How to Use Coupons and Save Money

by Sean Bryant on May 22, 2012

Over the past few years the cost of groceries has skyrocketed. If you are not using coupons than you are paying entirely too much money each time you go to the store. One of the biggest complaints that I hear from individuals is that they don’t know how to use coupons. Couponing is actually pretty easy, all you need to do is learn the basic principals and have some patience.

Match Coupons With Store Sales

What I prefer to do is keep a running list of all the products that we typically always have in our house. These include food items such as cereal, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing and more. It also includes toiletry items like toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, etc. Once I have my list compiled, I scan through the weekly ads to see if any of those products are on sale. If there is a particular sale, I will then start to search for any available coupons.

If you properly match your coupons with current sales you can ensure you are getting the best deal and saving yourself the most money. Many times you can even walk out of the store with free products. I have even been known to make money just by purchasing certain items.

Understanding How to Stack Coupons

Most grocery stores and drug stores have their own store coupons. These businesses will usually allow you to stack their store coupon with manufacturer’s coupons.  To give you a better idea of what stacking coupons means, I have put together a deal scenario for Ragu Pasta Sauce below.

  • Buy one Ragu Pasta Sauce for $2.50 at Target
  • Use $0.50 Ragu manufacturer’s coupon
  • Use $0.50 Ragu Target Store Coupon
  • Final Price = $1.50

Now lets say that you have a manufacturer’s coupon that requires you to purchase two items. In that scenario, you can use two store coupons.

  • Buy two Ragu Pasta Sauces for $2.50 each at Target
  • Use $1.00/2 Ragu Manufacturer’s coupon
  • And use two $0.50/1 Ragu Target store coupon
  • Final Price = $1.50 each

Before you head to the store, it’s best to take a look at the stores coupon policy for any specific rules they may have.  You will also want to check your local grocery store’s coupon policy, since some of them will actually double the value of your coupons.

Understanding When a Deal is Not a Deal

One of the biggest principals you need to remember is that sometimes what looks like a great deal, might not be after all. Often times you might find a sale for a product, although when you use a coupon it is still cheaper to purchase the generic version of the item. You must be able to recognize this and pass on making the initial purchase. I like to base everything on price per unit. If I need to quickly figure out whether a deal is worth it, I will pull out the calculator on my iPhone and do the math.

Locating Coupons

Most newspapers will include coupon inserts each week. There are also several different sources that allow you to go online and print out coupons.

  • Redplum
  • Smartsource
  • Coupon Network

If you follow these simple steps on using coupons, there is no reason why you can’t shave 50-percent or more off your weekly grocery bill. I do, however, discourage “Extreme Couponing“. No one really needs 50 boxes of cereal at one time. Let’s leave some for others.

To learn more about couponing and putting together deal scenarios at your local store visit

Do any of you use coupons when you shop?  Have you found yourself to save a lot of money?

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Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant created in 2011 to help pass along his knowledge of finance and economics to others. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics he worked as a construction superintendent before jumping into the world of finance. Sean has worked on the trade desk for a commodities brokerage firm, he was a project manager for an investment research company and was a CDO analyst at a big bank. That being said he brings a good understanding of the finance field to the One Smart Dollar community. When not working Sean and his wife are avid world travelers. He enjoys spending time with his two kids and dog Charlie.
  • I get a bit jealous when I hear how beneficial coupons can be for Americans. Here in Canada there are far fewer coupon opportunities. In most cases you cannot stack coupons here and there isn’t a bunch of coupons in the Sunday newspapers either. You really have to search a lot harder to save money with coupons here.

  • While I’m glad that some people use coupons we haven’t really made it a part of our weekly shopping trip. Sure, if something we need happens to have a coupon then we’ll use it. However, more often than not we’ll just look at the store’s ad for the week, make our list based upon that and for what’s not on sale we just buy store-brand stuff.

  • I haven’t used coupons to the best of my abilities…meaning I haven’t done research and I don’t take the time to find coupons that I need. Sometimes I save coupons for items I don’t regularly buy, which is stupid! I really need to get into this habit though. I could be saving a lot of money on necessities like contact solution and toothpaste.

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