Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Coupon Without The Crazy: Where To Start?

Last year, shortly after the new year began I started fooling around with the idea of using coupons.  I was already pretty good at looking for online coupons for free shipping and such but I had never delved into paper coupons and the grocery store.  I spent many days reading different how-to's and other bloggers experiences with couponing, learning different ways to organize it all, what the lingo meant, and watching episodes of Extreme Couponing on Netflix.  To be honest it all seemed a little crazy and intimidating.

I've now been using coupons for almost a year and have saved over $600 in the last 4 months alone.  I want to spend the rest of January sharing my process with you.  I won't have every possible place to find coupons or every way to store them and your groceries but you will see exactly what I do every week to make grocery shopping easy without taking up a lot of time or space.  My hope is that you'll come away at the end of January inspired to put your own spin on things and figure out what works for you without going crazy in the process.
So where should you start?

I already had a sense of which grocery stores in the area where cheaper than others.  Through trial and error I decided to only shop at one store (it just didn't seem worth my time to go to multiples for the best price and I'm ok with spending a little more now and then to save that time) and I selected that one simply because I was able to save significantly at the gas pump through them while also feeling as though I consistently got better deals even if prices started off higher.

If you don't know which stores offer better deals than others that's ok.  Make sure you've got one of those little plastic rewards cards for whatever grocery store you typically shop at.  This is what we'll be focusing on this week.  For me that store is Safeway so that is what I'll be walking through but you should be able to find something similar for whatever store you frequent.

Now that you've got your rewards card, figure out if your store offers online coupons that can be loaded onto your card.

This is what shows up when I open Safeway's website.  Any coupons I select online will automatically be added to my card and be applied at check out if applicable.  If you don't think you have any time to coupon you can at least do this! 

From here I always start with their Coupon Center and add any coupons that correspond to products I typically buy.  I ignore the expiration date at this point in my process.

As you can see it knows my history and puts coupons for items I buy at the top of the page and the rest lower down.  If you don't plan to do any clipping of paper coupons all you need to do is scroll through and add coupons for any item on your list.  That's it, you can skip ahead to the next picture!

**If you do plan to clip or print paper coupons there is one extra step.  You must figure out which coupons are store coupons (in this case offered by Safeway) and which are manufacturers coupons (offered by the brand making the item).  This will make keeping track of coupons and how much you can save much easier down the line.  It shouldn't take much googling to learn how to determine which is which for your store.  

At Safeway any coupon listed with the words "each" or "off" are store coupons and any one which says "save" is a manufacturers coupon.  For example, the coupon for Kleenex where it says they are $0.99 each?  That's a store coupon.  See the picture in the bottom right hand corner where it shows that Open Nature Finfish Fillets are $0.50 off?  That's a store coupon.  Now look at any of the others where they say save $1.00, or Save $0.75, etc.  Those are manufacturers coupons.

I know that all sounded super complicated but I promise it's not.  Scroll through the coupons available to you searching for the words "off" and "each" and only add those ones, that is if they're items already on your grocery list.

Alright, has everyone survived thus far?  I told you we'd start off easy!  The picture above shows what's available to me when I click on Personalized Deals from the first picture.  As you can see these aren't listed as regular coupons but rather a specialized price.  These seem to be pretty exclusively based on what you buy currently so if you're just starting out there may not be a lot here but it will build.  All I do here is scroll through adding any items that are either on my list or that I know I will need to buy in the near future. 

Since this weeks post is just the very beginning this is all I want to show you.  This is what I wish I knew about in college and afterwards.  You could do a decent job of cutting your grocery spending just by adding the coupons online and buying what you normally do.

**If you wanted to take it one step further, download the app for your store so that you can see which items you have a personalized price for and see if there's a corresponding coupon for it you have loaded on your card.  This will give you the most savings this week.  DON'T buy something just because you have a coupon, only purchase an item if it was already on your list.

My baby step challenge for you this week is to take a couple of minutes before you head to the store and check online.  Download any and all coupons you can and then shop as you regularly would (albeit try to buy brands you have coupons for).  See what you save just by doing that!

I'll be back next week talking about paper coupons: where I find them and how I store them.  In the meantime happy grocery shopping and let me know how you do!  Still feeling confused or overwhelmed?  I'll do my best to answer any questions or direct you to some of the resources I found helpful.

***This post is linked up at Living Well, Spending Less***

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