Coupons, Coupons, Coupons…(or Vouchers if you are English)

I love getting vouchers and coupons and will use them at every opportunity to try and save a little more money.

A couple of years ago I found some websites that list various discounts available that you can download coupons from.

I started using a couple of these and purchased various products, however it did not take me long to realise that if I was not careful and selective over which ones I used it was actually going to cost me MORE!!

The reason being is that most of these vouchers are basically a bait to entice you to buy products that you would not normally buy and I found that on a few occasions I was doing this.   I quickly realised that if I was using a voucher and buying something I do not usually buy or need, I was not actually saving money but spending more so as much as I dislike not taking advantage of an offer it is not always a saving (why my supermarket keep giving me a discount voucher for Polish beer I do not know…)

Now at the time it was coming up to Christmas so I allowed myself a few extras as special Christmas treats but there is also another trick in this:

Many of the downloadable vouchers are not specific to a particular store (although some are) which is great when the voucher is for a free item so you can pick up the product quite easily.  (Sometimes if I have a voucher for a free item that I do not need I will get it anyway and pass it on to someone else). 

Between the various supermarkets you will quite often find that an item is on discount or offer at one of them so the best thing to do if you do want to sample a product you do not normally buy is to use the voucher in the store which has the offer on (you can search the online websites of most of the major supermarkets to check which has the best price)  I have even managed to get money back occasionally or certainly pay very little. Usually they have a reasonable expiry date so if you wait you will often find that the item will be placed on offer at some point before then.

Some stores are wise to this trick however and will restrict how you can use the vouchers but others will simply take the value off your total.

I sometimes get vouchers that are “Save £x when you spend over £x”.  These are great but again they are trying to get you to spend more and if you are on a strict budget then these can be a downfall if you are not careful.  (I’ve occasionally passed these on to someone who has a bigger household if it is too much over my budget)

As I usually prepare a shopping list, I can check prices online and know how much my shopping will be.  On the weeks that I have a “spend over” voucher I will plan to buy the things like loo rolls or extras of something that I buy on a weekly basis.  I will still stick to my monthly budget but instead of buying items every week I will buy for the whole month to take advantage of the money off.  Many times I have managed to get my shopping to a few pence over the required amount by keeping note of what I have put in my trolley and adding it up before heading to the checkout.  (a small calculator in your shopping bag is handy although many phones have a calculator option on them now).  Of course you also have to make sure that you do spend less in the remaining weeks.

Many restaurant chains also give vouchers from their websites, so if you know you are going to one it is worth checking their website beforehand to see if they have any offers.  Some of these require that you sign up to like their Facebook page or go on their e-mail lists for free drinks or deserts etc (I got free deserts for 3 people at the weekend when we went out saving over £10).  Don’t fall into the trap though of saying “Oh I’ve got a voucher for x so lets go there”.  Unless you are already planning a visit you are not saving money if you go simply because you have a voucher – it is costing you more!!

My purse is full of loyalty cards but many of these can give you a lot of extras.  I get free coffees, additional discounts and vouchers or save points for vouchers every 3 months.  Even my credit card gives me money off vouchers which increase as it is used so I pay for everything with that to gain extra points and vouchers. (Remember you must pay the card off in full every months otherwise it will end up costing you a lot more in interest).

It is sometimes worth “liking” the Facebook pages of shops and products that you use as they will often let you know about special offers and discounts or give you opportunity to win or download additional vouchers or prizes.

I have not quite managed the “Extreme Couponing” I’ve seen in a TV program where people purchase whole stockpiles of goods but all these little extras you can get help keep the budget under control and occasionally allow a little extra treat.

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