some great savings to be found there. However, who wants to spend a couple bucks just to find out the inserts don’t contain any useful coupons?
Luckily, there are some truly awesome bloggers who do all the hard work for you (check out ForTheMommas.com, for example). Every week, you can get a preview of what inserts you can expect and what coupons are included (even their expiration dates!). If you go through this list and only find one coupon that interests you, it’s probably not worth it. Keep in mind that many of these coupons can be found on sites like Coupons.com, RedPlum.com, etc., or even manufacturer websites. That way, you can print vs. clip.
Pay someone else to clip for you.
This probably sounds a little crazy to some of you, but bear with me. Let’s say you have a favorite store, somewhere you shop regularly. A quick search on eBay might bring up multiple listings for paper coupons. These coupons aren’t free, but you can often rack up some pretty nice savings.
Take Lowe’s, for example. As I write this post, someone is selling a 10% off coupon for $3.50. If you’re planning on going to Lowe’s and dropping a $1,000 on a new appliance, it’s easy to see how paying this small fee could pay off in the long run. Keep in mind that eBay prohibits the selling of coupons, so sellers include a disclaimer that they are instead selling a service.
Another helpful site is The Coupon Clippers. Here you can search or browse a huge arsenal of paper coupons. You’ll pay a small fee, of course, but the savings are still substantial. If you know you buy something often, this is a great place to check out in order to buy coupons in bulk.
Coupon after the fact – snap photos of your receipts for cash back!
Many of you are probably familiar with sites like Ibotta, Checkout 51, or even If you download these apps on your mobile device, you can upload photos of your receipt(s) and collect savings in the form of cash back. The amounts are typically small, just like a regular coupon, but every bit counts and even a few cents can add up over time. If you often buy natural or organic products, checkout BerryCart, too. This app is lesser known but works in the same way. You’ll have to view “fun facts” about each product when you redeem an offer, but it’s worth it as many of their offers are higher in value.
While it is helpful to plan your purchases around the offers available, I feel these services work best when you check your receipts after you are already home from the store. That way, you’ll avoid the biggest couponing pitfall – buying something you don’t need just because it’s on sale.
When you are first starting out, couponing can seem overwhelming, confusing, and time-consuming. But with a little legwork, you can weed out the offers you don’t need and focus on the savings that will most benefit you and your family.
What are your favorite ways to find coupons? Let me know in the comments!