Reader Mail: Know when to hold 'em!

About six weeks ago, I received a $1 coupon with an expiration date three months out, good for a certain brand of soup. This soup was $3.29 the week the coupon arrived. If I used the coupon that week, I'd pay $2.29, still much more than I like to pay for a can of soup. But with three months' time to watch for a better sale, I waited. And this week, the soup went on sale for $1 a can. My coupon is still more than a month away from expiring, but by waiting a few weeks, I took the soup home for free! Had I used it the week I'd gotten it, I would still have paid more than two dollars for the soup. Free is much better.

After one of my coupon classes, a man came up to me and told me that he had an "aha!" coupon moment. He was an avid poker player, and he equated knowing when to "play" your coupon to knowing when to play a certain card in a hand of poker. I like this analogy a lot, because coupon shopping can definitely feel like a game at times... and it's a game that's fun to win! A $1 coupon is worth a lot more paired with a $1 sale price than it is with a $3.29 regular price.

As for your point about using a coupon the week you cut it out so that it's not a "waste of time," I'd suggest that you not be so quick to clip. I never cut coupons that I'm not going to use immediately. I use a "clipless" system to manage my coupons (more on this at www.supercouponing.com under "Getting Started.") I'm not cutting a coupon out until the week I actually need it. If the coupon in my insert does not line up with a good sale before it expires, I haven't wasted any time at all clipping it, looking it up or carrying it around. I use as little time and effort as possible to manage my coupons and you can, too!

It's much easier to take only the coupons you need to the store in the first place, secure in the knowledge that, like my card-playing student, you are "playing" your coupons at exactly the right time to maximize savings.

(c) CTW Features

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her Web site, www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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