By: Francesca Fiori
Using coupons in your daily can be a fantastic way to save money. The hobby of couponing requires proper planning, organization and a successful strategy in order to experience the largest and most beneficial impact on your budget. The first step toward understanding the couponing process is realizing that these discounts are a form of marketing tools for business. Stores want customers to spend money, and without a carefully thought out strategy, you just might become victim to purchasing items that you never wanted in the first place. However, once the proper tips and tools for couponing have been learned, you’ll be able to shop effectively, spending minimal amounts of money for a plethora of products. To understand how to coupon effectively, all it takes is the appropriate knowledge and a little bit of practice to succeed.
How to Tip #1: Get rid of coupons you don’t need
Many people who engage in couponing think that it’s beneficial to keep all of the coupons they find. If you start collecting a bunch of coupons for certain foods that you don’t eat, the best thing to do is just throw these types of coupons away. To avoid being wasteful, it’s also possible to share or trade these coupons with friends or other members of the couponing world that may need them. Consumers can also purchase an item using a coupon, and donate the items they don’t need to a charity.
How to Tip #2: Realize the best time to use a coupon
Knowing when to use a coupon is one of the most effective ways to be successful with this hobby. Just because someone finds a wonderful coupon for the week, does not mean that is the best time to use it. Yes it’s true that once coupons expire they can no longer be used, but if possible, try and hold onto the coupons until you can find a sale worth pairing with the coupon. The most important thing to remember is not to use a coupon just because you have one. To be effective at saving money, shoppers need to combine coupons with sales or combine them with additional store coupons. Organizing all of the coupons that you accumulate over time can help make finding these deals much easier in the long run.
How to Tip #3: Make sure to join a store’s loyalty program
Stores such as Price Chopper, CVS and Walgreens, for example, offer their customers reward programs. These programs are free to join and give customers sale prices on items in the store. Often times, if a customer is not signed up as a reward members they won’t get the sale price on the item they’re buying. This means that they won’t be able to use their coupons, in addition to the sale. It’s crucial to become a member of the reward programs in order to take full advantage of the savings that can be made with couponing.
How to Tip #4: Learn the store’s coupon policy
For coupon beginners, it’s important to understand that every store is different. The coupon policy that applies at one store may not work at another. To become an effective couponer, familiarize yourself with the coupon policies of every single store that you plan to shop at. Understanding the policy can often help customers save double or even triple the amount on their savings. Most of the time customers can just ask a cashier or manager to explain the policy, but if talking to people isn’t your thing, many store policies can easily be found online. How to Tip #5: Start keeping a price book To become an effective coupon guru, a valuable thing to remember is that most products have a rock bottom price (even with regional variations). The best way to learn about low prices is to visit the stores and record the prices that you find. For example, if chicken breast is normally $1.99 and you find it on sale for $1.77, record that price in an excel sheet or notebook. If you find that the $1.77 price is something that only comes around once every few months, you’ll know based on your records that it is the rock bottom price. Keeping a journal is a great step towards couponing effectively because it allows you to understand and know what a good price is. Once customers have determined the rock bottom prices of items they need, they’ll have a much better understanding for when to use a coupon to get the maximum savings.
How to Tip #6: Get to know all the stores in your area
In order to get the most bang for a buck, coupon beginners should visit all of the stores within their area. Although one store might offer low prices naturally, combining these prices with coupons might not provide the best savings. Some stores that offer low prices initially won’t double or triple coupons, meaning that using coupons for items won’t be as effective. The truth is that more expensive stores can afford to take bigger losses with sales, which means they will often use large promotions to draw in consumers. For a person who coupons, this can be extremely beneficial because the savings will ultimately be greater at a store that allows multiple coupon use.
How to Tip #7: Shop at multiple stores
When first starting out in the couponing world, it’s important to begin small. Select one or two stores where you can effectively start using your coupons and become familiar with the process. Once everything becomes a bit more second nature, couponers may find themselves visiting multiple stores just to grab the great deal of the week. This can be a very effective way to increase a stockpile, but keep in mind that the goal of couponing is to save money, not spend more driving all over the county to find deals. Learning to shop smart and quick at 2 or 3 stores a week will help make the act of couponing more beneficial in the long run.
How to Tip #8: Let go of brand loyalty
Unless you are buying for a family member that has a nutritional or health need, always buy the item that is cheapest. Detaching yourself from brand name products is a huge part of learning to coupon effectively. These brand names are almost always more expensive than their generic counterparts, so in order to reach the highest savings while on your shopping trip, go for the cheaper option. But remember; don’t ever compromise health for more savings.
How to Tip #9: Buying in bulk isn’t always best
Buying products in bulk can seem like a great way to save money, but this isn’t always true. To become an effective couponer, let go of the idea of buying in bulk. When using coupons, consumers will often find that they can receive an item for free if they use multiple coupons. Multiple coupons when used properly, are better than buying in bulk, because they can give you more products overall.
How to Tip #10: Be ethical when using coupons
People often try to cheat the system when using coupons which has made stores a lot more skittish. When coupons are used unethically, this affects and hurts everyone. Mistakes will be made, but don’t ever intentionally cheat when using coupons. The extra savings won’t ever be worth the damage that cheating can create.
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