Monday, July 13, 2009

Part 1: Coupons 101

This is the first in a Coupons 101 Series. These articles were originally published on as a part of my monthly article, "The Frugal Life".

There are a few fundamental building blocks that have to be in place in order for you to really succeed in the art of couponing and frugal living. Overcoming some mental hurdles and some common misconceptions are key. One of the first stumbling block aspiring coupon users face is brand loyalty.

Up until a few years ago, I had used the same brand of hand soap, same toilet paper, same dish soap, soup, laundry detergent, shampoo and moisturizer for most of my life. I used to be terribly loyal to the particular brands I was used to. I was used to these brands and to me they were the best on the market. For whatever reason, I though these were the best smelling, the best working or the best value. I was loyal to a fault. And when I embarked on my new coupon venture, I looked long and hard for coupons for MY brand of toothpaste, shampoo and juice. Rarely did I find what I was looking for and when I did, I would be disappointed that 15 minutes of internet searching just saved me .25 (minus the cost of the ink and paper to print the stupid thing).

As I forged on in my couponing venture, I soon learned that I really needed to change the way I thought about the products I used in my everyday life. I really needed to abandon the mindset that the brand I was used to was the very best on the market. Truth is, I could probably find someone else who was every bit as loyal to the product that was on sale as I was to the products I liked and longed for. I had to change my mindset from going into the store in search of XYZ toothpaste to simply going into the store to buy toothpaste. Period.
Through product samples and freebies and because of the great deals I found using coupons, I soon found other products that I liked just as much as I had liked their competitors… the ones I had been loyal to all my life. In fact, I found that there were other products out there that did the job better, smelled better, lasted longer or lathered more than those products that I was so sure were the “best” on the market.

It may not be as adventurous assailing down the Amazon River or backpacking across Europe, but coupons have broadened my horizon, broken down some long held misconceptions and added a little “Indiana Jones” like thrill into my weekly grocery shopping trip. A trip to the grocery store used to be mundane, if not boring. Now, I find it fun! I love to see how much money I can save in a single trip or even how much money I can MAKE in a single transaction.
Before you break into this world of coupon clipping, sale watching and deal scoring, take some time to think through the products that you use everyday and assess which brand loyal products are because of preference and habit and which brands are necessary (due to allergic reactions or other important reasons). Deciding that your hair will be just as soft with another shampoo and your tummy just as full with another type of canned ham, is the first mental step in learning to use coupons and sales to drastically decrease the amount of money you spend on everyday products.

Earn gift cards while you search