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RSSSuper-Couponing Tips By Jill Cataldo
The latest tips and advice in couponing and all money-saving pursuits from renowned coupon expert Jill Cataldo.
When it’s time to head to the grocery store, how do you plan your shopping trips? Do you go through your store’s circulars? Do you go online to look for coupons for items you plan to buy? Or do you rely on someone else to help plan your shopping trip?
A 2014 study from WomensForum.com notes that more than 37 percent of coupon shoppers surveyed utilize coupon blogs to plan their shopping trips. What’s so alluring about coupon blogs, and why are they such a popular source of shopping information?
As the writer of a coupon blog myself (I blog coupon deals daily at JillCataldo.com), I can shed some light on this phenomenon. When I began blogging back in 2008, I wanted to create a how-to blog for beginners that would explain the basics of couponing, step by step. I began writing deal matchup lists explaining all of the items that were free or inexpensive with coupons at a variety of local and national retailers. I’d provide links to printable coupons and reference where newspaper insert coupons were located.
Coupons that require the purchase of two or more items continue to plague or delight my readers, depending on a person’s perspective. When readers complain about having to buy two or more of an item, others have responded with ideas – everything from, “It’s good to have one extra on hand,” to “Donate the extra one to a food pantry.” This advice hasn’t exactly sat well with some of my readers.
I read your column every Sunday, and I usually get good advice. However, my concerns are these – I am 61, single and live on a very limited budget. A large number of coupons I find in the paper are dollars off a purchase of multiple items. As I stated, I am single – why should my only option be to purchase more than I need just to receive the benefit of the coupon?
The majority of my reader mail comes from consumers, but I always enjoy hearing from people who work on the “front lines” of where we consumers spend a lot of our time – the supermarket. This week, I’ve got two emails to share with stories from the checkout lanes:
I appreciate you giving advice on couponing and am all for it. I work as a cashier at a grocery store and would like to add a little advice for couponers. As a cashier, I appreciate receiving coupons at the beginning of checkout, not the end. Sometimes when a couponer comes in with stacks of coupons and hands them to us at the end, some people try slipping in extra coupons for the same product. We see this on a regular basis and know it is not accidental. Some will try to slip coupons through for items they are not buying at all. If a customer will tell us at the beginning they have a Buy One Get One Free coupon, we can fill in the price right away. It saves us a lot of time so we don't have to scroll back trying to find the item on our screen later.
No topic that I’ve written about in this column has generated more reader responses than the topic of product shrinkage. While I primarily focus on coupon savings, product shrinkage is also of concern to any shopper that wants to maximize her dollars. So, if you’ll indulge me for yet another column devoted to products getting smaller while the price stays the same, here’s another round of stories from the front lines of a supermarket near you.
It’s increasingly common to see new product features roll out at the same time a product is downsized. This, of course, is to draw shoppers’ attention to the new features and away from the smaller size. But reader Brian isn’t falling for it.
As a frugal shopper, I’m always closely watching my grocery budget. When I plan a shopping trip, I know roughly what my pre-tax, post-coupon total should be before I get anywhere near the checkout lane. This is helpful when coupons don’t scan correctly or worse, when an item I buy scans at a higher, non-sale price. I’ll also take a minute and look through my receipt before I leave the store. A quick 30-second glance at my receipt can save me a return trip if something rang up wrong.
Some of my readers do the same, and it’s a good habit to get into, because the checkout process isn’t always perfect:
I’ve long advocated stocking up on the products we consume most often in order to save money. When you have a reserve on hand, you’re never forced to pay full price for a bottle of laundry detergent, can of vegetables or box of cereal.
But for how long should we stock up? I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about coupon shoppers is that our homes are completely stocked with a year’s worth of supplies. While I have a good quantity of our most-used items on hand, I rotate my stock often, and I don’t allow perishable foods to expire on the shelves. So how long is too long to keep items stockpiled?
My recent column on “coupon fairies” – people who leave unwanted coupons on store shelves for others to pick up ¬– generated a lot of comments from readers and retailers alike. Not surprisingly, the store employees that wrote in were grateful that the issue of unwanted coupons littering shelves and refrigerator cases was addressed. Many consumers wrote with suggestions on what to do with extra, unwanted coupons:
I just read your article about coupon fairies, and I wanted to share an idea with these generous souls that will allow them to still help others with the coupons they have left over. Many churches have a food pantry or food drives during different times of the year. Donate your coupons to a local church and allow them to use them to stock their pantries to serve the less fortunate in our communities. Keep that giving spirit alive!
I am hoping you might be able to answer a question for me. I figured if anyone will be able to help me find an answer it might be you! I live in the Quad Cities – the combination of Moline, Illinois; Rock Island, Illinois; Davenport, Iowa and Bettendorf, Iowa. I have been couponing for 10 years, and I am quite good at it. My problem is that in the Quad City Area, where there are hundreds of thousands of people, we get the worst coupons ever! Our coupon inserts only have a few coupons, and have more advertisements than actual offers. I believe we get about a quarter of the coupons that bigger cities get in their papers.
“I am just so confused as to how an area as big as ours in the Quad Cities gets such a small amount of coupons delivered in our paper compared to what a city like Chicago gets. Any information you might be able to give me as to why an area with a combined population of nearly 400,000 people barely gets any coupons would be much appreciated.
Why do companies put out coupons for products that I can’t ever find in stores? I’m getting more and more frustrated hanging on to coupons and looking for new things, only to find the coupons expire before I ever find the item to purchase it. What a waste of marketing dollars it seems.
Do you have a special ritual or method for getting through the checkout lane in a speedy manner? Some of my readers do, and I found many of their tips so thoughtful and clever that I’m going to share some this week.
I’ve never encountered rude customers in the lane when couponing. For the people that do, I wonder if these shoppers weren’t quite ready to present their coupons when they reached the cashier. It might be good to give those who are new to the game a few suggestions.
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