Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coupon Myth: There's never any coupons for items I normally buy

I was thinking about how to write this coupon myth when my sister-in-law gave me a hand. When I made this post about five inserts coming out on the following Sunday and posted it on the Northwoods Coupon Hunters Facebook Page, my sister-in-law posted back:
"I wanna know why there are never coupons for the things that I buy? Like for instance milk, where can I get a coupon for that, or bread, or fresh fruit and fresh vegetables? I look at these coupons and I suppose you save money, but do you actually use these items? How can I get coupons for the items that I actually purchase and use? I am not one to buy something just because it is on sale or there is a coupon, do you see what I mean?"
This is a common misconception for folks who haven't been taught how to utilize coupons properly. What they really mean is, "How come I don't ever see any coupons this week for what I want to buy NOW?" They cannot really mean they don't see anything that they would buy. Think about it - in this economy, the millions of people using coupons aren't out there buying stuff we don't need and then recommending you do the same!

For example, the list of inserts I posted included coupons for the following items:

Baking powder
Condensed soup
Toilet paper
Eggs (incl. organic/cage free)
Hot sauce
Dish soap
Sanitary pads
Vegetable juice
Laundry detergent
Pet food
Fabric softener
Kids shampoo
Shampoo & conditioner
Paper towels
Hair color
Air freshener
Trash bags

I challenge anyone to not find at least 7 items on that list that they actually use at their house!

As I explained to her, the coupons that come out this week may not be worth redeeming (or "playing" if you know about The Grocery Game) until there is a good sale to combine them with. Then you buy as many as you can at that rock-bottom price, so you don't have to buy it later for a higher cost. If you are "not one to buy something just because it is on sale or there is a coupon," then you will always be overpaying for these items! (I don't mean to buy something you would never use just because it's on sale or has a great coupon - but DO buy it if you would normally pay full price for it when you need it and it's a great deal - even if you don't "need" it right now!)

You see, if you only shop for what you need NOW, you will never get the best price on items! So, file away the whole insert (with the date written on the front) in an expandable pocket file organizer (get one for under $10 at Walmart) and wait until the store's weekly sales flyer comes out. Northwoods Coupon Hunters is only of of many online sites which will then post "match-ups" (which coupons match that week's sales) by posting the name of the flyer and the date it was printed (example: SS 9/25/11 would mean Smart Source insert from 9/25/11). So, all you have to do is add the item to your shopping list, pull out your file, clip the coupon and head to the store to stock up!

Still don't think it's worth the effort, even when all you have to do is write a date and stick it in a file?

OK, I did an little experiment so show the value of stocking up at the lowest price. Say you want to make spaghetti with turkey meatballs and a salad for a meal this week:

In the first column, if you went out today and none of the items were on sale, you would spend $17 on this dinner. If you pay attention to the sale items (the week this article was written), the second column shows you would pay $13.87 (and you better have your store Member Card, too, to get those sale prices.) In the third column, $11.08 is what I would have spent on the items using coupons. Granted, that is only a savings of $2.79 compared to what you spent on sale items, but it would save me $5.92 if the items were NOT on sale this week and if I save just that same small amount on every dinner, that would save me $1,018 per year or $2,106 off retail. That isn't even counting my savings on breakfasts, lunches, snacks, health & beauty, pet and cleaning supplies!

You may notice that last row that says "Total spent today" is only $5.22 in my column. You see, the items that are in grey in my column, I bought on sale weeks or months ago at the lower price. The fresh onions and green peppers bought on sale are diced and frozen in my freezer for future meals. So, I would be spending $8.65 - $11.75 less today to make the exact same meal you bought. That money can be used for milk, bread and fresh produce - or even a special treat I normally cannot afford. Notice that what I actually bought for this meal today was just the fresh produce? By buying the non-perishable or freezer-friendly items previously at the lowest price and stocking up, I don't need coupons for the milk, eggs, bread and fresh produce, because that is all I need to buy. And I can even plan meals around the produce that is on sale to save even more!

Speaking of eggs and milk, stores often offer special deals that if you buy a certain number of breakfast products they will give you a Catalina coupon (which prints out with your register receipt) for free milk and/or eggs. So don't throw those away! Last week at Copp's , if you bought 8 Quaker Brand items (which included oatmeal, oat bars, pancake mix, pancake syrup and orange juice) you got an instant $5 off at the register AND free milk and eggs. With winter coming, I did the deal 2 times. I got 8 boxes of Quaker oatmeal packets, which ended up being $1.75 a box (reg. $3.09) and cheaper than the Roundy's boxes of oatmeal for $2.49. I also got a bunch of pancake mix for a great deal after the $5 instant off - so I got 2 milk and 2 egg Catalina coupons and didn't have to pay anything for milk and eggs. So, pay attention to those "bundle" deals that can get you free stuff and a lower cost on items you'd eventually buy anyhow.

So, the key to couponing is not to get your Sunday inserts and run out that week to try to redeem them all or to expect them to have the coupons you want for that week. Save them until you can use them and then buy enough to last you until the next sale/coupon deal. And if you need something and don't have a coupon, whether or not it is on sale, just go ahead and buy what you need for now. Just wait to stock up on them when the next great deals come around.

The coupons are out there for the items that you normally buy. You just need to be patient and watch for them and then know how and when to use them!

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