I have never considered myself a coupon person, but at the store the other day after people in line behind me began to look anxious as coupon after coupon was scanned and the cashier enthusiastically declared, “Great coupons!” I humbly accepted the fact that I had crossed the line.
In the past, coupons presented an administrative task that just wasn’t worth the saved cents to me. I’d rather read the news and avoid scouring the ads for the best deal. Besides, I always felt coupons could turn against me with tantalizing photos and convincing words and enslave me to buy something I didn’t need.
Sometime between then and the day I crossed the line, I discovered I can take charge of coupons without letting them take charge of me.
The first action I took to take advantage of coupons was to establish an accessible location to keep them. I designated a cubby in my car door as the perfect place so they wouldn’t expire before I could use them. The last place you want coupons is forgotten at home on shopping day.
Next, I started to search coupons for brands I actually use already. One of the traps of name-brand coupons can be spending too much on a product that isn’t very different from one you already like. I tend to buy more off-brand products than name-brand, so it was easy for me to scan for coupons.
When I come across a new food item I might like to try or a name-brand product I would use but often buy off-brand, I put the coupon in my stash. But just because I save a coupon doesn’t mean I’m going to use it. While at the store, I quickly compare the price of the name-brand product to the off-brand and if the savings isn’t worth it, I crumple up the coupon and toss it in my cart to throw away later.
Clip, scan, crumple.
I usually only keep store coupons that don’t expire until after a few weeks go by, unless I already planned to go to that store soon. For weekly coupons that offer a percentage off any purchase, such as craft store coupons, I sign up for email coupons or find the weekly online coupon on my phone in the store. The email coupons are filtered into a separate inbox that I don’t usually look at unless I am shopping. This way, I don’t head to the store just because I have a coupon, but because I am already going there for something I need.
Local coupons are some of the best coupons to keep on hand for entertainment. Whether it is a restaurant, store or activity, local coupons offer the opportunity of an experience in your city. These types of coupons are great to have on hand for family outings. Using Groupon when planning activities can also save you money.
Learning to use coupons to your advantage is not always an easy task. A penny saved is a penny earned, but a penny spent just because you saw a coupon is also a penny gone.
With practice, you can determine whether coupons are sucking your time and money or saving you money. If it is too hard to use a coupon, it is not worth it.
Once when a gas station made it difficult to use a coupon, I just chose to buy gas at another nearby station. I didn’t buy their gas without the coupon just because I was there and saved time by letting it go. I had a victorious gas coupon experience shortly thereafter at another station.
Time is as important a commodity as money, if not more important, so don’t let coupons take more time than they are worth.