Last month I was in the bookstore and I happened across a book called The Lazy Couponer by Jamie Chase. As you can imagine it caught my eye. A few days before that I saw the TLC program Extreme Couponing, where people routinely get hundreds of dollars of groceries for under $2. The Extreme Couponing lifestyle seems to all consuming, almost like a mental disorder like hoarding that probably should be treated. Chase’s approach is novel in that you can get the results, free stuff, without all the hours and hours of planning.
If that sounds like a pie-in-the-sky dream it is not. Jamie Chase proves it every day and even teaches a class on it. I’m reading her book now and I just know I’m going to implement a lot of the techniques. (Look for a full book review later this month.) With that in mind, I reached out to Chase to see if she could put together a blog post. Here are her top ten couponing tips in her own words:
- Discover yourself – Using coupons to save is an excellent resource, but the biggest savings begin with understanding how you are as a consumer. Think about items and brands you can’t do without and others that can be swapped out for alternatives, that way you’ll know which coupons are best for you.
- Know your stores – The best way to maximize on coupons is to know the store at which you shop. Find out how your store sets up sales, whether they double coupons, if they offer free-item deals, or if they offer store coupons and accept those from competitors. Generally, people worry too much about whether their store doubles coupons, but some of the best savings happen when a store accepts both store and retail coupons together – often great deals happen at non-grocery stores like Rite Aid (coupons), CVS (coupons), and Target (coupons).
- Loyalty cards – Smart shoppers use those loyalty cards, so you should too. Register your cards online with their retailer so they’ll send personal coupons to you via email, or load them directly to your card. Loyalty cards are linked to your point-of-sale purchases so the more frequently you purchase an item, the more commonly you’ll get a coupon for it. Also find out if the store has a coupon machine in-store, where you can scan your loyalty card to earn even more personalized coupons.
- Stockpiling can lead to chaos – Simply skip a sale that requires purchase of multiples as another sale is just around the corner. If you feel compelled by the deal, consider donating the extra items to a soup kitchen or shelter instead of bringing them home.
- They’re just coupons – Remember that although coupons are valuable, you needn’t use every one you have. Don’t waste time bothering with ones for products you’d never use or chasing deals halfway across town. Use what you can when it is convenient and be smart about every purchase – that’s where the biggest savings is realized!
- Papers vs. Online – Go with what works best for you. If you’re computer savvy, then use what’s available online. Remember not to give personal information to questionable sites or sign-up with a coupon company that charges for its membership. At first, stick to the main coupon websites like Coupons.com, Smart Source, and Red Plum. [Editor’s Note: Couponobox is another good online option.] From there, it may be worthwhile to sign up at General Mills coupon site or Proctor and Gamble’s coupon site. Also, be sure to print in black & white and save on ink, as there is no rule requiring color-printed coupons. If you are a tactile person, then buy the cheapest Sunday paper inclusive of coupon inserts. Only buy extras when they include special inserts that cover products you can’t live without – such as a P&G or GM insert week.
- Capitalize on Catalinas (Cats) – [Editor’s note: Catalina’s are those coupons that are printed out with your receipt at the checkout.] See if your grocery stores offer Cats, which will give you the biggest return and pay for items like produce or proteins. Catalinas are also offered elsewhere, like Walgreens, so be sure to look for deals where reaching a threshold purchase gives you money back. It is also good to know that true Cats count pre-coupon totals, so go ahead and use those coupons on qualifying items!
- Online Shoppers – Open a second tab in your browser when you shop online and enter the website address in the search bar at Retail Me Not to generate coupon codes for that retailer. Also, consider starting your online shopping through sites like Shop Runner for free 2-day shipping or Box Tops for Education to earn money for local schools. Another good site to check out is Don’t Pay Full
- Coupon Databases – every couponer must use a coupon database to be successful and save time. There’s no need to cut coupons until minutes before you leave for the store, and a coupon database is the resource to best help you. My favorite is from Deal-Seeking Mom (DSM) who lists both printable and newspaper coupons: their value, where to find them, and their expirations. DSM is West Coast, so if you live on the East Coast coupon values may differ slightly.
- Check with The Lazy Couponer – If you have questions, want to brag, or even debate a point, simply contact me. I am completely available to chat coupons or answer questions you may have. As I am not a coupon-blogger, I can point you to the resources and websites that best meet your needs without bias. Find me at Lazy Couponer or Follow her on Facebook.
I haven’t hit the halfway point in the book yet, but I can tell that there are a lot of great tips that didn’t make the top ten cut. I recommend picking up The Lazy Couponer today.