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How many coupons should you clip?

free couponsIt’s a common question. You want to be able to take advantage of a great sale but you don’t want to spend time and money gathering up coupons you’re not going to need, so how many coupons should you clip if you want to maximize your savings? The answer is: It depends.

How “great” is the deal?

Every product has a sales cycle. Over a 3 or 4 month period it starts out at a regular retail price, then it drops to a “good” price, then it drops to a “great price.” Eventually, once you’ve gained a little experience, you’ll learn to recognize these sales cycles for all the staple items you buy.

The key to maximizing your savings is to wait until a product goes on sale for that “great” price and use a coupon to make it an even “greater” deal – and then buy as much as you need to last 3 or 4 months until that great price rolls around again.

The problem is, you may desperately need that item now, while it’s at the regular retail price, and since you have a few coupons you’re tempted to “stock up and save.” Resist this temptation! If the item is not on sale, buy the smallest amount you can to hold you over until the next “great” price rolls around.

How much do you need?

Those extreme couponers you see on TV build a stockpile for the sheer thrill of buidling a stockpile. Seriously, there’s no need to buy 500 tubes of toothpaste – even if they’re free – unless you plan to donate 490 to a charitable organization.

Every item in the store goes on sale every 3 to 4 months. If you can work a coupon deal so you get an item for free then by all means get enough to last a year (assuming it’s non-perishable). But realistically, all you need is enough to last 3 or 4 months until the next sale rolls around. (And who really has room to store 500 tubes of toothpaste, anyway!)

How much room do you have?

We have four people in a small house – 2 adults and 2 minis. That’s a lot of toilet paper, especially if we tried to stock up a year’s supply. Add in all the other staple items we try to keep stocked and you’re looking at a pretty large pile which requires a pretty large storage space. Thankfully, we have a full, dry basement. What about you? Do you really want to line your living room walls with toilet paper?

Is it perishable?

Be sure to check expiration dates and know how long you can safely store products in your refrigerator or freezer. There’s no “cents” in buying a year’s worth of frozen chicken pieces if they’ll go bad before you can use them.

Are you sure you’ll use it?

One blogger we know stocked up on a whole year’s worth of this fancy oatmeal for her two-year-old because she found a “great deal”, it sounded tasty and she knew oatmeal was healthy. Unfortunately, the two-year-old’s digestive system wasn’t very happy with all that fiber and disaster ensued! Needless to say, the oatmeal was quickly donated and the mom was out a lot of money.

And let’s face it – your family may like Hamburger Helper now, but will they still like it after you’ve served it to them twice a week for a year?  Everything goes on sale 3 or 4 times a year so there’s never any need to buy a year’s worth of anything.

If it’s a new product you’ve never tried and you’re not absolutely positive your family will like it, but it’s such a great deal you can’t pass it up – buy one first and try it out. If it’s a win, go back and stock up!

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