Redemption – The Coupon Way (Part I)

Written by Stacey Micklevitz

Messy Marriage Team Member

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For over a year now, I’ve been a practicing “couponer”. I avoid the use of the term “extreme couponer”. If you’ve ever seen the TV shows that chronicle extreme couponing, you may have noticed that the individuals who display their talents go beyond overboard and are often coerced into doing so by show producers.

My approach to couponing is – in my opinion – more practical. 

As a stay-at-home mom with little influence on the amount of money flowing INTO our household budget, I feel I have the opportunity through coupon use to strongly control the amount of money that flows OUT of our budget.

To say that my husband is thrilled with my efforts is an understatement. He is so impressed by my results that he is not only SUPPORTIVE; he is a couponer himself! On average, we save 50%+ off retail prices on groceries and household/personal care items.

In a nutshell, this is how it’s done:

Firstly, Change Your Thinking –

Occasionally clipping coupons and “couponing” are NOT the same! Couponing is a lifestyle for me. I rarely pay full price for about 90% of the food and household items we consume. Combine coupons with sales to make the biggest impact on the bottom line. Don’t rush out to use a coupon just because it’s soon to expire. You WILL throw out most of your coupons, but that’s OK since manufacturers often reprint coupons (coupons expired up to 6 months can be donated to overseas military). 

Split large shopping trips (one store) into smaller ones (several stores), and you will have more opportunities to benefit from sales. Generic/store brands are NOT always cheaper. In fact, brand coupons PLUS sales are often less expensive than the store brands. Be flexible with brands when possible.

“Stockpiling” is NOT a bad word! Since sales run in seasons and cycles, you need to purchase enough items to last until the next sale. Thus, when you NEED an item, you get it from your stockpile rather than running to the store and paying full price – when the item isn’t on sale and a coupon isn’t available. Practicing these steps will structure your shopping list around stocking up on items you regularly use that are one sale, RATHER than items you’ve run out of and need to get at the spur of the moment.

Secondly, Learn The Secrets! 

Review each store’s coupon policy – most are found online and are often as different as each store. BOGO sales are awesome opportunities (remember to be aware of store policy when using coupons here). One coupon per purchase literally means one coupon per item NOT one coupon per transaction (exception: stores that issue store coupons often allow the use (stacking) of two coupons – one store coupon and one manufacturer coupon – per item).

Combine coupons with store rewards to increase savings impact (Walgreens = Register Rewards, CVS = Extra Care Bucks, Target = gift cards). Utilize rain checks when stores are out of a specific sale item. Set a personal limit of what you are willing to spend on certain items. The longer you coupon, the more you will learn about how little you can pay for certain items.

Opening your mind to these two concepts is an important step in the direction of becoming a seasoned couponer. Once you’ve accepted the idea that true, effective couponing is much more than simply remembering to hand your pinch of coupons to the cashier, you will be ready to learn where and how I get my inside information … so check back on Wednesday for Redemption – The Coupon Way (Part II)!

Photo credit by krossbow (Flickr)
  

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  • Stacey – Helpful post, thanks! I especially like your philosophy of being able to help control the outflow of money from your household.
    Blessings,
    Ann

  • Stacey Micklevitz

    Thanks so much, Dr. Ann! I hated feeling like it was my husband’s job to make the money and my job to spend it – but now, I spend it wisely! Couponing gives me an element of control that is often lacking in the life of a stay-at-home mom. It’s a win-win situation when you consider the huge savings!! I appreciate your comments, Dr. Ann! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Great job, Stacey! And I can’t wait for part II, for even more couponing secrets. 🙂

  • Hi Beth! Wish we had coupons here in the Philippines! I think I would be an expert at it! :^) Patsy from

  • i’m all about the practical approach. i remember when i was an extreme coupon gal (about 2 years ago)… we had a pantry full of junk that no one wanted. ha! i finally got choosier because even if something is cheap, it still costs something. and it’s a lot if it’s not going to be eaten!

  • heather

    Awesome post. Very informational. Thank you.

  • Stacey Micklevitz

    Carissa – I know what you mean! I’ve gone overboard on toothpaste in my early days because I could get it free, but I had way more than we would ever use before the expiration date! Thankfully we could donate it. And, you’re absolutely right – even though something is cheap, it’s a complete waste of money if it goes to waste. I appreciate your feedback!! Thank you. 🙂

  • Stacey Micklevitz

    Thanks, Heather! 🙂

  • aclark

    Quite a few years ago now I did this thing called ‘The List’. It was coupons coupled with the list from the local store that tracked all their sales and paird it with coupons. We did get alot of stuff for a fraction of the price, but I found that we were eating alot of processed, pre-packaged foods way more than we ever did before. I’m interested in trying the coupon thing again, but can you testify that you are getting healthy wholesome foods doing this? (I’m not talking organic or anything, just not overly processed stuff). Thanks for your feedback (anyone).

  • Diane Tolley

    Excellent advice! I’ve always been a ‘couponer’. In a vague, once in a while sense. My Husby is what I always called a ‘rabid couponer’. He’s good. He’s so good that women in our acquaintance call him to find out the best deals. I don’t think he’s ever paid full price for anything in his life. If he doesn’t have a coupon, he talks to the manager to see what kind of a deal they can offer. Embarrassing? Yes, at times. Money- saving? Yes, also! Thanks for sharing on NOBH!

  • Stacey Micklevitz

    Hi aclark! So sorry I missed your post earlier!! Though there are often specials, and even occasionally COUPONS, for veggies, etc, I do tend to see more coupons and “deals” for processed foods. So, I stock up on those items which we use such as canned goods and baking/cooking ingredients (including cheese and dairy products and freeze them) and use my savings to buy high quality produce and meats. It’s kind-of a trade-off in that area. If you check http://www.couponwizards.com, you will find monthly posts detailing what kinds of foods usually go on sale for that particular month. I believe that May is still upcoming. Since sales run in cycles, it is helpful to know what to expect and plan shopping trips accordingly. I hope this helped. Please feel free to ask additional questions as necessary!! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  • Stacey Micklevitz

    Thanks for your comment, Diane – I’m laughing at my mental image of a “rabid couponer”. I am so glad that your spouse is supportive in this area! I’ve also spoken with managers to ask if they are willing to substitute a comparable item for one in the weekly ad that they don’t stock, etc. Yeah – it’s a bit unnerving, but almost always worth the trade-off! So funny that your hubby has people asking HIM for coupon tips! 🙂