Canadians have been obsessed with coupons over the last few months, after the launch of the US-based TV show, Extreme Couponing – and the obsession is still going strong.
Coupons are a fantastic way to lower your grocery bill and with practice, you can easily master the art of using coupons to get free (or very cheap) groceries for your family.
It’s not as hard as it sounds. Honest!
The biggest mistake I see many new couponers making is trying to compete with the “big dogs”. This will only result in failure and disappointment. Trust me on that.
‘Extreme Couponing’ led people to believe that the kind of savings the participants achieved on the show was attainable here in Canada. Although it is definitely possible to see significant savings on your grocery bill by using coupons in Canada, don’t expect to be saving 80%-100% off your bill like those “extreme couponers” do (well, not all the time, anyway!).
Realize that learning the art of couponing takes time and LOTS of practice. This is not something that you can learn to do overnight. Personally, it took me well over a year to learn the ins and outs of couponing and I am still learning new things every day. You never stop learning.
Keep your shopping trips small when you start out. Don’t try to use hundreds of dollars worth of coupons on your first trip to the store. This will only overwhelm you. Pick a few great deals, use a few coupons and enjoy your savings. The next time you shop, add a few more items and coupons.. and so on and so forth.
If you plan to price match items (many stores allow this) as well as use coupons, don’t try that right away. Stick to coupons only (or price matching only) for a few weeks, and then you can try combining the two.
Starting small when you begin using coupons is important so you don’t end up losing your sanity. It can become extremely confusing and overwhelming if you try to do too much when you’re just starting out. Be patient. Take your time.
Of course, if you want to start using coupons, the most important thing is to actually find coupons for you to use, right?
- Printable Coupons – These are the easiest to find. Many manufacturers have printable coupons available on their websites for consumers to print and redeem at stores. Take a look at the sites of your favourite manufacturers to see if they have any coupons available for you to print. If not, send them an email and ask for coupons. Include your home address in the email. More often than not, they will mail you some exclusive coupons. Check out my compiled list of Canadian printable coupons here: Canada Printable Coupons
- Online Coupons – There are a few online companies that will actually mail you coupons that you request from them. Save.ca, Brandsaver.ca, Gocoupons.ca and WebSaver.ca all offer a wide variety of coupons that you can select and order. Those companies will then mail the coupons to you, free of charge. Check out my compiled list of the online coupons available to Canadians here: Canada Online Coupons
- Tearpad Coupons – The next time you go shopping, pay close attention to the shelving that holds all of the grocery items. Most stores have tearpad coupons available for you to take and use on your purchases. These pads are just stacks of coupons, usually adhered to a cardboard or plastic backing.
- Coupon Inserts – Every few weeks, you can find a coupon insert in your newspaper. Smart Source, Redplum and Brandsaver coupon inserts can be found in a variety of free and paid newspaper subscriptions (click here for a list of the newspapers to find these inserts). Smart Source is available every 3 weeks, Redplum every 4 weeks and Brandsaver every 3-4 months.
Those are the top 4 places for finding coupons. Once you start using them, you will start to find them everywhere. They can even be found in a few select magazines, on Facebook and I’ve even received toothpaste coupons from my dentist!
When you start collecting coupons, you will need to have an organizational system in place to avoid becoming overrun with them. Believe me when I say that coupons add up very fast and the longer you let them pile up, the harder of a task it will be to get them organized.
Here are a few organization systems that I suggest:
Envelope Method (Beginner) – If you’re just starting out with coupons, this is definitely the organizational route I would suggest. Keep a few envelopes (separated by category) in your purse or bag with your coupons.
Accordion File Method (Medium Experience) – Many dollar stores offer decent size accordion file folders. These are great for organizing your coupons and keeping them all together in one place.
Binder Method (Advanced) – This is my favourite coupon organizing method because I find it to be the most neat and tidy. Purchase a good quality binder and stuff it with sports card holders (for things like trading or baseball cards). Separate your coupons by using page dividers for different categories (such as Food, Health, Beauty, Pets, etc.). Add your coupons to the holders and that’s about it!
I do suggest having a zippered binder to prevent your coupons from falling out and onto the floor while you’re shopping. That’s an embarrassment you don’t want to face (trust me on that one, *ahem*).
Match Coupons with Sales:
As tempted as you may be, don’t run out and start using all of your coupons right away.
Canada has a yearly sales cycle and items go on sale all the time. I strongly suggest holding on to your coupons until a sale comes along that you can pair your coupon with.
Waiting for these sales will definitely provide you with some exceptional savings. Sometimes you will even be able to get coupons for free with your coupons, just by waiting for the perfect sale!
When you do find those items on sale, stock up. I encourage you to have a “stock-up budget” that is only available for use toward stocking up on sale items.
Let’s say your family eats a lot of peanut butter. It’s regularly $2.99 per container and you have a $0.50 coupon. That makes the peanut butter only $2.49 per container. Is this a good deal? Perhaps to you it is. Is it a “WOW, let’s stock up!” price? Probably not.
If you hold on to that coupon for a little while, you may find that the peanut butter actually goes on sale for just $1.49 at your local grocery store. After your $0.50 coupon, that’s only $0.99 per container. Now, THAT is a stock-up price.
Most sales come around again in about 3 months. Figure out how much peanut butter your family goes through in 3 months and that’s the number of containers I would suggest picking up to add to your stockpile.
If you are looking for a way to significantly lower your grocery bill, coupons may be the answer for you!
Although it does take some time and quite a bit of dedication, the rewards are outstanding and well worth it.
Cassie Howard is a frugal living writer whose blog, Mrs January, shares tips for living a frugal lifestyle. She posts Canadian deals, coupons, freebies and more! You can also follow her on Twitter.