Since the recession bit, Brits have been on the lookout for the best deals, discounts and offers to help keep the cost of living down. In fact, some go to great lengths to cut their spending, and have discovered that there are bundles of cash to be saved in extreme couponing. If you're new to the couponing game, here are a few tips on making your money go further.
Keep your eyes peeled
You may not have noticed them before, but once you start looking, you'll notice that coupons are everywhere, and the more you get, the more you'll save. Newspapers and magazines have always carried coupons, so if you regularly buy one or the other, make sure you make the most of any offers you find. Where all that junk mail flooding through your door used to be a nuisance, now it can become a source of money-saving, so rather than throwing it into the recycling, have a look through for coupons, deals and offers that could save you money, particularly the supermarket leaflets that turn up. Of course, the supermarkets themselves can also be a great source, so be on the lookout for leaflets with offers, and packaging that features discount coupons, especially if it entitles you to your next purchase of the same item for free.
The Internet is another source of coupons, and Money Saving Expert features an excellent supermarket coupons page with all the latest legitimate offers on everything from Fairy Liquid to pet food, and if you're particularly looking to save money on specific brands or products, try their website direct. You'd be amazed how many giveaways and discounts they'll offer for those seeking out their brands. Social media is yet another excellent resource, although it can be somewhat unreliable. Search for Facebook Groups such as Extreme Couponing or Play Pennies, and on Twitter, follow key accounts such as @couponshopuk, @HotUKDeals and @SavvyAnnieUK. Just beware of anyone who attempts to 'sell' you coupons online - it's likely bogus.
What coupons to use
In general, it's wise to be a little bit picky with your coupons. You'll need space to store goods that you get bulk discounts on, and perishables are often useless if the expiry date is approaching. To begin with, try to focus on non-perishables that you know you can store and that you'll use.. eventually. Look for double discounts by way of 'stacking', which means combining two coupons, for example, a coupon with a discount a certain brand or item, along with a supermarket offer that gives you money off when you spend a certain amount. In the supermarkets, look for buy one, get one free offers or already discounted items. If you've got a coupon for those items too, you can quickly slash the price of your shopping. Be aware, however, that some supermarkets don't allow stacking, so check their coupon policies online or ask before you fill your trolley.
As your couponing expertise increases, you can begin to buy only what's on a deal, rather than making your usual shopping list. This is where extreme couponers really save money, since they only buy products at their lowest price. This requires a fair amount of stockpiling, but as long as what your coupon items are cheaper than what you'd usually buy, and as your stockpile of varied products begins to build up, you'll find your grocery bills going down each week.
Once you hit extreme couponing levels, organisation is advisable. Instead of having a wallet that weighs you down, organise your coupons with a simple spreadsheet, detailing what each coupon is for, where you can use it, when it expires, and any key terms and conditions. This means you'll be able to maximise your savings without carrying wads of coupons around.
Finally, you should never be embarrassed about using your coupons to save money, but nevertheless, if you have a lot of coupons to use, it can take time, and a little etiquette goes a long way. It's a good idea to let the checkout assistant know if you are going to be using a lot of coupons, and do be aware of other shoppers too. If the customer behind you is waiting with just a few items, be generous and let them go first. Alternatively, steel yourself and head for the self-service tills. In the big supermarkets, there are almost always shop assistants on hand to help, and you won't be holding up a huge queue.
Are you an extreme couponer? What advice would you give to others? Leave your comments below...