I'll admit, I decided to start couponing after watching, "Extreme Couponing." With grocery prices sky-rocketing, being a family of five just about anything that saves us money on food sounds good to me and these people were saving a lot. So, I read a tutorial or two, bought myself a little black binder, and got started-only to find couponing in Alaska isn't the easiest thing to do. The big savings people achieve through couponing relies heavily on strategic "stacking" of coupons via the use of store coupons and manufacturer coupons found primarily in newspaper inserts used on in-store sales. Sadly, Alaska's newspapers, even Alaska Daily News, the largest paper in Alaska, do not really use inserts. There are coupons, but they are your average store circulars you can get for free at the store's location. I was left with two big questions, can you coupon in Alaska effectively, and if so how?
Finding coupons in Alaska
The Internet once again comes to the rescue of Alaskan shoppers. I quickly found that there were hundreds of online printable coupons that could be acquired, though be aware that not all stores accept printed coupons. Be sure to check your store's policy. I also found that Fred Meyer (Kroger), one of the major stores available in most Alaskan towns, offers e-coupons which can be loaded to your Fred Meyer card. This works out well because you don't have to clip anything, and the card earns you coupons, cash back vouchers, and gas discounts on money spent. Finally, newspaper inserts are plentiful in the rest of the United States. Sites like Ebay turned out to provide massive lots of pre-cut coupons from newspaper inserts for a fair price. For example, 100 assorted coupons for food for 89 cents plus a dollar shipping.
More tips for couponing in Alaska
I quickly found the extreme couponing I saw on TV wasn't exactly practical here for more reasons than just limited coupon availability. Our prices are also all around higher than most of the United States making it extremely hard to bring a shopping trip down to zero or even below 10 percent of retail price without buying things you just don't need. The tail end of that sentence holds the key to practical, rather than extreme couponing. Just because you have the coupons to stack and a sale on an item resulting in one heck of an "extreme" deal, doesn't mean you need that item. If you spend even one penny on an item you don't normally buy, or won't use, that's one penny you wouldn't have spent before and you didn't save anything. When building a stock pile, also remember that due to shipping Alaska merchandise tends to be older. Not only did it have to make it here, but stores often orderin bulk to save on shipping costs to begin with. Keep an eye on expiration dates and don't buy more than you can use before that date.
It's taken a bit of trial and error, but I've managed to shave an average of 30 to 50 percent off of my grocery bill while only buying items I already use and keeping a modest and practical stock pile all in around ten to fifteen minutes a week. As a last take-away, remember your time is worth money too. If you are putting in the same hours you would at a full or part-time job, run the math to be sure just holding a job wouldn't make you more than you save.
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