I have a mountain of those 20% off Bed Bath & Beyond coupons, 25 of them to be exact. I know I can’t be the only one with a glut of these around the house. They have been sitting in a drawer gathering dust for over a year now. I don’t even remember the last time I shopped there.
Why do I have so many?
My family had been giving them to us to use with purchases after our wedding. I thought we might use the money we received as wedding gifts to get some kitchen essentials but we actually ended up using the money to help pay off our honeymoon. So there was no shopping at BB&B after the wedding and no using these coupons.
I also get them in junk mail constantly. These coupons must come in the mail every week or so. They seem to be everywhere. Last year I started saving and as soon as the wedding was over I stopped. Almost all of them are long expired but they still take them regardless.
I am shocked that people shop there without a coupon when the coupons are *everywhere*. I found out you can even go to customer service and ask for a coupon and they will sometimes give you one.
Why do I still have them?
There is that little voice in the back of my mind telling me to hang on to them “just in case”. With us moving in a few months I feel our household needs are uncertain. We could find we need something for the new home that we could get at BB&B for a good price. There is no way I’d buy anything there without a 20% off coupon though, that would be crazy. So I better keep these coupons, right?
But honestly, if I need something for the house chances are I can find that item cheaper at a variety of other stores. I would consider BB&B to be one of my last resorts. As long as I’m not brand-specific I can usually find a better deal elsewhere. Am I planning on shopping there enough to justify needing 25 coupons at my immediate disposal? Gosh, I hope not! That is definitely not in the budget!
I actually didn’t realize I had 25 of these coupons until I pulled them all out and counted. I guess it is easy to stockpile that many when they never expire, they come in the mail frequently, and they are hidden in a drawer.
I have decided to toss all but 5 of them. Who needs that clutter? I think 5 is a reasonable number considering we might actually have multiple reasons to use them soon. Here’s hoping it won’t come to that though!
If you already read Couponing Successes posted earlier today you will be familiar with the examples used in this post. If you haven’t read it yet, make sure to check it out.
The reason most of the coupons I used this weekend were about to expire (literally, they expired that day) was because I was holding on to them waiting for the best deal. I had been holding onto to some of them for several months at that point. I find that it isn’t always the best plan to immediately use those freshly clipped coupons unless the items happen to already be on sale (e.g. Walgreens frequently runs sales corresponding with the newest coupons).
When I’m clipping coupons I set aside the very best coupons I definitely want to use and keep them separate from the rest by paper-clipping them at the front of my coupon file. The rest of the coupons that I might use get sorted into the pockets based on product type (breakfast, cleaning, etc). Don’t put the “gotta use” coupons in with the maybes. Nothing is worse than throwing away really useful coupons because you forgot about them before they expired. This happened to me with a good “get one free” coupon and I’ll never let that happen again.
Every week, when I go through my file to do the shopping list, I look at those coupons first and see if I can pair them with a sale. If not AND they don’t expire that week they go back into the paperclip in hopes that the following week there will be a sale. I also jot down these items on the bottom of my shopping list to remind me to check on those specific products for unadvertised sales when I’m at the store.
None of the expiring coupons I used this last weekend matched a sale opportunity before that day so they were still left in that paper-clipped bunch.
For the special coupons that were about to expire I had to decide if it was worth using them or not. Most were NOT worth using because they were either:
- for items that could wait (non-urgent needs or things I had plenty of)
- coupons that are issued frequently or on a cycle (cleaning supplies)
- coupons that were just not a good enough deal without pairing it with a sale
Some of these rejected coupons I left for other shoppers next to the products in case they wanted them. It was a busy day so hopefully someone saved some money with them.
I had compelling reasons for each of the coupons that made the final cut. In the case of the BBQ sauce it wasn’t on sale but they had bonus size bottles which still made it a good deal to use the coupons.
I have never seen the Bertolli meals go on sale but by waiting until the last moment to use these coupons I at least got a chance to find a deal. In the end, I simply had to use them or give them away. I opted to use them because it was something we found very useful but would only buy with a hefty coupon to lower the price.
The soda (Sprite) I had a coupon for was actually on sale but at $3.39 a 12-pack it wasn’t a very good sale. I was about to abandon the coupon when we spotted that most of the generic soda was eerily missing. We then spied an in-store coupon that gave us a free 12-pack of store brand soda for every 12-pack Coke product we got. At that point that coupon came in handy and helped us stock up on soda at a phenomenal overall price of $1.27 a 12-pack. Saving that coupon paid off big time.
I do not use this “separate and save for a sale” strategy on every coupon I have. I only give the high value coupons for items I already use this special treatment. The exception to this rule is when I find a “get one free” coupon. Even if I don’t need it I still redeem it (I only pay tax if applicable) and give the product away to friends to try. If you notice you are starting to use coupons to buy items you normally wouldn’t buy you might need to reevaluate your coupon usage.
The point behind manufacturers issuing coupons is for advertising and gaining first time and repeat customers. Sometimes irresistible coupons might encourage us to buy impulse items or products we don’t really need. You must avoid this temptation because this only increases your bill rather than lowering it. The primary goal should not be increasing coupon savings but should be focused on lowering overall grocery bills.
In other words, don’t spend additional dollars to save a few cents.
This weekend I got my biggest coupon savings total ever – a whopping $40.05 or almost 30% on the bill. I’ve had much higher percentages before but only on targeted trips where I only bought specific sale items and didn’t buy fresh food for the week. Although I was thrilled, I was a little embarrassed because the checkers were so impressed they called over other employees (including a manager) to look at the total.
As anyone will tell you, if you are eating primarily fresh foods this kind of savings is unlikely to happen. We did buy a lot of fresh food but this week we also stocked up on some staples and convenience foods with coupons that were about to expire. This week was not representative of a normal shopping week for us – we typically save around 20% in coupons.
I thought I’d share some of the great deals we were able to find:
BBQ Sauce – Yes, BBQ sauce is usually cheap but we got it really cheap. Eric eats the stuff by the gallon so we can’t afford to be too picky and get the gourmet stuff anymore. We had 3 $1 off coupons for Bulls Eye BBQ sauce that we got from the paper. The 18oz bottles cost $1.46 each so we figured $.46 a bottle was still a good deal. But wait! Are those bottles hidden behind the others labeled 55% more? Yes! So we scored 3 28oz bottles for $.46 each. Nice!
Soda – I was running low on soda so we were hoping to find a deal this week. I had a coupon for Sprite 12-packs for “buy 3 get the 4th free” but often the price is still too high to justify buying it over the store brand. Sprite was on sale but only for $3.39 a 12-pack. That’s not much of a deal, really. We were surprised to see the store brand shelves wiped out of everything but the regular cola. Turns out that they were having a promotion that if you buy a Coke or Sprite 12-pack you would get a free 12-pack of the store brand to try. Wow! Suddenly, my “buy 3 get a 4th free” coupon was looking pretty good! We were able to get 4 12-packs of Diet Sprite AND 4 12-packs of off-brand cola for only $10.17. That is about $1.27 a 12-pack!
Bertolli Skillet Meals – These are expensive (and surprisingly tasty) frozen bag meals for 2 that cook up in a skillet in 10 minutes. They are pricey at $6.58 a bag. We found $2 off coupons online and used those to buy 4 different styles. At $4.58 that works out to be $2.29 a portion. On those nights where we don’t have time or the inclination to cook these make wonderful and relatively cheap meals. It sure beats ordering out!
Febreeze Noticeables – I recognize this purchase is not essential so I won’t buy refills until I see a sale. The problem is that they rarely go on sale and at $4.49 regular price it is just too expensive. I saw a rare deal at 2 for $7 and paired it with my $1 off 2 coupon. Not earth shattering savings but the point is that I waited to buy these until they were at the lowest price point of $3 each. Saving almost $3 is better than saving nothing!
Dijon Mustard - I had been hanging on to these Grey Poupon coupons for months now waiting for a possible sale to no avail. These coupons were from the bottles themselves not from the paper. After doing some price checking my $1 off coupons dropped the price below all the off-brands by over $.50. It was a no-brainer to use these coupons even without a sale. A sale just would have made it sweeter.
Believe it or not, there is actually a method to all of this. Check back later today for the next post on this couponing strategy!
Many times after clipping coupons I’d be left with only a handful that I’d want to use and a large stack of ones I wouldn’t. I didn’t want to simply throw the unwanted coupons away. After all, just because I didn’t want them didn’t mean they would be worthless to others, right?
Put something that might otherwise be wasted to good use and spread the love by helping others save money. Here are 4 simple ways to generate good coupon karma.
1. Leave coupons you aren’t using next to the products in the store. If I have a coupon for something I know I’m not going to use, before it expires I’ll leave the coupon next to the product on the shelf. That way when others come to buy that item they can save a little money with the coupon. For items like soap, where I’m doing my price comparisons among many brands, I’ll have multiple coupons with me. After choosing the best deal, I’ll leave the “losing” offers behind with the products. It doesn’t cost me any additional time (the coupons are already in my hand) and I hope they help someone out. I know how lucky I feel when I find a random coupon in the store for something I am planning on buying. Maybe others will feel that way, too.
2. Give other shoppers coupons for products they are already buying. I tend to have several copies of each coupon with me in case I find a good sale. When I see someone getting something I know I have a coupon for, and I’m not intending to use it, I’ll give it to them. So many people are thankful for this, even if it only saves a few pennies. I really think the gesture often means more than the savings. I’m surprised at how many people seem shocked that a stranger would help them. I hope it inspires them to do something nice for other people they meet.
3. Give away the coupons you definitely won’t use to your neighbors. I only carry the coupons that I have a possibility of using. Many coupons never even enter my file because they are for items I wouldn’t buy even if they were on super sale (e.g. diapers). I clip every coupon in the flyers (it only takes a few more minutes) and put the ones I have no intention of using in a bag. I give those to my friends and neighbors and encourage them to spread them around. I hate the idea of coupons going to waste when someone might find value in them. At least this way they have a chance of being useful instead of going directly into the recycling bin.
4. If you see someone struggling with a price decision, help them out. Provided you aren’t being intrusive, of course. A few weeks ago I saw a woman browsing the spaghetti sauce section as I was stocking up on a special. I noticed she was putting 2 larger bottles of the same sauce I was getting in her cart. I casually pointed out the smaller version had a great in-store coupon and was a better deal if she was interested. She looked at it, realized it was a much better deal, and was grateful for the tip. As I left the aisle I saw her stocking up, too. Maybe it’s just the Girl Scout in me but it feels good to help people out.
Remember – you don’t want to be a coupon nazi. Only help when it looks like help would be welcome and don’t be pushy or intrusive. Helping is one thing, being nosy and bothersome is quite another.
I used to get a sort of elation from shopping online. I would get excited about finding new and interesting things. Now that I’ve made the commitment to be more frugal, I get this same elated feeling combing the grocery store deals and finding the best price for tomatoes. That’s something I never expected. Shopping has turned into a game of some sorts now and it is all about finding the best deal. I have channeled the same energy and excitement I would have when buying big ticket items into my quest for sales on the everyday items.
I actually enjoy reading the flyers to identify good offers and I get a good laugh when I spot an advertised “can’t miss” deal when it isn’t a deal at all. Not even close sometimes! Sometimes, the stores will make it hard for you to spot their deception by lowering already inflated prices a bit and making it seem like a bargain. I view it like a challenge. The best deals I have found on groceries are when you get a genuinely good sale price and pair it with a coupon. Here are some tips on how to get the best deal when grocery shopping.
Start a price guide. List the top 20 items that you commonly use in your home. Go to each of the stores that you are likely to shop at in your area and write down their prices on the identical items and the generic equivalents. Adjust the price appropriately (in ounces for instance) if the sizes don’t match. Keep this notebook around for reference. That way, when you see a special on tuna for 2 for $1 you will know if that is actually a good deal. Often pricey stores have seemingly good deals but with a little investigation you might find their specials still result in a higher price than a competitor. I know it may seem like a lot of work but that one afternoon of scouting increased my confidence in knowing when I see a good deal. This tool will help you maximize the “best of the best” deals by helping you see when it’s time to stock up on a good deal.
Get coupons. A lot of people recommend just buying the store brand to lower costs, but often you can beat the price of a store brand by using a good coupon on a national brand and combining it with a sale. I get my coupons from the Sunday paper and also by checking out some online coupon sites . My goal is try and find a coupon or good deal for every pantry item I intend to purchase. Produce and fresh meat coupons are rare but pantry items often have coupons floating around out there.
Drop your brand loyalty. By dropping your brand loyalty on everything but the items you truly feel are superior to the competitors you can save the most. If you are willing to switch to Palmolive instead of Dawn when they have a sale with a matching coupon you will increase your savings dramatically.
Pay attention to the junk mail you get. Nearly everyone gets flyers in the mail for the local grocery stores with the upcoming sales for the week. Our flyers come in the mail on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Study these flyers to see what will be on the sale that week. Many times the items on sale will match up to the coupons you got in the recent Sunday paper. This is when you can start getting the really good deals.
Find the “loss leaders” at the expensive stores. “Loss leaders” are really good sales that the stores use to get you through the doors. Identify these items and if it is something you need AND you have a coupon for, then it’s time to stock up. I only buy the loss leaders at these stores; most everything else is too expensive.
Don’t be afraid to shop at multiple stores. This is a good rule of thumb, as long as they are close by and don’t just add to your gas expense. It is unlikely that one store will have the best prices on everything. By looking at the flyers you can identify good prices on items at stores you might not otherwise patronize. Take advantage of those good deals, especially if you also have a coupon for the item.
Sometimes online is cheaper. See if online stores like Amazon have better deals on non-perishables, especially if it is something that rarely goes on sale or has coupons. For example, we love Inglehoffer sweet-hot mustard. This mustard never goes on sale and I have yet to find a coupon for it. I needed to find a better deal to justify spending more to keep this particular brand allegiance (and if you try this mustard, I think you’ll know why). I was able to find a good price on Amazon and bought it in bulk. We saved a significant amount that we otherwise would have been unable to do because it is specialty item and doesn’t seem to have any discounts.
Overall, the goal should be to avoid paying full or premium prices on just about everything. Sure, it takes a little effort but the payoff is definitely worth it. Not only do you get that great feeling of knowing you got the very best deal on your purchases but you save a chunk of change in the process.
Keep in mind though – there are limits. Your time is worth money, too. It is not such a good deal if you spend 3 hours trying to save $0.25 on a bag of chips. Don’t give up – it just takes a little time to get in the swing of things. Once you establish a price guide, a coupon file, and get a better idea of how to spot truly good deals, saving money will become quicker and easier.