We talk a lot about couponing on this site and if you’re new to this way of shopping, it can be confusing. Never fear! We are here to help. Over the next 11 posts, we are going to walk all of you newbies through the basics of using coupons to score big on your food and household items:
Let’s start at the very beginning: Why coupon? Simply, to save money. And you can save a lot of money if you start shopping strategically. Strategic coupon shopping is different than what the average American thinks it is.
Let me illustrate. A couple of years ago, before my couponing adventure began, my husband and I were facilitating our church’s Financial Peace University class and a participant asked if I used coupons. I answered, “No. You can always get your food for cheaper buying generic at WinCo or Walmart.” And it’s absolutely true, but only if you use coupons the way most Americans do. I had so much to learn…
Most people believe that “couponing” is going to the same grocery store you always shop and use a manufacturer’s coupon on a name-brand, full priced item that you need to purchase for that week’s meals. According to this strategy, you’re not saving money. Generic at WinCo and Super Walmart will always be cheaper than buying that full-priced, name brand item with a manufacturer’s coupon.
But that is not how we shop. Instead, we use manufacturer’s coupons when, and only when, we can accomplish the goal of couponing:
To get the name brand for less than the generic equivalent at WinCo or Super Walmart.
How is this done? We combine that manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon, store promotion, and/or rebate. We hold on to coupons, regardless of value and brand, until the “couponing stars” align and we can get the item for cheap, free or yes, even make money buying it. And then, when those stars do align, we stock up! That’s strategic shopping!
Here’s an example. Awhile ago, I was in the market for saltine crackers and had a $1/1 Nabisco crackers coupon to use. I went to WinCo to see what type of deal I could score.
The Nabisco Premium Crackers were priced at $2.71. After using my $1/1 coupon, I would have paid $1.71 out-of-pocket. But that would not have been a smart choice, because the WinCo generic brand was priced at 98¢.
Generic wins again! What’s a couponing girl to do?
Well, this smart girl headed to her neighborhood Safeway. Right around the same time, Safeway had a Nabisco cracker promotion that made the Premium Saltines around $1 a box when you purchased four — right about the same price as WinCo generic. If I would have used the four $1/1 coupons at Safeway, I could have picked up 4 boxes for FREE and had enough crackers in my pantry to last until the next opportunity rolled around to score them for free.
I solemnly promise that this type of shopping does not need to become your new part time job, nor does your stockpile need to take over three of your home’s bedrooms. You are in charge of how often you use coupons and how much time it takes.
If you give us 1-2 hours a week (including reading this website!), we can help you drastically reduce the amount of money you are spending on your family’s groceries and household items. And most of the work involved can be done while watching your favorite TV show (or your kids are watching theirs!).
Read more from The Ultimate Guide to Couponing in the Northwest here.