Oct 11, 2011

Couponing Strategies for Busy People

These days, everyone is busy, especially parents. And while couponing can save you money, it can take up a lot of time. So here are some strategies for using coupons even if you're busy:

1. Commit to letting some deals pass you by. This is the most important adjustment you will have to make. If time is an issue, you simply cannot get every single deal you want. You must prioritize.

2. Shop at 1 to 3 stores per week, depending on how many you can comfortably manage. You can have as many stores in your rotation as you want, but don't try to get to all of them in one week.

3. Follow blogs that list match ups at your favorite stores. Every Wednesday here at Chief Family Officer, I post the new Ralphs deals. You should be able to find similar match ups for almost every chain on other blogs, but the thoroughness and quality can vary widely so do take the time to find match ups that you like (just do a simple search, like "Ralphs deals"). I recommend following more than one blog for each store, since no one can highlight every single deal. You can bookmark a site in your browser, subscribe to a daily email, or subscribe via RSS and get all of the deals from all of the blogs in one place like Google Reader.

4. Decide which store(s) you'll go to each week based on the sales and/or your needs. For example, suppose you need toilet paper this week. Walgreens is having a great sale on Cottonelle, so while you're there, you can plan on picking up other sale items like Halls cough drops and Colgate toothpaste. For groceries, especially perishables, you can pick your store based on sales or, if you don't see anything hot in the ads, go to a store like Trader Joe's which has low every day prices.

5. Consider Walmart. Or Target, if your local Target has a fresh foods section. Both stores have fairly low every day prices, and you can get almost everything you need in one stop. Both stores also allow price matching, though it's my understanding that Walmart's policy is much more consumer friendly. (Experiences vary widely, but I personally hate using coupons at Target and go about once a month at this point, usually for something that doesn't have a coupon. I wish there was a Walmart near me so I could test out the price matching for myself. Of course, some people hate using coupons at Walmart as much as I hate using coupons at Target.)

6. Stockpile. When you find a low price on an item you buy regularly, buy enough to last for a while. That way, you won't have to make an unscheduled trip to the store for things like toilet paper, tissue and toothpaste.

7. Plan a weekly menu, including side dishes. Try to plan your menu before you go shopping, and make sure you have everything you need for the week. This helps to cut down on the number of times you need to go shopping. If you find yourself having to stop for breakfast and lunch items, include those in your menu plan. You will eat healthier, save money, and have more time.

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