I want to start this article out by saying that I really like to spend money. Unfortunately, in order to spend money, you have to make it and save it! In our personal situation, we are not poor, but we also aren’t rich – but sometimes I like to spend like I am. I love to have new clothes and shoes, and to go out to eat for dinner every once in a while. I usually don’t feel too bad about it, because my husband and I set a monthly budget and we try hard to stick to it. That said, I always like to have little bit extra so that I can treat myself or my family every once in a while. So now you may be asking – what do you do to have that extra money? In this article I hope to show you how to save hundreds of dollars per year and how that can allow you to stock up on essential products that your family needs!
I am definitely not an expert, but these tips really have helped me to save hundreds of dollars, so I feel like it is my obligation to share them with all of you as well.
Here in the United State we have so many tools at our disposal to save money, such as coupons and apps on our phones. In other parts of the World, like Mexico where I am from, these tools are not available. While most of this article will focus on the tools that we have here in the United States, there are some other tips that can be applied in any part of the World.
For some background, a few short years ago my husband was in law school, and because he was only working part time, our budget was pretty tight. I was determined to stay at home with my young children, but at the same time I felt like I wasn’t contributing or helping us to have enough money. That is when I started looking into ways to save money. I started learning how to use coupons and after a couple of months I was able to see the results. Now, I have to say – couponing can be addictive. I know people that buy tons of things that they will never use, which can be counterproductive – no matter how cheap something is, if you keep buying things that you don’t need it’s hard to say that you are saving money!
I hope that these tips and tricks can help you, and that you are able to not only have a little bit extra to spend, but that you are able to save hundreds of dollars per year as well.
Be Persistent (aka don’t give up!)
When you start using coupons or doing anything else to save money, it can be very easy to get discouraged. It is so important push through the hard, stressful times, because it will be worth it in the end.
To illustrate this point, I want to share a personal experience. When I had only recently arrived in the United States in 2010, my husband was still doing his undergrad, and our budget was pretty tight. Luckily for me, one of my sisters-in-law lived right around the corner from us, so we got to spend a lot of time together. At that time, she introduced me to couponing. She would always tell us how she was saving lots of money. One day she told us about a great deal that she got at Rite-Aid on diapers. She explained it to me perfectly, and I wrote it down and excitedly told my husband that we had to go that day. Well, we got to Rite-Aid, found the diapers, and thought we were doing everything right. When we got to the cash register and paid, the amount that came up was about 5 times as much as what my sister-in-law had paid. Since I was still new to couponing, I didn’t know what I had done wrong, so instead of questioning the total, we quietly paid and walked out – feeling discouraged.
It took me four years before I decided to pick up a coupon again after that experience, and that is a huge regret.
When I started again in 2014, I had some very discouraging experiences – from my coupons not working, to having extremely rude cashiers, and more. My husband always encouraged me to keep on pushing forward, and as I did I learned more and I couldn’t be happier now that I have seen the results.
So, when you feel like giving up – DON’T!
Use All Available Sources to Find Coupons
You may be surprised to find out that there are many places that you can find coupons. If you are only using coupons from one source, then you are missing out! You can find coupons online, in the newspaper, in the mail, in stores, and by signing up for certain programs. Here are a few sources that I use every week.
- Local Newspaper – everywhere that I have lived has had a local newspaper that you can subscribe to. They all have had at least 1-3 coupon inserts in every Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday edition. The inserts are usually from Red Plum, P&G, and SmartSource. You should be able to get a subscription for those days only for less than $20 per month. You will also find that you won’t always want all of the coupons because they aren’t useful for you, so what I usually do is look up what coupons will be arriving (as I will discuss later) and only buying the newspaper at a convenience store on the days that I know I will need the coupons. That has saved me from having to get a subscription.
- Online Coupon Websites – There are quite a few websites online where you can search for manufacturer coupons for specific products, and print them off. Usually you have to download and install a special “coupon printer” that allows you to print them off, but it is free and only takes a few minutes. These are some of my favorite sites: redplum.com, www.smartsource.com, and www.coupons.com.
- Specific Products Websites – Many brands like to promote their products by offering exclusive coupons on their website or social media pages. Sometimes they will require that you sign up on their website, or play a game, watch a video, or something else. Whatever it is, it usually is pretty simple and is a great way to multiple your savings, so keep your eyes open for these opportunities on your favorite brands’ social media pages.
- Store Specific Websites – Many stores offer their own coupons that you can use together with manufacturer coupons. For example, you can go to coupons.target.com and you can find both manufacturer coupons and other coupons that you can only use at Target. Make sure you read what the coupon says, because sometimes the stores will put their logo on it, but they are actually manufacturer coupons that you can use anywhere. If it says “store coupon” or something similar instead of “manufacturer coupon” then you will know. Some other stores, like Kroger, will send you special coupons directly to your house if you join their club or sign up for pharmacy points. For example, Kroger and Kroger affiliates have digital coupons that you can load directly onto your loyalty card and they will automatically take the discount off when you purchase the corresponding product!
Coupon Planning and Organization
While just finding occasional coupons that you can use on your daily or weekly shopping trips can save some money, you will multiply your savings by a lot by taking some time each week to organize your coupons and plan out a coupon strategy.
There are many ways to organize your coupons. Some people like to have a large notebook, separated out by coupon type. You can use any three ring binder that you have, but you will probably want to add sleeves to it, like the ones that you can use for baseball cards. They even have some online that you can buy that are made specifically for coupons, like this one. While there is nothing wrong with this method of organizing coupons, it isn’t always the most convenient option, which is why I chose another method. I have seen many people that take their whole binder to the store and they pull it out and struggle to look through all of the pages to find the right coupons. That may work for some, but I prefer not to carry something so big with me all the time.
I prefer to organize my coupons at home into different categories, and then I create a labeled envelope for each. Some examples of the labels I use are: Laundry, Frozen Food, Dairy, Personal Care, etc. After I have the envelopes ready, I put the corresponding coupons in each one and I put them in a small bag that easily fits inside my purse so that I can take them out easily and I can find what I am looking for quickly.
No matter what way you decide to organize your coupons, it is important to do it. If you know exactly where your coupons are when you get to the store it will make it much easier to make sure you are getting the best deals.
One of the most important parts about using coupons to save money is knowing what coupons to use, how you can combine them with sales, and when is the best time to use them. The best way to plan is to figure out what stores are having sales, and then determining what coupons you can use to save even more off of the sales price.
While it is possible to go through all of the local store ads, and then manually look through your coupons, there are other resources online that do that work for you! My favorite website to find out what coupons to combine with what sales is www.thekrazycouponlady.com. This site is great, because you can search for the specific stores that you have in your area and they have already done most of the research. This is also the site that I check to find out what coupons will be coming in the following weeks’ newspaper. Their posts will also usually tell you the specific coupons that you need to use and what deals to combine them with to get the most savings. The great thing is that sometimes different stores have even better deals going on in your specific area, so you end up saving even more than you expected.
Another way to plan is to go to the clearance section of your favorite stores, and write down any specific products that you see there that you want. Then, when you get home you can check your coupons to see if there are any that you can combine with the clearance prices – I have ended up with many free products using this strategy!
Use Coupon Apps to Multiply Your Savings
When I started using coupons to save, I was pretty much limited to paper coupons that I could print off or cut out of the newspaper. However, a few months later I learned about an amazing app for my phone called Ibotta. This is how it works
- Sign up for an account and then download the app;
- Unlock rebates (watching videos, reading about the products, etc.)
- Go to the store and buy the products that have a rebate;
- When you get home, upload a picture of your receipt and scan the products;
- Wait for the rebate to be approved and added to your account.
Once you accumulate $20, you can have them pay you via PayPal or Venmo. Trust me, it doesn’t take long to get to that threshold! As you can see, I have received hundreds of dollars in rebates in the time that I have been using this app.
There are other apps too that work almost the same way. Some of my favorites are:
The great thing is that you can combine savings by submitting the same receipt in different applications. For example, sometimes Ibotta will have a rebate for $.50, Checkout 51 will have a rebate for $.75 and Mobisave will have a rebate for $1.00 – all for the same product. If you submit your receipt on all three you will end up saving $2.15! Just make sure that you don’t try to submit the same receipt in the same app (even on different accounts), because that is not permitted.
One thing that I love about these apps is that most of them offer rebates on products that you are buying anyway, like bread, milk, eggs, etc.
Lastly, I love to combine these rebates with other sales, paper coupons, and for products that are on clearance. Many times you will end up paying next to nothing (or literally nothing) for these products.
Other Tips to Save Hundreds of Dollars
I have saved hundreds of dollars using the above strategies, but now I want to end by sharing some other practical tips that will help you have a better, less stress-inducing experience.
Create a meal plan every week
This one has been hard for me, but whenever I do it, I end up spending less on groceries. You should start by planning out every meal that you are going to make during the week. Next, make a list of the ingredients that you will need to make them. Finally, go to the store and stick to your list. This will help you avoid buying products that you don’t need. Of course you can always buy a few extras, but this is a great place to start.
There are some good meal planners that you can buy that will help you stay organized and that will help you plan out your meals every week. This is the one that I use: Weekly Meal Planner.
Don’t go to the Store Hungry
This may seem kind of silly, but it really does make a difference! I find that when I go to the store without eating, everything looks delicious and I end up buying things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. If you follow my first tip above and are able to stick to your list, that will help too. You can avoid going to the store hungry by eating a small snack or a meal right before going to the store.
Try to Avoid Taking Your Young Kids To The Store During Nap-Time
Pretty much every mom I know can understand this. We love our kids very much, but there is something about taking them to the store that flips a switch within them that makes everything more difficult. It is not always possible to go to the store without your kids, especially when they are not in school yet, but if at all possible, try to go when they have a full stomach and have already taken their nap.
If you know that your child is having a hard day and has been crying or fighting all day, it might be best to put off your trip to the store until they have calmed down or until they can stay home. If you are only going for a few things, it isn’t such a big deal, but if you are planning on doing coupons and spending a lot of time, this advice should be helpful!
It can be a little bit overwhelming when you start using coupons on a regular basis, so I hope that these strategies will help you. There were many times when I wanted to give up, but now that I have seen the results, I am so glad that I didn’t. It feels so good to be able to contribute to the financial security of my family in whatever way that I can. I hope that you have enjoyed this article, and I would love to hear any and all tips that you have as well – please share them in the comments below!