Saving money on your groceries…is a sport.
Can you really cut your grocery bill in half? Actually, yes. In fact, you can cut it by way more than that if you really wanted to.
How would you like paying only $18 for $103 worth of groceries? Or picking up $148.77 worth of groceries for $35.65? Sounds great? Well you may be curious to know that many people are already able to pull this sort of thing, though unfortunately, I am not yet one of those skilled enough to work this out just yet.
I’ve mentioned before that people I know typically run up a grocery bill of around $150 per head per month. And this is even when they visit discounted areas like Chinatown and Costco. Now imagine being able to trim that all the way down to $50 a month per person! For a family of four, that could potentially be a savings of up to $5,000 a year (but more realistically, $2,000 a year), maybe just enough to open or contribute to an IRA account .
So how can you put that extra few thousand back in your pocket? Well, you can use coupons. In a big way.
I’m not a regular coupon user, so this information piqued my interest:
Interesting Coupon Clipping Facts
- It takes people 20 minutes to an hour organizing their coupons for a shopping trip.
- Less people are inclined to use coupons these days compared to a few years ago, with less than 2% of coupons converted into money. But that can change with the whiff of a recession in our midst.
- With the right strategies, you can end up shave off 75% to 80% of your grocery bill. That translates to several hundred dollars a month of savings. On average, regular coupon users save 12% off their shopping bills.
- The higher your income, the more likely it is that you’ll use online coupons.
- At least 80% of people use coupons, but most don’t have a real system for using them.
- 47% of coupons issued are for nonfood items, with the most common coupons issued for household cleaning products.
- Successful coupon clippers are persistent, organized, systematic and very resourceful.
- The biggest complaint people have about coupons? The obvious beef about it being time-consuming to deal with.
I was enamored enough with the idea of cutting grocery bills dramatically this way that I went ahead and assembled a lot of the information I found into one giant, convenient list.
Some of the pointers below will seem simple, while others appear more hardcore, although I would consider them all to be fairly practical.
Giant List of 25 Coupon Tips To Lower Your Grocery Bill
#1 Review your spending habits. Track your spending for several months and note what you buy on a regular basis. Doing so will help you work on and even improve your shopping strategies. You can jot down the highest and lowest prices of products you buy on a weekly basis so you can check trends and know the best time to buy them. Use a notebook to jot down price trends of products you buy. Here’s an example of the kind of log you can set up — it’s especially helpful if you comparison shop.
#2 Think of coupons as cash, and you may be more motivated to use them. It can be work to clip and organize coupons, but if you think of them as “found or free money”, you may have a different attitude towards investing 30 minutes per weekly grocery trip on collecting them.
#3 Get a coupon organizer. Some people use envelopes, folders with labels and so forth. Here’s what TipNut says:
You can create your own coupon organizer or storage unit using the following materials:
(2) an accordion file or wallet
(3) an index file box: make it out of a cardboard shoe box, a plastic tub (with lid), a recipe box, or get a ready-made index box.
(4) a binder where you can include the following tools:
- Small pair of scissors for coupon clipping
- Pad of paper (for grocery list making)
- A Price Book
- Coupon sorting mat (you can make your own)
- Pens or pencils
Or you can get a fancier custom one for $7.
Then learn to use the CouponMom.com online database and Virtual Coupon Organizer. This site has conveniently organized non-expired coupons from the Sunday paper. The coupons here are organized by locale.
#4 Develop a couponing system.
Create your shopping list, then search for coupons online or in your Sunday paper for those that match what you have in your list.
File and store them in your coupon organizer by any of the following methods:
- by expiration date
- by products
- by alphabetical order
Here’s more on the subject of online coupons.
#5 Find stores with the best and most generous coupon policies. I found that different stores can have different policies — some may take in coupons as is — at face value, while other places may offer bonus savings by doubling or tripling a coupon’s face value. Discounts like these are often advertised by the store, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for these events.
#6 Or stick to a couple of stores, but know their coupon policies and sales schedule well. This ABC News article discusses how you can save money with coupons even by just focusing on a preferred store or two (for the convenience), if you are able to do the following:
Find out the
(1) price ranges for a store’s own specific grocery items,
(2) how the store’s savings programs work,
(3) how to combine store discounts with coupons to save even more money.
The idea is to know how regular sales and discounts cycle through your store, so you can take advantage of them.
#7 Look for high-value coupons, and do your shopping at double coupon stores. A store may begin promotion of a newly marketed brand or product by offering higher value coupons for it. It’s something to watch out for.
#8 Combine sales and “loss leaders” with coupons. Track the prices of “loss leaders”, which are those items in a store that are advertised at rock-bottom prices. Do it to get stuff for ridiculously low discounts or for free! Try to apply as many coupons as you can on the same products; you can even make money on a product if you can somehow get it for free using coupons, then sending in a rebate for it! This may not be completely effortless if you’re new to this sort of thing, but with time, practice, experience and a well-oiled system, it can come across as second nature.
The key, they say, is matching coupons to good sales at your local store. The idea is to use your coupons when an item is on sale and stock your cupboard when something hits a rock-bottom price.
Simply take the coupon section out of a Sunday newspaper and stash it away for four weeks. Then at that point, take the wad of coupons to the store and just look at the shelves. Magically, most of those coupons you have will sync up very well with stuff that’s already on sale on the shelves.
#9 Ask the store questions on their coupon and sales policies. Especially if you are serious about saving money. CouponMom offers fantastic questions you can ask store employees to help you get the best deals with coupons:
- Do you offer your own store coupons? If so, where can I find them?
- Can I combine your store coupon with a manufacturers’ coupon for the same item?
- Do you accept competitors’ store coupons?
- Do you accept coupons printed from a home computer?
- Do you accept expired grocery coupons?
- Do you double multiple coupons for like items?
#10 Use price tracking web sites. This involves monitoring the prices of products you do buy. Check out PriceBooking.com and TheGroceryGame.com for more information.
#11 Read coupons carefully. There may be several ways to “skin the cat” so to speak — many ways to use a coupon. See if you can make use of a coupon in the best way possible, so read the descriptions or fine print carefully.
#12 Check out online coupons and booklets. If cutting, clipping, organizing and scanning through coupons manually are a headache, then why not try searching for them through online sites that offer coupons? Coupon search engines can help you get what you need more efficiently. Try any of these sites for this purpose:
Find other lists of coupon and rebate sites here!
#13 Buy in bulk for those items that are heavily discounted. But at the same time, don’t go overboard with buying stuff you won’t need. Just because something’s on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it (e.g. bags and bags of halloween candy?). You’ll need to gauge what it is that makes sense for you to buy in larger quantities.
#14 Buy enough to last you till the next sale. This is a corollary to the previous tip about buying in bulk. Since sales can be several months apart, why not stockpile products on sale that will last you those months till the next sale?
#15 Buy a freezer. If you’re going to go for bulk discounts, then your perishables will need to be stored somewhere. It may be a good idea to invest in a freezer, the cost of which you’ll easily offset in a month or two, given your savings strategies.
#16 Donate extras to charity. An unfortunate side effect of loading up on “cheaper goods” is that you may end up with more stuff than you need. But I’ve read that a lot of folks who employ both offline and online couponing along with various other frugal shopping approaches, are also quite adept at how they handle the “extra goods” that they end up acquiring during their shopping quests. They usually share a lot of the extras with friends, family and their community and donate the things they can’t use to charity.
#17 Be flexible about your purchases. You may find that what you’re buying may not necessarily readily match the coupons that are available. Will you be open to changing your shopping habits a little to take advantage of the savings? How about shifting to products that have corresponding coupons or perhaps try using generic alternatives as they are typically cheaper than their branded counterparts. One money-saving strategy is to buy store brands with a store discount card, but some experiments have shown that using coupons with name brand items can actually be cheaper!
#18 Pick up the best (and all) coupons from your Sunday paper. Despite online coupons that are available at various money-saving web sites, the best coupons are still those offered in newspaper supplements. 82% of all coupons are found in your Sunday supplements, which can carry several hundred coupons per edition.
Collect ALL available coupons and don’t just pick out the coupons you think you’ll need because:
(1) You’ll never know when a coupon can be applied to a future deal, when an item goes on sale at a later date.
(2) You may actually get an item for free with a coupon even if it isn’t on your shopping list, which you can find a use for or donate to charity.
#19 Buy several copies of your Sunday paper, for the coupons! You can more than make up for the cost of the paper by collecting and using all the coupons they provide for items you frequently use.
#20 Size matters. Figure out your best savings based on price per unit or size of the item you are interested in buying. You may think that buying larger sizes of the same product will be the better deal, but that is not always the case so you’ll need to determine unit price and make comparisons across alternative products. Not only that — some coupons only apply to those items available in smaller sizes, so you’ll need to calculate your true savings with the coupon thrown in. This example from MommySavers.com brings this point home:
Diapers 28 count package: Price: $7.00 Cost per unit: $0.25
Diapers 56 count package: Price: $13.00 Cost per unit: $0.23
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
In this example, the smaller package is cheaper when a coupon is used for it.
So how about matching high value coupons with the smaller-sized or least expensive items? You may end up getting the item for free this way!
#21 Make use of available rebate checks and booklets. If grocery items have accompanying rebate offers, snag those checks and get some money back.
#23 Check the product’s packaging and shelf location for coupons or offers. If you’re a careful and perceptive shopper, your eagle eyes should easily spot deals that may be advertised on product shelves and packaging. Many times though, people don’t even notice the 2 for 1 deals or coupons that accompany something they’re about to buy.
#24 Keep coupons with you. Whether it’s in your purse, bag or car, why not store them somewhere you can use on the fly or as needed? You never know when the need will arise!
I am not the most talented shopper out there. I am usually one of those consumers who cave in to impatience and convenience. I hate shopping and don’t enjoy trips to stores one bit. But amazingly, just writing this post gave me a whole new appreciation for thrifty shopping. This research taught me a lot — that you can never be too frugal, especially when it comes to your grocery shopping. I learned quite a bit just by collecting these tips; enough to intrigue me into wanting to try this out. We’ll see how it goes.
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