Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about extreme couponing and the money these “couponers” save. The thing you don’t hear about is all of the paper that’s wasted, not to mention how much time these people must be spending on an average grocery trip. I watched one episode of Extreme Couponing where the woman spent eight hours in the grocery store! When I do my grocery shopping, I almost always have my two young children with me. Spending a lot of time in the aisles and then even more time at the cash register is not an option. But, since I am a stay-at-home mom, I need to save money wherever I can.
The New Wave of Coupons
If you look at my keychain, you’ll see approximately one dozen store loyalty cards. While for several years, these cards were used so I could get the advertised price of an item as a card member (instead of paying a much higher price) simply so stores could track my spending, many stores are now finding more ways to help their customer’s save by using these cards. A&P stores (which include Waldbaums and Pathmark) now have a service that allows you to log onto their website and link coupons to your loyalty card. When you purchase the items on a shopping trip, the coupons are automatically applied. There are two caveats: the coupons will not be doubled (like they do with paper coupons) and if you happen to have a paper coupon (forgetting about the one on your card), only the one on your card will be honored. Another thing to note is that you don’t need a card for each store in a “family.” I have a Pathmark card that works at Waldbaums and A&P, so I save plastic and time by linking everything to one card.
There is also a new company, Linkables Network that is beginning to offer coupons that can be linked to your credit card or debit card. By simply linking your credit card, and then linking offers to that card, you can save money when you go shopping. Some of the offers they have had include: $3 off a $15 purchase at Whole Foods and $5 off a $40 purchase at Publix. Currently there are offers for Stop & Shop, PetSmart and Home Depot. In my experience, the money I save has been deposited into my PayPal account 5 days after a qualifying purchase. While I like this service, it definitely needs to be expanded. I would love to see manufacturer coupons linked to credit cards, this way you could shop for deals at any of your preferred stores (instead of linking coupons to your loyalty card for each individual store).
There are several sites online where you can obtain manufacturer coupons, as well. I like this option of printing coupons because I only print the coupons I will use, thereby minimizing paper waste. I only wish the coupons would print closer together on a sheet of paper so more than three coupons could fit on a page. However, since I know only three will print per page, I always select my coupons in multiples of three. My favorite sites for obtaining printable coupons are: coupons.com, redplum.com, smartsource.com, Cellfire, CouponNetwork and MyGroceryDeals.com. In addition to having the option of printing coupons from these sites, most of them will also allow you to link deals to your Store Loyalty Cards. You simply choose your stores from a drop-down list—unfortunately many more stores still need to be added to this program in order for it to be fully-functional. If you would prefer not to print coupons and would rather use coupons from a coupon circular, why not ask friends, family and neighbors for their coupon circulars (if they don’t use them)? It’s amazing how many people simply throw out their coupons rather than take the time to clip them. You’ll be surprised by how many people will gladly hand over their coupon circulars (and you’re rescuing those circulars from the recycle or trash bin).
Before you go shopping, it’s always nice to be organized—especially if your children will be in tow. I am not a fan of printed store circulars, as I find them difficult to read and I find it time-consuming to compare deals—not to mention being a huge waste of paper. I discussed MyGroceryDeals.com before regarding coupons, but what I most like about the site is that I can access all of my store circulars in one place. The site offers a number of ways to look for deals, including by store and by category. I like to search by category so I can see which store is offering the best deal on a product before I go shopping. Another feature I like about this site is the coupon-matching section—it tells you which store has a deal and lists coupons that can be used with that deal. If you’re looking to save time with your couponing, this is a great resource, although there is still room for improvement. In the company’s defense, I have seen improvements in this section over the past several months, and the company’s Vice President of Business Development, Ed Hladkowicz recently reached out to members asking for feedback on what could make the site better.
These resources should help you save time and money at the grocery store while not being a burden on the environment. If we all take steps to use fewer paper coupons and link digital coupons to our credit cards and store loyalty cards, we can cut down on our paper waste. Additionally, those linked coupons will help you get through the check-out line much quicker, minimizing the chance of your children getting antsy from sitting in one spot for too long. So, go ahead and use those linked coupons and online circulars and feel better that your carbon footprint is getting a little lighter.