Totally optional. Some people love them and some feel like they take too much time. There are sites like CouponMom.com that will match store sales with coupons for you. There are plenty of online sources for coupons like coupons.com, and individual retailer’s sites (these are U.S. sites) There is the newspaper and direct mailings as well. I get the Red Plum mailings direct mailed every week while Smart Source and Proctor and Gamble are in the newspaper. Many stores have coupons in the weekly paper as well, like Walgreens, Kmart, and department stores. And, don’t forget about store loyalty cards.
Most coupons are good for six weeks. This gives you plenty of time to match them up with sales. This is much easier if you have made a price book and know approximately when the sales are due to happen. However, it’s always worth bringing your coupons with you to the store. You may find an unadvertised special for which you have coupons, or an opportunity for a freebie.
There are several ways of organizing your coupons. I have a binder with trading card pages into which I put the coupons, arranged by supermarket category (dairy, dry goods, frozen…). It’s fairly involved, but I clip a lot of coupons when I use them. I got out of the habit for a while but I’m headed back that way. Many of the things I buy don’t often have coupons (veggies and such), but there are always coupons available for health and beauty, paper products, and office supplies. And, supermarket coupons that print at chackout will often have dollars off your next shopping trip, or coupons for money off of rarely discounted items. Many people use a small, wallet sized organizer and break their coupons up into fewer categories. The organizers can be found at dollar stores and discount stores for very little money.
Coupons take time, but half an hour on the weekend looking at sales flyers and clipping coupons can save significant money over the course of a year. Shopping sales and using coupons for things that you’d buy anyway can save 25% or more off of your normal grocery bill. While you’re looking at sales flyers, it’s easy to meal plan for the week. See what kind of meats or veggies are on sale and plan your dinners around that. Buy a little extra for future weeks when there’s nothing your family likes on sale. Freeze it!
Coupons can work for you, even if you only use a few. If you’re serious about saving or getting out of debt, put the money that you saved shopping sales, using coupons, and through loyalty cards aside to save or pay down bills. You won’t miss it because you spent it last month on groceries anyway. Every little bit helps, right?