September is National Coupon Month, are you celebrating? It’s also the time of year when kids go back to school and families settle into their routines once again. Many of us are calculating the cost of school activities – not to mention the upcoming holidays – the result is a search for ways to save money.
Highlighting how much money consumers can save by using coupons, the Promotion Marketing Association tells us that statistically, 2011 ranked as the year more coupons were used than ever before. Gone is the misconception that only the struggling are using coupons. Technology, the engine behind mobile coupons, online coupons, and “clipless” coupons, has inspired 75 percent of shoppers in all income brackets to use coupons.
Even if the economy improves, 93-percent of consumers say they will continue to look for money-saving options. Store-brand products have become the preference of more shoppers. Forty-two percent of shoppers are choosing price over brand – and stocking up on essential items is a strategy for nearly seventy-five percent of shoppers surveyed.
I was “raised on coupons” and now I am a “couponing mentor”. It’s fascinating to me to see how coupon use, via new technology, has “hipped” coupon use. In the twenty-first century, you can simply flash a phone or store loyalty card – and you’re saving some very cool cash – no clipping necessary! Online, you can print coupons, send coupons to your phone or load them onto your store loyalty card. Money-saving “Apps” for mobile phones are available to help you find the best deal. Coupons are available instantly – wherever you are. Clipped coupons are still used however, an inspiring 88-percent of shoppers use coupons to plan their grocery list.
Whether you “clip” or you “click”, if you spend a little time before you buy, you’ll see more return from your efforts. I always say that if you didn’t come into couponing organized, you’ll become organized – as it’s the key to money-saving success.
Give Yourself a Raise: Reduce Your Grocery Spending:
Grocery shopping is one area of your monthly expenses where you have the power to spend less. Realize that when you save money on groceries, you are giving yourself a “raise”; extra money you can use towards other escalating household expenses.
1. Monthly Budget – Begin by evaluating your grocery spending over the past several weeks. Make notes of where you spent (and overspent). Decide that you will begin to use a few money-saving techniques. If you’re overwhelmed already, choose one area of your spending to focus on (baby supplies, breakfast, convenience foods, etc.)
Put your goal in writing. Example: “I will spend $25 less a week on groceries (or your chosen focus area) over the next two weeks”.
2. Be Creative and Create a Meal Plan: As you’re working your way into meal planning, create a “free meal” tonight with ingredients you have at home. A great way to visualize this is to start a “Holiday Spending” jar, where you put a portion of the money you would have spent on take-out. Other ideas: “Planned” leftovers (cook once, eat twice), preparing meals with weekly grocery specials, and using less expensive/healthier ingredients (instead of convenience foods). Periodically inventory your pantry to be sure you are getting the most from your grocery spending.
An easy way to start meal planning is to “theme” each day of the week. For example: “Meatless Mondays”, “Breakfast Tuesdays”, “Soups-On Wednesdays”, “Fun Finger Food Fridays”, etc.
Resources for Menu Planning: DinnerTool.com (Create meal plans and a printable shopping list), your favorite product manufacturer’s websites, and ChooseMyPlate.gov (Tips towards planning healthy meals according to food groups and dietary considerations). When chicken’s on sale this week, search for meals using chicken (and don’t forget to buy chicken for next week’s meals—you don’t want to pay full price!)
3. A List Saves You Money – Plan to succeed at your money saving goals. Shop less frequently and more consciously. Strive to affordably and reasonably maintain a household inventory which includes basic staples for quick, favorite meals and common necessities. Buy within budget when it’s on sale and you’ll hardly ever pay full price again! My favorite tip, besides having basic staples at home is to have a “Fall-Down Friday” meal ready in the freezer. Whatever you’d crave from take-out, have some frozen favorites at the ready!
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself with this next tip – but if you quickly want to see what’s on sale, matched with available coupons, find a money-saving blog for your local area (Google “your city and couponing blog”) – or a national one such as CouponMom.com. These sites, for each local store, show you in a glance what you could be saving money on this week. You’ll be shown the store promotions, and be given direct links to printable coupons.