One reader from Rockford, Ill., suggested getting a wallet-size organizer with labeled pockets (baking, beverages, cereal, etc.). Within each pocket, she organizes coupons by expiration date, with the ones coming due in front.
Here’s what I learned after I wrote a column about my frustration with discount coupons: Sometimes they’re worth the effort and sometimes they’re not.
I heard from lots of readers who have, unlike me, devised methods for successfully managing those slips of paper that promise money off a product purchase.
I wrote in the previous column that, although I like the idea of saving money with coupons, I’m frustrated by the time I spend accumulating them, storing them, keeping track of the expiration dates and — most importantly — remembering to use them.
One reader from Rockford, Ill., suggested getting a wallet-size organizer with labeled pockets (baking, beverages, cereal, etc.). Within each pocket, she organizes coupons by expiration date, with the ones coming due in front. At the end of the month, she flips through the organizer and discards the expired coupons.
She also recommended asking stores how long they honor coupons past the expiration date. Some don’t and others, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, accept them despite the date on the coupon.
Another reader from Rockford, Ill., made these good suggestions:
-- Carry a list of prices with you. Write down the grocery items you usually buy, including size and price. (Walmart is a good “low price” place to start.) Bring the list to the store so you can tell if the sale price really is a good deal.
-- Find a blog or two to follow for the best up-to-date deals. Her favorites are www.InGoodCents.com and www.DealSeekingMom.com.
-- Get the best deals by matching sales with coupons. For example, if apple juice is on sale for $1 and you have a 50-cent coupon at a store that doubles coupons, the item is free.
But not everybody is sold on the benefits of couponing.
Ann Barndt of Hudson, Mass., wrote that she’s wasted so much time trying to redeem coupons that “even the free ones are a pain.”
“One time I had a free coupon for canned tomatoes. I went to the store and couldn’t find them. Anywhere. I asked an employee for help. He finally found them on the top shelf. Time: 15 minutes. Good job, marketing department.”
Despite her wariness, she decided to use a coupon recently given to her by her son.
“I found the product, in the right style, in the right size, in the right quantity. All was going well. At the checkout, they refused to honor it because the coupon wasn’t good YET. I was too early. UGH!”
She said coupons are a big win for businesses, but not always for consumers.
“Coupons are the retailer’s way of advertising a new product or getting you to change behavior. The coupons work even when you don’t use them because when you look at them, you are getting the message. And when you clip them out, you are mentally picturing yourself buying the item. What often happens is that people will do the first two steps but forget to use the actual coupon when they buy the product. Retailer: 1. Consumer: 0.”
Barndt said coupons “cost me more in time, wasted effort and emotional energy than I could ever gain.” But she does occasionally use them, especially if they are for a free product.
“But most of the time, my attitude is ‘coupon non grata.’”
I have to admit, for the most part, so is mine.
Food editor Kathryn Rem can be reached at 217- 788-1520 or email@example.com.