A Guide to Frugal Coupon Living
Frugal Coupon Living 101
How to Start Frugal Coupon Living
What is the definition of frugal living? To live frugally, you must live within your means. In other words, you have to create a budget and stick to it. Due to the downward spiral of the economy, it really is not surprising that so many people have turned to coupons to help cut the costs at the grocery store. So my question is—why are you not couponing? Stop thinking that couponing is a waste of time and start today. With a little hard work and planning, you too can learn the art of frugal coupon living.
Why I Started Couponing
When I decided to be a stay-at-home mom four years ago, we had a nice sized savings account. With my husband being a teacher, I knew we would have to make serious adjustments to the family budget. I had no clue how drastic these cuts were going to be. Month by month, no matter how hard I tried, I could not stick to the budget. Slowly but surely, that savings account dwindled down to nothing.
After a couple of years of barely making it, I broke down and told my husband things were going to change. I started sending him out every Sunday to get the paper so I could start couponing. I started small at first and made the usual rookie mistakes, but every week I started to improve my savings. A year later, I seriously cut the weekly grocery bill in half and I have coupons to thank for this blessing.
So are you wondering how I did it? Here are some tips and advice I learned along the way—my guide to frugal coupon living.
The Coupon Binder
Couponing - Where to Start?
The first thing you need to start frugal coupon living is to go out and buy a Sunday paper. Sounds easy enough, right? A few things you need to know:
- Never buy a Sunday paper out of a machine. There are too many coupon cheaters out there who think it's okay to take all the inserts out of every paper. By the way, don't ever try this—you can be arrested for theft. Ask the woman in Shelbyville, TN, who got charged with stealing 19 Sunday papers out of the machine. Boy, I bet she was embarrassed! Always buy your Sunday paper inside a store where you can make sure your coupons are safely tucked away in the paper.
- You don't have to wake up at the crack of dawn and do a meet and greet with the paper delivery man. There are stores such as Walgreens who open around 9:00 a.m. for those who like to sleep in on the weekend. So far, this store has never failed me. A large pile of Sunday papers will be waiting on you as soon as you walk in the store.
- Don't even worry about driving to the store. If possible, get a subscription to the Sunday paper and have it delivered to your home. Make sure the cost of the subscription is less than what you would have to pay for an individual paper at the store. Unfortunately, to get our paper delivered, we have to pay for the Wednesday and Sunday editions, so it is cheaper for me to go out and get my own paper.
Now that you have your paper, start cutting and assembling the coupons into categories. At first, you will be able to get by with a small coupon notebook that you can throw in your purse. As you start to accumulate more coupons, you may want to start a larger notebook or binder. The more organized you are with your coupons, the more savings you will see on your grocery bill.
How to Organize Your Coupon Binder
Coupons Ready - Which Store to Choose?
Now that you have your coupons all organized and ready to go, what store are you going to shop at? Make a list of the stores in your area. Do a little research on their coupon policy and compare prices between all the stores. How do you decide which store's couponing policy is better? Here is a list of helpful tips to figuring out which store will be more beneficial to your pockets.
- Do they double coupons? If so, to what amount will they double? For example, the Kroger in my area will double coupons up to $0.50.
- Does the store have a rewards or loyalty card? What are the benefits of the card? For example, the Kroger card will get you access to lower prices in the store and at the gas pump.
- Will they accept multiple coupons on an item? Will they let you stack a manufacturer coupon on top of a store issued coupon? For example, CVS will let you use a CVS issued coupon along with a manufacturer coupon out of the Sunday paper.
- Do they offer rain checks on products that are sold out? This is important due to not missing out on those free products.
- Does the store offer additional coupons or cash back for my loyalty? For example, CVS offers Extra Care Bucks if you purchase certain items. You are then able to use these bucks towards the next week's purchases. They also offer a percentage back in cash on the total amount of purchases made every quarter.
These are just a few of the questions when reviewing the coupon policy of each store. A good tip is to print off the coupon policy and take it with you to the store in your coupon binder to ensure there is no problem with accepting a coupon. When you find the store that will benefit you the most, you are ready to make out your grocery list.
The Grocery List
Making a Grocery List and Sticking to It
One of the most important things about frugal coupon living is making the grocery list and not straying from it. Only pick up the items that you have a coupon for and are on sale. This may not always be possible, but it is the goal of every good couponer. Here are some tips to making a money saving grocery list and helpful ways to stick to it.
- Plan your weekly menu around the sale items at the store. Pull the coupons you know you are going to use and have them ready in an envelope or in the front of your binder.
- Don't have a coupon for the sale item? No worries - check local couponing sites to see if any coupons exist online for that specific item. Call it your own little cheat sheet cutting down on the amount of research you have to do yourself.
- If possible, shop alone so you will be more focused. Leave the kids and husband (or wife) at home. They will only distract you and ask for items not on your list causing you to blow your budget.
- Beware of those center aisle sales. Stores are good at distracting you with the amazing product set ups and their big sale signs. If it's not on your list and you don't have a coupon for the item, keep walking and stick to your list.
Now that you made out a money saving grocery list and know the importance of not straying from the list, you are ready to move on to the shopping part. Are you ready? Here we go!
My Cleaning Supplies
Shopping the Sales and Stockpiling
The key to frugal coupon living is shopping for only the items on sale and creating a stockpile. No, I don't mean like those crazy coupon ladies on those couponing shows. You will have to figure out how much of each product your family uses on a monthly basis. From this information, buy enough to supply your family for two to three months. Here are some important tips to remember when out shopping.
- Have a set price in mind you want to pay for each product. When that particular item is on sale and within your price range, use your coupons to stock up on that item. For example, I will only buy a box of cereal if it is under $1.50. My husband almost flipped out when I brought home eight boxes of cereal, but I only paid a $1.00 per box and that eight boxes kept us stocked for over two months. Cereal is expensive, so when I find a good deal, you better believe I stock up!
- When trying to create a stockpile, keep an eye on the product's expiration date. Sometimes stores are slashing the prices on these products because they are expiring soon. It's not going to help you save money if you buy these items and they expire before you get the chance to use them.
- Sometimes the generic brand is cheaper, and other times the name brand product along with a coupon is cheaper. You will have to do the math to see which one will help you save money. Back in the day, my pantry looked sad with all the white labeled Great Value products looking back at me. I will still buy generic if it is cheaper, but most of the time I have been able to stock up on the name brand items thanks to my coupons.
Now you got what you need and are ready to head to the checkout lane. You may think it's over and breathe a sigh of relief. But wait—stay focused! It's time to be at the top of your game and make sure the savings are rolling in on your grocery bill.
My Grocery Receipt
The Breakdown of My Savings
How I Saved
Focus - It's Checkout Time
The final part of frugal coupon living is going through the checkout line. Here is where you don't want all your hard work to go to waste. Keep focused and watch the savings come rolling in on the screen. Here are some important items to remember while you are at checkout and leaving with your haul of money saving groceries.
- Watch the screen as your cashier is checking you out. Make sure the products that you have purchased are ringing up correctly.
- Be sure to hand over the store reward or loyalty card and coupons to maximize your savings.
- Make sure you have received the correct number and dollar amount of any coupons or rebate offers for making your purchases.
- Always check your receipt for any errors before you leave the parking lot. If you find an error, go immediately back in and double check the prices before you head to the customer service desk.
A good tip to remember is to know how much you are planning to spend on your trip beforehand. If you have this calculation and your bill is way more, this can alert you that there is a problem with the bill. Most stores are happy to correct the problem with no hassle. Just today, I had an issue with my receipt at Kroger and they fixed the error with no questions asked. That is one of the main reasons my loyalty will remain with that grocery store.
What is your competitive level when it comes to couponing?
Frugal Coupon Living - Are You Ready to Start?
Now that you know the basics of frugal coupon living, I hope that you feel encouraged to begin saving money on your next trip to the grocery store. At first you may be overwhelmed, but start small and you will soon get the hang of it. Use the helpful couponing sites to find the best deals in your area. Just be careful and don't go overboard. The point is to save money, not waste it on items that you don't need or use.
Living frugally and using coupons has made a huge difference on our stretched to the max budget. I often look to couponing as a competitive sport as I am trying to find the very best deals in our area. Now if I could only find someone to cut my coupons and organize them into the binder every week...I would be a happy girl!
I hope you have learned some valuable tips and found a helpful guide to frugal coupon living. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below. Best of luck to you in your couponing adventures!