Written By: Monica Marchand
I started couponing during my maternity leave as a means of saving money on a smaller income. I discovered a vast world of couponing with ways to not only save money but to get free items and even get paid to shop! I had no idea, but once I discovered this, there was no going back.
The greatest thing about couponing is that you can do as much or as little as you like! Any time that you devote to couponing will save you money, so it just depends on how much time and effort you want to put in.
I will take you through different levels of couponing. What to do if you have little time, all the way up to basically making couponing a full time job. Whatever level you end up at, know that you are saving money!
Level 1: Getting your feet wet
If you have very little time to coupon, start by just obtaining physical coupons for things that you would normally purchase and use them.
The easiest way to find coupons is in the store and in your paper/flyers. Different stores give out coupons in different ways. Some have couponing boards (Superstore), others have coupons throughout the store near the products. When you see one you’ll use, grab it and use it!
Level 2: Up to your knees
The next step is to start using printed coupons and saving them to use on sale items.
To get more coupons, you will want to start printing coupons. There are many sites for coupons (smartsource.ca, save.ca, websaver.ca, gocoupons.ca, rightathome.ca, pandgeveryday.ca) as well as coupons on individual product sites. Ink can be expensive, so I buy cheap ink from eBay (I get 10 cartridges for $13, including shipping) and use this ink for printing coupons.
Next, download an app called Flipp to find out where items are the most inexpensive. You just type in the item and it will show you the prices that week from the flyers. I am old school and prefer going through the physical flyers, but Flipp works best when you don’t have the time and you know what you want to purchase. Either shop at the store where your items are on sale or price match at stores that price match (Walmart, No Frills, Superstore, Giant Tiger). I prefer Superstore because they keep competitor’s flyers at the front of the store and they usually change their prices ahead of time to meet the competitor’s prices. This can save lots of time price matching at the till!
Here’s where it gets fun! You can use your coupons on top of sale prices so that you save even more than the sale price. So, if I am buying a bottle of body wash that is usually $5 and is on sale for $3, but I also have a $1 off coupon I can now buy the body wash for $2!
At this point it can become helpful to get a coupon book to carry in your purse to keep all your coupons organized and you also may want to start writing down a list of products to look out for while you are shopping (or add them to the shopping list in the Flipp app)!
Level 3: Waist-deep
This gets even better! You will now start to get items for free or get paid to shop! Adding couponing apps and matching with coupons is the next level.
Download couponing apps (Checkout 51, Caddle, save.ca, zweet). These apps give cash back on items you buy. You just need to take a picture of your receipt. As soon as you get to a certain amount (usually $20), you get a cheque in the mail. Now you can match up store sales + coupons (the step above) + your couponing app! Sometimes the couponing app will even have cashback for equal to or more than what the item costs at regular price!
Also, at this stage you might start looking in clearance sections at different stores (Shoppers, Save-On Foods, Safeway, Walmart, etc). Often times you can get free items when you have a coupon that matches the price of an item in clearance!
Level 4: Up to the Ears
Next up is adding points programs (PC Plus, Shoppers Optimum, Save-On Foods, Air Miles at Sobey’s, etc.). Match these deals up with a physical coupon and a couponing app and you’re in couponing heaven! Shoppers also has special deals to get points (i.e. spend $50 get x amount of points) or Sobey’s Bonus Airmiles….most of these are very worth it if you were going to shop there anyway. If you need to spend a certain amount to get the bonus points you can use mail in rebates (often found in flyer inserts) to achieve this and then mail in for a portion of your cash back!
At this point you’ll also likely start to learn store couponing policies. It’s best to have these on your phone so you can show a cashier if needed. For instance, Walmart allows overage for coupons (ie. a coupon is $4, you get $4 off your bill, even if the item is $3, thus making you $1 against the rest of your bill). London Drugs is also the only place that allows coupon stacking (using more than one coupon per item), however the rules are very specific so you have to know what you’re doing and be confident!
Level 5: Extreme Couponer!
You are a full-fledged couponer now and you can start to stockpile if you wish! People who are deep into couponing will join coupon trading sites, search for paper inserts, order 100 of an item from a store and use 100 coupons, in order to stockpile free items. I don’t have the time for this (and we don’t have the space to stockpile), but some people have several rooms full of free products! Think of what could also be donated when doing this:)
Monica lives in Edmonton and is a mom to a sweet little boy, manager of One Tiny Suitcase in Edmonton and expert money saver! One Tiny Suitcase is Alberta’s Premier Baby Equipment Rental Company serving Edmonton, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, and Calgary Areas. Rentals include Medela hospital grade breast pumps (with free delivery to moms’ doors), medical grade fetal dopplers, and a wide variety of travel rentals. You can contact Monica at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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