Four years ago, my husband and I PCS’d for the…’I-don’t-even-know-which’ time. We were newly married, and I had to quit my job to move across the country, but our money situation was alright. However, after 6 months of bad luck in the job hunt, I decided to go back to school. I started looking for every and any way to save money. That’s when I began couponing.
To start, no, I don’t buy items in extreme amounts. I don’t have a stock pile of 100 bottles of shampoo and 200 toothbrushes sitting around. Buying in bulk isn’t practical for military spouses who move every year and a half and are always lacking storage space. But I’m not going to lie, couponing takes time and it isn’t always fun. But I can help make it somewhat easier for you:
The first thing any couponer will need is a printer. Printers are fairly inexpensive and are less than $100 at your base Exchange, or online. Printable coupons are one of the most popular coupons available. The easiest printable coupon site to use is Coupons.com, and I like Lozo because it’s the most comprehensive. For foods that are organic or non-GMO, there are sites like Common Kindness (which donates to your favorite non-profit each time you redeem a coupon!), and Mambo Sprouts.
Printable coupons give you the biggest variety of products because there are so many out there. But it is definitely more time consuming to sift through the coupons you don’t want just to find the ones you do want. Once you “clip” the coupons, print them out and cut. To save some time, enlist help for cutting coupons–I use my husband. I hear kids also work well!
Electronic or digital coupons are also becoming more and more popular. For military families, one of the best resources is the Commissary Rewards Card. Grab a card at the Commissary and sign up online! This is the easiest way to save money at the Commissary because you can go online and clip all of their coupons and just scan your rewards card at the checkout. The website also gives you options to send your coupons via e-mail, or download their mobile app so you can see what coupons you have while you’re shopping.
Many grocery stores offer digital store coupons. If you regularly shop at Safeway, Vons, Shaw’s, Wal-Mart, or any other store, check online to see if they offer additional savings. Typically, all that is required to redeem them is a valid email address. Once registered, you simply go to their website, clip coupons, and punch in your phone number at the checkout.
In-store coupons are ones you’ll find at the grocery store, or placed on the products themselves by the manufacturer. For coupons placed by your local military installation, be aware that most can only be used on base either at the Commissary or the Exchange. Even though the Commissary and Exchange sell the same items on the same military base, they do not sell them for the same price. Check to see which one sells items at a lower cost. In my experience, the price is almost always at the Commissary. If you see coupons around the store, and you’re not buying that product on that day, grab one and put it in your coupon pile for the next trip.
The last type of coupons to look out for are in the coupon books. These include ones that come through the mail such as redplum, SmartSource, and Proctor & Gamble, or that you find by the door at the Commissary. So when you get your mail and it looks like a bunch of sales flyers, STOP! That is usually where the redplum coupon book is hiding. You can usually find coupon book in your local Sunday newspaper, as well.
Tips for couponing
Overseas military families can use coupons on base that have expired up to 6 months after the expiration date. If you have clipped coupons you aren’t going to use, think about donating them to military families in overseas locations by participating in the Troopons®–Coupons for Troops program.
You will save more money on non-food items, so be more diligent about finding coupons for things like paper products, cleaning supplies, make-up, shampoo, razors, and deodorant.
The commissary will NOT double coupons. If you have clipped it on your rewards card, you cannot use a second paper coupon along with it.
Most civilian grocery stores WILL double coupons. Check your local grocery store to see their coupon policy.
Even though I hate not using a coupon, coupons do not always make a product the best deal. Always check to see if there is a better deal with similar products.
Get a second e-mail address! Whenever you need to “sign-up” on a product’s website in order to receive their coupon, they will relentlessly hound you with e-mails. Get a second e-mail account to give all of those websites so your personal account isn’t cluttered with junk mail.
These tips have helped my family, and with a little patience and persistence, I think they’ll benefit your family, too!
Do you have some must-share couponing tips and tricks? Leave a comment and share the wealth!
Posted by Katie Swogger, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer