I have no shame. Ever since MSE Jenny introduced me to US show, Extreme Couponing, I’ve been hooked on saving money on groceries. In fact, couponing has rapidly become my new MoneySaving vice, replacing my addiction to selling on eBay.
I find there’s something quite satisfying about the ritual of building up a stockpile of coupons and money-off vouchers, handing them over to the cashier and watching £s drop off your grocery bill.
My boyfriend (yes, we’re still together despite my French MoneySaving faux pas last year) calls me the "Coupon Queen", although he refuses to come shopping with me. He finds it embarrassing when people in the queue behind us start scowling and muttering when they see me hand over the 30+ coupons I’ve been hiding in my handbag.
I don’t mind though, shopping without him is quicker, plus there’s no chance of him sneaking cakes or chocs into the trolley, and for a couponer like me it’s imperative to stick to your carefully-calculated shopping list.
Grocery shopping in our house requires planning and military precision. I’m not ashamed to admit, for really big shops, I even draw up spreadsheets, comparing prices at the different stores, so I can make sure I get the maximum discount when using my coupons.
How much can couponing save?
It may sound like a lot of time and effort, but if you’re dedicated, couponing can save you serious cash.
A month or so ago, I had a trolley load totalling £112. With multibuys, BOGOFs and coupons I whittled it down to £88 (a 21% reduction). And last night I achieved a new record: £75 down to £43, a saving of 43%.
My savviest buy to date is a Gillette women’s razor, which I managed to nab for just £1.50. Usually £10.99 at Tesco, it’s currently half price at £5.50. There’s a £2 off coupon on the SuperSavvyMe site, but I also had a unique "£2 off any Gillette product" coupon from Tesco Clubcard, which brought the whole thing down to £1.50. Bargain.
Obviously this is peanuts compared to the US extreme couponers, who manage to get hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for 43 cents (or even get PAID to take their trolley load home), but unfortunately coupons just aren’t as readily available over this side of the pond.
Where can I get coupons?
The MoneySavingExpert.com Forum is a good starting point. There’s a whole thread dedicated to supermarket coupons, where savvy-spenders post any coupons they find. Big thanks to forumite myrtleturtle for keeping the thread up-to-date.
There are plenty of other places to look for coupons, including:
- Special coupon websites (the two biggies I use are SuperSavvyMe and BeforeIShop).
- Newspapers (if you don’t want to buy every single daily newspaper, check out the MSE Forum for a newspaper summary in the Discount Codes ‘n Vouchers board – thanks to forumites’ Nudge and chum for compiling every day).
- Magazines (especially the free store magazines for each supermarket).
- Retailers’ websites (again, check the Discount Codes ‘n Vouchers board, as well as each of the supermarket’s websites).
- Brands’ websites (try Googling things such as "Heinz voucher UK 2013" or "Charmin coupon UK 2013". If you can’t find anything, head over to the brand’s Facebook page).
- Junk mail / leaflets (as theycallmebargainbetty mentions, you can get coupons in leaflets and mail outs, so quickly scan everything that comes through your letter box before binning it).
- Your Tesco Clubcard account (if you’re a Tesco Clubcard customer, login to your account and see if there are any coupons waiting for you – full how-to in the Reclaim Tesco Vouchers guide).
Once you’ve got your coupons and are ready to shop, these are my top tips for making maximum savings:
- Shop in the right place. Sometimes a coupon is better value for money in one store over another, depending on what offers and prices are available. I use canny comparison site MySupermarket to find out which stores have the item cheapest, and then shop wherever I can make the biggest saving. Unfortunately it doesn’t include Morrisons, but luckily there’s a store near MSE Towers, which I will casually walk around with my shopping list spread sheet, jotting down the prices and any offers (I told you this was extreme couponing!).
- Factor in existing offers, BOGOFs and multibuys. MySupermarket is also good for this as it tells you if there are any promotions on the products. Plus coupons combined with offers on non-perishables (like dishwasher tablets and cleaning products) are great because you can stock pile on the products you use, but not worry about them going out of date.
- Read the coupon small print. Sometimes a coupon specifies "one coupon per transaction", and other times it can be "one coupon per product". Could you benefit from taking two coupons for the same product if you’re getting a multibuy deal? For example, two Flash "mix and match" cleaning products for £2.50 in Tesco, combined with two x £1 off coupons (1 per product) = two cleaners for 50p.
- Timing is everything. Pick and choose your couponing time carefully. Saturday mornings are a big no-no, especially if you want to avoid impatient cashiers and glares from fellow shoppers. I prefer to go about 9pm on a weekday night – the stores are virtually empty and the checkout staff seem a lot more relaxed about you taking your time with your hoard of coupons.
- Watch the cashier like a hawk. Coupons are tricky little things, they can stick together and sometimes they don’t scan properly. Watch the cashier carefully and make sure everything goes through as calculated. You don’t want to end up spending more than you should.
Can you beat my 43% saving at the checkout? Share your extreme couponing stories and tips in the comments section below or in the forum discussion.