I’ve put together a Coupon Savings Strategy Guide for 2012. This is a month-by-month guide to what products you can hope to save on using coupons and combining them with sales. I’ve also put in my savings strategies, so if you are new to couponing, you can plan your year accordingly.
- Medicines – January is the month to really stockpile medicine. We see prices under $1 a bottle on medicines at the drugstores when combining a sale with a coupon- both traditional and homeopathic. My strategy? Stockpile enough for one bottle per person per illness. Check the expiration date. Usually medicines are good for 2 years. For a family of 4 this means if you find medicine for under $1, I would stockpile 8 bottles of medicine. This assumes each person in your family will get sick once a year each of those two years. Remember, prices are going up year after year. Buying medicine 2 years out is a great savings strategy.
- Vitamins – January is a great month to stockpile any vitamins you may take. 2011 saw FREE bottles of fish oil at Target. Let’s hope for a repeat in 2012!
- Health Foods – Most people renew their commitment to eating healthy, which means you can find some good coupons on healthier fare. However, these are NOT the coupons that typically come out in the paper. This means you need to look on the actual product! I’ve already seen Odwalla and POM Wonderful coupon hangtags in two different stores. If you want to eat healthier, hunt through your store to find the coupons.
- Junk Food – Superbowl Sunday is on February 5th this year! Chips, soda, cheese, rotel tomatoes, canned beans, crackers…. You name it. If it is something junky you can serve at a Superbowl Sunday party, you can find GREAT prices in the weeks leading up to the Superbowl. I used this to my advantage last year. I avoided the junky and really stockpiled canned beans and tomatoes!
- Romantic Comedy DVDs – For the last few years we’ve seen good coupons and sales on romantic comedy DVDs. I don’t care who you are, you have one person in your life that loves a good romantic comedy. You don’t need to think just Valentine’s Day. Think Mother’s Day gifts, end of the year teacher gifts, teen girl birthday gifts (most of these have been rated PG.) My strategy? If I can use a coupon and match it with a sale to get a DVD under $5 – I stockpile it! Then start collecting cute stuff to make gift baskets. This is also the month we see clearance prices on flannel PJ bottoms. Flannel PJs + Romantic Comedy = great gift in my house!
- National Frozen Food Month – I have no idea why March is National Frozen Foods month, but it is. Use this to your advantage and stockpile frozen fruits and veggies! Frozen organic fruit is hard to find on sale, so this is a good month to get a good supply. Start tracking prices NOW on the frozen products your family likes. Then start collecting coupons that you can use during this month. For example, if a coupon comes out for Kashi frozen waffles that is good through March, and your kiddos love them, collect extra of them because this will be the best month to use it!
- Earth Day – Earth Day is the BEST month to save on organic and eco-friendly products. If your goal is to buy organic, this is the month where you will find the best savings. If you can plan ahead and leave a little extra $ in your budget, you will reap big savings at retailers and grocery stores anywhere you may live. We also saw lots of great FREEBIES last year! These freebies included free cups of coffee at Starbucks and free full size cleansers from Origins. I love April.
- Easter – When is the best time to save on Easter products? AFTER Easter. Any of those coupons you have for Easter products will go a little farther the days immediately after Easter Sunday (April 8th this year) This includes any products that have been specially marked for the holidays. However, be sure to check the expiration date! Some manufacturer’s are getting savvy and having the expiration date be the actual holiday. Easter is also the time to grab a ham or two.
- Spring Cleaning – Cleaning products traditionally go on sale this month as everyone starts to tidy up their homes in anticipation of the better weather. Start saving those coupons in the months ahead! While you will find great prices this month, cleaning products do go on sale quite frequently, so no need to go all crazy.
- Seasonal Produce – Hurray for the growing season! We will finally start seeing good prices on lots of seasonal produce! Sometimes, we even get a coupon for those products. When I find them, I will post them! So make sure you are following The Greenbacks Gal!
- Cook-Outs – Are you ready to cook-out? Look to save on products that make for a good Memorial Day cookout! That includes everything from meat to condiments to charcoal! For example, last year we saw chicken sausage for only $1.99/lb at Sunflower Farmer’s Market. That is a great price to stock-up and have cheap fare in the freezer for any impromtu BBQs.
- Fourth of July – I know the fourth of July is in July – not June – but the weeks leading up to it is when you will see good prices. What do you need for your celebration? Start planning early and shop the sales week by week. Each store will lure you in with a loss leader. It might be free mustard (with a sale & coupon) or cheap salad dressing or discounted meat. This is true of all grocers – the Whole Foods and Sunflower Farmers Market are included. Decide if you have a little extra time to run around to different stores this month. Then think beyond the simple 4th of July picnic to meals you make all year long. Does your family eat mustard on the sandwiches you make for school lunches? Try to buy a years worth.
- School Supplies – The first week of July is when school supplies go on sale. NOT in August. Many stores will try to lure you in with items as low as one cent. DO NOT WAIT! Those who plan ahead really do get the best deals. Prices actually go UP as you get closer to the actual start of school.
- Lunch Supplies – These are good months to get some bargains on school lunch supplies. You also will find some good deals at the warehouse stores like Costco, BJs and Sam’s Club.
- Meats - Grass-fed ground beef goes on sale this time of year. Whether that’s because of Labor Day BBQs or a return to family dinners, who knows? All I know is this is the time when it has traditionally gone on sale.
- Halloween Costumes – The best way to save on Halloween costumes? Buy next year’s this year. Too hard to know what the kiddos will want to be? This is also a great time to pick up a few dress-up items you can give as birthday gifts.
- Daily Deal Sites – You want to be on the email list for sites like Pure Citizen, LovingEco, Groupon, Living Social, Zulily, Plum District and MamaSource. Why? Because they will have some irresistible savings on items on your holiday list. I found the best deals in the months leading up to December, not in December. So plan ahead!
- Turkey – In 2010 Whole Foods had the best per pound price on their turkey’s the FIRST week in November and it was on a one-day sale. I’ve found if you buy early, you are rewarded with the best price. This is true at any of the major grocers.
- Baking Supplies – The first weekend of November usually sees tons of coupons in the Sunday paper. This is one weekend where you will want to buy multiple copies of the paper. Prices from 2010 to 2011 definitely increased and we saw far fewer sales. For example, Gold Medal Whole Wheat flour was on sale for .99/5 lb bag several times in 2010. Not so in 2011. Prices went up by .50. We did get really cheap organic flour at Whole Foods though. Hurray! I bought 10 bags. I store them in the freezer so they don’t get buggy. I bake enough that I will probably be out in 4 months. Hopefully Easter sales will kick in by then.
- Clip and Print EVERY Coupon that Doesn’t Expire before 12/31/12! – There are some really steep savings waiting for your the week after Christmas. There are so many products that will get specially packaged for the holidays that will go on sale after Christmas at 50 -75% off. This includes random stuff you probably aren’t thinking of: disposable plates and cups (get the brands that can be composted and buy enough at prices 75% and plan ahead for events like 4th of July!), hand soaps, lotion and soap gift sets (I scored big on organic sets at Target in 2011), household goods like baking pans in the color green…..It amazes me what goes on sale after Christmas! Get organized now, stock up the last week in December, and realize the savings all year long.
- Shop the Week AFTER Christmas – As I just said above, this is where you really need to have some $ leftover from the holidays to do some serious stockpiling. See my notes in November. You really can save BIG if you get organized early!