Do coupons seem like a quaint idea to you? Do coupons seem passé in the modern world? Think Again!
Grocery coupons are alive and well in the 21st century, saving shoppers billions of dollars annually. Learning how to use them effectively can easily save your family hundreds of dollars each year. In eighteen years a family of four can save enough, from using grocery coupons, to send a child to college.
History of Coupons
Coupons have been around since the late 1800's when Coca-Cola and Grape Nuts offered coupons to entice customers into trying their new products. Neighborhood grocery stores quickly caught on to the idea and have been using coupons effectively for over 100 years.
Coupon popularity exploded during the depression and by the 1960s there were billions of coupons being used and most American households were using them. Currently more than 3,000 companies issue over 300 billion coupons each year worth an estimated $280 billion. About 8 billion of these coupons are redeemed saving shoppers almost $5 billion each year on their grocery bills.
Gather Your Coupons
The first step is to begin gathering or cutting coupons. Gather coupons for any product that you have the slightest chance of purchasing. It takes time, but the more coupons you gather the greater your potential for rarely having to purchase an item without an accompanying coupon!
Coupons are available through a variety of different sources. Learning to gather useful coupons efficiently often determines how successful you will be in saving money.
- Store Web Sites
Supermarket websites generally have an area to print coupons that will acceptably scan at their stores. You can often search the coupons by category and brand names, saving you valuable time as you collect your coupons. See this other article for a comprehensive list of supermarket websites e.g. Safeway or King Soopers
eCoupons can link additional coupons and discounts directly to the card that you already use at checkout to get posted supermarket discounts. Hint: Look on your supermarkets website for the ability to add eCoupons to your card. Typing eCoupons into a search engine is more likely to waste your time than provide actual savings.
- Sunday Newspaper
The tried and true method of clipping coupons from a Sunday newspaper is still a fantastic way to gather coupons. Relax with a beverage and some music and you might find that cutting coupons can be a pleasant experience each week.
- Mid-week Supermarket Circular
You probably get coupons in your mailbox each week. Spend a few minutes going through the circulars mid-week and cut out any potential coupons.
- Online Coupon Sites
There are many great online coupon sites where you can print coupons. However, be cautious when searching online, you can waste enormous amounts of time. Even worse, you can lose money or personal information to illegitimate sites. Use common Internet safety practices. If you are a relative novice on the Internet, stick with your supermarket's website. In general: don't pay for coupons and don't bother printing anything that does not have a scanable bar code and an expiration date. Check with your store ahead of time. Some stores don't accept any printable coupons (most do!).
An example of a legitimate website for coupon printing:
- Company or Manufacturer Websites
You can often print coupons directly off of a manufacture's website. This can be a time consuming way to collect coupons so you only want to pursue this option if there are brands that you buy often or in bulk.
- Coupon Racks
At your supermarket there may be racks/bulletin boards where manufactures post coupons. Many modern supermarkets have coupon dispensers attached to the shelving in each aisle. Taking a coupon causes another to feed out of the dispenser and you can generally take as many as you will use.
- Receipt Coupons
Many supermarkets print coupons on the back of your grocery receipt. These are often very good coupons so remember to check the back of your receipt. Some supermarkets also have an additional coupon printer that prints coupons when you checkout - grab these!
Organize Your Coupons
Organizing your coupons is like creating your own filing system. There are many good systems that exist, but you want to pick/modify a system that works for you. This is one area where an Internet search is very valuable. Most people use some variation of an accordion file envelope.
Use Your Coupons!
Matching your coupons to existing sales at the supermarket produces the greatest benefit from your coupons. Sometimes between the sales price and the coupon you can get items at the grocery store absolutely free! This sounds fantastic, but any coupon cutting pro has had this experience at least once. If you watch for sales you can increase your chances of getting items free or for rock bottom prices.
Unfortunately not all sales are advertised and keeping up with coupon gathering and sales can become overwhelming. Also supermarket sale prices are cyclical; so an item may be on sale, but it may often be regularly on sale for an even lower price. Knowing when to use your coupon becomes an art and a science. There are websites that use extensive databases and algorithms that can help you with this process. These sites all charge a fee for the service but legitimate sites will save you so much money that the fee is cost effective. The best site is probably http://www.thegrocerygame.com/. The cost for this site varies depending on how many store's sales you want them to watch for you, but you pay $10 every 8 weeks for just one store.
Beware Work-at-Home Coupon Clipping Scams
Grocery coupons are a benefit for a family who uses them legitimately but beware of scam artists who offer business opportunity and work-at-home schemes featuring coupon certificate booklets and coupon clipping services. Using the Internet to market these so-called opportunities, fraudulent promoters are promising entrepreneurs, charity groups and consumers earnings of "hundreds per week" and "thousands per month" simply by selling coupon certificate booklets or cutting coupons at home.
There's only one legitimate way to use a coupon: Cut it out of the newspaper or other source and use it toward the purchase of the designated product. A coupon is meant to be used only by the consumer who buys the product for which the coupon is printed. Selling or transferring coupons to a third party (e.g. coupons passed through Email) violates most manufacturers' coupon redemption policies and technically voids the coupon.