Ready for the next installment of your complete coupon education? Great. Let's dive in.
To recap, so far we've covered:
Today I'm going to start helping you understand a little more about how to find good deals to use coupons on.
First, let's start with what NOT to do. Do not clip your coupons, buy the items pictured on the coupons, and call it a day. You will not likely have saved much money and what's worse, you may have ended up with items you didn't plan on buying in the first place.
(Photo credit Yucel Tellici)
It's equally mindless to simply wander down store aisles hoping to find a good sale. While you might occasionally find something, this seems to me to be a waste of time in most instances.
Now, let's talk about what you ARE trying to achieve.
The primary goal of couponing (as I hinted in my first lesson) is to save money by using coupons on SALE items. So you are looking for items that are either on sale, or a good price BEFORE coupons even come into the picture. And, of course, items that matter to you & your family. Think of your coupons as an excellent hand of cards. As with cards, strategy is involved with couponing. Play your coupon on a regularly-priced item and chances are you've wasted it. Wait for the right sale, and you've leveraged the value of the coupon to save you even more money. Make sense?
So where do you find sales? Here are a few places to get you stared.
1. Check out weekly store circulars. Every week, I'm checking out Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Walgreens, and Rite Aid circulars to learn what's on sale. At first, NOTHING would pop out at me. NOTHING. It was frustrating. But I kept at it, and kept clipping my coupons. Now when I see a Walgreens ad, most of the deals are glaringly obvious to me. By the way, did you know you can find these and most store ads online? Just go to their website! I almost never have an Albertons ad in hand when I put my deals together each week. I'm generally using the online version.
2. Follow my blog. Remember, I'm here to help! If you don't want to spend your weekends scanning store ads, I entirely understand. All you have to remember to do is head here – I've done the work for you. For instance, let me take a real example from my blog. This is a deal I posted yesterday taking place at Albertsons. Let's dissect:
Snuggle Fabric Softener (liquid or sheets) $3.99
$3/1 coupon from 10/04 Red Plum
Bottom line: $0.99
In the first line, I'm telling you the item I found on sale in the ad that week and what the price is. In this case, you could find Snuggle Fabric Softener on sale at Albertsons this week for $3.99.
In the second line, I'm suggesting that you use the $3-off-1 coupon you could find in the Red Plum insert that was issued in the 10/04 Sunday paper.
Finally, your "bottom line" is what you can expect to pay at the register after the sale and your coupon. $0.99. Make sense?
How can you find my deals? I've worked hard to give you a number of ways to follow me. First, you could just bookmark my site in your favorites and check in periodically (I usually have new deals every day). A second option, subscribe to my blog. You might notice that there is a box in the upper right-hand side of my blog. If you enter your email address there, at the end of each day you'll receive one email that contains all my posts for the day highlighted for you. And if you're a social media freak, you'll be glad to know you can follow me on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.
3. Check out other blogs, too. I've listed many wonderful blogs and resources in my blogroll on the right. Most of these blogs updates daily with deals, bargains, coupons, and more. Here's a time-saver I learned a few months ago. Subscribe to a reader. I use Google Reader, and it's completely free. Once in, I simply search for blogs I wish to "follow." Then on ONE screen I can see all the posts of all those blogs. I can skim past the ones that don't interest me, and read the ones I want to. It's a great way to stay on top of deals without spending hours online.
4. Try The Grocery Game. If you're new, overwhelmed, and short on time (or any of that combination), I recommend you give The Grocery Game a shot! How does it work? Each week, you'll receive customizable lists of all the sale items at stores in your area. Then the list tells you what coupons to use, and where to find them. It's foolproof. I used it for awhile in my early couponing days and was able to save hundreds just by following these lists. It is a paid membership, but right now there's a free 4-week trial. Not bad.
5. Pay attention to seasonal trends. Most of this is common sense, if you really think about it. Stores and manufacturers promote items with the seasons. So come winter, you'll find deals on hot cocoa and tea, but not hot dogs or ice cream. Conversely, when the summer is full swing, stock up on deals you find on condiments, pickles, and canned baked beans. I will talk about this soon, but I also follow this through in deciding which meats and produce to buy. Right now it's apple season, so I can generally find good deals on apples. A few months ago, it was nectarines and berries. We'll talk about all this more later, but for now, pay attention to what's on sale when.
(Photo permission from Stock Exchange)
I hope I've given you some ideas about how to find deals. My biggest advice? Let me help you find those deals. I spend hours each week scouring other blogs, deal sites, store ads, Twitter, Facebook, and more so you don't have to. I understand your time is valuable and I want to make couponing as accessible as possible.
If you want to learn even more about ways to find deals, you might be interested to read a 5-part series I wrote on the very topic! I explored various deal sources in depth. So if you have the time, check out:
Even if you choose to simply follow my blog (and/or others), it is always good to have a basic understanding of how deals are put together as it will help you grow into a Savvy Shopper. (You know, sort of like you had to learn long division before you could use a calculator…same thing.)
The next topic I'm tackling is going to be one of my favorites – how to determine if the deal is worth doing in the first place. Stay tuned for more.