Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coupon Craziness - post #2

First things first: How does it all work?

The biggest thing I have learned about saving money with coupons is that you have to change the way you think and shop. If you clip the coupons and head to the store to buy just what you need every week, then it really isn't going to save you much money. You can usually get generic or store brands cheaper on a regular basis, so $.35 or $1 (if you're lucky) off of name brand items may not make a huge dent in your overall bill.

The main key is that you want to use coupons strategically to get the best prices on the items you normally buy. You can do this buy pairing coupons with a great sale, using them when stores offer extra savings like double or triple coupons, or stacking store coupons with manufacturer coupons. A $.75 coupon becomes a whole other animal when it triples to $2.25.

Stockpiling and Keeping track

There are two important strategies to get down to begin with: stockpile and keep track of the best prices on items. The idea of a stockpile is that you will buy multiples of non-perishable items or those that can be frozen for a while when they are available for a really good price. This may not seem to save money in the beginning because you are buying more of everything, and you will still have to pick up items that you must have but aren't at their best price yet. However, when you get a good stockpile going, you won't be having to fill up your shopping list with items that you have to have, but you'll be able to grab them out of your stockpile. Think catsup and dish detergent. These are the sorts of things that can add up if you pay full price for them and can be stockpiled easily with a bit of space.

The second idea is a bit more complicated and requires much more organization. In order to save the most money, you have to keep track of really good prices on the items you normally buy. Some people keep a list in a little book that they may refer to as a pricebook. Other people like to keep spreadsheets. Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer made one with base prices on staple items at Aldi and Wal-Mart to use for comparison. And some just have an idea and try to keep it all in their heads. I have to admit that has been me so far, and I really need to work on getting it somewhere where it's less likely to get lost. Basically, you want to keep track of the lowest prices you can find on an item, and every time you find a lower price, you can update the list.

It all begins with these two ideas. They you move into keeping track of where the deals are and actually collecting coupons. I'll be sharing more about these in upcoming posts.

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