So now that you've started clipping coupons, what's next?
Do you just wander around aimlessly through the stores, grabbing each and every item that you have a coupon for? Do you maximize your purchases by buying the maximum limit number of items, or do you just purchase one of everything? Do you buy 5 different brands of toilet paper, knowing that your family will only use Brand X or apple juice for kids who prefer orange? Or do you stock up on items that you currently don't need (i.e. denture cream), but may need a few, or 20 years down the road? What do you do with all the coupons that you may not use? And where do you put everything once you get home?
Making the decision to coupon doesn't just require dedication and hours of research. Although an important aspect of couponing is just that, there is much more required of you.
The quality of having or showing discernment or good judgement...
Nobody needs 42 bottles of Nyquil, or 80 tubes of Crest. And while looking into the pantry and seeing 50 boxes of macaroni might seem like a good thing, in actuality it's not. (Unless of course you are planning to donate those items to your local food bank or homeless shelter~then by all means grab those goodies!)
Extreme couponing can cross the line into extreme hoarding very quickly. While I'm an advocate of preparedness and keeping the pantry full, I find it very disturbing to see people stockpile items that they have no intention of ever using or have enough time to use, just because they have a coupon for it. And moving a child into the basement so his room can be turned into another stockpile room, is a good sign that the couponing has turned the corner.
Besides it can really mess a kid up.
So, in the interest of saving money, here are a few tips that I have learned/am learning.
1. Read the fine print on your coupons when making a plan. Some coupons are not subject to doubling, or require the purchase of other items to be redeemable.
2. Only redeem coupons that you and your family will actually use. If you don't use sleep aids, don't purchase them! You are not saving money if you're spending it on useless items.
3. Double the largest coupons. In my town, we have a store that has "double" coupons. When used with a manufacturer coupon of at least 50 cents, they increase the savings another 50 cents (maximum). While they're not true double coupons, another 50 cents can take a $1.50 savings up to an even $2.
4. Do your research before leaving the house. Have a list for each store and the in-store sales going on to match up with your manufacturers coupons.
5. Preload, via the Internet, any "club cards" you may have. Often times there are more online coupons for card members than the advertisements show. And it keeps you from having to clip and keep track of the weekly store coupons.
6. Stick to what you know on the larger ticket items. If your family will only use one brand of laundry soap, don't waste your time or money trying to change their minds. If, however, you can pick up a pound of butter for $0.55, but it's not your usual brand, a $0.55 price tag is a good time to experiment.
7. Visit online coupon websites to print coupons from your own computer. Check with the stores before shopping to make sure they accept computer-printed coupons. I once spent an hour loading my cart with groceries from these coupons, only to find at checkout that this particular store didn't accept them. Talk about a big, fat waste of time!
8. Organize a coupon exchange with friends. Everyone wanting to participate, clips as many coupons as they can during the month, then gets together and trades the coupons that they can't use. I have several "feminine product" coupons that I can't use (no equipment and my girls aren't interested in these), but someone will be excited to get them. I've been invited to my first one later this month, so I'll let you know how it goes!
9. Check expiration dates. Never buy 80 boxes of cereal at once, unless you have 40 children...and if you do, GOD. BLESS. YOU....but for the rest of us, the cereal will become stale before it's even opened. The same rule applies to any over-the-counter medications.
10. Take advantage of clearance items. Sometimes stores need to get rid of a product quickly because of overstocking, label changes, or it's being discontinued. This is where great savings can happen. But only if it's a product that you will use! Otherwise it's like burning money.
11. Pair up with a friend to maximize savings. Some coupons will require you to purchase multiples of an item before the savings can begin, so partner up and then split it up later.
I've noticed that on the show "Extreme Couponing", shoppers can get very creative with their organizing of coupons. While it may make sense to carry around a 3-inch, 3-ring binder to some, for me it's not practical. I bring a clipboard with my notes attached, a pen, and business-sized envelopes for my coupons. Currently, I have 4 different envelopes; 2 with store names on them for their weekly coupons, 1 with manufacturer's coupons, and 1 for all of the coupons I plan on using that day. I bring them all though, just in case I've missed something or visit a store on the spur of the moment. (It happens!)
Just know that there is no right or wrong way to coupon. Some people are more successful at it than others (*ahem...that would be me.), but any savings is better than none, especially if you remember to only purchase those items that you will use now, or in the near future.
One last thing.
12. Be courteous. It takes a little longer to go through a check stand with coupons and not everyone is as thrilled as you are about your little stack of gold. Especially the mom with the crying baby. Or the elderly gentleman whose wife is waiting in the car. And for goodness sake, be aware of your surroundings when perusing the aisles. It will do you no good to save a few pennies at the check stand if you have to pay for someones physical therapy from a drive-by couponing mishap.
It could happen.☺