So now that we have learned where to find coupons, lets learn how to use them to maximize our grocery savings!
Step 1: Know the Rules
You are able to use ONE manufacturer coupon per item. Read the coupon thoroughly before using it and know the requirements of it (size of box, quantity). For example, I have gone through a store and gathered a bunch of items for a sale and have my coupons at the ready only to get to the register and realize that one of my coupons was for $1.00 off TWO of that item, not one! Whoops! So read the coupon's rules and go through your coupons every week or so to discard the expired ones.
Step 2: Stacking Coupons
Most stores have a coupon policy that will allow you to "stack" coupons. This means that you can use your manufacturer coupon and use a store coupon for each item. For example, at Target.com they have several coupons that are good only at their stores so if you see Target has a coupon for $1.00 off a product and you have a manufacturer coupon for $.50 off that same item, you can use both coupons and get $1.50 off. This can get even better if you hold on to those two coupons for a while (unless they expire soon) and wait to see if a sale for the same item comes up. *Helpful Hint* It is a good idea to print off a copy of your store's coupon policy and take it to the store with you. You will inevitably get a cashier that does not know the policy and will tell you you can't use both coupons.
Step 3: Know where to Shop
The best advice I can give is to go to multiple stores for your groceries each week. Prices vary by store and a lot of the time if you buy a $2.00 item with a .50 off coupon at one store you may end up getting it for $1.50, but maybe that item is .50 cheaper at a different store and you could have gotten it for $1.00. And maybe that store has a store coupon or doubler available which would make the item only .50! Make a mental (or literal) note of the items you buy most often and how much they cost at different stores, that way when there is a sale or you have a great coupon you can maximize those savings!
However, it is also important to maximize your time. If a store has a great sale going and it is a 30 min. drive away think about the value of that sale. What will you be buying? How much will you be saving? Is it really worth it? If you are going to be buying a bunch of things you use a lot at a super discounted rate then the sale is probably worth the drive. However, if you are only going to save a little (for example, a few cans of free soup) then is it really worth the 1 hour of driving and time spent away from your family for a little free soup? Probably not.
Step 5: Build up a Stockpile
One of the best money-saving strategies is stockpiling. If you come across a great sale on basic necessities, stock up on it! For example, if a cereal your family loves ends up being free or $.50/box, buy 5! That way when you need it you don't end up running to the store and paying full price for it. The things I stock up on are cereal, condiments, soups, and anything I go through a lot of.
Alternatively, when I find a great deal on items that are free but I don't use a lot of, I share the bounty. I recently was able to get 10 free bottles of BBQ sauce at Albertsons. Since our family does not use a lot of BBQ sauce, I kept 3 for us, then gave the rest away to my neighbors. You can also donate items to shelters and help out others in need by not breaking your own bank. Shelters and donation centers are always in need of food for the needy and this is a wonderful way to give back. If you find a deal on free pet food but don't have any pets of your own, go "buy" it and donate it to an animal shelter.
Stay Tuned! In Part 3 of this series, I am going to go over how to play the drugstore game and teach you how to pay little to nothing on your basic toiletry necessities!