A frugal lifestyle is nearly impossible to achieve without watching your pennies at the grocery store (or wherever you buy groceries). And while I’m not sold on the whole extreme couponing thing for a couple of reasons, it is possible to save a lot of money and even get some free stuff by using coupons.
What Kind of Stuff I Get for Free
I’m not particularly loyal to specific brands on most things, which makes it easier to get free stuff that I will actually use. I get candy and gum, boxed pasta and potatoes, toothpaste and mouthwash, deodorant, shampoo and sometimes cosmetics for free by stacking manufacturer’s coupons with store sales and coupons. There are hundreds of products available for free after coupons every week, if you know where to look and how to shop for deals.
How I Find Deals
A good starting point for finding deals is to look over each week’s sale ads and compare them to your stash of coupons to see what kinds of things are offered at good deals for the week. If that’s all I do, however, I miss lots of deals available in my area. There are many websites that point out freebies and show how to get deals each week, so when I have time, I check those out to see what I’m missing on my own. Here are a few of these sites:
I personally limit my couponing mostly to products I know my family will use, and occasionally picking up a few items to donate to my local food bank or women’s shelter. Matching up deals to get freebies or greatly reduced products takes time, which I don’t often have a lot of at this point in my life.
Getting a lot of free products you can’t use may seem like a good thing, but spending time on it that could be spent on other productive activities doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. One of my relatives, however, has given away thousands of dollars of stuff to friends and charities that she has not paid a dime for, besides getting tons of free stuff for herself, so that’s certainly an admirable thing to do if you have the time and energy to pursue all the sales and coupons to get the freebies.
Where I Get Coupons
There are tons of places to get coupons. Grocery stores and most drugstores have weekly flyers that you can get at the store or online (although the online flyers don’t always have the coupons, so check before you waste ink printing them). Most flyers are also available in the local newspapers on the weekend (the dollar store in my area carries them for $1 and subscriptions can be even cheaper than that these days), along with coupon circulars which vary from week to week.
For stores you shop regularly, it pays to download their app to your smartphone and participate in their digital coupon programs. Last week I saved $45 in groceries and I only clipped one paper coupon–the rest was from digital coupons through the store’s app.
A number of online websites offer printable coupons similar to the ones that come in the newspaper. There are usually limits on how many of each coupon you can print, but if you can get your husband or a friend to get an account and let you use the coupons, that’s a perfectly legitimate way to get more than one coupon if you need to.
My local library also has a coupon box where I can drop off the coupons I won’t use and pick up extras of the ones I want, if they are available. While this can be a good source at times, most of the freebie deal coupons are not available this way because no one discards them. Once in a while, I spot a coupon for a product I’m buying right on the shelf at the grocery store. Sometimes people leave them there if they aren’t going to use them so that someone else can.
Drugstore Rewards and Rebates
I have to confess that I’ve gotten away from playing what I used to call “the drugstore game,” but it is a great way to get free products on a regular basis if you take a few minutes to plan and organize yourself before you shop. Most of the major drugstore chains offer cash back for certain purchases each week in the form of extra reward points or coupons that print out on your receipt. You can also use coupons for the items to save even more.
Sometimes you end up “making money” on a deal by getting more cash back than you actually spend. The cash back is only good on future purchases at that store in most cases, though, so be sure you will actually use it or it isn’t worthwhile. The days of getting an actual rebate or refund check are mostly over at this point.
While drugstores do sell some food items, you are more likely to find freebie deals for health and beauty products, cleaning products, some medications, cosmetics, and candy and gum at drugstores.
Target and Walmart
If you have a Target location nearby, you can get lots of great deals and freebies by stacking deals from the Target app (through what used to be Cartwheel), digital and print store coupons, and sales. I have a Target debit card that also saves me 5 percent on just about everything in the store except prescriptions from the pharmacy. And bringing my own bags not only saves me from recycling them later, but it also gets me another 5 cents off my order per bag.
Walmart often has the very lowest prices available on an item, but when they don’t, they will match any advertised price, so shopping at Walmart can save a lot of time and gas by just going to one place and getting all the deals at once rather than driving all around town. Keep in mind, though, that unlike many grocery stores, Walmart does not double printed coupons.
Finally, rebate apps like Ibotta and SavingStar give you money back on certain items when you shop and link your store loyalty cards or scan in your receipts. I can save at least $20 to $30 a month with Ibotta on things I would normally buy anyway, which when stacked with coupons and sales could make even more grocery items free or even make me a little extra on the deal.
Having money in your pocket and plenty to stock your pantry is one of the benefits of a frugal lifestyle, and coupons can definitely help make that frugal lifestyle easier to achieve.