Couponing has been a hot topic the past couple years thanks in part to a certain reality TV show. I have to be honest as a couponer I do not like that show at all. It is a TV show and a lot of what you see is done for TV. I want you to know that you don’t have to be extreme or crazy to save a ton of money with coupons. Today we are going to talk about what couponing means, the history of couponing and how couponing works.
What is couponing? Couponing is the term used to describe using manufacturer or store coupons towards the payment of specific items. We typically only think about grocery shopping, but there are actually coupons for almost every items you can think of, not just food and personal care items.
Why do manufacturers offer coupons? It’s all about marketing baby. Post Cereal offered 1 cent certificates for a new cereal called “Grape Nuts” back in 1895 to get consumers to give it a try. Coca-Cola also offered similar certificates to consumers in the 1890?s. Proctor & Gamble started offering coupons in the 1920?s. Couponing really took off in the 1950?s through when A.C. Neilson Company set up their Neilison Clearing House division. Companies have learned that consumers are more likely to try out a new product or become a repeat purchaser when they can get it at a discount. Coupons are a form of advertising or marketing. Instead of spending $ on billboards or TV ads, companies use the coupons to draw in business and gain new consumers.
How do coupons work? Manufacturers and stores offer coupons which consumers can use like cash payment towards specific items. Consumers simply present the coupon at the time of purchase to the store and the amount of the coupon will be applied towards the final cost of the item.
How can I get a product for free if the coupon is only for $1 off and the item is for $2? This is where what we call “stacking / matching” comes in. Companies put their product on sale several times a year at the various retailers (grocery stores, drug stores, big box stores…). Typically the sales cycles run every 6-8 weeks. Every week there are new coupons released from manufacturers. The key to really saving money with couponing is to wait to use those coupons when they match up with a sale. For instance, let’s say you have a coupon for $1 off a can of soup. The soup is $1.85 at your favorite grocery store. Now you could go ahead and use that coupon and pay only 85 cents for it. 85 cents is a great deal, right? Yes, but you can get an even better deal on that can of soup if you wait to use that coupon when the soup goes on sale too! Coupons are typically good for 1-3 months. Sales cycles typically run every 6-8 weeks. That means that soup is probably going to go on sale at the grocery store before the coupon expires. If you wait to use that coupon until the soup goes on sale say for say $1 a can, then you will actually get your soup for FREE! This is how you can maximize your savings with coupons by matching up the sales with coupons to get your items at the lowest price possible. There are also times when you can use store coupons AND manufacturer coupons on an item that is on sale too!
Is that legal? Yes as long as the store’s policy allows it. Every store has a coupon policy which you can find on their website. My advice is to print the policies, read them, understand them and take them with you when shopping. This way if the cashier tries to tell you that you can’t use a coupon you can ask for a Manager and show them the policy as proof. Stores are tightening up their coupon policies (thanks in part to that reality show I mentioned earlier) and policies can change at any time. I recommend checking the policies often.
How can stores afford to let consumers use coupons, don’t they lose the $ from the coupon?Using coupons doesn’t hurt the stores, it actually helps them. The stores turn in the coupons to the manufacturers each week or month and the manufacturer of the product then reimburses the store for the amount of the coupon.
How much $ can I really save from couponing? It all depends on how much you want to save. On average, I save 75% on my food & grocery items. I am usually able to get my personal care items for free or just for pennies. It is completely realistic for a newbie couponer to be able to save 50% on their groceries. As you learn more about couponing and get more comfortable with matching your sales, you can save 75% or more. I know several families who spend less than $25 a week for ALL their groceries & personal care items for their families of 4-6.
What else should I know about getting started with couponing? If you really want to save the most amount of money with couponing, it does take some time to learn how to effectively coupon. Don’t expect to be able to save 90% on your groceries the first time you do a couponing match up. The longer you coupon and the more you learn, the more you will save! You also need to know where to find coupons, how to organize your coupons, how to match and stack sales with coupons and schedule time to plan your meals and your grocery shopping each week.
Website to help you with getting started:
Depending on where you live you can google and find local blogs and websites that do matchups and sale tips for the stores in your area. I live in NC and the local sites I really enjoy and learned from include SouthernSavers.com & A Penny Filled Pantry.