How to save money on your shopping

Ever heard of extreme couponing?

It’s the act of collecting and stockpiling enough coupons that you can get something ridiculous like £1000 worth of groceries for 6p, or even free.

There is a hit US TV series of the same name which will help give you the gist of what it entails.

I am nowhere near those leagues yet, but then again I am a baby in terms of my time spent extreme couponing. But through a few hours of work sat watching the TV I have amassed a useful amount of coupons for my shopping.

Basically I won’t be running out of yogurts and tea bags anytime soon.

I started doing this in the Summer of 2016 when I was temporarily unemployed. I didn’t want my boyfriend to ‘suffer’ in terms of not having a fully stocked kitchen filled with all his favourite treats, but I needed to be a bit creative with how I food shopped.

I am the sort of person who always has a stockpile of cards and stamps, and I love writing and receiving letters, so what I did was of little hardship to me. I can understand it might not be to everyone’s taste, but here is how I saved money on my food shopping.

Basically I wrote to companies I liked, explaining how much I liked them, and I received coupons in return to save money on my shopping.

Here are my top tips.

  • Never ever directly ask for a coupon or voucher, even if you are complaining about something and feel it’s fair. I think it is human nature (or British nature) to feel a bit put out when someone demands something for free. I recently complained to a major supermarket about a perceived injustice. The injustice was to the matter of 20p. I didn’t ask for anything, just clearly stated my disappointment. They sent me a £5 voucher.
  • Be creative. It would not be unheard of to send a company you like a poem about how great they are or draw a picture about their brilliance (or get a willing child to do so). I haven’t gone to quite these extremes as I am not that talented, but what I do is send Thank You cards (£1.49 for ten in Card Factory) and decorated the cards and envelopes with stickers saying things like ‘Fab’ and ‘Good Work’.
  • Be truthful and specific. Companies love feedback. If you say something generic like ‘You’re great’ that won’t really be good for them, but if you say something like ‘Despite living on a strict food budget and having to buy own brand or value products, we would never compromise on the brilliant taste of X Product and always find the money to buy them.’ They will be more likely to reward you for some information they can take to their directors.
  • Be selective. Don’t write to every company under the sun as not only will you most likely waste all your profit on the stamp costs, but you can’t guarantee how much, if anything, the companies will give you in vouchers. Also you should write to companies you genuinely love as if you get a £1 voucher for a product you only sort of like which normally costs £4 anyway, you won’t really be motivated to use it and would therefore have wasted your time and money on the stamp.
  • Don’t expect immediate results as big companies have lots of mail/emails to go through, but you will hear from them eventually.
  • If you choose to go down the email route make sure you put your postal address in the email as they may send you a voucher in the post. A voucher sent to you is better as with print off vouchers you will normally have to download a (free) bit of software to make sure the barcode scans, but some supermarkets can be funny about print off vouchers.
  • When you have obtained your lovely vouchers, don’t head to the shops straight away. Instead head to the website mysupermarket.com and check to see which supermarket is selling it cheapest, or doing an offer on it. If you have a ‘One Free Product’ voucher, then it would be worth checking to see if a supermarket is selling if buy one get one free, because that way you’d get two for free. Also if you have a £2 voucher for a normally £3.50 product, it would be worth using mysupermarket to see if a supermarket is selling it for £2, as again you would get it for free that way.
  • It would be best to head to a major supermarket to use your vouchers, I know Savers don’t accept vouchers.
  • In my experience it would only be worth writing to a supermarket if you have a complaint. I have sent many (genuine) praiseful letters to my favourite supermarket and whilst they have been thankful for the feedback, they haven’t felt the need to reward my praise.
  • There are two websites, Everyday Caring (Johnson and Johnson) and Super Savvy Me (P&G) that have vouchers available all year round for free for the specified companies.
  • One of my favourite websites ever is the Money Saving Expert website, and they also have a supermarket vouchers section. They also use mysupermarket to tell you if the voucher will get you the product for free anywhere.
  • Whenever you are going to a chain restaurant look to see if they have a voucher offer on their website (maybe for signing up to their newsletter which you can always unsubscribe from) or see if they have an app as that may also give you a voucher. I joined the Hungry Horse newsletter and got a £5 off £15 on food voucher, and downloaded the TGI Friday’s app this year to get a free appetizer.
  • I know you may be thinking “who has time for all this?” and be put off. I won’t lie, it will take time, but it doesn’t have to be a chore, just do it whilst watching TV. The main way to think about it is like this-based on your hourly wage, if it takes you say 3 hours to earn £25, then would it be fair to say it should take 3 hours of effort to save £25?

Now I will get into the admin side of things. For anyone who likes spreadsheets this will be heaven. For anyone who doesn’t…maybe find some other way of doing this.

I have two spreadsheets for my coupon collection. One is a Profit and Loss spreadsheet, which I will talk about first. This takes into account how much I spent sending the letter to the company (stamp cost plus 15p for the card and envelope) and what I got in return. When I first started this in the summer I didn’t receive a coupon from every company I’d written to, but I had made nearly £30 in coupons, £15 of which was profit. Sure that may seem like a small amount, but the cards and stamps I already had, so they could have been considered a sunk cost. Any money I saved during the summer of the great unemployment was of great benefit to me.

(I’ll admit it’s probably only a loser like me who loves spreadsheets that would go to this much effort)

The second spreadsheet is one I would definitely recommend having. It’s just a simple way of keeping track of how much the coupon is for, if there are any conditions for using it, and when it expires. You don’t want to go to all that trouble of collecting these coupons only to have them go out of date. This is a good excuse to acquire a pretty folder.

I have now imparted all my wisdom. I hope some of this may help you.

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