Save Money with Manufacturers' Coupons

Many of us do not get as much from our food dollars as we can. By using coupons to help pay for things at the store, you can often save several dollars a week on your grocery bill. Smart shoppers take the time to look for, cut out, file, and use cents-off coupons. Refund forms, and other money saving offers can be found in newspapers, magazines and in the stores.

Coupons are easy to use, but store them so you can find them quickly. Set up a file by putting coupons into groups such as cereals, pizzas, cake mixes, paper goods, pet food or anything you buy often. A shoe box with envelopes, marked on the outside with the type of coupon, works well.

Once you have put the coupons in order, you can quickly pull out those you need. Use them when you are making your shopping list, or if you find a sale in the store. Before going to the store, write your shopping list down on the back of an envelope. Place a mark beside the items you will be buying with a coupon. Put the coupons inside the envelope. If you shop at more than one store, make a list on an envelope for each store, and add the coupons you want to use at that store. By doing this you will avoid mistakes and save time.

Some people who use coupons think they save money, but may spend more than non-coupon users because coupons are usually for brand name, higher priced items. To avoid that trap, use coupons to buy only items you use often, things you would like to try, and when the item is already on sale.

Even if you have a coupon, be sure to look at other prices. Some items cost you more, even with a coupon, than the brand with the store's name on it, or something you can find in the generic aisle.

Many stores will have coupons that you can use only at that store. Often you can use a regular coupon with this in-store coupon for extra savings. For example, the store has a 40 cents-off in-store coupon on an item. You have a 50 cents-off coupon for the same item. Used together, you will save a total of 90 cents off the item.

To get the most from your coupons, try the following ideas:

  • Watch the weekly store ads. Buy the item you want when it is on sale, and use a coupon for extra savings.

  • Take advantage of "double coupons," but be sure you know your prices. Often stores with double coupons charge more for things.

  • Shop at stores that will take manufacturers' coupons and the in-store coupon for the same product.

  • Pay attention to refund offers. Often a product is on sale at a special price to promote a refund offer. Use a manufacturer's coupon when you shop, and you will save three ways. Be sure to keep the sales receipt, the refund offer form, and the "proof of purchase" together. Often there will be offers on the package itself.

  • Take your coupon box with you to the grocery store each time you shop. Things may be on sale that are not on your list, but are good buys.

  • Clip every coupon you can find and get involved in a coupon exchange. Some stores have bins of unwanted coupons. You can find coupons for items you often use and share those you will not be using.

Prepared by Barbara Dahl, Consumer and Family Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

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