Everyone talks about using coupons to save big on groceries. There are shows dedicated to people who work hard to get free stuff and have garages devoted to the stockpile of potato chips, sodas, and toilet paper. There is a lot of good information coming out about how to save tons on groceries, but we aren’t talking about the real deal. I have been couponing a long time and I don’t have a garage full of stuff. Rather than focus on how much I can get for the same amount of money, I focused on how to cut my food budget down and apply that extra cash to my debt. Here are my tricks of the trade and I hope it can help you find that extra cash to work yourself out of debt.
Have a Plan
When it comes to your financial health, a map and a plan are really what you need. The map just tells you what the situation is, the plan helps you improve the situation. You must know how much you can spend each week (bi-weekly or monthly if need be). Not what you do spend but what you can spend. For this post, we will stick with the $100 a week as our model. I will also use credit card debt to show how the savings are applied. Another aspect of the plan is to create a grocery list with exactly what you need.
Set a Realistic Goal
So, we know we can spend $100 a week. Now we set a realistic goal, something that isn’t too hard to achieve but gains us enough ground to make a difference. I like to achieve at least 25% savings each week, meaning I only spend $75 out of the $100 each week. If I can find a way to save even more than that, I will work at that. Some weeks are easier to spend less than others. If you do well for a couple of weeks and then struggle on that 3rd week, don’t stress too much! You are still making progress.
Clip What You Need
When it comes to coupons, clip what you need. If you never buy canned asparagus, let alone eat asparagus, but you can combine coupons with sales to get cans for $.25, that is pointless. Focus on products you already purchase. Also, clip more than one of the same coupon (that may mean printing more than one or buying more than one Sunday paper). I like to clip multiples of two for sales. Now here is a lovely tip that Swagbucks users may not be aware of. If you print your coupons from your Swagbucks account and use them, you get Swagbucks in return! They track them by the barcode that prints on your coupon. So not only can you save on your groceries, you can earn gift cards for holiday use!
Combine Your Coupons
Here is the biggest secret of coupons, always combine them with a store sale. Remember when I said to clip two of the same coupon? Let’s say you buy Kraft Mac & Cheese at $2.99 a box regularly but today they are “buy one get one free”. You happen to have two $.50 off coupons. Instead of paying $6.00 for two boxes, you now get those two for $1.99. Which leads me to this suggestion, I only buy items on sale. I never pay full price! Do you ever get those printout coupons at the register that say things like “save $.75 on your next grocery order”? Save those and use them with your coupons as well.
Apply the Savings
After four weeks of using small tricks to spend $75 on groceries each week, instead of $100, means I have an extra $100 at the end of the month. What I do is make a payment to my credit card of $100 in addition to the monthly payment I already made. Why in addition to the monthly payment? Because it whittles away at the principal I owe. That monthly payment mostly pays the interest and only a small amount goes to the principal. That extra payment brings down the principal and thus brings down the interest I must pay each month. That will get the card paid off quicker and save me lots in the long run. It’s not a hard adjustment to make and I won’t make the same extra payment each month. What it will do is allow me more financial freedom later and when I am debt free, I won’t have to worry about finding ways to cut the grocery bill.