Saturday, 3 December 2011

Show Some Coupon Discipline: Wait a Little, Save a Lot

When you first start couponing, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by sales cycles, sales-to-coupon matching and expiration dates. It’s definitely a big shift from the “old” way of shopping – buying what you want or need for the current week, regardless of price.

This week we hear from a couponing newbie.

Question: “As a new couponer, I am trying to do my best to save some money for the family. After I made my first purchase with coupons, I realized I might not be using them for optimal savings.”

Answer: This is one of the most common mistakes new coupon shoppers make. They get the newspaper, cut out the coupons and take those coupons to the store in the same week. With a few exceptions, the week a coupon appears in the paper is typically not the best week to use it.

Why not? In order to get the most value from coupons, it’s important to realize that prices of products in stores fluctuate in a fairly consistent pattern.

Savvy coupon shoppers never pay the regular, non-sale price for an item they wish to buy. They understand that from week to week, the price of an item will vary widely.

Sale prices can dip as deep as 50 to 65 percent off the regular price; clearly, this is the best time to buy that item if you want it. Move in with a coupon, and you cut that already good price even more.

When I teach the concept of sales cycling to students in my Super-Couponing workshop, some of them seem to have trouble grasping the idea that prices really do change that much at the grocery store. They assume that a pack of paper towels or a half-gallon of juice costs about the same every day. But that’s not true.

Here’s an easy analogy to help drive this point home. Imagine you need to buy a new car. The car you wish to buy usually costs $25,000. In a few weeks, the dealer will put the car on sale for $12,500. Additionally, the manufacturer is offering a $3,000 incentive to buy the car any time this month.

If you buy the car today, you’ll pay $22,000. But if you wait for the half-off sale to use the incentive, you’ll pay just $9,500 – a 62 percent savings.

If you know a sale is coming and that it will involve a pretty significant discount, wouldn’t you wait to buy? This is the game we play when we grocery shop each week. Prices fluctuate, and smart couponers move in with a coupon when they do.

Experienced couponers also take into account another pricing game. Stores know weeks ahead of time the coupon promotions that will appear in newspaper inserts. Because many people take their coupons to the store the week they receive them, the store will make a greater profit by keeping those items at higher prices the week that the corresponding coupons appear in the paper.

For example, a 9-ounce bag of raspberry-filled cookies were on sale for 99 cents at my local store recently. The same little bag of cookies usually sells for $2.87. I love cookies, but I would never buy them at full price. However, the price drop from $2.87 to 99 cents is pretty significant – about 65 percent.

I had a 45-cent coupon from the newspaper. With it, I could buy the 99-cent bag of cookies for 54 cents. But here’s the trick – the coupon I used came out in the newspaper three weeks before the sale. If I had run right to the store with this coupon the same week I received it, I would have paid $2.42 for these cookies after the coupon.


How To Get Coupons For Free Products

Coupons are good, but coupons for free products are better. Here's how to snag your share:
Like Companies on Facebook

Everyone is on Facebook these days – including your favorite brands. Like their fan page, and you could be rewarded with free product coupons (either at sign up or in the future).

Companies that Like to Show the Facebook-Freebie Love:

Bath and Body Works
Yankee Candle

Tip: Set up a Google Alert for the phrase "Facebook freebie," and you'll be among the first to know when a new deal goes live.


Get serious about rebating. It's a great way to earn both rebate checks and free product coupons.

Contact Manufacturers

Make a list of the products that you use regularly (food, cleaners, toiletries, etc.). Then, email the manufacturer of each one to let them know what you think of their product – good or bad. A bit of feedback could (and likely will) net you a mailbox full of coupons for freebies.

Sign Up for Product Tests

Agree to test products for companies, and they'll hook you up with plenty of loot (free product coupons included).

A Couple Test Sites to Sign Up For:

Vocalpoint (P&G)

Spread the Word About New Products

Businesses know word-of-mouth advertising (WOM) is powerful stuff. Sign up to spread the word about new products; and they'll send you coupons, so you can try them first.

WOM Sites to Sign Up For:

House Party

Friday, 2 December 2011

Use Your Cell Phone to Save Coupons

Not a fan of clipping coupons? Then, have them sent to your cell phone instead. Here's are several sources of mobile coupons:

1. Yowza

Download the Yowza app to your iPhone or iPod Touch (also available for Blackberry, Androaid and Palm Pre), and it will show you all the deals and coupons available in your area. With over 15,000 national retailers participating, this app is a keeper.

2. Cellfire

Register with Cellfire to gain acess to their coupon database (free). Then, choose the coupons that interest you. You can add grocery coupons directly to your store card and non-store coupons to your cellphone.

3. Target

Sign up to receive coupons once a month via text alerts.

4. Walgreens

Text "GOMOBILE" to 21525 to receive coupons and exclusive deals. Find out More

Tip Source:

Thursday, 1 December 2011

How to Get More Coupons

More coupons equals more savings. It's simple enough math, but how are you supposed get your hand on more coupons? Read on for several winning strategies to try:

Sign Up for Newsletters
Devoted to a particular product or brand? Check the company's website to see if they offer a free e-newsletter. Subscribers are often rewarded with special coupons and promotions.

Buy an Extra Paper
There's no rule that says you can only buy one newspaper, so pick up an extra one (or five) whenever you find good coupons inside.

Have Coupons Sent to Your Cell Phone
Subscribe to one or more mobile coupon services (free), and have coupons sent to your cell phone.

Call Companies
More coupons could be just a phone call away. Dial the toll-free number on the back of your favorite products and ask if they have coupons that they can send you.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Food Shopping Strategies ; Save Big Bucks

Food Shopping Strategies Beyond Coupons Can Still Save Big Bucks!

If you never clip a single coupon, there are still many ways you can save at the grocery store. NY1's Money Matters reporter Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.

In many cases, the key to saving money at the grocery store boils down to "location, location, location." For example, the end cap offers deals, but consumer expert Andrea Woroch says it may pay to dig a little deeper in the aisle.

"If you compare it back to the other products in the aisle, you may find there is actually a cheaper deal available," says Woroch.

Shoppers who just want market for milk or eggs will probably have no choice but to wander the aisles. Daily necessities are often found at the back of the store, and that is no accident.

"That's the grocery store attempt to get you to walk through various aisles hoping that you'll pick up extra products," says Woroch.

Similarly, candy and batteries are placed right at the register to get shoppers to grab that one last thing, called an "impulse buy." Woroch says the best way to control that impulse is to shop less.

"If your average impulse purchase is $20 per shopping trip and you make three shopping trips per week, then that's an extra $60 you're spending," says Woroch.

Another way to save is to look up or down. Woroch says brand names pay stores a premium to have their products placed at eye level.

"If you shop high and shop low, that's where you will find the generic store versions which are generally less expensive," says Woroch.

That savings can be substantial. For example, a name-brand cereal at eye level may cost $3.79, but the store brand up above costs a dollar less.

If price comparison does not get shoppers to go generic, they should look at the contents. Brand-loyal customers may be surprised to find the ingredients in the store brand are often identical, and in some cases, even organic.

"They find that they're getting the same taste that they would with a name brand but also they find they are saving money in their pocket," says Arlene Putterman, a manager of public relations at Stop and Shop.

Savings can also be found at one's fingertips. Smartphone apps can help shoppers search for coupons and loyalty programs offer special sales just for participants.

For instance, Stop and Shop customers who use hand scanners are offered targeted deals for products they have purchased in the past.

Finally, shoppers can cut their costs by kicking the cart to the curb.

"Shop with just a basket. You are less likely to fill it up and overspend," says Woroch.

For more information, visit

Couponing Tips - Turning Paper Into Food

Aleta Moretz knows how to turn paper into food. All it takes is a mini accordion folder, a little extra time and a pair of scissors.

Moretz, a Longmont mom, is a coupon clipper. She also organizes regular coupon swaps with a Longmont-area moms group. The women pile their extra and unneeded coupons in a massive pile and take whey they need.

It just felt wrong throwing them away, Moretz says; it's like throwing dollar bills into the cash.

Still, that's where many coupons go -- especially around here., which offers printable coupons and online shopping, says Boulder is the least frugal city in America when it comes to using coupons.

Apparently, we're missing the boat.

Sparked by shows like TLC's "Extreme Couponing," coupon use has seen a big spike. ShopAtHome alone says its users have grown from 19 million to 37 million in the past year.

Nationwide, 78 percent of shoppers used coupons last year, with an average of eight coupons per household every month, according to ShopAtHome.

Couponing has changed dramatically over the past few years, with the rise in digital coupons, according to ShotAtHome.

Experts say it can be simple. It's not just junk food. And some believe it says less about your income than it does about your ability to be a savvy shopper.

Laura Killen-Wing considers herself a "common-sense couponer" (not an extreme couponer with a stockpile of 12,000 cans of cream of mushroom soup). When she had her second child, she wanted to continue to have the same lifestyle, and she says food was the smartest place to cut back.

She says she has cut her grocery bill in half and spends about three hours a week -- including shopping.

That was four years ago. Today, Killen-Wing and her friend, Ashley Miller, teach free coupon classes to other families in Northern Colorado. Their next class is in January.

Killen-Wing says she doesn't buy anything unless it's on sale. She says, once her daughter asked her, "Are we poor?"

"I said, 'No baby, this is poor prevention,'" Killen-Wing says. "I'm living like this now so I can have more later."

Cutting costs on groceries can be an easy way to save money during the holidays, according to Teri Gault, who runs the LA-based website Making a few simple tweaks to your shopping habits can save you hundreds -- as much as 70 percent, she says.

Her website is designed to make it as easy as possible. Pull the ad inserts from the newspaper and file them by date, she says. Then log on to, select what you want (even comparison shopping between stores) and the website will tell you which specific coupons to cut, so you only clip what you want to use. Print out the list and hit the store.

A family of four saves, on average, $514 a month, Gault says. That's $6,000 a year.

"And these are people who don't have time to make a career out of coupons," she says.

The catch: The website costs $1.25 a week (after a free month trial).

Other websites, like and Colorado-based are free. Bargain Blessings says a realistic goal for a new couponer is to save 50 percent, but that depends on what you buy and how much you put into it.

Looking to save money during the holiday season and into the new year? Here are some couponing tips from the experts:

Coupons don't save you the real money; it's coupons combined with sales, Gault says. Hold on to your coupons and wait for that item to go on sale. (That's what these coupon websites tell you.)

Safeway and King Soopers double coupons up to $1 or the value of the product. If it's a coupon for 75 cents off, it's actually worth $1.25. Tip: If the first number on the coupon's bar code is a five, it will double. A nine will not.

Sales are cyclical. Most items go on sale every six weeks, and most coupons are good for three months. If you plan ahead, that means there's never an excuse to use a coupon without a sale, or visa versa.

You don't have to hoard . Just buy as much as you'll need for about six weeks, when the item goes on sale again. That way, you're always buying at rock bottom, and you won't run out when something's on the high price point. Supermarkets only have about 20 percent of their items on sale each week.

"The best way to save on groceries is to invest," Gault says. "Don't buy when you need something. Buy what's on sale."

Looking for low organic produce prices? Moretz says she hits up the farmers market after noon, when farmers cut prices and are more willing to negotiate so they don't have to haul everything back home.

Stock up on sale frozen produce to fill in the gaps in the winter, and plan your meals around seasonal produce on sale. Also, when you save money on other items, you won't feel as bad paying full price for produce that you really love, says Killen-Wing.

For other organic products: Most major manufacturers also have organic lines. Even though the coupon may only say Ragu sauce is on sale, it also applies to Ragu's organic products.

Check organic products' websites for coupons, and sign up for their mailing lists. They regularly send out free products and samples, Gault says.

Also, organic milk has twice the shelf life as regular . So when it's on sale, stock up for five weeks, which is how long it lasts, Gault says.

Use your freezer for to extend the shelf life of clearance bread, meats and even dairy products, according to Miller. Many new couponers take the money they save in the first month and put it toward a deep freezer.

Take baby steps . Start with small goals, and question what you see on TV. Some of it's not realistic, Killen-Wing says. Don't chase every deal, and accept that you will miss others.

Set price points . Know the highest price you are willing to pay for an object, based on the cheapest you've ever bought it for. Not sure what's a good price? Bargain Blessings rates deals on an A to F scale.

Buy the limit. If the store puts a limit on something, that means it's the best price around.

Smaller can be better . When you have a coupon, it usually takes off more per ounce or unit on the smaller package than larger, changing up the math (and Costco logic).

Dollar and discount stores aren't cheaper than smart couponing at supermarkets, studies have found. Grocery stores have a high-low marketing strategy, where their regular prices are higher than other places, but their sales prices get lower - including lower than Wal-Mart's "every day low prices," Gault says.

In fact, she says Wal-Mart doesn't actually match more than half of the deals (there's a lot of fine print).

"To save the most money, that's not where you shop," she says.

Take a coupon class. Jennie Sanford, of Denver, with, offers her next three-hour class Dec. 10 in Littleton for $5 per person. Check the website for more info.

Be patient and give yourself a little time to build up your coupon stockpile before you start seeing the bigger savings, Sanford says.

Have a plan, budget and list before you get into the store. Bring cash so your budget is limited.

Plan your meals based on what's on sale, not what you're hungry for.

Don't miss out on social deals and "Groupons." Sanford's favorite is Weekly Plus, because it offers weeklong deals.

Buy a few extras of a good deal and donate them to a food pantry, Sanford suggests. If you can get free Cheerios and you eat gluten-free, give them to someone in need.

Get a rain check for items that are out of stock.

Know the coupon policies for each store.

You can get stuff for free. Sanford says she never pays for toothpaste, toothbrushes, shaving cream, lotions or shavers, among other things.


How To Find More Coupons Online

Searching for coupons online, but not sure where to look or who to trust? Here's a round-up of the best online coupon sources:

Visit Manufacturer Websites

Make a list of all of the products that appear in your pantry and medicine cabinet on a regular basis. Then, head to each manufacturer's website in search of coupons. Many companies have coupons that you can print right off of their site, while others will reward you with coupons, if you sign up to receive their e-newsletter.

Go to the Coupon Companies

You know those SmartSource, RedPlum and P&GbrandSAVER coupons that you get in your Sunday paper? Well, you can now get those same coupons online!

Check Out:

Tip: Cut out your favorite coupons from the newspaper. Then, go online to print out additional copies.

Sign Up for

Need a reason to save for college? Well, here it is: sign up for; select coupons to load onto your grocery and drug store cards; and the money that you save will be deposited directly into your college savings account.

Check Grocery Store Websites

Grocery stores are making it easier than ever to coupon. Visit the website of your favorite grocery store, and you're likely to find loads of coupons to print or download.

Check Out:

Look on Drug Store Websites

Grocery stores aren't the only ones to get onboard with the printable coupon craze. Visit drug store websites, and you'll find page after page of clip-and-print coupons to choose from.

Check Out:

Get Electronic Coupons

Load coupons on to your cell phone or grocery store card. It's easy and paperless:

Sign Up for P&G eSaver

Want to get your hands on more Procter and Gamble coupons? Sign up for the P&G eSaver program, and you can add their coupons to your grocery card too!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Couponing But Not Going Extremes

Couponing, but not going to any extremes.

If you haven't seen the TLC show "Extreme Couponing," immediately set your TiVo, record the next 10 episodes and prepare to be awed.

In the show, shoppers go to great lengths - think rummaging through Dumpsters for discarded coupons and spending seven hours at a grocery store - to score big deals.

Often, they rack up thousands of dollars at the cash register only to see that cost whittled down to nothing, thanks to a few hundred coupons, store discounts and lots of savvy planning.

Each nail-biting episode features the shoppers arguing with unsupportive relatives, squabbling with other customers and panicking as the cash register clicks down toward zero.

To get the best per-unit price and to maximize their coupons, the shoppers often must buy cartloads of stuff, which then goes into their "stockpiles," usually basements full of barbecue sauce, air fresheners, ramen noodles and any other product for which you could possibly think, why on Earth do I need 100 bottles of that?

The fiendish hoarding and poor shopping etiquette is a turn-off. But when someone gets $700 worth of groceries for $5, I have to wonder whether I'm missing out. I may not be up for extreme couponing, but could I do better when shopping for my family?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a moderate cost plan for the average family of four is almost $800 a month on groceries, which squares with my typical shopping trip. I can't get out of the grocery store without spending at least $200. At a place like Whole Foods, that buys me a pound of meat and a couple of strawberries. Surely, there's room to improve.

For advice, I turned to the South Bay's couponing expert, Lachmi Malhotra, who teaches a South Bay Adult School class on getting the best bargains.

Lachmi is a bit horrified when I tell her my shopping strategy, which amounts to roaming the aisles and haphazardly throwing items into my cart, whatever looks good, no attention to price. My grocery store sends me coupons for products I buy all the time, and I still don't use them.

Yes, she says, definitely room to improve.

Lachmi suggests we meet at a local grocery store so she can show me the ropes. I'm amazed when she proposes Whole Foods. I had no idea Whole Foods even accepted coupons. And was it possible we'd score any big deals there?

The first step, Lachmi tells me, is to get organized. Any serious couponer has a coupon book, usually a big binder organized by category, making it easy to find the right coupon when you're at the register. Next, before setting foot in the store, use an online site like to find the best grocery deals and sales in your area. These sites also tell you how to use your coupons to maximize your value.

But that's too easy, I say, thinking of those "Extreme Couponing" women who spend 40 hours a week on elaborate spreadsheets.

"It's so easy," Lachmi says. With a 15-month-old daughter at home, Lachmi doesn't have time to make it complicated. Her enthusiasm gives me hope.

In Whole Foods, Lachmi tells me about "stacking," or using a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon to get double savings. She selects four boxes of low-sodium vegetable broth on sale, two for $5.

Then she grabs a couple of cans of tomatoes, also on sale. We head to the register. The six items ring up to $13. Lachmi pulls out the coupons. I hold my breath as the discounts rack up, a dollar here, a dollar there. Final tab: $4. Not bad.

An accountant by trade, Lachmi started couponing when she quit work to be a stay-at-home mom. Without her additional income, the family needed to buckle down. Through organization and careful planning, Lachmi had soon slashed her monthly bills from $3,000 to $600, and she spends only about two hours a week searching for deals and coupons. She has a small stockpile, a few extra bottles of laundry detergent for example, but she doesn't buy what she won't use.

I liked Lachmi's common-sense approach. After saying goodbye, I was so excited about couponing that I immediately drove to Target to buy a binder and inserts, paying full price for each item.

That weekend, I clipped coupons, organized my new binder and headed to the grocery store. I'd forgotten to make a shopping list, contradicting Lachmi's No. 1 rule. But I'm all about baby steps.

Instantly, I scored big by "stacking" coupons for sliced cheese, getting each item for less than 50 cents. On the next aisle, I snagged some Greek yogurts for practically nothing thanks to a great sale and a coupon. Then I came to the pasta aisle. I needed pasta.

Between the coupons and the store discount, I was looking at less than a dollar a box if I bought 10 boxes. Ten boxes? Do I really need 10 boxes of pasta? I sighed and dumped farfalles, rigatonis, and macaronis into the cart.

At the register, I proudly handed over my coupons. The cashier swiped away, and the total ticked downward. Final savings: $50, about 20 percent of the bill. A big improvement over my last shopping expedition but not great by couponing standards. Plus, I now had to store 10 boxes of pasta.

But I'm not giving up yet. Saving money in these tough economic times is always a win, and who knows when that $50 will come in handy? Now I just need to find a coupon for pasta sauce.


Store Coupon Policies

Study the coupon policies for your favorite stores to be sure you're saving as much as you could be. Then, print out a copy to take with you when you shop. You never know when you're going to encounter a store employee who isn't familiar with the rules. Here are the coupon policies for many of top grocery chains, drug stores and big box retailers:

Monday, 28 November 2011

How to Stack Coupons

Using a coupon for each item that you buy is a great way to save money, but why stop at just one? Learn how to stack coupons, and walk away with more free and nearly-free items every time you shop, here's how:

  1. Collect manufacturer coupons for the items that you purchase regularly. You'll find these in the Sunday paper, on store displays, on product boxes and online.

  2. Look for store coupons for the same items. You'll typically find these in sales circulars, on store websites, and on your receipts. If you have a frequent shopper card for any of the grocery stores in your area, you may also receive store coupons in the mail.

  3. Match up store and manufacturer coupons for the same products. To have a usable match, the coupons need to be for the same product size, fragrance, etc. You also need to have one coupon that says, "store coupon," and one that says "manufacturer coupon."

  4. Put your coupons to work. Shop for all the items that you've found matches for; present your coupons to the cashier; then, smile when she tells you your teeny tiny total.

  1. Stack your coupons with a store sale or a rebate to save even more
  2. Combine a buy-one-get-one free coupon with a buy-one-get-one free sale, and you could get both items for free
  3. Sometimes store associates aren't as familiar with their store's coupon policies as they should be. Print out a copy of each store's policy, and bring it with you to clear up any problems that may come up
  4. Many stores accept competitor's coupons. Find one that does, and you can stack a manufacturer's coupon with a competing store's coupon
What You Need:
  • Manufacturer coupons
  • Store Coupons
  • Sales circulars
  • Scissors

Sunday, 27 November 2011

How to Keep Coupons Organized

How to Keep Coupons Organized

There are lots of ways to organize coupons; the key is to find the approach that works best for you. Three options to consider:

* Clipping out all coupons
* Clipping out just the coupons that you intend to use
* Leaving the coupon inserts intact, and clipping coupons on an "as-needed" basis

Whichever approach you choose, there are several things that you can do to ensure that your coupons remain neat and accessible:

1. Develop a filing system. Many couponers organize their coupons by grocery category--dairy, frozen foods, deli, etc. – but it's not the only way to go. Find a filing system that works for you--by aisle, by expiration, etc. – and put it into action.

2. Find a container to hold your coupons. Use a shoebox, a storage container, a coupon binder, a coupon wallet or a recipe box – it doesn't matter what you choose – but it's important to have a landing spot for all of those coupons.

3. File coupons the same day you get them. Okay, so you may not always have time to file your coupons right away, but try to file them as soon as you can. This will prevent them from getting lost, and save you the hassle of having to sort through a big mess of coupons all at once.

4. Purge regularly. Expired coupons won't save you money, so don't let them hog space in your coupon file. Set a schedule for purging expired coupons, and stick to it.

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