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Celebrate National Coupon Month with These Tips
Labor Day isn't the only September savings event. National Coupon Month is officially upon us and according to the stats, it's definitely an event worth celebrating. Experts say that in 2012 alone, shoppers redeemed 2.9 billion coupons, which translates to $800 million in discounts. And it's not just paper coupons clipped from the newspaper, digital coupon use is rapidly soaring. There are a lot of apps out there, like the Slickdeals app (iOS and Android), that enable you to bring you coupons with you to the store on your phone instead of cutting them out from an ad. Whether you're a couponing newbie or a longtime pro, there are plenty of quick and easy ways to save big with coupons.
"It takes me the same amount of time to make my grocery shopping list now as it did before I started couponing; it's just that my grocery shopping list looks different now," says Dawn Marron, Esq., an attorney-slash-couponing maven in Pennsylvania. "It's just a different way of shopping."
Marron (known in local circles as "The Coupon Counselor") leads couponing workshops where she regularly shares tricks of the trade. Her most valuable piece of money-saving advice boils down to what's known as stacking.
"Stacking is taking different savings and putting them all together on one product," she says. "So you take a manufacturer's coupon plus the store coupon plus a sale, and you stack all those things on the product. In some cases, it can get it down to free."
Ready to dominate National Coupon Month? Here are a handful of tips that'll help you save the most this month—and beyond.
Nearly 50,000 Slickdealers have saved $35 on orders of $300 or more at Sears.
Time It Right
Coupons are designed to save you money. As Marron already shared, the strongest earning potential comes from combining coupons with other deals. That said, keep sales cycles in mind when shopping for any big-ticket item. Looking to snag a gas grill? A new mattress? Kitchen appliances? September, in general, is a great time of year to purchase these types of items.
Before taking advantage of any monster sale, check first to see if you can combine manufacturer or store coupons. Retailers like Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Target, for example, are constantly offering regular coupons across a variety of categories. Don't believe it? Nearly 50,000 Slickdealers have saved $35 on orders of $300 or more at Sears.
If you're looking to cash in a coupon at a later time (like Black Friday, for instance), simply set up a Deal Alert. We'll hit up your inbox when we come across new deals that match your needs.
The Logistics of Couponing
Marron redeems the bulk of her coupons at grocery stores, CVS and Rite Aid. If retailers you frequently visit offer any sort of rewards or loyalty programs, signing up can be a smart way to save even more. By taking advantage of these types of programs, Marron says she regularly gets items completely for free.
Devoting a little bit of time to preparation can also go a long way. Marron says that just an hour of planning each week on the backend saves her thousands of dollars every year. When it comes to food shopping, she advises thinking beyond just the upcoming week.
"I might go into a store because this week on sale, I can stack some barbecue sauce and get four bottles for free," she says. "I don't need four barbecue sauces this week, but I'm going to put that on my shopping list because I know at some point in the next year, I'm going to use all four of those. Even if I don't eat barbecue sauce, I'll donate them to my local food bank."
We've all seen the extreme couponers on TV who horde everything from ketchup to cat food. Marron, who has a regular-sized pantry and freezer, says there's no need to take it that far. For her, it's really about stockpiling items that she considers to be staples. When you do this — then meal plan around items you already have — it can dramatically decrease your food budget. Marron spends about $25 a week on food for her and her housemate. Otherwise, she sets aside between $25 and $50 to be spent on staples. "I don't have to rush out and buy anything at full price, because I have it already," she adds.
Be Sure to Read the Fine Print
Unfortunately, big savings may be called into question by store employees. Fear not — if you've read the fine print and are aware of the store's coupon policy, you should be in the clear.
"Be sure to read the coupons, the coupon policies and the ads," says Marron, who's often challenged by inaccuracies in the checkout line. It may be that a product doesn't match the picture in the coupon or the employee isn't interpreting the deal correctly. "I'm 100 percent willing to walk away from whatever's on the cart," she says. "Sometimes people feel like they shouldn't push, or they should just pay for it full price. I say put it down and walk away."
In other words, be confident! More often than not, regular couponers are more familiar with the ins and outs than the store employees. For more insider information, check out the Slickdeals coupons forum. Some threads, like this one devoted to Harbor Freight, break down specific policies and other useful shopping tips.
Happy National Coupon Month!
Image courtesy of ©iStock.com/ayo888
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