I meant to get this up yesterday (sorry Nicole!), but I wanted to make sure I went through the 4 papers I bought on Sunday. I felt sure you all were waiting with baited breath to see how I intend to carry out this New Couponing Paradigm.
There were only two inserts in our lame local paper. On the other hand, the Sunday paper only costs a dollar here, so it’s probably a wash. Applie said the Sunday paper was $2.50 in her town. Two-Fifty! That seems like a lot, yo. First up, the Red Plum insert, where I found zero coupons that applied to me. Bummer, dude. Next, the P&G insert where I clipped several coupons for laundry soap, razors and trash bags. The coupons say right on them that you can only use 4 like coupons in the same shopping trip, so I still don’t understand how the Extreme Couponers do all that coupon stacking. On the other hand, I’m not trying to become a Hoarder of Shaving Cream, so it’s fine.
(is the word “coupon” ceasing to lose all meaning because I have said it so many times yet?)
It looks like Tide is on sale this week, AND there are coupons for it, so this is my big chance to match or double or whatever that strategy is. Tonight when Jim goes for pizza, I’ll have him get the paper with the grocery specials and see how well I can maximize my savings.
And now for the first official part Nicole’s Coupon Series –
Train your brain-getting into the coupon mindset
I don’t expect you to take papers from homes in foreclosure, climb into a recycle dumpster, or spend hours away from your family becoming obsessed with your coupons. To be successful at couponing however, you have to understand that you can either spend time and save money or spend money and save time.
There are coupons for every type of food you can think of – including organic items and fresh fruits and vegetables; as well as frozen and canned fruits and veggies. There are also coupons for toiletries and household items, so even if you decide you’re not going to use coupons for food, you still may be able to use coupons for toilet paper, razors, toothpaste, and so on.
When we first look at coupons, the first obstacle to overcome is where to get the coupons. The first place to look is in your Sunday newspaper. 83% of all manufacturer coupons come from the Sunday paper so you need to determine how you are going to get your hands on a copy or two…or four.
Nicole’s general rule of couponing #1: Buy as many papers as you have people in the house.
Make sure you buy in multiples of 2, this way you can take advantage of Buy One Get One sales (most stores will allow you to use 1 coupon per item, thus driving down the cost of the “buy one” item. You can also dumpster dive in recycling bins to get coupons, or have someone from work or church save them for you.
I also look for coupons in other places:
- in the store itself on blinkies, tearpads or peelies.
- Internet printables (if your store takes them) are another great source of coupons. Coupon printable sites I frequent include http://www.coupons.com/, http://www.redplum.com/, http://www.smartsource.com/, and http://www.target.com/
- Facebook is a great way to get coupons – manufacturers often offer coupons if you “like” their product.
- Magazines are another way to get coupons, the best magazine I’ve found for coupons is All You, available only by subscription or in Wal-Mart.
- One of my favorite ways to get high dollar coupons on the foods that my family uses the most is to contact the manufacturer. A quick e-mail to the company expressing thanks and interest in their product often results in a mailbox full of coupons (often for free product). This is a great way to get coupons for products you don’t normally see, produce, organic foods and specialty items.
Most couponers fall into one of two categories when it comes to organizing their coupons. I have tried them both.
File by Insert
You need a binder, a sharpie marker and a 3 hole punch.
Pros: Little initial time input, no cutting till you need the coupon, keeps your budget in-line because you won’t be tempted to buy something just because you have a coupon.
Cons: Missing out on great savings of unadvertised sales or clearance because all your coupons are at home, inability to substitute product with coupon in store, missing out on limited time printables because you only clip what you need, time investment before you go shopping looking up all items needed in a coupon database, need to find a way to store coupons from other places.
Method: Each Sunday when you get your paper you write the date on the front of the coupon insert with the marker, hole punch it and file it in your binder. When you are ready to go shopping you enter what you want to purchase into a coupon database (try www.hotcouponworld.com) and follow the coding to clip out the applicable coupons. I used to coupon this way, but I found I was missing out on in-store deals. I’m not brand loyal, so if I need butter I want to turn to my page of butter coupons and make the best deal on the spot not spend time ahead looking up each brand and not knowing the shelf price.
File by Coupon
You need a binder, scissors, and baseball card protectors.
Pros: Never missing out on unadvertised sale or clearance because all you coupons are with you. If you are visual, it is easier to remember what coupons you have on hand vs. digging through months of inserts to find a specific coupon. If you are trying to keep certain food out of your house, it is easier when you don’t have a coupon for the item on hand.
Cons: Time. It takes time to cut, sort, and organize your coupons. If you only clip the coupons you think you will use, you may miss out on advertised deal for a new item. You may spend more than your budget because you are finding great unadvertised deals that you can’t let go by.
Method: Each Sunday when you get your paper you go through each insert and cut the coupons you think you might use. You file the coupons in baseball card protectors (in a way that makes sense to you – mine are sorted to correspond with my grocery list; some people do it alphabetically by brand.) When you are ready to shop you pull the coupons you plan to use and bring the binder to the store for clearance deals, unadvertised sales or non-brand loyalty shopping. This is the method I use. Also in my binder I have my 1 month and 3 month pantry lists. I use these to help figure out how much of an item I need in my stockpile.
Last year over 315 billion grocery coupons were released, worth billions of dollars. Less than 1% of them were redeemed. Get out there and find your coupons! Next we’ll look at how to “read” a coupon to maximize your savings and compare your local stores to find the right one for you.