Cutting coupons has been a standard practice in many households for decades. Many shoppers swear by these little squares of paper that promise discounts on common items. Some have turned coupon clipping into a sport and report paying next to nothing for full carts of groceries. When it comes to the average family, however, saving money at the store involves more than simply stockpiling potential savings.
People who participate in “extreme couponing” often spend hours every week hunting down coupons from every possible source. A typical shopper doesn’t have to go to these extremes to find coupons for common items. Newspapers and Internet websites offer weekly and monthly coupons that can be cut out or printed in a matter of minutes.
How much time is spent on gathering coupons is up to the individual shopper. Couponing practices that cut into other activities may offset or negate savings, especially if the time might be better used for something more lucrative.
Though coupons alone can promise savings of a few dollars per shopping trip, learning to combine discounts leads to better discounts. Each week, grocery stores put out ads announcing sales that offer both common and specialty items at low prices. Double coupon specials help shoppers make the most of the coupons they already have. In-store coupons may be combined with existing customer rewards programs for deeper discounts. When shoppers learn to coordinate all of these special sales, it makes coupons go further and grocery bills turn out lower.
Avoiding Impulse Buys
A big downfall of coupon clipping is the potential for impulse buys. Some people can’t resist a sale whether they actually need an item or not. Buying something just because the price is right can increase overall spending. It’s not uncommon for shoppers to report having bought more than they intended to when faced with what appear to be irresistible savings. If using coupons routinely leads to overspending, it may be better to abandon the practice in favor of other methods for saving.
Getting Familiar with Regular Items
One way to avoid impulse buying and the subsequent increase in grocery bills is to become familiar with items that are purchased on a regular basis. Every household has a certain set of items that appear on the grocery list week after week. To make coupons worth the time and effort, it’s best to focus on these items when searching for discounts. This helps to streamline coupon cutting and save time as well as money.
Comparing with Store Brands
The coupons that appear in newspapers and online are almost always for brand name products. These brands usually cost more than comparable store brands, so it’s important for shoppers to compare shelf prices before deciding whether a coupon will make a brand name product worth it. Sometimes, the base price of a store brand will be lower than the price of a popular brand even after the coupon discount.
While getting the best deal may not always involve using a coupon, the few dollars that an average shopper can save off each trip to the grocery store add up over time. In today’s economy, every little bit counts, and coupons help contribute to overall savings on common items for many families. As long as coupon shoppers use common sense when clipping and shopping, coupons can be beneficial to the weekly grocery budget.
This article was composed by TJ Barea, a freelance writer based in the greater metropolitan area of Seattle; this particular piece was written for the team at Valpak.com, an outfit which offers terrific restaurant coupons as well as other valuable items.