I never would have considered myself to be a coupon collector… until we moved overseas. While in Germany, I learned that couponing was fun, and I took it as a personal challenge to see how much money I could save on my groceries each week.
Learning to coupon overseas is easy because there are only two stores that you can use coupons. You don’t need to price shop or go from store to store to be successful. You just need to keep an eye open for sales fliers!
These are some of the best tips I learned couponing overseas:
Use expired coupons
The first thing you need to know about couponing overseas is that you can use expired coupons (up to six months old). The awesome thing about this is that you’ll be able to work up a solid stash of coupons. I kept mine sorted into bags by type, and kept all those bags in a small box. Each week, I’d collect the ads from the PX and Commissary, and then go through my coupon box to look for products on sale that I needed.
While overseas, look for groups that do coupon swaps, check for a coupon box at the commissary, and ask for friends and family to send you the coupons they can’t use.
Know the rules
At the Commissary, you can only use one coupon per product (no “stacking” of coupons) for as many products as you want. Read your coupons closely: some will have a maximum number of the same coupon you can use but some coupons will say that you can only use two of the same coupon.
The policy at the PX is a little different. They do allow stacking. This means if the store has a coupon that says AAFEES COUPON on the top and I have a coupon that says MANUFACTURER COUPON, I can combine both of them and use those two coupons for the one product. This helps increase your savings- so always watch for AAFEES coupons in the weekly ad.
Watch for sales
The PX often has sales, especially on toiletries and makeup, which work out to an almost free product when you use a coupon. For example: If a particular brand of make-up is 30% off this week, and that brand offers $2 off 1 coupons, you can combine this offer so that their eye-shadows (normally $2.99) can be bought for $.09 with a coupon. With a little planning, you can purchase many things for pennies of what you would pay otherwise.
The best way to really save at the Commissary is to watch the clearance shelf and look for sales. If you have a coupon that is worth more than the product, the Commissary will apply the overage to your order–which means they will essentially pay you to buy that product. For example, if I have a coupon for dish soap that is $2 off, and then I find that soap on sale for $1.50, the Commissary will give me$.50 back. The PX does not allow for “overages” so if you have a coupon that is worth more than the product, you’ll get it for free, but you won’t get any money back.
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Don’t be greedy
I know couponing is fun, and everyone loves to save money- but please, please remember that resources are scarce overseas. If every couponer goes to the PX and purchases 10 tubes of toothpaste, the rest of us are probably going to have to do without for a while. Purchase reasonable amounts, and keep in mind what you need. Don’t get caught up in the high of getting things for pennies on the dollar and buy more than your fair share.
Do plan ahead; I won’t begrudge you keeping a small stash of products on hand. I like to keep 2 or three of each item on my shelf and stock up when things are on sale. But you don’t need 10 tubes of toothpaste. You just don’t.
And (I shouldn’t have to say this) but absolutely do not buy out everything and then try to sell it on the post yard sale page. That makes you look like a total jerk and the rest of the local spouses who can’t get that bottle of shampoo for a week or two now will hate your guts. Don’t be that person.
Have fun and save money!
Don’t fret too much about it– and don’t feel overwhelmed. Every penny counts, so even if you only use one or two coupons while you are out and about, you’re still doing a good thing for your family and your budget.
Heather Aliano is a proud Air Force Wife and mother to four wild and wonderful munchkins. She blogs over at Only Passionate Curiosity where you can find free educational worksheets, fun hands on activities and tips and tricks to make life a little easier.