It is no secret that living expenses, especially groceries, can be expensive. If you are living in a dorm or apartment, you likely have to pay for groceries for yourself for the first time, especially if you chose not to get a meal plan. Using coupons is a great way to lower the cost of the essentials you buy. Setting aside a little bit of time to get organized and to extreme coupon is one way to save money and help your budget. Need help getting started? Here are a few tips on how to make the most of coupons.
Find coupons in a variety of places
The first challenge of couponing is knowing where to find the best coupons. Most coupons can be found weekly in newspapers. However, there are websites such as Coupons.com and RetailMeNot that have coupons and coupon codes that can be used for in-store and online purchases. Most stores also have their store circulars in-store so you can use those coupons as you shop.
Use coupon apps to help you get reimbursed on things you did not have physical coupons for. Apps like Ibotta allow you to search for a variety of cashback offers from stores you shop at and upload your receipt. You can get paid via Paypal or choose from a variety of gift cards once you hit $20. Using these kinds of apps allows you to have a variety of coupons and gives you a chance to get additional money back after you make your purchase with physical coupons.
Load store coupons onto your loyalty card. If you do not have a loyalty card for the store you shop at most, sign up if they have one. Most cards have the option to load digital store coupons right onto your card so the only coupons you have to worry about clipping are manufacturer coupons from the newspaper or online. Download the store’s app on your phone to add coupons to your cart as you shop or to load them as you are seeing what manufacturer coupons you have. Many store loyalty cards also have special promotions such as gas discounts or free items that you can take advantage of.
Combine sales, store coupons and manufacturer coupons. Many stores allow you to double up on coupons and combine manufacturer and store coupons with sales. Make sure you read up on your store’s coupon policy and read the fine print on the coupons to ensure that you are able to use the coupon. Some stores also double manufacturer coupons, so take advantage of this if your store does.
Do not buy something just because it has a coupon
If you see that something has a coupon but you do not need it, resist the urge to buy it. Buying something just because it has a coupon only makes you spend money you were not intending to, which defeats the purpose of using coupons. Only buy things that you need or know that you will use at some point soon. If there is something that you have been meaning to try, only buy it if it has a coupon. That way, if you end up not liking it, you can at least say that you did not pay full price for it.
Make a list and stick to it. This will help you resist the temptation to buy things you do not need. Also, if you are familiar with the store, make a map of where things are and plan out your shopping trip. Avoid aisles that do not contain things that you do not need so that you are not tempted to buy things that are not on your list. Have an idea of how much your trip should cost with coupons and sales and stick to it.
Make a budget and bring cash. It is easier to stick to a budget and resist overspending if you have physical cash as opposed to just swiping a debit or credit card. Leave your plastic at home to resist the urge to put whatever amount is not covered by cash on your card. If you have no way of withdrawing cash, use a check or debit card. Using a credit card should be a last resort since it is money that you cannot see in person or in your bank account.
Be organized and prepared
Check the store’s coupon policy. There is nothing more frustrating to a cashier than someone not knowing the store’s coupon policy. This is usually listed on the store’s website. Ask a store employee at checkout or customer service if you have any specific questions. Not knowing your store’s coupon policy can hinder the coupons that are valid for your order, which can throw off your budget.
Read the coupon. Make sure the date you are purchasing an item with a coupon falls between the start and expiration date for the coupon as most stores will not accept early or expired coupons. Double check to make sure you purchase the exact item or items listed on the coupon and see if you need to buy multiple of the item for the coupon to work. Read the fine print to see if there are any exceptions or rules that you need to follow in order to use the coupon.
Extreme couponing is only as effective as you make it. Make sure you put in the effort to get the most out of your couponing experience and to ensure that you are doing it right.