For new “couponers,” there are a few easy tricks to remember when beginning.
• Get multiple newspapers. “Sundays have the best inserts, so getting multiple copies can save you money,” said Laurie Meyers, owner of Chandler-based Coupon Sense. Ask family and friends for their Sunday inserts if they don’t use them.
• Start with items that are on sale, and then match them to a manufacture’s or store coupon. “If you can cut the item price in half and then add a coupon, you’re going in the right direction,” said coupon instructor Jennifer Clarke.
• Don’t shop at peak shopping hours. “Using dozens of coupons takes time and will only irritate other shoppers,” said consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. “Instead, go shopping when business is slow. It takes the pressure off to complete the transaction as quickly as possible.”
• Know your store’s coupon policy before you go to the store.
Some stores will only take either a manufacturer coupon or a store coupon. “Stores are concerned with fraudulent Internet coupons,” Meyers said. “Printing online can sometimes be a problem and software that downloads coupons to your cell phone can be glitchy.” “Some stores give gift cards for filling prescriptions at their pharmacies,” Clarke said. “You can use the coupons to buy more expensive items like meat or produce.”
• Don’t buy what you don’t need. “Don’t go and buy 100 tubes of toothpaste,” Meyers said. “Buy the two or three that your family will use in a few months.
“Make a list and stick to it,” Woroch said. “And limiting the number of times at the store limits the number of impulse purchases.”
• Coupons aren’t just for grocery items. Many stores offer email newsletters that customers can sign up for. The emails can alert you to sales and send special offers and coupons if you subscribe. Use the Tribune’s Daily Deals, or Living Social and Groupon websites for restaurant, clothing and vacation discounts.
• Be patient and stick to it. It takes a little while to get a handle on couponing and to see savings. “Delay gratification,” Meyers said, “Having money in the bank feels a lot better than having designer clothes.”
• Start small. “Clip a couple of coupons that you know you will use over time and go from there,” said Woroch.