If you’ve watched any of those shows on TV that talk about getting a b’zillion dollars worth of stuff for a buck ninety-two through the aggressive use of coupons, you may wonder, “What the hell?” My girlfriend Jazz was telling me about a show she watched that highlighted the extremes to which people will go to get something for nothing. Sometimes a lot of something. But do Joanna Average and her mate actually coupon like this? And is this strictly an American phenomenon or can you coupon with any result in Canada?
Do a quick search at Google for “couponing” and you’ll get over four million results. Search at Amazon and you’ll find 98 books (virtually all of which are American) devoted to helping you save money by shopping strategically with coupons. There are even stories of people who, through their phenomenal organizational sills and focused couponing, can walk out of a checkout line with hundreds of dollars of stuff, plus the money the store had to pay them! Ha!
One reason why couponing is so much more lucrative in the U.S. is that many more stores print their own coupons, often on the back of their receipts. Another is that the U.S. has way more people so they have more stores competing for attention… and couponing to get it. And Canadian stores typically don’t allow coupon stacking; most offers include the proviso, “not available in conjunction with other offers”, so you can use one coupon to save a loonie or two, but ya can’t do much better than that on a single product.
You can improve your odds of saving if you visit sites like GroceryAlerts.ca, SimplyFrugal.ca, WebSaver.ca and Save.ca. And if you get in the groove of the 12-Week Cycle you can really pile up the savings. What most folks don’t realize is that stores don’t drive sales, manufacturers do, and items typically go on sale in 12-week cycles. So the hungriest deal-hounds use a price book or a spread sheet to keep track of prices on the items they buy most often. When there’s a great sale – I’m not talking about a wussy 25¢ off here – they stock up with enough to last until the next great sale.
Completing consumer surveys is another way you can get a stash of coupons. Or write to the manufacturer directly and you might be rewarded with some high-value coupons. And if you’re shopping online, make sure you search for “promo codes” for that retailer so you can fill in that enticing little box at check-out and save.
If an item is out of stock when you hit the store and you’re looking at a limited time offer coupon, make sure you get a rain-check so you can receive the same discount the next time the product is available. And take advantage of price-matching to save having to drive all over hell’s half acre to get the best deal. The gas line on your budget will thank you.