Once you have your homework assignment done and you understand how your particular stores handle coupons, the fun part of couponing begins, going shopping and saving money!
Each week most grocery, drug and mass retailer stores will put out their sale ad. The sale ad can usually be found as a flyer in the newspaper (Sunday or Wednesday is the most common day). You can also pick up a copy in the store after the sale starts or check the store’s website because most stores publish their ad online. You can also find the sale ads (sometimes even sneak peeks of them early before the sale starts) in our Store Deals forums.
Making a List
Once you have the store sale ad your goal is to make a list and match the weekly sale items with the coupons you have. Not everything you see in the sale ad is going to be a good deal however, but as you coupon over the course of time you will learn what is a good deal and which deals you can pass on. A good point of reference for deciding if a deal is good or not is if you can get the item for cheaper than the cost of generics. For example if generic ketchup is $2.00 for a 24 oz. bottle but this week Heinz ketchup is on sale for $1.50 for the same size bottle and you have a 50¢ off one coupon making it only $1.00, then that is a good deal go ahead and stock-up!
Important Note: When you first start couponing your list of possible sale & coupon matches may be small because you have not yet gotten a good collection of coupons. This is normal and it will get better as you collect more coupons over the course of the next few weeks and months.
Remember, your good deal price is going to be different than someone else’s. I cannot stress enough that couponing is a personalized process. Only you can decide if something is worth purchasing or not! You may want to consider keeping a price book if you are not sure what prices are on the items that you purchase. This can be a very helpful tool for new couponers.
You are going to want to shop at multiple stores since most weeks there will be a couple of great deals at each store and your goal is to pick those up and stockpile only the best deals. As you stockpile over time you will find that you have more items in your pantry which will make meal planning much easier. Occasionally there will be items that you need to purchase that are not on sale or that you don’t have coupons for, for those items you will want to shop at whatever store has the best price.
Get a piece of paper and make your list for each grocery store. It may look something like this:
As you make your list go through your coupons and match up the coupons you have to go with the sales. I usually put the coupons I am going to use for each store in an envelope so that they are ready to use.
Once you have your coupons and list all ready you are ready to go shopping and start saving. Always do your best to follow the store’s coupon policy. If your store has limits on how many coupons or “like” coupons you can use or double you may need to break up your coupon shopping into multiple transactions. If you are not sure if this is allowed, ask. Some stores allow multiple back-to-back transactions, some stores require you to go out of the store and come back in, some stores ask that you get back in line to let other customers have their turn checking out and some stores just say “one transaction per day”.
Sometimes you will get to the grocery store all prepared to get an amazing deal on something only to find the shelf is empty. When this happens you will want to ask your cashier or the customer service desk for a rain check. As long as the item that is out of stock is an advertised sale item and there are no restrictions in the sale ad about “no rain checks” or “quantities limited to stock in store” the store, by law in most states, has to issue a rain check. With your rain check in hand, you now can come back to the store at a later date and purchase the items that were out of stock. Rain checks can be a bonus because the extra time you have to purchase those items allows you to collect more coupons by either purchasing them.or
On the other hand the downside of getting a rain check is that your coupons may expire before the store re-stocks or if there is a special deal such as a Catalina deal you usually will not be able to get that special deal. But for regular sale + coupon deals rain checks should be taken advantage of. I often look for sale items that are out of stock of just one particular flavor or variety so that I have time to collect more coupons. Each store’s rain check policy varies; some expire in 30, 60 or 90 days while other stores have no expiration dates.
Buy One Get One Free Sales
Many stores offer buy one get one free sales (also known as BOGO or B1G1). These types of sales can be a couponers dream because at some stores you can use a coupon on each item. In essence a BOGO sale is 50% off (be aware however that some stores hike up the prices for a BOGO sale so the deal is not always the best deal).
For example: Publix has canned tuna on sale buy one get one free, each can of tuna is $1.00 regular price – the BOGO sale makes each can only 50¢ and then you have two coupons for 25¢ off one can. You can then use two coupons for every two cans of tuna making each can only 25¢ each.
Another benefit of BOGO sales is when there is also a BOGO coupon. When the couponing stars align you can get both items for free! This works because the store is giving you one item for free and the coupon is giving you one item for free, so you end up getting both items for free.
Multiple Item Pricing
Most stores have advertised sales for 10 for $10 or 2 for $5. Unless the ad says that you must buy 10 or 2 or whatever the terms are you do not need to purchase in those quantities. Most stores in fact do not require this. So whenever you see a 10 for $10 sale remember it is really on sale for $1.00 or a 2 for $5 is really just $2.50 each. You can purchase 1, 2, 4, 10, 50 or whatever your heart’s desire is.
Unadvertised Sales & Clearance
If you use a coupon binder or coupon box or other portable coupon organizing system you may still want to take the rest of your coupons with you so that you have them in case you find an unadvertised or clearance deal. These deals are often times some of the best savings. You just never know what sort of deals you may find so be prepared!
This couponing 101 guide is the basics of couponing. As you coupon shop and build your stockpile over the course of time you will learn more and more about the nuances of smart couponing. Take your time to read the tips and tricks in our Smart Couponing Tips as well as our Couponing Basics forum. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in our forums as the community here at HotCouponWorld is here to help you learn. Before you know it you will be a savvy coupon queen or king and can be proud of the money you’ve saved for your household.