Forget Extreme Couponing! How to Save With Minimal Effort
Over the past several years, extreme couponing has become the subject of TV shows and made into a lifestyle by many bloggers. These folks obsess over clipping every coupon possible, and only purchase items they can pick up at a discount with coupons.
Most people don’t have the time or drive to spend hours every week clipping and using hundreds of coupons. However, this doesn’t mean that you should count coupons out — quite the contrary! Let’s talk about some advice that will help you save big with coupons, without having to stay up all night or bring a binder of coupons into the grocery store.
If You Tend Towards Extreme Couponing
First, we’ll discuss tips for folks that tend to veer into extreme couponing territory. Put these into practice and you can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend on coupons every week, while still saving big.
Only Clip Coupons You’ll Actually Use
Extreme couponers are infamous for clipping every coupon in sight and buying products they don’t even need. This is a complete waste of money. You can pare down your time spent cutting coupons by keeping an eye out only for products you’ll actually use.
If you’re a single woman, skip right by the page advertising men’s aftershave. If you don’t have children, don’t even pay attention to the dollar-off coupon for a pack of Huggies. Pay attention to the brands you normally buy and be selective about those coupons, too.
Let’s say you normally buy Crest toothpaste for $2 a tube. When you see a coupon for $0.50 off the $3 tube of another brand, recognize that you’re not saving any money by using it.
Recognize Your Time Has Value
Perhaps the easiest way to defeat extreme couponing temptation is thinking of your time as costing something . For a gross estimate, consider your time spent as worth minimum wage — we’ll say $8 for this example. If you spend five hours a week clipping coupons that save you $15 that week, you just spent $40 worth of time to save $15. That’s a net loss of $25.
You should always have a goal in mind when you sit down to coupon. Perhaps you need to sort through everything to grab a coupon for an item you’re buying tomorrow, or want to find an alternative to a brand that recently raised its prices. Resist the temptation to clip everything in sight.
Set Hard Limits on Coupon Time
If you let yourself, you can totally lose track of time when clipping and using coupons. Figure out a reasonable time to spend per week that puts you in the black, and make that a rule. When you know that you only have 20 minutes to cut coupons one evening, you’re much less likely to wander into nonsense that you don’t even need.
You can complement this by finding a great time of day for you to work on coupons. Don’t try to fly through the coupon sheets when you have a dozen other items pressing for your time . Maybe you can cut coupons on the couch with your spouse while they watch their favorite TV show, or perhaps you find cutting coupons a good activity to help wake up in the morning.
Find a time where you’re relaxed and make the most of it!
If You Don’t Use Coupons Yet
Now, let’s talk about the other side of the spectrum. If you haven’t touched a coupon in years but know you can start using them to save big, here’s how you can do that without dedicating hours per week.
Outsource the Work to a Coupon Website
When you’re first starting to use coupons, you might be unsure about where to find them. While you can usually get them in a local Sunday newspaper, let’s take this into the digital age. There are all sorts of coupon sites that can help you save big because they collect the best deals for you. Of course, websites are also easier to search than sheets of paper.
The Krazy Coupon Lady is a fantastic place to start. Right on the front page, you’ll find the latest online deals, the most popular coupons, and links to discounts for several popular stores, as well as a search function if you’re looking for a particular product. The site also contains a wealth of tips and advice for new couponers, including lots of videos. If you want to make efficient coupon use a part of your routine, we definitely recommend taking advantage of this resource.
Focus on Low-Hanging Fruit
Paying attention to coupons will probably make you realize how many products are out there, which might feel overwhelming. When you’re initially finding your way, don’t worry about every bit of savings you see. After you’ve completed your grocery list, have a look at the items that you absolutely must purchase and focus on finding coupons for them.
Don’t sweat over missing a $0.25 off coupon for shampoo that you don’t need for three more weeks. You won’t possibly find every applicable deal in the hour you spend per week clipping coupons, and that’s okay. Just like the tips we mentioned above, your time is valuable. You don’t need to spend 10 hours to save 50 percent on your grocery bill when you can save 30 percent from one hour of work.
Don’t Forget About Digital Coupons
Perhaps the most abhorrent aspect of couponing for you is sitting down with scissors and keeping track of little scraps of paper. If this is all that’s holding you back, there’s good news: most major retailers have mobile apps that make using coupons easy .
One example is Dollar General’s Digital Coupons. Using your phone or PC, you can browse through their coupon selection and pick out the ones you want. Then, all you have to do is punch in your mobile number at checkout, and your savings are automatically applied! Everything is kept digitally, and you can check out the latest coupons on your phone whenever you have a few minutes.
Other retailers with digital coupons include Walgreens, Kroger, and Target. That’s not all — many other apps that aren’t specific to one store also provide digital coupons or rebates, like Shopmium. Finally, you can dive into cashback websites for even more rebates. Your phone and computer could be the only tickets you need to big savings!
Consider Holding a Coupon Get-Together
You don’t have to go it alone when you start using coupons. If you have friends close by, start a coupon club that meets once a week. Everyone can meet at someone’s house and bring their papers and coupon sheets, and quickly discuss what coupons they could use most. With half a dozen people all working and sharing at once, everyone should end up with plenty of coupons for whatever they need!
These meetings also allow members to share their best coupon tips, apps, and websites with each other. It’s easier to make couponing a habit when you do it with a friend!
How Much Will You Save With Coupons?
Once you get into them a bit, you’ll find that coupons aren’t so scary. Recognize that you don’t have to clip every possible coupon and that so many digital resources make clipping the best coupons a cinch, and you’ll be on your way to saving on every trip to the store.
You don’t have to buy an extra-large binder and spend all-nighters with a pair of scissors to make the most of coupons. If you can spare just an hour or two per week, you’ll keep more money in your pocket that you can save for something awesome!
What tips would you give to someone who’s brand-new to using coupons? We want to hear your best advice, apps, and websites for making efficient use of coupons down in the comments!
Image Credit: igor kisselev via Shutterstock
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