Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lessons Learned Using Coupons

This is a GREAT article from My Frugal Adventures. I'm posting it because I couldn't say this better myself!!

I know a lot of you are just getting started using coupons and I thought I would share a few things I have learned. For those of you that have more experience please feel free to share your tips as well!

1. Start slow. Just like with anything new there is a tendency to want to hit every store for every deal every week. I would strongly recommend starting slow. You might start off with one drugstore at first and do one or two very simple transactions. Once you get comfortable with that store you can start doing more complicated transactions or branch off to other stores. You will also want to get a feel for each of your local stores and their policies on coupons. I have a wonderful Target and a wonderful CVS in my area, so I try to do as much of my shopping there as I can. Likewise, I happen to have a Walgreens that is very anti-coupons so I almost never shop there as a result.

2. Read the fine print. Many drugstore deals in particular have limits on the quantity you can buy. Typically the limit is 1- especially on deals that involve ECBs, rebates or Register Rewards. You will want to be sure to check your local ad for any limits before you plan your trips. Be sure you carefully read the beginners drugstore series for Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS HERE before your first shopping trip. I have been doing the drugstore game for a few years and I still make mistakes all the time.

3. All deals will come around again. I promise the chances of seeing an incredible deal come back around are extremely high. If you miss out on free Colgate this week- I just bet it will come back around next month! I usually only go to the drugstores once every few weeks to roll my ECBs or Register Rewards. Your time is an important factor to consider when couponing. When I first started I made myself crazy running all over to get every deal every week.

4. Moderation is a good thing. This is just my personal opinion and your situation might be very different from mine. If you live in a rural area and it is 45 minutes to the nearest store or you have a very large family than I would encourage you to find the balance that works for your situation. It is easy to get a little carried away with coupons. I see people that have 20 newspaper subscriptions or that purchase hundreds and hundreds of coupons for specific deals. I would encourage you to really consider what you need. For drugstore items, I usually keep 3-6 items on hand because most products we simply don’t go through that quickly. I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this and that is ok! Just keep in mind that you will have to manage everything you buy. So if you buy 46 boxes of free cereal and you only go through 1 box a month, that is a ton of product that you have to store and manage.

5. Have fun! Hopefully using coupons will become fun and fairly seamless. Once you start to get the hang of it I hope that it gets easier and easier to do. I have discussed my price book in the past and I have a certain price I try to pay for certain items. I usually try to look at the big picture. If an item hits my buy price one week and I simply don’t have time to get to the store, I will happily pay a little more the following week or I just make it work without that item until it goes on sale again.

I also have the same philosophy for stores. If I know a store is going to give me a hard time I just don’t shop there. My regular grocery store is a great example, I drive out of my way to a friendly Safeway store rather than go to the one right by my house. I would rather spend a few extra minutes in the car than get treated badly and wind up angry, embarrassed and upset at a store that is not going to treat me well. I would encourage you to do the same! When I first started there were countless times I was near tears when leaving a store because I was treated so badly. Now that I am a little more experienced I have no idea why I put myself through all that.

(I feel the same way about stores - if I have issues with that store or if it's out of my way, then I don't go there.)

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