If you've ever seen that coupon-based reality TV show, you know that couponers can do some crazy stuff. I wasn't — and am not — one of those couponers, but I was pretty close.
Our family was deep in debt, and I'd heard that you could save a boatload of money if you started couponing. So, I clipped like crazy, shopped the sales, and built a stockpile of the items that were most prevalent among coupons at the time, such as paper goods, toothpaste, frozen entrees, and boxed cereal. It very nearly took over my life and I also purchased more processed foods than I care to admit.
Since then, I've calmed down and cleaned up our diet significantly. You won't see much in the way of frozen chicken nuggets or boxed cereal crowding my kitchen. But I still use coupons to save money at the grocery store. Here are five couponing tips I've come to rely on.
1. Don't clip every coupon you see.
Just because a coupon gives you 50 cents off an item doesn't mean you should use it. If it's not a product you would normally buy or are interested in trying, don't clip it. It'll just create clutter, making it hard for you to find the coupons you should be using, or end up convincing you to buy something you don't need or want.
2. Keep your coupons in a convenient location.
It's great to have a handful of coupons that you know you will use on products you love — unless those coupons are at home on the kitchen table and you're at the store with a full cart. Keep your coupons in a handy location in your purse or wallet, or maybe tuck them into your reusable grocery bags.
3. Combine coupons with sales for even bigger savings.
For the biggest return on your investment, couple coupons with sales. Sure, it's great to save 50 cents on that $3.99 container of sour cream, but it's even better to buy the sour cream when it's on sale for $1.99 and get an extra 50 cents off.
This might mean waiting until the price is right to make your purchase. For example, I don't usually buy sour cream unless it's on sale. Then I buy three to four tubs at a great price and use them over the coming months. (Just be sure to check the sell-by dates to protect your investment.)
4. Go digital.
As more and more of our lives are going high-tech, so are coupons! Grocery savings apps, like Ibotta or Checkout 51, allow you to scan your receipt and then give you money back. More like a rebate than a coupon, these apps still enable you to save money. Cashing in is really as simple as scanning your receipt, so you have no reason not to do it.
5. Join your grocery store's loyalty program.
Better prices are offered to those shoppers who join a store's free customer loyalty program and use their card. Often a sale price doesn't apply unless you use this card.
Most of the time, it's as simple as buying the item that's on sale and scanning your card at the checkout. Sometimes, there's just one added step. For instance, the Kroger company and all its affiliates offer Free Download Friday. Every Friday a new freebie is offered. A few clicks and the offer is added to your card.
You can also nab some great deals by downloading the store's app, or following them on social media. Some stores, like Ralphs, also offer large coupons via their Facebook page, like $5 off a $15 meat purchase. These can reap you savings on items you were going to buy anyway.
How much time do you devote to couponing? And what's your best trick for doing it simply?