A Love/Hate Relationship
I have to admit that coupons are kind of a love of mine. They bring back fond memories of my grandma sifting through those old cookie tins ( you know the ones usually filled with sewing stuff ) full of coupons when I was a child. I swear some of those coupons had to have dated back to the 1940’s.
5 cents off of this or 22 cents off of that.
She diligently cut them out of every insert and kept them stored away for just the right sale to cash in.
Born in 1932, she was a child of the depression. I didn’t know it back then when I would look over long gone food items on the little scraps of paper but it was just in her nature to hold onto things. During her childhood, they had no way of knowing if there would be more if they lost or ran out of something.
As a military wife, I left my hometown in Ohio 11 years ago to follow the whims of the Air Force. I haven’t had many chances to visit home or at least not as many as I would like. I miss my grandma every day but a small rectangle on the bulletin board in my kitchen for 15 cents off of a salad dressing they stopped making in the early 1990’s reminds me of her every day that we are apart.
I would be lying though if I said that her devotion to clipping those little shapes out of the newspaper followed me as I moved across countries and states.
I tried. I really wanted to be good at it. I had the official binder that all of the experts say to use and I got 3, 4, heck even 5 copies of the Sunday paper just for the inserts.
Then the coupons would sit there unused because I had forgotten about them before they expired or I would find a great sale and buy WAY too much of something just because I could get it for 9 cents.
“Yes, honey I do have a use for 86 bottles of barbecue sauce. Don’t question me”
Stop Buying Those Inserts
Hey, if it works for you, by all means, keep it up. I have found from most couponing communities, however, that it just doesn’t work. It ends up being a waste of time or money or both. ( a little counterintuitive for saving money, don’t you think?)
If you are like me though you have most likely tried it and found a few things.
1.) While it is possible to do “extreme couponing” it is absolutely nothing like on the shows. In many cases the individuals who were on those shows either dedicate their entire lives to coupons ( ain’t nobody got time for that! ), cheat the system ( which makes it bad for all of us. How many places still double coupons? Right?), or are completely fabricated.
More often than not the stores let them do a one-time thing for the show or they are just sneaky. If you are ok with sneaky then sure, try it. If it works out then awesome. I just can’t do sneaky. Call me a prude but I just can’t stick it to the man like that and not feel yucky about it.
2.) Most of the coupons found to be clipped are for really gross overly processed items. You can get some great bargains on beauty supplies sometimes but the food leaves a lot to be desired.
With so many trying to eat healthier the coupon selection for deep-fried chocolate Twinkies and ultra mega pizzas seems less than appetizing. Clipping ones for fresh fruits and vegetables seems to be next to impossible. You can write companies well thought out letters in hopes of getting 25 cents off of your bananas but in the long run is that even worth it?
3.) Everything seems to expire before anything good goes on sale. Yeah, you could fill a swimming pool with all of the condiments you can get with coupons for pennies. When it comes to real food though it’s rather slim pickings. If you’re really lucky there will be a cereal coupon for the one you don’t already have 18 boxes of.
There’s An Easier Way
Several opportunities for saving money at the grocery store exist right on your phone or tablet. Not only are these coupons easier to keep track of but many of them automatically apply to your order right when you check out. They can also be integrated right into shopping lists or other to-do lists.
Some of these coupons can be found directly on the app or site for the stores that you regularly shop at. For example, Kroger, where I normally do a majority of my shopping has coupons you can choose on their app. They are then ready to use when you scan your shopper’s card at the checkout.
Other coupons can be found on apps or sites which are then often loaded onto your shopper’s card for the store of your choice.
My personal favorite way of saving with my phone or tablet is the use of rebate apps. There is a wide variety of them available. However, after trying a majority of them I find some more useful than others.
These apps work by allowing you to scan your receipt after your purchase and match items you bought with rebates. These rebates average anywhere from 25 cents to a few dollars. Once your receipt is verified the rebate amount is deposited into your account. After a threshold is met you can cash out in a few different ways. I use the PayPal option and enjoy having that extra money in my account for online shopping or business expenses.
I mainly use two of these apps on every shopping trip I do.
- Ibotta: I love this one and find it to be the most beneficial for the things that I buy and the stores that I shop in. They have a good selection of stores and online purchases that you can save on. ( even $1.00 back on an Uber!)
- Checkout51: This is a great one as well. I love this one because it has a lot of healthier items on it as well as other things you generally wouldn’t find a paper coupon for.
If you are a Walmart shopper there is a great rebate option on their site or app called the savings catcher. You scan your receipts just like with iBotta or Checkout51. However, this one will compare everything you bought with surrounding store prices and refund you the difference if a lower price is found. I have been surprised just how much I get back on a shopping trip with this one!
Most stores no longer allow stacking of coupons or even double coupons. ( Man, those were the days!) This is avoided with the use of the apps. Not only can you use a digital coupon to save on something but you can also check for a rebate through iBotta, Checkout51, savings center, or your app of choice. This will help you save even more since the rebates are still valid even if a coupon was used on the item.
Bonus points if you can find a digital coupon for something, get the iBotta or Checkout51 rebate, AND savings catcher comes up with a better price and puts the overage in your account!
Plan to Save
The best way to take advantage of a good coupon strategy is to plan your shopping trips out. This doesn’t mean sitting for days ahead of time with an excel sheet. If you do that and it works then you are one step ahead of my savings game! I just don’t have the attention span or time it.
Keep a running list of what pantry and refrigerated items you do have and only buy what you really need or think you will use within a month or so. Not knowing what you have or buying things you don’t need can be a huge waste.
Check out sales at your local stores and match up digital coupons or rebates with them. If something you don’t immediately need seems like a good price but you don’t have a coupon or rebate on it consider holding off. Often sales run in cycles or on a seasonal basis. This means that at one point or another there is a good chance of that item matching up later.
Make use of list making or shopping apps. These can be a lifesaver for keeping track of what you plan to buy and what coupons or rebates you have. How many times have you bought a bunch of crap because you had no idea what was on that list you left on the counter at home? ( I know I’m not the only one who does that! )
So what are some of your favorite store apps? Ultimately it will depend on the stores in your area and the items that you buy. However, I think that those mentioned above are a great start for anyone trying to find their way in the world of couponing.
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