Monday, February 1, 2010

15 Minutes Can Save You Money on Groceries

Almost every time I talk about couponing and saving money, someone asks me how long it takes me to clip coupons, find deals, and save the most money. And I have to admit, it takes me a while (I average about 10 hours a week), but the money I save makes it totally worth it to me. The response I usually get is, “I just don't have the time to do that.” And the conversation seems to end there. What I have failed to do is to offer an alternative method of saving money that doesn't take as long. But there is a way to spend less money without the big time investment, and I'm going to tell you how to do it. I call it the CBYS (clip before you shop) method and it can be done in 15 minutes or less.

Keep every coupon insert that comes in the Sunday paper. The first step to using the CYBS system is to save and categorize every coupon insert you receive. The coupons in the Sunday paper are distributed by SmartSource (SS), RedPlum (RP), General Mills (GM), and Procter & Gamble (P&G). The easiest way to keep coupon inserts is in an accordian folder. Use adhesive-backed notes (e.g. Post-Its) to write the date of the insert and stick it into one of the file slots. Then simply drop the inserts that came in the Sunday paper on that date into the slot. Voila! You're done with this step. (If you're not sure when the insert came, look at the folded edge of the outside of the insert and you'll find the date there.)

Make your shopping list. This is a no-brainer. If you don't make and keep shopping lists, then I'm not going to be able to help you save any money on your grocery trips. You probably do this step while you're preparing to go to the grocery anyway. If you don't already make a shopping list, then you definitely need to at least start that practice. There is no doubt that you're spending more than you should if you aimlessly wander around the grocery store with no direction or plans. Once your shopping list is complete, you're ready to spend your 15 minutes or less gathering your coupons.

Take your shopping list to the computer. Whether you've made your shopping list according to what's on sale at your local grocery store or out of necessity, you'll be able to save money on at least some of your items by taking this step. There are several websites out in cyberspace that are coupon databases. A coupon database is a listing of every coupon that has been distributed or can be printed that hasn't yet expired. You simply put in a keyword of the first item on your list and look for any coupons that might be out there and either clip it or print it. Easy peasy!

Here's what a typical listing will look like:
Description Value Expires Source
Pillsbury Toaster strudel pastries
01-03-10 GM
$1.00/2 3/27/2010 Insert
Pillsbury Toaster Strudel Pastries, Any (Bricks Link - IE) $1.00/1 Rolling Printable

Let's take a look at the first listing. Under the description, it says 01-03-10 GM. That's not just a bunch of hullabaloo – it's telling you where to find the coupon. It's in the General Mills insert that was in the Sunday paper on January 3, 2010. It's a coupon that will save you $1 if you buy 2 boxes of Toaster Strudels and it doesn't expire until March 27, 2010.

The second listing is a link for a printable coupon. You may have to download some software before your computer will print these, but the software is free and totally worth the few minutes the download takes. You can print each Internet coupon twice, so you'll be able to save $2 on 2 boxes, instead of using the paper coupon listed above. Notice that the link says IE – that means that you'll have to open the link in Internet Explorer because the coupon won't print in another browser, such as FireFox or Mozilla.

Here are a few websites with coupon databases (*you may have to sign up to be a user to access the database, but it's free to sign up and you instantly have access):

That's it! Just do this for every item on your list, clip or print the coupons you can find and head to the grocery store! Of course, you won't maximize your savings this way, but it's an easy way to save a little bit of money if you don't have the time to invest in full-on deal-hunting. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

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