In 2008, when Erin Gifford launched her coupon blog, there weren’t many others out there. It would take two more years for “extreme couponing” to enter the lexicon of American shoppers and become a popular TV series of the same name. By the time she sold her blog in 2011, the coupon landscape was chaos.
“There were a lot more people thinking, ‘I can do this, too,’ and they started their own sites,” Gifford says. “There is so much competition.”
Gifford, now spokeswoman for Ziplist.com — a website and mobile app that keeps your recipes, shopping lists and grocery sales all in one place — prefers a more modest investment of time than the 10 or more hours per week many extreme couponers devote to their craft.
Here are Gifford’s tips on how to allocate the time you do have to a few of the most important areas of couponing:
If you have less time: The fastest way to get coupons is to get the Sunday newspaper. It is filled with the store circulars and coupon inserts mentioned in most couponing blogs.
If you have more time: Search online for more coupons. Consider innovative ways to increase your stash of coupons, such as organizing a coupon swap or asking neighbors for their unused inserts.
Tracking deals, sales
Less time: Regularly check one or two couponing blogs that suit your needs, focusing on locations and stores. Many locals follow Coupon Mom (you can see her Bargain Hunter column every Friday). “Go to the ones that post the deals each week. They know what is a good price and are listing the very best deals and are matching the coupons against them.”
More time: Check out sites such as HotCouponWorld.com — a deal discussion community and coupon forum. “You have ladies who are finding extra deals at the grocery stores that may not be reported by the blogs,” Gifford says. Some forum and discussion sites may also post grocery circulars ahead of the blogs, giving you more time to search for additional coupons.
Making a shopping list
Less time: Scan the front page of circulars. This is where you will find the loss leaders — the half-off items, the buy-one, get-one-free items — designed to draw you in the store. It will give you an idea of the best sale items each week to include on your shopping list.
More time: Ziplist lets you create your shopping list online, search by store and highlight sale items. The app loads your list onto your smartphone, eliminating the need for pen and paper. You can also store recipes from around the Web so you can create a shopping list based on your week’s menu plans.
What are some of your time saving strategies for couponing?
– Nedra Rhone, for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog