Let's dispel some common coupon myths.
1. I save more money by purchasing store brands.
If you don't have a coupon, this is often the case. But with coupons, brand name products can be much cheaper than the store brand. For example: this week, Sure deodorant is on sale for $.99 at Safeway. I have a $1/1 coupon, making the deodorant free. The store brand is a little more than that.
The key to using coupons to purchase brand name items at super low prices is to wait for the item to go on sale. By monitoring sales and using a coupon match-up site, you can be certain that you know where to get the best deals, no matter what region of the country you're in.
2. My store will lose money when I use coupons.
There are two kinds of coupons: store coupons and manufacturer coupons. Store coupons are most often seen in the store's weekly ad. These are just another way for the store to offer sales, the same way they mark down items using tags on the shelves.
Manufacturer coupons are issued by companies. When you use a coupon, the manufacturer actually reimburses the store for the coupon's value, plus a handling fee. Let's say you use a $.75 coupon for Suave at Walmart. Suave will reimburse Walmart for that $.75, plus a handling fee of $.08. In reality, by accepting manufacturer coupons, stores are making money.
3. People at the store will glare at me because I'll hold up the checkout line.
Have you watched Extreme Couponing? I'm constantly amazed when the show's participants spend two or more hours at the register. That's crazy! First, know that using coupons, especially if you split your purchase into multiple transactions, is going to take longer than not using coupons. But by simply being organized before you arrive at the checkout counter, you can make things quick and stress-free for you, the cashier, and the shoppers in line behind you.
4. Coupons won't save me enough money to make it worth my time.
Coupons will help you save in more than one way. First is the obvious savings, the savings you see immediately from the value of each coupon you use. Then there is the secondary savings. This is the savings you see over a longer period of time. In theory, you're using coupons to build a stockpile of items.
So let's say that you purchased deodorant for just $.25 by using a $2.00 coupon when the item was on sale. The first savings is the $2.00 you saved by using the coupon. The deodorant goes in your stockpile, until you use up your current deodorant. When that runs out, you grab the $.25 stick that is waiting in your stockpile.
If you didn't have that deodorant waiting, you would have been forced to purchase the deodorant at it's current price. Let's say that price is $4.00. Aside from your initial $2.00 savings, you've now saved an additional $1.75. Apply that type of savings to everything you purchase, and you can begin to see a 50-70% savings on your grocery bill. I find that kind of savings more than worth it.
5. Using coupons takes too much work.
Again, watching Extreme Couponing can give you the illusion that using coupons is the equivalent of a full time job. The reality is that couponing can take as much or as little time as you want it to. If you want to spend very little time couponing, you probably want to keep your coupons in a simple small accordion folder and only clip coupons from the weekly inserts. If you want to spend a little more time on it, you can follow a few money saving blogs and print the coupons or sign up for the freebies that they post. Maybe you want to dedicate even more time to the task. If so, you'll probably gather inserts from more than just one Sunday paper and you'll contact companies to ask for coupons.
My perspective on couponing is this: when I reduced my hours at work from 40+ to 25 after G was born, I knew I would have to make some changes to help us adjust to the lower income. I look at couponing as another part time job. I allot time for it each week because saving money is a necessity. Using coupons allows me to spend less time at work and more time at home with my family. Whatever your reason for couponing, it only has to consume as much of your time as you give it.