A lot of my (Facebook) friends all over the U.S. have been asking me "How in the world do you find these deals and use coupons to get things FREE?"
It isn't as hard as it looks, and you can choose how in depth you want to get. There are several types of bargain hunters. This break down will help you decide what kind of bargain hunter you want to be, and what will work best for your family/situation.
*Disclaimer - I do not condone the misuse of coupons in any way. I also make my feelings about extreme behavior in this matter known in this post, so if you are easily offended, this is not the post for you.*
I was once a generic shopper myself. I realized that I could save more money on generic items, even with using coupons, than I could on the brand name items. I fed 3 people this way on $300.00/month for 6 years! All without a single coupon. For example:
Brand name item price: Hand soap refill $4.99
Coupon Price: Hand soap refill $3.50
Generic item price: Hand soap refill $2.29
BUT....you have to consider if you are being cheap or being frugal. There is a definite quality difference in some cases. There will sometimes be a situation where the quality is the same, and the generic price is your best bet. It depends on personal preference, and how deep into saving you want to get. I know we can do better on the price of hand soap, so let's continue.
This is where a lot of people I know personally are at, like my mother in law, who is just starting out. She will pay for a whole cart of groceries and hand over 5-10 coupons (which I have thoughtfully clipped for her) usually saving her a few bucks. In combination with choosing generic when you do not have a coupon, you have some potential to save more than a few bucks (my MIL hates generic lol).
This is how I have been doing things from January until now. Last year, I was mostly a generic shopper. The concept here is simple, Don't Buy Unless It Is On Sale. Part two of this is match sales with coupons. I can often get an item for a small fraction of its retail cost, or even FREE in some cases.
Generic item price: Hand soap refill $2.29
Brand name item price: Hand soap refill$4.99
Sale Price Hand soap refill $3.00 ($2 off)
Combined with Coupon Price: -$2 off refill coupon
MY price at register, after sale and coupon: .29 cents for the large hand soap refill.
This is WAY better than going all generic, in my book! But waiting for a sale when you NEED something like Toilet paper (or "bath tissue" as the coupons refer to it) is not an option, so begins the stockpile, which brings us to...
I say crazy, but really there is a spectrum within this group. In general, the subgroups all practice a few of the same techniques, combining sales with coupons and even rebates to not only save money but sometimes make money too. They stack different kinds of coupons (there is a limit to how many coupons you can use per item) and stack the coupons with an ad match or a sale price, to save BIG bucks.
But there are some behaviors that set them apart in their own little groups, too.
Savings=Super Ultra Mega Fantastic
Extreme Everything- Much like that horrible TV show, these individuals are not above dumpster diving, stealing or coupon fraud at times. THIS is what I personally consider crazy. They are COUPONS, people. Come ON now. Let's get real for a second. These individuals screw the whole game up for everyone, and I don't care if any of this offends anyone. Stealing is wrong, fraud is wrong, dumpster diving is gross and ruining a good thing for an entire country of people is beyond B.S. You know it, I know it, we all know it so Mama J.Rae says KNOCK IT OFF. *wags finger*
Severe Stockpiler - I both admire and fear these individuals. I long for a linen closet of reserve T.P. and laundry soap, but it just isn't my reality. I also know that there is too much of a good thing, and I don't want to end up one of those ladies who buys 60 boxes of hair dye in 8 different colors. Just saying, unless you plan on opening a hair salon or are going to donate hair dye to starving folk, what are you doing this for? I don't care if you only paid .30 cents a box. You bought 60 BOXES. The shelf in the store is empty, and I only needed one stinking box for my short hair, thank you very much. *pouts*
Balanced Buyer - These people are my heroes. They have learned how to stack coupons, use ad matches and sales, save big bucks and have a small, moderate stockpile (usually 3-6 months of nonperishable food and toiletries). They have a keen eye for a bargain, know when to pounce and when to wait, and get the best of every situation without letting it become their life or take over their home. I aim to be one of these people, if I can get us out of the paycheck to paycheck blues. :)