Nan Jensen, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Pinellas County Extension
Consumers across the country are increasingly looking for ways to save money to deal with the higher costs of goods and services and the effects of the slow economic recovery. “Couponing” has become increasingly popular and a common strategy to reduce expenses in the family budget.
Coupons typically are found in magazines or newspapers or distributed by stores that print their own coupons. Grocery stores and companies frequently offer special deals and coupons on-line. Printing coupons from the Internet and obtaining them digitally from online coupon aggregators has become common. Sites include RedPlum.com, Coupons.com, CouponMom.com, SmartSource.com and others. Some sites such as HeyItsFree.net offer free samples and product updates. Twitter accounts such as @freestuffrocks and @freenology provide updates and news feeds on free goods.
While couponing can save money, think about the time you invest. What we often don’t see with extreme coupon users is the amount of time spent researching and collecting coupons, money spent joining coupon sites or time spent researching store policies on redeeming them.
To help you get the most out of your couponing experience consider the following tips:
- Save time by organizing your coupons in an envelope, coupon file, or even a zipper-style plastic bag---anything that is small enough to take with you to the grocery store. Arrange them in alphabetical order, by categories or the aisles in your grocery store or how often you buy the product.
- Don’t buy something just because you have a coupon. Buy only what you need to stay on budget.
- When it comes to food, consider the nutritional value of the item. Many times food coupons are for snack foods and other packaged items that have limited nutritional value.
- Read coupons carefully for requirements and restrictions.
- Match up weekly sale items with coupons to get the best deal. Stock up on nonperishable items for your pantry when they are on sale. Stores usually repeat the sale price on different categories on a 12-week cycle, so buy enough staples to last until it is on sale again.
- Trade coupons with friends and family, and even involve your children. Couponing can be a great way to teach children about money.
- Compare prices. Another brand may be cheaper than the item with the coupon. Check unit pricing for the best deals.
Some stores will accept expired coupons. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
After checking out, read your receipt to be sure your coupons were properly credited.
If you use on-line coupon sites, consider how much personal information you have to give up in order to get them. Some websites require consumers to download software and agree to individual licensing agreements. Read the fine print.
For more information on other financial topics visit pinellascountyextension.org.