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Couponing when you’re short on time is easier than you think. Follow these 17 tips, and even the busiest people can reap the savings with minimal effort.
1. Don’t run out for every deal you see.
This can be exhausting. Remember that you do not have to cash in on every deal at every store! Not only will couponing and shopping start to take time out of family and other hobbies, you’ll be burnt out! Deals go in cycles, so if you don’t get it this time around, you can grab it next time.
2. Focus on freebies and moneymakers.
Instead of scouring the Web and sales flyers for every good deal, focus on only the best. KCL has a section for Freebies where you can easily find free or better items when you use coupons.
3. Download the KCL app to find deals on the go.
Create shopping lists right in the KCL app, and access them in the store! No more missing deals because you’re not near a computer–or pen and paper.
Get the KCL app for iPhones here.
Get the KCL app for Androids here.
4. Only shop at the stores you know.
I know where pretty much everything is at the Target and Walgreens down the street from my office, allowing me to get in and out quickly. Plus, they’re both on my way home, which means I can coupon at both stores every day and not have to worry about spending extra money on gas. Choose the stores where you’ll coupon based on sales, location, and how friendly the staff is.
5. Use the filing box method to organize coupons.
Instead of clipping individual coupons, just file entire inserts (or insert pages) by date. At KCL, we’ll tell you which insert has the coupon you need for a deal:
(SS = Smart Source, RP = Red Plum, PG = Procter & Gamble)
6. Or, organize coupons by store.
Place coupons for known deals or things you buy regularly in a small, purse-size, expandable envelope, and carry it with you when you go out. Having a tab for dining and other non-grocery retailers is also helpful for unexpected purchases.
7. Set aside one night to organize and clip coupons for shopping trips.
I usually choose Sunday night to clip coupons, review sales papers, and make a shopping list for the week. Then, I place everything in my purse. That way, I’m ready to shop and save whenever I have free time to spare and am near one of my stores.
8. Set a timer.
Okay, I know this is dorky, but it really does help me to visualize what ten minutes actually is. I use the timer on my phone, which functions as a stopwatch. By using a timer, you’re dedicating a set amount of time to couponing, and it also helps motivate you to do as much as you can in that window.
9. Use KCL’s search function to quickly find the printable coupons you need.
After you write your weekly grocery list, click on “Coupons” in the KCL app or on your desktop to search for individual products and brands. We have a database of over 4,000 free grocery coupons that’s updated every hour!
10. Use the apps on your phone during downtimes.
Instead of scrolling through social media, I try to use downtime for deal searching. I use the KCL app to find current deals while I wait at the doctor’s, in line at the grocery store, and if I’m waiting for a table at a restaurant. I also scan and unlock rebate offers in Ibotta, Checkout 51, and MobiSave.
11. Steer clear of crowded shopping days and times.
For many, the only times they have available to do their grocery shopping are on weekday evenings or weekend days. Unfortunately, this is also the busiest time for grocers, which means more pressure to coupon quickly when the line’s long, and less markdowns due to high turnover. Ask department staff when markdowns typically occur (for instance, often store-wide inventory gets marked down on Wednesday mornings or evenings in preparation for incoming shipments), and shop during these times instead. Not only will you save time at checkout, you’ll save more on the items that don’t have coupons.
12. Take screenshots of coupon barcodes and deals.
If a store doesn’t have free Wi-Fi and I can’t quickly scroll through the KCL app, I make sure to screenshot a deal I’m pursuing so it’s easier to shop for specific products–especially when there are size restrictions. I also use the screenshot feature to take photos of barcodes from mobile deals like those from Target Cartwheel, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby. This saves me time, because my phone won’t have to slowly reload mobile sites when the signal is weak in a store.
13. Price match at Target or Walmart.
There are benefits to couponing at multiple stores. For instance, at drugstores you can often score free personal care items with coupons and register rewards. However, time is money, and if you can’t go to more than one store a week, consider price matching at Target or Walmart.
- Target will match prices from Target.com, Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, ToysRUs.com, BabiesRUs.com, or in a competitor’s local printed ad. Price matching is done at Guest Services. Let the cashier know that you’re price matching, and show them your local ad, or if price matching from an online source, the Target team member will verify the online price on a Target device.
- Walmart will even accept competitor coupons. As long as the coupon has a specific price–like a Walgreens coupon that states soup is on sale for $0.89 or a Target coupon that says $1 off peanut butter–Walmart will honor it. BOGO store coupons are also accepted–just make sure a specific price is mentioned (ex: “Buy One for $5, Get a Second Free”). Meat and produce can be price matched as long as there’s a specific unit price.
Note: Many Walmarts are limiting their price match policy. Individual store coupon policy is at the store manager’s discretion, so call ahead to learn the details.
14. Purchase items you plan to submit to rebate apps separately.
Try to limit lengthy receipts. If you’re purchasing large amounts of one item (15 sodas, 10 yogurts, etc.), your receipt will be long and difficult to upload into rebate apps. Buy items you plan to submit to Ibotta, Checkout 51, or MobiSave separately. This will save you time and reduce the chance that your receipt is rejected.
15. Ask about rain checks and restocking if you find an empty shelf.
Nothing is a bigger waste of time for me than to write my list, match my coupons, carve out time in my schedule to shop, and then enter the store to find empty shelves. Make sure you’re aware of the following where you shop:
- Rain checks: My local Target is typically out of the advertised deals by the time I get there. However, they have rain checks conveniently located right next to the item. If no rain checks are available, snap a photo of the shelf tag with Target’s nine digit DPCI code. You can get a rain check at any register–just show the cashier the DPCI number, and they’ll issue you one.
- Restocking: I don’t mind making an extra trip if the item is present, but I’m not too happy with a repeat trip and no product. Instead of making multiple trips, ask when the delivery truck will arrive and when shelves are restocked.
16. Keep a stockpile so you don’t have to run to the store whenever you need something.
When you have a stockpile, you actually save time! Stockpiles mean no more running to the store every afternoon for that last dinner ingredient. When products go on a rock-bottom sale, buy extras and store them for future use (and eliminate paying full retail price when you run out). Just remember to be courteous and save some product for others.
17. Use a cashier you know.
One of my favorite people is Rose, one of the cashiers at my local Target. I do not know Rose personally, but I always try to get into her line because she herself loves a good deal, and I know she’ll be patient and fair through my sometimes six transactions. Once you find a good cashier, look for that person each time you check out.