Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Coupons? Part One - Riding the Coupon Current

I was approached by the people at as to whether I am interesting
in couponing and if I would like to learn some of the trade secrets when couponing.

This is going to be a two part series with Kenneth McCall sharing his perspective
and the second part will be my top 20 blogs for saving with coupons.

I hope you find both of these posts informative.
Feel free to leave a comment and tell some of your big secrets when saving money with coupons.

Riding the Coupon Current

How to Save Money without Drowning in Paper Promises

If you subscribe to the adage that time is money, then extreme couponers that spend hours upon hours collecting and clipping may be spilling more from their wallets than they are saving. However, with a basic knowledge of the system, you can register significant savings on your family's food bill without having to wade through an endless flow of penny-pinching papers.

Here, we offer some simple tips for staying afloat on the coupon current.

Understand the ebb and flow of grocery prices.

Most Southern markets price their items on a six-week cycle (in the North, it's usually 10 weeks), with the cost of a particular item fluctuating between highest and lowest during that period. To maximize savings, you want to purchase an item at its best, i.e. rock-bottom, price -- in the coupon world, this usually equates to 40% or more off the sticker price. And you want to buy enough of that item to last your family for six weeks, at which point it will go on sale again. The easiest way to know when an item is at its lowest price is to watch the store ads and e-newsletters. You might also want to create a personal price book (or spreadsheet), which is a list of standard prices on the things
you most commonly purchase; referencing this guide, you'll be able to quickly tell if the price on an item is a good one.

Anchor your savings with coupons.

Bundling coupons with your store's cyclical sales is the best method for garnering the lowest possible price on the things in your cart. But comparing every deal in your grocery's flyer to every coupon floating out there would sink even the most energetic frugalista. Fortunately, there are plenty of lifelines in the form of coupon match-up websites --,, and to name a few. So seek out a site that does the work for you, and visit before each shopping trip and take note of any can't-miss deals and bottom-of-the-barrel bargains. With an online coupon crew to do the dirty work, you're able to hunt down and clip only the coupons that you need (see below).

Ride the wave of coupon carriers.

So where do you find these coupons? There are several coupon-collecting opportunities that you will want to seize upon. First and foremost is the Sunday paper, which often contains at least two inserts. Rather than waste time leafing through these and cutting coupons that you may or may not use, try organizing intact inserts chronologically in an accordion file -- this will make them easy to reference when it comes time to make your shopping list. (The aforementioned coupon sites will direct you to the precise insert where your coupon resides.) You may also want to take advantage of websites such as,, and, which offer printable coupons (make sure your store accepts these -- most do). Lastly, you want to shop for coupons as you shop at the store, keeping your eyes peeled for savings dispensers tucked among the aisles.

Get onboard with the store's policies.

In order to effectively use these coupons, you'll want to be aware of the policies that your chosen grocery has in place for such savings. First, do they double manufacturer coupons (which can be identified by a 5 or 9 at the beginning of the barcode)? If so, up to what amount, and is there a limit on the number they'll double? Given a choice of where to shop, it's best to select a store that does double your savings. Next, can you combine a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon for extra savings on one item? If so, be sure to stack your coupons in just such a way. And lastly, how do the store's 'buy one, get one' deals work, exactly -- does each item ring up half price (so you really only need to purchase one to reap the reward), or does the first ring up full price and the second free (in which case you want to pick up two so as not to leave your savings sitting on the shelf)?
Buoyed by these simple penny-wise points, you're sure to be riding high on the current of coupons streaming into our current economy!

Kenneth McCall builds creative and innovative tools for customer seeking self storage units. Kenneth is a managing partner at which provides storage units in Cincinnati and in many other locations across the country. In his spare time he likes to get outside, ideally with a boat and waterskis.

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