Yes, I’m still talking about this…

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Here is Part 3 of Nicole’s Coupon Manifesto! Remember, to everyone doing this experiment with me, June 5th is a big day for inserts – three this week.

The Power of Coupons

Is anyone else hearing Snap’s “I’ve got the power” playing in the background?  No…hmmm…wonder what that means?

Now we’re ready to pull everything together and see what couponing can do for you.  We’re going to use 7 steps to make sure that you are ready to hit the stores running.

#1 Find Coupons:   Look in your Sunday papers, check out the store shelves, and watch for coupons on social media sites (facebook and twitter).  If you use specialty items or have a brand favorite, write the company and let them know why you love it. Companies often will send out coupons as a thank you.  Many stores accept internet printable coupons – don’t forget to check out sites like; also watch for promotional mailers and coupons received in direct mail.  I signed up for Home Made Simple and 4x a year I receive a booklet worth over $30 in coupons from Proctor and Gamble (Swiffer, Tide, Dawn…)

#2 Find your filing system: If you can’t find your coupons, you won’t use your coupons, so look for a system that works for you.  Look at the binder system or file by insert, grab an accordion folder and sort them into that – at the very least recycle an envelope to stash your coupons in.  Just remember: the more you work with your coupons, the more likely you are to use them. 

#3 Don’t be timid: Contrary to what most people believe, most cashiers are not offended by couponers.  Using coupons actually makes the company money, as they are reimbursed by the manufacturer the face value of the coupon plus .08 cents for each coupon they redeem.  This may not sound like a lot, but you have to look at it on the scale that the store is redeeming all of their coupons on.   Speaking of cashiers, not all of them are aware of their store coupon policy.  Knowing the policy in advance will make you a more confident shopper and in a world where even couponers have been hit by fraud will make the cashier feel more comfortable with you as a shopper.

#4 Shop National Brands: We didn’t get into this much in the last two posts, but to be successful at couponing (success measured by 50%-60% savings) you need to give up some loyalty.  I am in no way saying that you need to give up all of your loyalty – there are many products that we do not buy unless it is name brand or a particular brand but on a lot of things I can use whatever is cheapest.  Toilet paper, for example is a brand loyal product.  We like Cottonelle – not Angel Soft or Charmin – Cottonelle.  Cottonelle is expensive, but my tushie thinks it’s worth it, so when I can get it on a good deal I stock up as much as our budget will allow.  Salad dressing however, I use for cooking with, and I can marinate chicken breasts in any brand of Italian that I need to.

#5 Don’t forget about expiration dates: Unless you are overseas military, expired coupons don’t do you any good, so find a time each month (I cull mine the first week) and pull any expired coupons you have.  Along with expired coupons, if you get to the point where you are starting a stockpile of some grocery items watch those expiration dates  – even if you only bought the flour for .50 a bag, it’s still a waste of money if it goes bad.

#6 Know which stores to shop at: Know the stores in your area and what they offer shoppers.  Determine which stores are best to shop at and know how far or how many stores you are willing to go to.  I’m lucky to be in an area where if needed in a 2 hour shopping trip with one child I can hit Walgreens, Hyvee, Target, CVS, Walmart and Price Chopper all in a less than 10 mile round trip drive (this is not an every week occurrence and a 2 hour/6 store trip only happens about every other month).  I also know that Walmart will price match AND accept competitor’s coupons so if there are really good deals at all 6 places and I’m short on time I can make a one stop shop at Walmart.  *I also have an Aldi’s in that drive and they always have great deals on produce – I price match those prices at Walmart. 

#7 Use sales ads and smartphone applications: I love my smartphone and have downloaded quite a few apps that have been helpful in my shopping trips (I have an android based phone).  I’ll list my top 3 here:

Angry Birds – A MUST if I am forced blessed to go shopping with Bug (he also likes the calculator function and it actually really good at helping me keep track of my expenses)

Grocery IQ – I love that I can scan the barcode of a product at home that we are low on and the item will be added to my grocery list.  I can also send the list to my husband if he is doing the shopping.  Not only can you add the category of the product but you can be brand specific as well.  There are notes you can add, prices to give you a running total and it will also search for internet coupons that you can couple with the items for better deals.

CardStar – CardStar lets you store loyalty, reward and club membership cards on your phone.  This means with just a few swipes of my screen I can pull up my loyalty cards and I don’t have to carry them all around on a ring. 

Knowing what’s on sale is the first step to saving money.  Matching sale ads with the coupons you have means greater savings and that is where couponers make a difference in their family’s budget.  Breaking down an ad is as simple as looking through the ad and circling anything that you need or want and flipping through your coupons to see what matches.  There are also a number of bloggers who do matchups on a weekly basis – find one for your store today!