First, let me introduce myself. My name is Alice Teets, a self-professed coupon geek. I am not going to say that I am the best at couponing, or that I know everything there is to know about saving money.
Sometimes I don't clip coupons for a couple weeks, or I forget to take my coupons to the store. I get aggravated at that, but I let it go. I work hard at my job, I raise my two children, and I try my best to save all I can with coupons and other money saving strategies.
I have enjoyed saving money since I was a child. I used to cut coupons out for my mom, and I sent off for free crayons with an offer off of Heiner's bread bags when I was 12. I once asked my mom to sign an IOU when she borrowed $2 from me for my own lunch money - not my proudest moment by far!
That said, I am not getting $1,800 worth of groceries for $100 like an episode of "Extreme Couponing" on TLC recently profiled. I am not going to promise you that I can save you thousands of dollars. I will tell you that I LOVE coupons, and that I saved almost $3,000 last year buying items that my family and I use. I can teach you how to save more money than you would if you didn't use coupons at all.
To start your couponing journey, let me ask you a question: Have you ever seen the contests where someone eats a 3-pound steak? How did they do that? Let me tell you how - bite by bite. That is how you are going to lower your grocery budget, by taking little bites of it with coupons.
Start by buying a couple different weekend newspapers, including the Saturday edition of The Inter-Mountain. Look through these papers. Are there any coupons for items you use now? Something you have thought about using? Clip those coupons. Save them.
I personally use two coupon holders with categories I named myself, such as "Dairy," "Snacks," or "Meat." Make it individualized to you. If you don't like it, don't understand it, or get aggravated looking for something, then you won't use your coupon holder and therefore you won't use your coupons. Keep your coupons with you all the time. Leave them in the glove compartment or in your purse.
For additional coupons, look for some online that you can print. Oftentimes, these are similar to what were in the newspapers, but might be a higher value (50 cents off compared to only 25 cents). Coupons.com, smartsource.com and redplum.com are all excellent sources for printable coupons. Some companies offer printable coupons on their own websites. A few that come to mind right away are Betty Crocker, Colgate or Kelloggs. Put these coupons in your coupon folder.
Now, generally, coupons correspond with sales or releases of new items. Look at the sales paper for the week. Probably the coupon you saved for Tyson Chicken Strips means that they are on sale; if not this week, then soon. This is known as double-dipping, and, unlike double-dipping your tortilla chip in the salsa after you've bitten it, this is perfectly acceptable. You pair a coupon with a sale for additional savings - it's a win-win situation! (We will cover the elusive triple-dipping in a later column).
Another super easy way to save is by using e-coupons. These are coupons that you load onto your store loyalty card. To answer a question that I've been asked many times, "Yes, they do track your purchases with your store cards, so I am sure they track your coupon usage." Truth is, I don't care. The only information you share is your store loyalty card number, email and maybe your address. I do not mind sharing this information, but if you do, then don't do it.
There are lots of ways to save, and you don't have to use them all. The best sites for these types of coupons are shortcuts.com, pgesaver.com, and Kroger.com. These are called e-coupons or digital coupons. These may be used in conjunction with a sale, but I believe policies are changing where you cannot use an e-coupon with a paper coupon.
Cellfire.com is another digital coupon site that I use, similar to the others, but you give them your cell phone number. They have never called or texted my cell phone, but again, you choose what you want to use.
I hope that I gave you some ideas for starting out. Please feel free to send questions to me, and I will try to answer them in future columns or possibly in a Q&A column all by itself. Remember, bite by bite on your grocery budget savings.
Reach Alice Teets by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.