One of the best tips for couponing anyone ever shared with me is to use coupons when an item is already discounted deeply, making your out of pocket expense even less. Closeout sales are a perfect time to match a coupon with a sale because the item is usually as low as it will go. While some store policies restrict using coupons this way, others are happy to let you scoop up the bargains. They want to get rid of the products to make way for others. Sometimes items are on closeout because they are seasonal or a store is no longer carrying the product, and other times they the manufacturer is changing the packaging or are discontinuing the line. Whatever the reason, you’ll want to keep a few factors in mind when deciding on buying closeouts:
- What is the total price after the coupon discounts the item further? I tend to have a price point for which I’ll pay to buy certain items. If it goes above that point, then I’m probably not going to work the deal.
- Is it in my budget to buy this? Look at your overall grocery/household budget. If buying 10 jars of shampoo makes sense, do so. Yet if you spend too much and don’t have money to buy actual food to feed your family, it isn’t such a good deal, is it?
- Do I have room to store it? Many of us have limited storage space. Think about where you are going to put the products if you buy more than just a couple. If you only have room for 2 or 3, buy that amount.
- Don’t hog all of the deals. People who clear shelves shed a negative light on couponers. Sometimes the store clerks can be your best ally in deciding how many to buy. In a case example that I’m about to share with you, my friend talked to workers at the drugstores who encouraged her to scoop up the deals because others weren’t biting. Be aware of any quantity restrictions that your store may have.
- Read the coupon. New coupon restrictions mean that some manufacturers are limiting the amount of coupons you can use per transaction. If it says limit 4, only buy 4.
- Watch the expiration dates. Yep, it is great to score peanut butter at $1 a jar, but if neither you nor anyone else will use it before it goes rancid, you might as well be throwing money in the trash can.
- Donate your extras. If you can pick up toothpaste for free but already have a good sized stockpile, consider donating it to a local charity or even just sharing it with a friend or family member. One of my favorite things about couponing is that it allows us to give even more.
One of my couponing friends took that last bullet point to heart and gave generously. She knows that I coordinate our church food pantry and asked me what items are needed most. Because food stamps and WIC programs do not pay for toiletries or cleaning supplies, I told her that those are always appreciated. When she asked me, I had just spoken to an older adult who expressed difficulty finding money in her budget for adult briefs with all of the other expenses that she had. I explained to my friend that in many cases older adults are making decisions between filling medications or purchasing adult briefs or putting food on the table. Because the briefs have no expiration date, they are a perfect item for donating, and my friend saw this as a call to arms. (See my post on Ways to Save on Incontinence Pads for more information)
A phone call a week later went a little something like this:
“Gabe, you aren’t going to believe what I have for your church. CVS had Depends on closeout and I had some of the coupons so I bought them for next to nothing….My guest room is full of them for you.” Apparently, Depends was changing out their packaging, and she went around to all of the different CVS and other stores in her area to see if any were discounted.
Another week or so later a follow up call went something like this:
“Gabe, you aren’t going to believe me but I have another truck load of Depends for you.” She had made a game of it and had made runs to stores when on different errands and with friends. Her husband gave her a knowing glance when he walked in the guest room again to find it full of Depends. “Those are for Gabe, right???”
She wasn’t a hoarder. She wasn’t impolite when purchasing. She didn’t bust her budget. She explained to the store clerks that she was buying them for charity, and they were happy to help her find other locations who had them in stock. She used valid coupons—no counterfeit or fibbing on store policies. In short, she didn’t give couponers a bad name—on the contrary, I think she is a witness to what can be accomplished when you have a goal and coupons as an ally. Right at 55 bags of Depends of all sizes were donated to the church for us to distribute to those in need. If I multiply that amount by $12 (the cost that most of the large bags are at most stores) the out of pocket expense would have been $660 before taxes! She hasn’t shared how much she spent on the purchases, but I do know that she bought many of them for free with coupons and sales. What a blessing!
Because I work with older adults, I’ve had the privilege of distributing some to people who need them. The amount of appreciation that they pour out with the donation is humbling. I’m proud that I’m able to watch how this gift of love helps others, and I’m even prouder to be able to see yet another way that coupons are able to help those in need.
I hope this inspires you to use coupons to not only help your family but also those in your community who can use your help. I’m a social worker and will do my very best to make sure that donations get into the hands of people who need them. If you have a donation and aren’t sure where to go with it, please feel free to e-mail me and I’ll do what I can to help you find a charity that can benefit.