If you’ve just started prepping, one of the first things you’ll notice is just how much is out there when it comes to gear and supplies. And as a new prepper, it’s so easy to impulse buy and try to get everything you need as quickly as possible.
Before you know it, you can really blow your budget. In fact, once you’ve been bitten by the prepping bug, it seems like the clock is ticking and it’s really easy to overspend, no matter how experienced you are. The best way to avoid overspending when building your stockpile is to create a list of everything you eventually need to have in your stockpile first.
Start by making a list of the items you are currently using in your home for daily life. These are the items you want to begin stockpiling first. You can include any items you would need if there was some type of local disaster like a blackout or an extended snowstorm.
Once you have 3 to 6 months stockpile of items you use daily, then add any other items you would need to survive a widespread catastrophe or SHTF event. So include things such as batteries, flashlights, first aid supplies, and maybe a generator or portable propane heater.
While you build your stockpile of common items, you can save up for bigger items such as handheld radios, solar panels, or an alternative long-term heating option that doesn’t require power.
It’s very important to take the time to make a good list at the beginning and then stick to it as much as possible. Sticking to your list and having a plan will help you avoid overspending on items you really don’t need. To save even more money, below are some tips on how to use extreme couponing to stockpile for pennies.
Know the Sale Cycles for Your Area
Anyone who works in the grocery or any part of the retail industry will tell you that sale items are typically on a cycle that repeats throughout the year. Find an experienced couponer in your area who knows that cycle for your area or take note of all the sale items from each store yourself and over time you’ll start to see a pattern.
If you know the sales cycle, you’ll be able to predict what week of the month paper products will be on sale and you can save your paper product coupons to use during that week. This ensures that you get your items at the lowest price.
Utilize Research from Others
When it comes to extreme couponing, there’s no reason to waste time trying to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of resources already done for you, like this stock-up price sheet from the Krazy CouponLady. She’s done quite a bit of research on pricing for a wide variety of items.
You can use her price sheet as a guide to know whether or not an item’s price is cheap enough to warrant buying multiples at one time. There are also a ton of Facebook groups and websites that focus specifically on sharing deals and coupons for specific stores or types of products. You can utilize this research that others have done to make the couponing process more efficient.
Make Use of Double Coupon Policies
There are some stores left that will give you double the value of paper coupons that you use on your purchases. Some stores may only do double coupons on a specific day of the week, or only for coupons to a specific dollar amount, whereas other stores may give double the coupon value on any day or for any amount.
If your store offers double coupons on Tuesdays, make sure that you shop at that store on Tuesdays to get an even bigger discount. In some cases, double coupons may even mean you get an item for free, especially if the item is on sale that day.
Utilize Printed Coupons When Possible
Although many stores have strict policies regarding coupons that you print yourself from the Internet, it pays to use these printed coupons whenever possible.
The best thing about coupons that you print yourself is that you can typically print only the ones for items that you will use. I find this much faster to do than clipping coupons from the flyers that come in the mail.
Most coupon sites will have a search or filter feature that allows you to just look at beverage coupons or baby coupons, which makes it easy to find the ones you need. If you don’t have a printer at home, you can usually print coupons at the library or even from a friend or neighbor’s computer who doesn’t take advantage of coupons.
Know the Coupon Policies for Stores in Your Area
Stores handle coupons differently so it’s important for you to become familiar with the coupon policies for the stores in your area. If you are shopping at a new store, make sure you get and read their coupon policy before you head out to shop so you can use your coupons in the way the gives you the best price on each item.
There are stores with a coupon policy that allows you to use one paper coupon and one “printed” coupon for each item. Knowing how to take advantage of the more liberal coupon policies is one of the best ways to use extreme couponing to stockpile for pennies.
Stores that let you use coupons on items that are already on sale means that you will usually get a better price. Some stores won’t allow you to use coupons for an item on sale, or an item that is “free” because you bought two others of the same item for example.
On a “buy two get 1 free” sale, you would typically be able to use at least two paper coupons, one for each item you are paying for. But there are some stores who will allow you to use one coupon per item that is rung up, which means you could use 3 coupons, and get an even bigger discount.
If a store offers “e-coupons” or digital coupons through a store advantage card, make sure you know how these are handled. Some stores, such as Giant Eagle, require you to “clip” the coupon before you shop and then it is automatically deducted whenever you buy that product.
The key thing to remember is that if you have a paper coupon and an “e-coupon” for the same item, a store may only allow you to use one or the other and not both. So if you clipped an e-coupon for chicken broth but you find an even better paper coupon, you may have to unclip the e-coupon before you shop, to get the bigger discount from the paper coupon.
Compare Prices Carefully
One of the things I’ve noticed as I shop recently is that many products I normally purchase are slightly smaller packages or less volume than they used to be. So even though the price for toilet paper is still it’s usual $4.99 for example, it may be only 4 rolls instead of the usual 6 rolls.
Coffee which used to always come in a one pound can, now is only 12 ounces! That’s 4 ounces less but the prices didn’t go down. Make sure you are comparing prices and volume carefully to ensure you are getting the best value.
Pay specific attention to items such as apples, potatoes, oranges, etc. You may find that the 4.5 lb bag at one store is the same price as the 5 lb at another store.
Watch Out for Misleading Advertising
One of the dirty marketing tricks you need to watch out for is stores that advertise in a way that is misleading. I noticed this in my local convenience store the other day when I stopped in to get a bag of ice. The store had a huge sign in the snack aisle that advertised a brand of chips as “two for $5”. Not a great price but still better than paying almost $4 per bag.
As I read the sign again, I noticed that in much smaller print, the sign read “7 ¾ oz quantities only”. On the display shelf directly behind the sign, there were original flavor chips that were 10 ounces in volume.
There wasn’t an obvious difference in the size of the bags. Certainly not enough to notice if you simply saw the sign and grabbed one original bag and one barbeque for example.
But at the register, the chips would have been rung up at their higher individual prices because you only had 1 bag of the 7 ¾ ounce weight and not two, therefore the sale price wouldn’t be honored.
Sales may often be limited according to the weight or flavor and if you don’t pay attention to the fine print in the signs, you could end up paying full price.
Always Check Your Receipts
One of the ways you can save money when building your stockpile is to make sure that you always check your receipts to make sure you actually got the sale price or received the discount for coupons you provided. If you aren’t paying attention as items are being rung up and you don’t check your receipt afterwards, you could end up paying full price for your items, without even knowing it.
This happened just last week to someone I know. She checked her receipt and discovered the store had failed to give her nearly $10 in coupon discounts! She was able to get a manager who quickly made the corrections, but even the cashier was “unaware” that the coupons hadn’t been deducted properly from her total.
The other reason to check your receipts is because the sale items are updated in the computer whenever sales change. If this is done incorrectly or an item that goes on sale isn’t updated properly, the register will ring up the full price. If you aren’t paying attention, you can end up paying full price for items that should be on sale.
In addition to using coupons to stockpile, you can also save a ton of money by shopping for supplies and gear at flea markets, thrift stores, and surplus stores. What’s your favorite way to use extreme couponing to stockpile for pennies? Do you have some tips we didn’t list above? Let us know in the comments below.
A mother of four and grandmother of nine boys and one girl, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she’s a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.