Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Baby on a Budget: Couponing for Baby

It's been a while since there has been a new post in my Baby on a Budget series.  A while back, Beth Anne wrote the Top 10 Couponing Tips for Beginners for this series but I've been wanting to address baby specific coupons for a while.  The truth is, even if you've never used coupons before, it may be worth it to start using them on baby products.

I wouldn't exactly call myself a "couponer".  The truth is, much of what we buy doesn't regularly have coupons.  Produce, fresh meats and other "whole" foods are often on sale, but don't often have coupons available.  Every once in a while, some of these coupons will crop up, especially the personalized coupons our grocery store sends us based on the products we buy (tracked by our customer loyalty card).  We do, however, often use coupons on toiletries and baby products

When I got pregnant, I was instantly amazed by how many coupons there are for baby products, everything from lotions to diapers to sippy cups and even popular toys.  I hadn't really been looking for them before, but once I did, they were everywhere.

Here are my favorite places to find baby coupons:

  • gift registry goodie bags: If you create a baby registry at a store, you usually get a "gift bag" of some kind.  (If you register online, you can usually go to the customer service desk next time you are in store and pick one up.)  My favorite thing about these coupons is that many of them were store coupons, which could be combined with manufacturer coupons (and a sale!) for a really, really good price. 
  • store booklets/magazines/pamphlets: Some stores have their own little magazines with articles and coupons in it.  Others have specific "coupon books".  Check/ask if your stores have these.  The two stores I'm specifically thinking of that have these are Walgreens and Babies R Us. Some of the coupons in there are bomb and they are often store coupons (see tips below on how to get the best deals with these).
  • magazines: You'll see free subscriptions for baby/parenting magazines offered to you.  Read the fine print carefully, but if they are indeed free (many of them truly are), order them!  I used to get these magazines just to flip through the pages and cut out the coupons.  This is where I got some for $5 off a $15 purchase on Babyganics products (which I combined with a buy one, get one free sale - see below) and that coupon alone made getting the magazine worth it.  
  • register with baby companies: A lot of baby companies have programs you can sign up with to get sent coupons or earn points toward them.  Many formula companies have them, as well as disposable diaper companies and other companies with baby-geared products, like Playtex. 
  • company website: Other companies, like Johnson's baby line,  may not have registration programs, but still have coupons on their websites.  If there is something you are looking to buy, check out the websites of companies that sell it and look for a tab or button that says "coupons", "promotions", or "deals".
  • newspaper: There is usually a coupon or two in those weekly coupon inserts in the newspaper.  For me, paying for a Sunday newspaper is worth the coupons you'll get in there (not just the baby ones but others).  
  • baby deal websites: There are several baby deal websites out there that will direct you to places to print coupons and as a bonus, they often will let you know about sales in your local stores that you can combine them with in order to get the best prices possible.  One of my favorites is Baby Savers.
  • Swagbucks: Swagbucks is a "rewards site" where you can earn points for doing certain activities and then redeem those for prizes/gift cards.  One of the ways you can earn points is by printing out coupons and using them in store.  That's right - you save money by using coupons and also "earn" money by using them as well.  You can read my more detailed post on Swagbucks here.
  • store website: Stores like Target and Walmart have printable coupons on their website (scroll to the menus on the very bottom of the webpage and look for "coupons".  Grocery stores often have online coupons that you can load straight to your store loyalty card as well. 
Note: When you print coupons online, you cannot copy them; that is considered fraud.  You can usually print two copies of each coupon from a single computer.  (When you get the "coupon printer" and it says the coupons are done printing, press the "back" button and they should print again.  You can only do this once.)  Then you will be locked out. If you have multiple computers at home, access to a computer at work, etc. you can print two more on each computer.  I used to have David print coupons for me from his school computer when he was in grad school. 

How to get the most out of your coupons:

  • organize them: I like using the small expandable plastic organizers that you can get at the dollar store.  Label each section with a category of baby items like "diapers", "feeding", and "clothes".  Go through your coupons maybe once a month to clear out the expired ones.
  • combine them: There is a difference between store coupons and manufacturer coupons.  They function separately and you can combine them for even bigger savings.  Most coupons say "store coupon" or "manufacturer coupon" on them. 
  • wait for sales:  If your coupon doesn't expire right away and you don't need the item immediately, it's worth it to wait and see if the item will go on sale.  Babies R Us seems to have sales on their toiletries come up regularly, so it's worth it to save those Johnson's baby or BabyGanics coupons for when they are are on sale buy one, get one free or buy two, get one free.  Again, there are a ton of blogs that match up coupons and sales for you.  Many of them are regional so Google "(your city/state) coupon match ups" to find a website that will have the deals for your local stores.
Note: At most stores, you can use coupons for each item even if they are buy one, get one free!)   
Example of combining coupons/sales: When I was pregnant with Lulu, I got several Babies R Us store coupons for $1.50 off Johnson's Natural baby products with my registry gift bag.  I also found $1.50 off printable manufacturer coupons online.  It also happened that Babies R Us was having a buy two, get one free sale.  I bought three Johnson's Natural products at $4.99 each, used three $1.50 off store coupons, and three $1.50 off manufacturer coupons.  The total before tax was $0.98. ($4.99 x 2 (third one was free) = $9.98; $1.50 off x 6 = $9.00 off; $9.98-$9.00 = $0.98)  Amazing, right?

  • clip out coupons you don't think you'll use:  Even if it's not a brand you usually use, it's worth it to have coupons with you in case something is on sale or clearance.  The only question I ask myself to decide whether I'll take the time to clip/print a coupon and file it away is, "Would I get this product if it were free?"  For many junk food items, the answer is no, but for most baby items, the answer is "yes" - even if I don't need them, I can always give items as gifts or donate them.  Charities always need diapers and baby items to distribute to women in crisis pregnancies, poverty, or living in women's shelters.  If there is the right sale or you stumble upon the right clearance rack, those items may very well end up free.
  • look for clearances: Know where the "clearance section" is in every store you regularly shop.  For example, at my grocery store, it's in the back near the eggs.  In my local Target, there are several throughout the store; I know the baby one is on end caps near the cleaning supplies.  You can use coupons for items on clearance and you'll never know what will be on clearance.  This is why I advise you keep coupons that you think you may not use.  I've come across several items in the last few years (usually toiletries such as makeup or deodorant, but sometimes diapers/wipes) that were on the clearance rack for a fraction of the regular price and with a coupon were 90% off or more.  Deals like that are worth stocking up on (my husband currently has enough deodorant to last him at least a year that I spent less than $5 on total).
Note: Check baby clearances after holidays (especially Christmas/Easter) and the end of seasons with the intention to stock up on clothes/items for the following year.  
  • don't spend more time than you have: If you don't have much time to coupon, do what you can.   This school year I was overwhelmed with being a first year teacher and working mom for the first time so I used very few coupons. During school breaks, I was able to devote some time to it.  This is not an all-or-nothing kind of thing.  You don't have to be an extreme couponer, it's ok to use only one coupon for $0.50 on a shopping trip! That's still saving money! If you did that two times a week for a year, you would still have $52 more dollars in your bank account - that's a nice dinner out or a mani/pedi!  And if you are able to save more than that, even better! 
store coupon + manufacturer coupon + sale/clearance = 
bomb dot com

If you prefer to shop online, there are a ton of ways to still use coupon codes and deals to get an even better price.  Here are a few of my favorite ways:

  •  Use a "cash back" program like Ebates or ShopAtHomeHere's how these sites work: if you go to the Ebates/ShopAtHome and look up the store you want to shop from, you'll see the percentage cash back you'll get on your purchase.  They work with most big stores.  Enter the store's website through the link on Ebates/ShopAtHome, make your purchase, and your cash back will be deposited into your Ebates/ShopAtHome account and will be sent to you once you get to a certain threshold.  So simple, takes an extra 20 seconds to go to their website first, and can save you a lot, even if you only shop online once in a while.  I am a member of both and always check to see which site has a higher percentage.  ShopAtHome will match 110% if you find more cash back elsewhere, but sometimes there are stores available on Ebates and not ShopAtHome.  The only drawback is that you'll be kicking yourself if you forget to use it on a purchase.
  • If you shop at Amazon, there are often Amazon coupons available for baby products.  Check out diaper-coupons.org for updates on the newest diaper coupons available on Amazon (and elsewhere).  This is a great way to take advantage of buying diapers in bulk by adding even more savings.
  • Never buy anything without first checking for a coupon code from that store!  I've saved hundreds of dollars by quickly searching for coupon codes to stores before I check out and getting free shipping, a $5 off code, or sometimes even 25% or more off my entire purchase.  One website you can use to search for coupon codes is Me Find Coupon.

Thanks to my sweet friend, Beth Anne, for looking over this post and adding her couponing two cents!

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my Baby on a Budget series.  

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