(And How to Avoid Them!)
When I first started couponing almost four years ago, I definitely made my share of mistakes! Fortunately, I learned a lot from those mistakes and steadily increased the amount of money I’ve saved with coupons. In 2011, I saved almost $7,000! If you are a “Coupon Newbie,” I’ve got great news for you – you don’t have to make the same mistakes that I did! Rather than learning these lessons the hard way, why not learn from my mistakes and start saving more money, time, and stress?
When I show people how to save money in my Coupon Workshops, I like to start with the foundational principles that serve as underlying guidelines for everything else I teach. These foundational principles are: Be Informed, Be Focused, and Be Organized. All the “coupon mistakes” I’ve made can be traced back to not following one of those principles.
Let’s talk first about being informed. I teach people the basic strategies of saving money with coupons in my workshop, but it’s their responsibility to keep themselves informed of the ever-changing deals and store coupon policies. I point people to websites and Facebook pages that will help with this. Several years ago, I remember botching a Kroger Mega-Sale deal because I wasn’t fully informed of how the discount worked and I didn’t keep proper track of how many of the participating sale items were in my cart. When I got home and realized it later, I wanted to kick myself for missing out on the deal. It only cost me $5, but I was still disappointed. The lesson here is to make sure that you fully understand your stores’ coupon policies and the special deals so that you’re sure to get your discounts! One website that I love for helping me stay informed on deals and store policies is Money Saving Mom.
It literally pays to be organized when it comes to couponing! If your coupons are a jumbled mess, you won’t be able to find the coupon you need, and you’ll miss out on the deal. I’ve had that happen to me more times that I care to admit! This is why you should have a system for organizing your coupons. The most popular method for coupon organization, the one that I use and recommend, is the coupon binder. It’s a 3-ring binder with baseball card pages inside. Each coupon goes in its own slot, so it’s easy to see the coupons you’ve got. Once you have your binder set up, you’ll need to do weekly “binder maintenance” to keep it organized and up to date. On Sunday afternoon, when I’m finished cutting coupons for the week, I will put my new ones in the binder and pull expired ones out.
Most of the mistakes that beginner couponers make violate the final foundational principle – being focused. What do I mean by being focused? Focus on the deals, coupons, and stores that are best for you and your family and forget the rest! Some coupon newbies – myself included – will get so excited when they start couponing that they will cut every single coupon that comes in the Sunday paper and put them all in their binder. This is a waste of valuable time and effort! If your family doesn’t use a particular product, don’t even cut that coupon. Now, I probably cut 30 – 50% of the coupons that come in the paper. I save the uncut coupons and give them to one of my sisters or friends.
Another violation of being focused is chasing every deal out there at all the stores in your area. If you do this, you will become exhausted and quit! Focus on the deals that will save your family the most money on the products that you use the most often. There are other Coupon Queens in my area that swear by shopping at certain stores. Well, I’ve tried it and I don’t find the deals that are best for my family. So guess what? I don’t shop there anymore! I stick to the stores that have the best deals for me. And I suggest that you do the same!
So coupon newbies and experts alike, remember to be informed, be organized, and be focused! You will save yourself time, money, and stress if you do. Please, learn from my mistakes! It’s unrealistic to think that you’re never going to make a mistake with coupons, so decide ahead of time to extend yourself a little grace. Not even the Coupon Queens do it perfectly all the time.
Christine Luken is a Coupon Queen, Financial Coach, and author of the e-books, “Confessions of a Coupon Queen: Secrets Retailers Don’t Want You to Know” and “The Coupon Sisters Get Cooking: Discover the Magic of Meal Planning.” She has a passion for helping families save money so they can build up their savings and pay off their debt. Christine lives in the Greater Cincinnati area with her husband, Nick, and two cats, Peanut and Little Tiny. In her spare time, you can find Christine on the golf course, at the mall shopping for shoes (coupons in hand!), or at home watching cage fighting with her husband. You can reach her at email@example.com or on her website: www.YourStrongTower.com