I recently read an email from a reader who was concerned if cutting coupons was really worth it. He cuts them from his Sunday paper for himself, his girlfriend and his mom. He really wants to save money. However, for a single person, or even someone with a family, his question is valid. This got me thinking, he can’t be the only one wondering this so I had to write a post to address it.
Anyone who has ever saved money cutting coupons may say it’s the only way to go. Those with families really see the savings, especially when you need to stock up on a few things. But if you’re single, is it the best way to save money? Not all the time. Now I know this may be shocking to hear from someone that has a “coupon” blog but it’s not ALL about the coupons, for me it’s more about saving money. There are creative ways to cut costs with and without coupons if you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and think outside the box.
Not every coupon in every circumstance will get you the best deal. In many instances, buying the non-brand names will be cheaper. If you really need an item and using your coupon still doesn’t bring the price lower than a non-brand item, then by all means buy the non-named brand. When your checking prices, look at both options. This would ring true for anyone who’s grocery store doesn’t double coupons as well. Not remaining brand loyal can significantly cut our food costs and the items, in many cases, are so similar you really can’t tell the difference.
Kourtenay is the owner of girlswithcoupons.com. She lives in Topeka, Kansas with her husband Mike and five children, ages 7,13,15,17, and 21. Her mission is to help families save money in this challenging economy. From grocery shopping with coupons, printable coupon alerts, finding great deals and timely articles, she is determined to keep more money in your household budget.
The clearance aisle:
Always check the clearance aisle. My Dillons store puts all of their bakery items they don’t sell the day they were baked in the clearance section, so I buy those. I would MUCH rather get their cinnamon rolls for $1.49 as apposed to $3.50. They’re ONLY a day old. Plus there are never coupons for those things. My mother in-law bought green sprinkles for 75% off after St. Patrick’s Day and was able to use them at Easter. So be sure to scour the clearance aisle, you never know what you may find!
I always keep my eye out for damaged packaging. These can sometimes be found in your clearance aisle too. I don’t mean bent cans or sliced open food packaging, but on paper products like toilet paper and paper towels. Once in a while during shipping, a forklift or box cutter can damage packaging. I’ve seen this on cereal before and the plastic bag inside was perfectly fine! I’ve even seen my store markdown bent boxes of pasta. The item is still usable so the store will mark it down. Looking at packaging and special reduced price stickers can save you big time, and can possibly be on more than one item, so by all means stock up!
When you see a marked down price at your store, most likely it’s because the item is either discontinued or the packaging is discontinued. Meaning that the manufacturers have decided to change the labeling on their product and the store needs to move it quickly to make room for the newly labeled products. These are not found in the clearance aisle all the time but in their regular place on the shelf. So as you’re walking down an aisle, keep your eyes open for special markdowns!
Shopping at Target:
Granted not all areas have Super Targets (the ones with full grocery) but if you live near one, check their website for Target printable coupons. If you don’t have a Super Target, regular Target stores do sell some grocery items. When you visit Target.com, at the bottom of their web site are lists of store information including “coupons”. Click that to view all of the printable coupons they offer. Not only can you use a Target coupon but you can also use a manufacturers coupon on the same item! This is called “stacking” and not many stores allow it.
What I like about printable coupons is I can pick the ones I know I’ll need and use. We post many opportunities on the right hand side of our Home Page to print coupons and also on other posts at Girls With Coupons. By the time you’ve gone to the store to purchase a Sunday paper, thumb through them, cut and organize them, printing can not only save you money but be a real time saver. Not to mention that not all Sunday paper inserts have the coupons I need.
Shopping at Aldis:
A couple of years ago, I tested Aldis to see if I could really save money with them. I had shopped at Walmart and then two weeks later bought the exact same items at Aldis. To my suprise I saved $80! You can really save money on canned vegetables and staples like flour, sugar, milk, eggs, and cooking oil. In some cases you can save more at Aldis then you could at your local grocery store using a coupon. Their produce is almost always cheaper too.
If you have never shopped at Aldis you do need to know a few things first. Most of their grocery items are in a warehouse type setting. They keep everything in boxes instead of having them stocked nice and neat like you’d see at your regular store. When you make it up to the cashier, they will scan your items, then place them back in your cart. They won’t bag your groceries and they do not accept coupons, (at least that’s how it is at my Aldis). When you pay, they do not take personal checks or credit cards, only debit cards and cash. Once you’ve paid, you move to a long counter where you can bag your own groceries, or put them in boxes they have discarded. This saves them money and they pass those savings onto the customer. Granted this may not be for everyone, but if these things don’t bother you then it may be worth a try!
Low value coupons :
One thing I personally almost never do is use a low value coupon (like a 25 cent coupon) at a store that doesn’t double. I’m aware that not all stores double but if your store does, save those coupons exclusively for the store that will double it. If I have a coupon over $1, I will use it anywhere. If you’re not sure if your store doubles coupons, be sure to ask the store manager what their coupon policy is and if you can have a copy of it or a web site that you can print it out from.
If you’re one that doesn’t have the time to cut coupons, using e-coupons may be for you. With my store I have a shoppers rewards card, as I’m sure many of you do as well. On my store’s website, I can download coupons they offer right onto my shoppers card. At the register, the coupons I loaded onto my card will be taken off of my receipt as soon as I scan my card. When your looking over your store’s circular, it might be worth it for you to see what e-coupons they have that will match any of their sale items. If you see an e-coupon you know you’ll use in a week or two, be sure to load it onto your card when you see before it’s taken off their site.
Out of stock items:
It can be very irritating when you’ve done your homework and are prepared to shop, only to find out your store has been cleared out of that sale item you wanted to purchase. If the sale price is really good, the one thing you can do is get a rain check. Then the next time you go back, the store will most likely have that item restocked and you can get the price you missed the first time. Now that stores like Walmart and Target will price match an exact item from another store (if you have the other stores ad with you that shows their sale price, not percentage off) you can score a similar deal by price matching. It hasn’t happened to me many times but when I have done this at Target and had a Target printable coupon with a manufacturers coupon, I got a great deal!
Saving money can be time consuming when your checking every store for prices and coupons. Naturally this doesn’t fit in everyone’s schedule. Even with sites like ours sometimes it can be overwhelming. I also don’t think it’s prudent to drive 30 miles out of your way to save $1 either because your gas will eat that $1 and then some. So don’t sweat it! Even doing small, easy things can bring your grocery budget into a more tolerable range. The idea isn’t to go out and conquer every deal, but to save you money. Stay on a plan that is realistic for you. Don’t put pressure on yourself to save on every single thing you buy each time you step foot in a store. The idea that you can get something cheaper will open your eyes to the savings staring you in the face you would have missed otherwise or just wasn’t aware of.
With or without coupons, you can still save money!