Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Take on Couponing and Food $$ Saving

Recently in our area (all over the country?) couponing has become a big thing. I'm glad that more people are learning some of the benefits of using coupons and are saving money.

Over the years I have consistently saved about 30% on the food bill. Couponing has been a part of that. It has not been the exclusive form of savings, because coupons can actually be a detriment if not used judiciously. I've learned that saving money is best done as a combination of several strategies, of which couponing is a valuable one.

If you are interested (if not, stop reading here), here are some of the ways I have routinely saved money on our grocery/paper/personal products bill.

--If the sale is right, and especially if there is a coupon to go with it, I buy more of the item than we need right then. Right now the bathroom closet contains half a dozen tubes of toothpaste. Crest and Colgate are usually $2.50 a tube. (That's for the basic, plain, tartar-control only. The fancier ones cost more and are money-generators for the company.) But when they are on sale, they go for a couple bucks, and I usually have a coupon for one or the other, for $.50 (doubled to a dollar at the store where I usually shop), or $.75. That's around a buck a tube. When they are available at that price, I get it whether we need it or not. Ditto TP. Right now we have about two dozen rolls in each bathroom. It will get used up eventually. :-)

--The exception to the above rule is when something will get stale.

--The downside of coupons is that you can get sucked into buying high-price or junk items. The drill is standard: Big-savings coupons appear for new items, sometimes several in a row over several weeks. Since the new item is often also on sale at the beginning of its marketing run, that really can be a huge savings. However, the goal is to get the buyer familiar with the product and in the habit of buying it. The first (and second and third) coupon may be for a dollar off; the next one $.75, the next one $.50, then a quarter, and finally - no more coupons. But by now, if the company has done its marketing right, you are hooked.

--If coupons don't match up, for most items the store brands are cheaper and you can't tell the difference. When have you ever thought "Oh, this casserole was made with Laura Lynn brand cheddar cheese, not Kraft." Or whatever item you are talking about.

--BOGOF items are almost always a savings, especially when coupled with coupons. Note the almost. You have to be savvy about prices.

--If the price is right, and the coupons match up, I buy items even if we can't or don't use them. They can always go in the giveaway box to the food pantry or when needs are known. We don't use boxed Betty Crocker potatoes, but when they are on sale for almost half price, and I have a $.50 coupon doubled off, I can get them for next to nothing. Somebody will use them even if we don't.

--The kids don't know this, but they have virtually never in their lives eaten any meat that wasn't on sale or bought on Saturday morning in the mark-down area.

--Other than mayonnaise (Mike won't eat ANYTHING but Duke's), our brands vary depending on what is on sale.

--Sam's Club is good for buying in bulk, but if you don't know prices really well, you will not necessarily get bargains there - and you'll have a lot more of whatever it is to use up.

--Study up on marketing strategies and advertising. It's a fascinating subject. You can't be sucked in by emotional appeals if you realize that that is what the company is using. Their goal is not to make you happy. Their goal is to get your money.

--One last thing. This isn't a money-saving strategy but it's part of my shopping. I prefer (am not hard-nosed, but do prefer) to shop at American-owned stores. Also, to buy produce from the U.S. and preferably from our area of the country. And I am beginning to make choices on canned goods based on that. In the summer, I will shop our farmers' market in order to buy locally--even if the produce costs a little more. That's becoming more and more important.

Other people probably do other things that are even better than these ideas--pass them along and maybe I can use them also. And that's my Saturday night opinion!

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