Shop around: what your momma told you was right-on. The aforementioned CVS often has better deals than the local grocery store, plus they take coupons (though no doubling) and give store coupons to ExtraCare card users. And good ones, too, like $3 off your next purchase. Others go store hopping, buying the big sale items at each area store. Chances are you don't have this much free time. In my fantasies about life after marriage, being able to do this is front and center.
A good offense: Sunday coupons are often correlated to store sales that week. Take 10 minutes to look at the store circular, then look at your coupon stash, and plan your Bill Laimbeer-esque attack.
Collect: Get one of them cheapo coupon organizers that Wal-Mart or CVS sell for $3-$5, then file new coupons there each week. You'll have a much easier time finding that 55 cents off Wishbone dressing coupon when you need it.
BOGO: Many coupons require purchase of 2 (or more!). Save these for buy 1, get 1 sales. Technically, you're still buying 2 items. Don't let the cashier try and tell you otherwise.
Clever: 3 for $3 does not usually mean you have to buy 3. Read the fine print. If you only need 1, don't get seduced into buying more.
Swap: Why throw away unused coupons each week when you can swap with a neighbor? One man's trash is another man's 35 cents off Hot Pockets. Seriously, a friend's father does this and swears by it. Some public libraries even have coupon swap bins (not to mention vast CD and audiobook collections that are ripe for ripping onto your home PC, but that's another post).
Rebates - delicious but devious: Tivo made $5 million+ last fiscal quarter because people bought the box and did not mail in the $100 rebate form. Hint: take 5 minutes, follow the instructions to a T, and be vigilant. This same company "lost" my rebate application. One phone call later, a $100 check was en route.
Study the masters: I find this woman's work inspiring.
What I don't do:
- Buy brand names at warehouse clubs--unless it's on sale - buying in bulk usually costs more than buying the same items on sale at grocery stores, plus you look like a jackass lugging 56 rolls of toilet paper around the parking lot. That said, Costco only marks up their prices by 15%, so if they have something on sale, go nuts.
- Get on my knees - some recommend calling companies' toll-free #s and asking to have coupons mailed to you. In this case, I am too proud to beg.
- Shop at all-generic stores like Aldi - My standards are high, and generic Cheerios lack that je ne sais quoi.