Hindsight of Couponing: What Noone Tells You.

A question I get all the time: How do you do it?

Well, I’m going to give you valuable tips, 18 years worth of couponing condensed into one article. These aren’t your typical beginner’s advice. These actually are the forefront of the basis of successful couponing.

When I first started, I dabbled in it, started slow. Over time, I invested a lot of time researching coupon policies, sales cycles, coupons’ fine print, contacting/communicating with corporate, managers and cashiers, including clearinghouses. All those years of research morphed my own personal couponing rules towards me and my family. I am going to share mine with you.

These personal rules has allowed me to spend more time with my family, I don’t have to work and we are financially comfortable….we take vacations, road trips and we have no debt, except our mortgage and utility bills. Last year, we took several trips, including our big one to Hawaii. This year, we have been on several little trips, including a 10 day trip to Niagara Falls, NYC, Washington D.C. and upstate NY. and we are going on a cruise in 8 months and that is paid for already.

Every couponer need to make their own personal expectations and guidelines as they coupon. They will change along the way and that’s okay because it will cater to your needs in order to be successful at it. It’s extremely important to have these special rules for yourself because this is how these personal rules are very realistic and everyone can achieve these or their own similiar rules:

  1. Limit up to 4 Sunday newspapers a week: I do this because A) this is how I limit myself…I don’t need 10-20 coupons to buy that many of the same products. I don’t even go through that many in 6 months! B) Most coupons’ fine print limit 2-4 of like coupons per day and a lot of stores impose a product limit purchase to discourage shelf clearing (which cost stores money each day the shelves are empty). I am not going to visit a store each day to get more. That’s a waste to gas, time and money for me. I have a nine year old car with 86,000 miles on it and its in great condition. That should tell you something.
  2. Anytime I see a deal where you buy a full priced item and you get an incentive such as a gift card (Target) or a Register Rewards/Balance Points (Walgreens), it’s not really a deal for me. For me to buy it, I better have manufacturer coupons, store coupons and cash back rebates for it.  That’s where the stores get you. Their highly inflated prices and they trap you with incentives like that! Nope, not me.                                                                                                                                                                                                    Those sales circulars? They will slap a product in it, put their price point in red to make it appear that it’s on sale and when you get to the store, it’s full priced! Nope, not happening!                                                                                                                                                                     Those deals where you buy a certain $ amount and you get an incentive? For example: women’s razors are $8.99 each and you get $5 in points when you spend $20. Guess what? You have to get THREE razors just to get that measly $5 back. Sadly, you would only be able to use two manufacturer coupons because either the store or the coupon’s fine print  limits two like coupons per day. Nope, I don’t fall that.
  3. Give yourself price points for each type of product you are willing to pay: For example, I won’t pay more than $.75 per bottle/can of hair care (shampoo, conditioner, mousse, hairspray). If I am all stocked up, then I only buy when it’s $.25 to free per bottle/can. These price points help curb my spending. Make a list of all the household and personal care products you use and create a price points you are willing to pay, when you need it and when your stockpile is full.
  4. Budget your spending: Give yourself a spending limit each week or every month. The trick is to stick with it because it can be very tempting to overspend! For my family, I don’t spend more than $50 a month on household and personal care items. A lot of times, I don’t even spend $25!  I won’t go shopping for weeks because either that stuff I need isn’t low enough for me to buy or I don’t need anymore to add to my stockpile.
  5. Buy two at a time when on sale, even if you need just one. This is how you progress into having a stockpile. I do this mostly with condiments, food I can freeze and items we go through rather quickly.
  6. Keep track of what you already have, especially cleaning liquids and powders because they do go rancid. If you have plenty, you don’t need to add to it. If you keep your stockpile in the garage, where it can be exposed to extreme heat or cold, liquids and powders lose their effectiveness and become rancid within 6 months. If you keep it in temp controlled environment, they will be good up to 12 months. Rotate your stock. Put dates of purchase on the bottom of each to use them wisely.
  7. Don’t keep buying – you save LOTS of money. Why keep spending time and money when you are fully stocked up? Save that money for a vacation, a new vehicle or add to the emergency fund.

I did go through a phase of extreme couponing and I actually lost money! 1) I had so much liquids and powders that it went bad over time. 2) I lost money on items (I got for free) we don’t even use, items that were not a benefit to us. 3) Time IS money too! I lost money spending a lot of time searching for deals online, gas to get to stores, extra coupons, and time to do multiple transactions. A lot of items I got for free or super cheap but in hindsight, it was expensive to do. It took away from my family, wear and tear on my vehicle, the amount of gas, the stress levels of either worrying about a purchase going to work or dealing with an irate cashier. It’s great to donate but my family comes first. No one is going to pay our bills but us. I’m not saying don’t donate, I’m saying take care of your family first and if you have the opportunity to help others, by all means, do it.

These personal money saving rules help us tremendously. It’s like a “financial diet” and it has proved a success. These rules aren’t for everyone but this will give you guidelines and ideas to make your own that works for you and your family. Within 12-24 months, you will see positive changes in your spending habit, increase in family time and extra cash in your bank account.