Do you see people in line at the supermarket handing over a stack of coupons and saving a ton of cash at the register? Does a little twinge of envy and wonder well up in your chest? Well, there’s no need to be jealous. You, too, can learn the tricks of “couponing” and stretch your grocery budget. Here are four tips on how to work those coupon savings in your favor.
STEP 1 : Plan ahead.
Figure out meals for the week ahead of time. This way, you’ll clip coupons according to what you need. This will also save you from engaging in impulse buying as you wander aimlessly through the grocery store aisles, deciding what you need to buy. “There are sites online called grocery list matchup sites. They track the sales cycles of the stores for you and give you a list of where everything is in the cycle and when things are at their lowest price. Then it tells you exactly what coupon to use. If you use one of these lists, you’re looking at spending only 30 minutes to an hour per week on planning. All you have to do is click the things you need to buy, print the list, get the coupons, and you’re ready to go,” says coupon expert Jill Cataldo. CouponMom.com is one popular grocery list matchup website.
STEP 2: Search for coupons.
Store circulars and the Sunday paper aren’t the only places you’ll find coupons. There are also coupons online. Some of the most popular coupon sites are Coupons.com and CouponCabin.com. Some store websites also feature printable coupons. In addition, if you sign up for a store’s mailing list, you’ll often get coupons in the mail or via e-mail.
STEP 3: Wait for sales.
The best way to maximize your savings is to use coupons when they match up with store sales for the week. Also, go to stores that double or triple the value of coupons for even bigger savings. “Using a coupon at the right time is just as important as using a coupon. For example, if I have a coupon for $1 off Crest toothpaste, I don’t want to use that coupon when it’s $2.99, I want to wait to use that coupon until it goes on sale for $1.00—then it’s free,” says Cataldo
STEP 4: Branch out.
Don’t feel obligated to stick to certain brands. If you see a coupon for an item you need, but it’s not the brand you usually buy, try it. The savings will be worth it. Also try shopping at different stores. For example, Target has great deals on groceries. In addition, make sure to sign up for store loyalty cards.