Monday, January 24, 2011

Perfecting the Art of Couponing by Kimberly Danger

Perfecting the Art of Couponing by Kimberly Danger

We’ve all read stories about the coupon-savvy woman who can feed a family of five on $50 a month. What is her secret? She’s perfected the art of couponing. While I won't promise that you'll be able to do quite that well, I do guarantee that if you follow the tips below you will be able to slash dollars from your monthly grocery bill.

Know when NOT to use coupons. When is a coupon not a good deal? Knowing this can be as helpful to you as the coupon itself. In most cases, the generic version of what you're buying is cheaper than the more expensive counterpart even WITH a coupon. You may be asking yourself, "So why even bother? Why not just purchase generics?" You will need to become coupon-savvy in order to recognize when coupons are a good deal and when they're not. Coupons work best when they're combined with another deal or are doubled. Carry a small calculator in your purse to help you calculate the price per unit when you're shopping.

Combine coupons with in store-sales and two-for-ones. I recently bought two boxes of Cheerios cereal. They were on sale at the grocery store for 2 for $3. I also used two $1 off coupons I had, saving an additional $2. My cost per box: only 50 cents. Normally, without the coupon, each box is at least $3. Cool, huh? A lot of grocery stores also offer "in store" coupons. Use your own coupons in addition to these to save even more.

Find a store that will double your coupons. If your town doesn't have one, it may be worth a short drive to another town to a store that does. Click here for a state-by-state list of stores that will double your coupons. If making a special trip, be sure to call in advance to see if the store has restrictions on doubling coupons. Some stores will only double coupons under $.50, some only double coupons on certain days of the week.

Buy the smallest size. Most people are under the impression that you will save more by buying in bulk. When using a coupon, this usually isn't true. What you will need to consider is the price per ounce. Here is an example of what I mean:

Without Coupon:

Diapers 28 count package: Price: $7.00 Cost per unit: $0.25

Diapers 56 count package: Price: $13.00 Cost per unit: $0.23

With Coupon:

Diapers 28 count package: Price: $7.00 - $1.50 coupon = $5.50 Cost per unit: $0.20

Diapers 56 count package: Price: $13.00 - $1.50 coupon = $11.50 Cost per unit: $0.21

While the price per ounce of the larger size is more economical without the coupon, the smaller size is the better buy with the coupon. Keep a small calculator in your purse or coupon caddy to help calculate the best deal.

Trade coupons with friends and online. Start a coupon group with women in your area. Let them know which items you need coupons for; and offer to trade with them. I have a friend who uses Pampers diapers, so whenever I see a coupon for that item I give it to her. In turn, she looks out for the items I use. To get started, e-mail 5-10 of your "thrifty" friends to see if they're interested. Have each friend list 10-20 items that she always uses, and print out the lists. Keep the lists handy when you're clipping coupons, and then pass on the coupons to your friends. Check out the Frugal Living Forum and join one of their Coupon Trains.

Other coupon sources. Some grocery stores have coupon bins within their store. Look for them near the customer service counter, or in the front of the store. Some libraries also have a coupon swapping bin. If your local library or grocer doesn't, it doesn't hurt to suggest it. Coupons are also now available in-store right next to the products themselves from machines sponsored by SmartSource.

Find coupons online. When you think of coupons, chances are you think of the kind that come as inserts in your Sunday paper. With the invent of the internet all sorts of other kinds of coupons are now available. You can download coupons from your computer and print them out. Click here for a listing on online coupon services. You can even find coupons being sold on eBay.

Organize! Make coupons easy to file and easy to use. I used to have my coupons clumped together in an envelope in my purse. I could never find the coupons I needed, and I ended up throwing out expired coupons I could have used. I use a large plastic index-card box for my coupons now. I have it divided by categories such as: canned goods, baby products, cereal, baking, dairy, etc. After serious couponing for a few months, you will discover which categories work the best for you.

After a little practice, you can become a coupon queen in your own right. Once you’ve mastered the art of couponing, you’ll never hit the grocery store without ‘em.

About the Author: Kimberly Danger is the owner/publisher of, and online resource for parents interested in saving time and money. She is the author of 1000 Best Baby Bargains. Ms. Danger lives in Southern Minnesota with her husband and two kids.

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