If you need some extreme couponing tips to save you from your over-spending or just want to get the best bang for your buck, you're in luck! We asked the founder of the streamline savings site LOZO, Jeff Kaplan, and the savings expert for CouponSherpa.com, Kendal Perez, for advice and ideas when it comes to couponing. As it turns out, you don't have to be super tech or math savvy to keep an eye on your spending!
The Best Strategy? Start With a List.
This is so decidedly old school that you'd think it'd be a no-brainer, and yet keeping a list of items you need or intend to get is really something you shouldn't skip. "From there, tailor your coupon search to only those items on your list," Kendal says. "Otherwise, you may be tempted by discounts on products you wouldn't otherwise purchase if they weren't on sale or part of a coupon deal. Something to always keep in mind is that buying an item on sale or with a coupon is only a good deal if you planned to buy it in the first place."
Investigate All Your Options by Comparison Shopping.
Take a second to assess whether it's worth getting Philadelphia Cream Cheese with a coupon or buying generic. According to Jeff, there are general guidelines with this: "Store brands are usually much cheaper and just as good as the 'name' brands. However, if there is a sale on a name brand and you have a coupon to use as well, that will typically end up cheaper than the store brand."
You also want to have a keen eye when it comes to finding the cheapest items. "Check out the top and bottoms shelves," Jeff says. "Grocery stores usually put the most expensive product on shelves that are eye-level and easiest to reach."
This applies to comparing between stores as well: price-matching is a good way of always getting the best deal for your buck. "See if the store you’re currently in will match the deals you’ve found in other stores," he adds. "If so, it’ll save you time and gas money."
Put a Moment's Thought in 2-for-1 Deals.
You may think it's smart to double-up on items, but the rule of thumb is that you can probably pass unless it's a legit steal.
"In most cases, when stores group together items for a lower price, you don’t actually have to buy the group to get the discount," Jeff says. " For example, on a 'Buy 2 for $5' deal, you can almost always buy just one item for $2.50. Having said that, if you need and will use both, go for it."
Stock up on Fruits and Vegetables That Are in Season.
"When they’re in season, they’ll be cheaper," Jeff notes. "A frugal alternative is to buy frozen vegetables. They’re still healthy, they’re cheaper, they won’t go bad and you can stockpile when they’re on sale."
Kendal echoes this sentiment and adds that you can additionally create a meal plan based on seasonal treats. "Instead of buying food items based on what you're craving, review circulars ahead of shopping trips to determine what's on sale and create menus and purchasing plans based on sale items"
Keep Running Tabs of Your Yearly Savings.
Some companies rack up your savings automatically, but this is more about giving you shopping endorphins than anything.
"Stores known for offering coupons and frequent sales will often tally up savings on your receipt as a form of marketing," Kendal says. "You feel good about how much you saved with that store and highlighting this information just reinforces that in your mind!"
But if you want to total up your yearly savings, consider holding onto your receipts and tallying them up at the end of the year. "I recommend using a spreadsheet and keeping it updated after every shopping event, but even a paper ledger of some kind will do," Kendal says.
Be Selective With E-Newsletters.
Typically, it's good for a temporary fix but bothersome down the line.
"Signing up for e-newsletters typically results in a new subscriber discount of 10 to 25% off, which is a nice perk," Kendal says. "The problem with these mailings is that they send emails quite frequently, often urging subscribers to drop what they're doing and shop to take advantage of sales. This creates a sense of urgency on behalf of the subscriber and can quickly result in unnecessary spending."
So what's the solution? Capitalize on a deal once if you need it, and then back away from it. "I recommend shoppers sign up for these deals to take advantage of one-time savings, and then immediately unsubscribe."
Capitalize on Loyalty Cards.
Picking up a loyalty card, however, is an excellent no-hassle way to save money. "Depending on the store's policy, loyalty programs can result in special discounts after a certain amount of money is spent, as well as increased benefits the more you spend"
Ultimately, she still echoes her original sentiment of sticking to what you need. "It's important not to let the promise of better benefits influence your spending, and instead let them arrive naturally based on your budgeted purchases."