Ok so everyone knows how much I love couponing. It has freed up money for us to use in other areas, or save for fun stuff. This year I am using the money we're saving for a few vacations, but next year I hope to use it for a few home improvements. It's a wonderful way to relatively-painlessly shave money off your grocery/necessities/entertainment/dining-out bills.
That being said, I may not always be a couponer. I have fallen in love with it, but I can see myself falling out of love pretty quickly. It does take some time each week to cut and organize coupons, and if I get a full-time job at some point, I don't know if I'll be able to maintain this level of couponing. It is something you can do a little or a lot of. I consider my level medium, so to speak, and I do think I will continue for a long while. As the years go on though, I may make time for it, but maybe I won't. Thankfully, I have learned a few ways to save money without having to hardcore coupon.
*Shop the circulars - by far the best non-couponing savings tool. There are still great sales even without coupons. For instance, I have learned that many of ShopRite's sales of "Buy $20 worth of (whatever)...Get a Catalina worth $10 off your next visit' go by the SHELF price, not the sale price. So for example, a few months ago, they had a health-and-beauty deal of buy $20, save $10 on ShopRite brand products. Their fem hygiene pads were priced at $1 each - already a great price. But the SHELF price was something like $2.50. I bought 8 - reaching the $20, but I only really spent $8 bc that was the SALE price. Then I got back $10 in Catalina money (it looks like a coupon that prints out with your receipt) to use on my next order. So I actually MADE $2 buying pads! That's a for instance, but you get the idea? The best way to know if a sale is working on shelf or sale price to get a catalina is to check out my fave site "Living Rich with Coupons" bc she does the work for you and tells you what's on sale and how to do the deals.
*Speaking of LRWC site, before I shop I always check her site bc she lists everything on sale, and if there's an online coupon available for it (ie - say "Ragu" pasta sauce is on sale and the Ragu website offers a .50 coupon, she'll link you right to their site so you can print it off). So even without cutting insert coupons that come in the paper, I could still take a few minutes to at least save a few dollars with coupons that are available online immediately.
*Stock up on sales. Chicken breasts are a rare $1.79/lb? Buy a lot. Freeze in Ziploc freezer bags, and freeze the way you want to use it. Like when chicken is on sale, I buy as much as my store (they might say "Limit 1 pkg per family") or budget allows, then I cut it into strips, nuggets, etc. If the store does have a limit but I want more, I'll make another trip that week and use my mom's phone number instead of mine at checkout. I give her some too, and I don't feel badly about that - I make meals often for others too. Also, some stores have coupons right in the circular, making the sale better.
*Use cash. Now, this is not a tip I even use. For shame!! But I do believe in it. If you know your family can only afford $50/wk in groceries, you'll figure out a way to do it. Farmers markets for your produce for $25 let's say, and then $25 for the rest...you'll get creative. This is where your stockpile comes in great, that you can do a little at a time. You can fill in your families meals with cheap pasta, potatoes that you bought when they were .99/ 5 lb bag, etc.
*Now taking that $50 budget for example, where do toiletries fit in? This would be hard to do without couponing. Using coupons means you can get name brand toiletries for pennies on the dollar from drugstores, Target, Walmart, etc. BUT you can still save, just not as much. Drugstores offer toiletries often with sales like "Buy $10 worth, save $5 on your next order." Say it's John Frieda shampoo/conditioner and it's priced at $5 each. You buy 2, spending $10 but getting $5 back, so $2.50 each after sale. More than Suave but a better product. Now, this is a brand that has $3 or $2 off coupons often, making it then cheap or free...and sometimes they're available online. Again, worth check the LRWC site to see the deal. And also again, this takes looking in the circulars - you don't buy John Freida when you "need" it - you only buy on sale so you HAVE it already when you DO need it.
*After couponing for over a year now - and nothing like you what you see on tv, just saving some money - I have realized that the easiest thing to save on is in fact toiletries/necessities. You can amass a great stockpile in a short amount of time, and then you can live off of it without messing with coupons for a long while.
*Some sales are seasonal and that's the time to stock up. Like BBQ sauce - it'd be nice to have it in your pantry for a winter craving of shredded pork in the crockpot - but summer brings the best sales for that and things like salad dressing.
*And perhaps all of this just boils down to being intentional about how and where you spend your money. Knowing what you need, knowing where it's cheapest to buy it, saving some for later, and even just plain old going without.
Please ask me a question if you have one - and if I don't know, I'll try and find out!