How to Use Coupons in Canada: The Basics
"Help! I want to save money on my groceries but I don't know how to use coupons!"
If this sounds like you then you've come to the right place. I'll walk you through all the basics right here in this guide. Soon, you'll know how to use coupons like a pro!
Let's start with the basics and then we can work up to some more advanced techniques later in my "How to Coupon" guide.
By now, you should be familiar with the concept of finding coupons, as well as coupon clipping. Now, I'll explain some very simple techniques for using coupons to achieve some very respectable savings off your weekly grocery bill.
The first thing to ask yourself when figuring out how to use coupons is "which coupons can I use this week, to save money off my grocery bill?"
Start by pulling out the coupons from your coupon binder that are soon to expire, or ones for favourite products that you are thinking of buying this week.
Match Coupons with Online Flyer Deals
Next, check through the online flyers of your local supermarkets to see where the best deals are.
This might take a little while to get the hang of, but the real trick to using coupons is to maximize your savings by buying products that are already on sale.
Make a note of any good deals that are featured in the online flyers, and check these products against your favorite and soon-to-expire coupons. This way, you will start to get a good feel for where the best deals are for the food and household items that you'd really like to buy.
As a general rule, I do most of my grocery shopping at Walmart Supercentre (there are lots of them in Canada now). Walmart is convenient for me, offers consistently low prices, and offers a price match against any local competition. So, as an example, if I happen to see Dempster's Bread on sale at Shoppers Drug Mart for $1.99 each, and I have a valid coupon for $1 off, then I can price match the item at Walmart and purchase my loaf of bread for just 99 cents plus tax.
In a nutshell, that's how to use coupons smartly and effectively.
Looking through the online flyers, you'll also get a feel for other items on sale, and will start to realize a pattern in cycles.
A reduction of prices in household items such as toilet paper, dish soap and laundry detergent tends to run in cycles. So, just because you have coupons for these items in your binder, don't be tempted to rush out and use them right away! Learning how to use coupons is also about learning how to exercise patience!
Remember that when couponing, the best savings are achieved when you redeem a coupon against something that is already on sale.
Do you notice how prices differ from store to store? When I first moved to Canada, this was something that I didn't pick up on right away. In fact, I rarely even used to take much notice of grocery prices. I assumed that pricing was typically equal across similar stores.
How wrong was I!
Each store has it's own pricing policy and weekly flyer deals. Prices vary so much from store to store. So, referring to the online flyers and finding the bargains is an essential compliment to using coupons.
Getting Organized for your Shopping Trip
Each week, when I'm checking the flyers against the coupons in my binder, I'll make my shopping list and think about meal planning for the week ahead. Once I have all the coupons and shopping list to and (and any price-match proof) then I'll head to the store knowing that I am fully prepared.
How you organize yourself in the store is entirely up to you, but the most important thing to remember is not to get stressed-out. Personally, I bring my entire coupon binder (already sorted by product category - see "Coupon Clipping".
I paper-clip the coupons I intend to use, plus my shopping list, to the front of the binder. This way, I have very quick access to the coupons that I will be using. If I happen to see any additional good deals that I have a coupon for, then my binder is always close by.
At the Store
How to use coupons in and around the store? To make things as simple as possible, I double-check each coupon as I put the item into my shopping cart. I want to make sure that I've picked up the right item, and that my coupon will be accepted at the checkout. Remember to set yourself up for success!
A side-note here, and something we will go into detail on later: if you're shopping at London Drugs then you may be able to use more than one coupons against each item. This is called "stacking". However, this is not widely accepted as an appropriate method of using coupons in Canada.
For more information on stacking, check the Coupon Policies section.
At the checkout counter, if you're waiting in line, this is a good time to start laying out your shopping with your coupons. I use this time to tuck each coupon under each qualifying product. It just makes it so much easier for the cashier because he or she can quickly process each coupon against each item. It speeds the process up a lot.
If there's no line-up, then I like to greet my cashier and explain up front that I am redeeming a lot of coupons today. Depending on the way the cashier likes to work, he or she will either ask you for them right away, or after scanning all the groceries through.
Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating at the checkout counter, as the cashier checks each coupon for its validity. People in line behind you might get impatient, too. Remember how learning how to use coupons also involves patience?
Just relax, knowing that you have been as organized as possible, and you're shopping trip should go smoothly. You could always offer a coupon or two to the customers waiting in line. I find it breaks the ice and is a nice way of "paying it forward".
It's all worth it when you look at your receipt afterwards and add up all those savings!