Coupon cutting isn't exactly glamorous, but it's becoming popular for good reason: people like saving money. (Case in point: TLCs Extreme Couponing</strong> — and you thought your mother liked a good deal!). Yes, according to the most recent Canadian consumer information on coupons, 54 per cent of Canadian consumers say they are motivated by coupons (Nielsen PanelViews Shopper Opinions Survey, 2008). And why not? Cutting and using just a few coupons each month can save you hundreds of dollars per year. Meanwhile, the more "extreme couponers" devote countless hours to poring over flyers, visiting websites and strategizing their next batch of purchases. Obviously, this practice isn't realistic for the average person, but that doesn't mean that you can't participate in some of the savings. The goal - to find the right level of couponing that works for you, and learn what you can accomplish with a few very simple tools: a computer, a couple of flyers, a newspaper, and a pair of scissors. Let the 'clipping' begin!
Coupons are no longer limited to weekend flyers. They can be found in magazines, newspapers and in-store. Look for coupons at taste-testing booths, on the back of receipts, posted on coupon walls, on store shelves and inside product packaging.
Printable online coupons are also available on many company websites, which means you can collect coupons while you watch your favourite primetime television show. While you're browsing online, keep your eye out for free samples. Free products often arrive with an accompanying coupon or special offer.
Some companies also run promotional websites where you can order coupons for a selection of their products. These coupons are updated regularly and are mailed directly to your home. A few favourite sites: Save.ca, P&G brandSAVER, and webSaver.ca.
Be careful not to start collecting and using coupons for products that you or someone you know will never use. If you don't have a baby, put the baby formula down (obviously!); there's no need to buy it just because you have a $5 coupon. On the other hand, if you're collecting products for charity, this is a perfect way to save while you support a good cause.
<strong>A little help from your friends</strong>
If collecting coupons from all these sources seems a little overwhelming, let others do the work for you. There are numerous blogs and websites that track coupons, freebies and special offers. Depending on how coupon-committed you are, some of them even have forums where you can collaborate, swap and trade tips with other coupon lovers. Furthermore, many have email alerts so you don't actually have to check the website daily. Some favourite Canadian deal websites: BargainMoose, SimplyFrugal and SmartCanucks.
<strong>Coupon stacking and flyer tracking</strong>
So now that you have a few coupons, how do you get the most of them? There are two ways to maximize your savings above and beyond the face value of your coupon: coupon stacking and flyer tracking.
Coupon stacking (using more than one coupon for a single product) is one of the quickest ways to get more out of your coupons. Although this is a popular practice in the United States, the only store that officially allows coupon stacking in Canada is London Drugs. The coupons need to have different barcodes and must meet the London Drugs Coupon Stacking Guidelines. Use the various methods of coupon collection to track down coupons with different barcodes and get ready to save. Occasionally, you may come across an employee who is unfamiliar with the coupon stacking policy. If this occurs, request that your cashier seeks clarification from another employee or management. Other stores are rumoured to allow coupon stacking, but do not commit to it on their websites. If this is the case, specific locations may allow coupon stacking, but that is often a decision made by local management.
Tracking flyers for sales on your coupon items is another way to increase your savings. Wait until your coupon product goes on sale, then apply your coupon to the sale price. Once again, there's an easy option if you don't receive flyers or have time to look through them regularly. Flyerland.ca offers online access to various store coupons, flyers and catalogues, and even offers a product search tool. If you really want to save big, combine both methods and coupon stack on a sale item. Big savings, voila!</strong>
<strong>Organizing your coupons</strong>
Don't let your coupons go to waste by losing track of them. The average couponer's collection will fit in a small accordion style envelope that can be found at most office supply stores. It's small enough to fit in a purse or bag, and allows you to organize your coupons by expiry date, type, or store section. Bonus: it's not as awkward as sifting through a pile of coupons in the middle of the dairy section or checkout line - and is much more discrete and efficient (you don't want to be that</strong> girl holding up the line).
<strong>Tracking your savings</strong>
This is an optional coupon collecting step and is only necessary if you want to track your savings to see how coupons have benefited your budget. At the end of most receipts, it will state the total store savings and the total coupon value. Enter these numbers into a simple spreadsheet and sum up your savings at the end of each month. If you complete this step, take your findings and use them to adjust the time you have been investing into coupon collecting (if any). Would increasing or decreasing the time you focus on coupon collecting be beneficial? Is it realistic? Does it fit with your lifestyle? Was it worth it?
<strong>Paying less always feels good</strong>
There's no arguing that coupon collecting can save consumers money in the long run. Whether you're setting aside your coupon savings for a rainy day or saving up for the jeans you've been coveting, it's always nice to pay less for something. Finding the right balance and using a few tricks along the way will allow you to reach out and grab, cut, or print your savings.
So, how much did you save today?
<strong>GoldenGirlFinance.ca</strong><strong> is a free personal finance and education site for women.</strong>
Nothing contained herein is intended to provide personalized financial, legal or tax advice. Before implementing any financial strategy, you should obtain information and advice from your financial, legal and/or tax advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.</strong>