This will probably ruffle a few frugal feathers out there, but I have to say it.
For the most part, I don’t find manufacturer’s coupons very useful at all.
Success with coupon-clipping really depends on the mix of products you buy regularly.
With the exception of health and beauty products, I rarely find coupons for things I buy. For things like shampoo, hair color (ahem… oh yes, I’m a natural blonde), and toothpaste though, I score big. Coupons + Wal*Mart = huge savings.
But as for food? Not so much.
I buy a lot of store brands, which (with a few exceptions) are just as good as the name-brands.
Most store brands are actually manufactured by the name brand company! Same stuff, less packaging fanfare. Not only that, though. Even when you have a coupon for the name brand, the store brand at regular price will almost always be a better deal. Always check the store brand.
Most of the coupons I come across are for things I don’t want or need.
They usually promote some brand-new product that is 3OP– Overly-Packaged, Overly-Processed and Overly-Priced. Food manufacturers are in a frenzy these days to maximize profits by creating as many different new package configurations as possible. Keep in mind that 100-calorie packs, individual servings in itty-bitty plastic containers, microwave-in-the-bag veggies, anything labeled “To-Go” or “Ready” will jack the price upwards of 279%!
I stock my pantry with a lot of bulk dry goods, like beans, rice, and TVP (textured vegetable protein). While prices are going up, these basic commodities will almost always be less expensive than their prepared, processed, packaged counterparts. If you buy prepared rice, for example, you’re paying extra for the water they used to dehydrate the rice. I’ve never seen coupons for any of these things, but they’re priced reasonably enough every day.
Farmer’s markets are great for saving big money on fresh locally-grown fruits and vegetables. As with bulk goods, you probably won’t find coupons for these things, but they are usually priced very reasonably. And even if they’re a little more expensive than your grocery store, you may decide it’s worth it to pay a little more for super-freshness.
You have to do the math if you really want to figure out what’s a good deal and what isn’t.
For example, the big 18-ounce box of Goldfish crackers at regular price is a vastly better deal than a box of the 100-calorie packs at virtually any coupon discount. Figure out the per-serving cost, and you’ll always score. (Yes, we will use this math stuff later in life.)
Coupons are best used on products you need, want, and/or regularly use.
Saving fifty cents on something you didn’t need in the first place is just silly. Don’t get caught up in the “I saved fifty cents by spending four dollars on this thing I don’t need!” If you don’t buy it at all, you’ll save four dollars and fifty cents! Wow, you’re a great shopper!