Topic: When to Use Your Coupon
If you’re just joining us, I started a How To Tuesday series to help you learn how to achieve Extreme Couponing status. You’ll learn how to coupon shop step-by-step and take your regular couponing to Extreme Couponing. If you’re new, be sure you check out our previous week’s features.
- Part 1: How to Accumulate Coupons
- Part 2: How to Organize Your Coupons
- Part 3: How to Understand Bargain Jargon
- Part 4: Understanding Your Coupon
- Part 5: Knowing When to Use Your Coupon
- Part 6: How to Use the Coupon Database
- Part 7: How to Stack Coupons
In previous weeks we’ve talked about how to find coupons and how to organize them. Today we’re going to talk about when to use them.
:: Need vs. Want
The first step in cowing when to use your coupons is to determine if the item is a need or a want. But I think there’s another middle category called could use.
Need - These are products you use on a regular basis: toothpaste, toilet paper, cereal and other staples.
Could Use – These are things that aren’t necessarily needs but rank slightly higher than wants. For example you found a coupon for Capri Sun drinks. You may not normally let your children drink Capri Sun on a regular basis but you know you have to bring drinks to your kid’s school one day. This is a coupon you could use.
Want – These are things that you don’t need but simply want. Items like Crest White Strips, Ice Cream or other not-so-healthy food options.
Once you determine which category your coupons fall into, it’s easier to know when to use them and when to let them expire.
:: Wait for a Sale
Just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean you need to use it right away. The best way to use your coupons is to wait for a sale at the grocery store and use your coupon on top of the sale price. Using this practice you can likely get brand name items cheaper than generic.
Eventually you will set your own price points for different items, but until you do, 50% off is a good starting point. Try not to use your coupons unless the using the coupon give you a 50% or more savings off the regular price. Try this practice with items you need. Use 75% as a starting point for items you could use or items you want.
:: Patience & Free Product Coupons
We all get free product coupons from time to time. You may want to run out and use your coupons as soon as it comes but try to hold off. Wait and see if there will be a buy one, get one free sale. Then your free product coupon could turn into two free products.
I do this regularly but one of my greatest scores was some Jennie-O Ground Turkey meat. I received a $5 off Jennie-O Ground Turkey coupon ages ago. The expiration date was for many months later. I knew that $5 coupon would get me one package free at just about any grocery store but I waited and waited. Sure enough, Randalls had them buy one, get one free in their circular one week. I was able to get two packages of ground turkey free.
If the item never goes on a buy one, get one free sale, you’ve lost nothing. Simply get your free item right before your coupon expires.
:: Double & Triple Low Value Coupons
It’s gotten to the point now where I cringe when I get a $.55 coupon because I know it won’t double. I’d rather the manufacturer just released a $.50 coupon so I could take it and double it. Many grocery stores double and triple manufacturer coupons. Know which stores in your area do and which don’t. If you aren’t sure, call the store and ask.
There are $.35/1 Softsoap Handsoap coupons from the 5/15 Smartsource. For all you people with stores that triple coupons, this is a hot coupon. Stores often mark Softsoap pumps down to $1. With a triple coupon, that makes the handsoap free. Your neighbor probably bought it for $1.69 when it wasn’t on sale. But coupon users know. Wait for a sale and take it where it will triple.
If you don’t have a store that doubles or triples, you may want to just use low value coupons on items you need. They usually don’t offer much of a savings unless you needed to purchase the item anyway.
:: Stack Them
Another way to save big is to stack your coupons. Many stores like Safeway, Target, CVS and Walgreens allow you to use a manufacturer coupon AND a store coupon on a single item. That means double the savings if you can find store and manufacturer coupons that line up. Very often you can get items free or very, very inexpensively. This practice is a great way to get some of your could use and want items for next to nothing.
:: Clearance Deals
Using your coupons on clearance items can mean extra savings. Clearance prices are already marked down below the normal sale price. Adding the coupon on top of the clearance price could mean a steal of a deal. Many couponers prefer to shop with all their coupons so they can take advantage of these deals.
:: Expiration Dates
Don’t feel like you have to use your coupons just because they are about to expire. If you’ve been holding your $1/1 coupon waiting for a sale and just haven’t found one yet, look at your coupon and determine if it’s a need. Then check your shelves and see if you have enough stock to last a week or two. Typically when one coupons expires the manufacturer will issue a new one a week or two later. But if you’re running low and you need the item, by all means use the coupon to get it a little cheaper.
If the item is a could use, assess the situation. It might be prudent for you to use the coupon. It might be better to let it expire. It depends on your situation but most of the time I think you could probably just let them expire. If it’s just a want, let it expire. You can wait until the next coupon and the next sale to get it much cheaper.
Don’t fall into the mentality that just because you have a coupon, you have to use it. You don’t. Coupons don’t make you buy things. You control your own finances. You just need to have some self-control and know when to walk away.
Experienced Couponers Chime In! Did I miss any tips you think might be helpful?
Check out the entire How To Tuesday feature to learn how to achieve savings success using coupons.