Over the next couple of weeks, six finalists will be auditioning for the opening of “staff writer” at Consumerism Commentary. Each will be providing two guest articles to share with readers. After the six writers have shared their guest articles, readers will have an opportunity to provide feedback before we select the staff writer.
This article is presented by FruGal, a consultant for a prominent online educational program.
Chances are, I have something in common with either you or someone you’re close to. That’s right, I recently found myself unemployed. After a five-year employment with a steady organization and what I thought was a prosperous future, I woke up one morning to find myself blindsided by the news that I no longer had a job. Luckily, being a financially-conscious individual, I’ve always been wise about investing a percentage of my earnings in various places, such as high-interest savings accounts. While this left me with enough money to “survive,” I knew that there were some concrete steps I was going to need to take in order to ensure I was making the most of my hard-earned dollars and, in believe it or not, cents.
Cents you ask? Yes, cents. Coupon-clipping has changed my life. What has long been considered a hobby of a let’s say, more “seasoned” individuals (a.k.a. senior citizens) has truly become all the rage with today’s average consumer. As a 28 year-old single female, I may not be your “average” coupon clipper, but my point is coupons are a smart move, no matter who you are.
Coupons have long fascinated me, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to master the art of this ever-growing practice. Spend just a few minutes online, and you’ll probably find quite a few useful web pages where people dedicate their whole site to the art of coupon clipping, complete with weekly store deals, coupon links, and much, much more.
I’m excited to share with you just a few simple steps you can take TODAY (well, maybe this Sunday) to STOP seeing your hard-earned money dwindle each week, and START seeing incredible savings in your everyday expenditures.
1. The good old Sunday newspaper is an excellent place to begin your new-found hobby of clipping coupons! On Sunday morning (or perhaps Saturday if the early edition is available where you live like it is In my city), head out to your local grocery store or gas station and pick up a copy of the Sunday paper for generally around $2 or less. Your $2 will go far based on the incredible savings you find inside. (Also check out your local paper on Thursday, as they often have coupons and promotions.)
Inside your $2 treasure, you’ll find a wide array of coupon inserts from companies such as SmartSource, PGBrandSaver, and others. Note that your coupon inserts may vary from ones you’d find in other cities, but regardless, you’ll find endless deals inside.
2. Now that you’ve got your coupons, what do you do with them? Get out your scissors and start clipping! There are tons of different organization systems that you can use, such as keeping a three ring binder with inserts. What I find works best for me is a plastic file folder organizer with tabbed letters of the alphabet. You can find these at any office supply store, and again, the couple of dollar investment you make will be well worth it in the long-run.
Once you’ve clipped all of your coupons it’s time to file them into your folder. I clip just about everything, even if I think I might not use it, because you never know. You also might find yourself giving coupons that don’t apply to you to your friends and family members. Find a system that works for you, but I usually file by the brand name of the item, rather than the general category. That way if I’m going through my sales circular for next week (see the next step) and see that Cheerios are on sale, I can simply flip to the “C” section and pull my coupon!
3. The key to successfully using your coupons is in the timing. You don’t want to go to the grocery store and simply buy items because you have coupons for them. Instead, check out your local grocery stores’ sales papers ahead of time. Prior to your weekly grocery store trip, go online to your store’s website. Most stores I’ve ever shopped at post their weekly circulars on their site. Some of them even have copies of the next week’s sales circular just past the checkout near the exit, so pick it up on your way out to start planning for the next week. Once you know what’s on sale, match up those items that are on sale in the circular with those items you have coupons for.
Of course, you won’t have a coupon for every item you want to buy, but you’ll definitely begin to see some significant savings in your weekly spending. Once you become a coupon-clipping “expert” you’ll begin to see your grocery bills decrease more and more, with strategies such as clipping coupons on the web, taking advantage of stores that double (and sometimes even triple!) your coupons, buying multiple copies of your Sunday paper, and using online resources to plan out how to maximize your coupons at different stores each week if you’re super ambitious.
Since I’ve begun steadily clipping and using coupons, I’ve seen my grocery bills more than cut in half each week. Not only does this give me some degree of personal satisfaction, but it also lets me know that I have a bit more money that particular week to go out with friends, or buy that bestselling novel I’ve been wanting to read. Or better yet, maybe I should just get it from the library for free.
So, Consumerism Commentary readers, what do you think? Are you an avid coupon-clipper like me? Do you have any tips to share on how to stretch your dollars and cents even further at the grocery store? If you get a little thrill from looking at the bottom of your grocery store receipt and seeing your savings, I’d love to hear from you!
This is a guest article by FruGal, one of six finalists interested in being Consumerism Commentary’s staff writer.
Updated September 8, 2011 and originally published November 9, 2009.