Sunday, July 26, 2009

Coupons 101: Where to Find them, Different Types & How to Organize Them

I used to think that coupons were just plain silly. You were wasting your time cutting them on Sundays, and printing, and looking for that special item in the store. You were really ridiculous when you went to check out and handed the cashier 10 coupons while I was waiting with my 3 little ones behind you. I had tried to coupon, but only saved a few dollars here and there. It seemed like more effort than it was worth.

Then came the strategy of "Extreme Couponing" and I realized that I was the silly one for not using them. Manufacturers spend billions of dollars yearly to supply us with coupons and most of the time not even half of those are used. I am the one sitting at home with the empty pantry with my $1 generic noodles and some .99 cent cheese to top them with while that coupon lady or man still has their pantry full with name brand foods that are actually good! Don't get me wrong the cashier does look at me funny when I hand her 30 coupons, but I look at her with a smile when the bill decreases by $50.00. Of course not so much anymore...the coupon thing is pretty common now.

If you are new to couponing, remember you are not robbing the store, giving a coupon is no different then the store getting cash, they will get cash and an additional $0.08 for their handling of it. So, you are not costing them more time either, they are getting compensated and reimbursed by the manufacturer.

Personally, I like to think of couponing as a game. You start slow, but as you move on you become knowledgeable of all of the in's and outs and before you know it YOU win every time. I think of it this way, the Vegas way, I could spend $5.00 a week at the casino and take a chance to win or spend $5.00 on coupons and win FREE items EVERY TIME! LOL! :)

My goal in this one income family is to stretch my husband's hard earned cash money that he brings in and make it stretch as far as I can. I like to refer to this as "shopping smarter". We don't do without, we just spend when the price is right and many of times I determine what I am willing to buy an item for whether than it telling me. I do this by having stock of common items and this has me avoiding to have to run to the store for something I need. If you are hesitant and think that you can't save, you don't buy many products, you would be surprised to learn what you actually do buy, I guarantee I can save you money! After a while, your grocery budget will be more like mine, spent on meat, produce and the stockpile!

This is just some info on the basics of coupons; where to find them, different types and how to organize them. Continue reading more tips here under the Resource section. We also offer an Extreme Couponing 101 Workshop online and locally.

Where to Find Coupons:
The first key is getting your subscription to the local paper at least every Sunday. In our Sunday papers comes the Smartsource coupon inserts. You will also receive the Proctor & Gamble insert 14 times a year. I have a great deal on subscribing to the paper for you, go here. The Redplum inserts come in that Tuesdays mail alongside the grocery ads. There are parts of the Valley that do NOT receive the RedPlum. There is NO way to add yourself to the list either. You would have to ask a friend that gets them that may not coupon or order them through a clipping service.

*If you are a savvy couponer then you will be purchasing more than one of your paper by utilizing the current subscription deal. The rule of thumb is one per person in your household. After 5, you are probably good or if you really want to get extreme, you can do up to 10 inserts (you would have to subscribe at your neighbors address) but you'd have to be a diligent couponer in order to utilize that many!

Printable coupons are a GREAT resource, here are a few: coupons.comsmartsource.com and redplum.com - sounds like the inserts, true they are a similar and sometimes the same, but it is better to have access to both the inserts alongside these printable coupons.

There are loadable coupons too, here are a few sites for these: shortcuts.comkrogerecoupons, and Just 4 U for Safeway stores. Manufacturers also produced coupons on their own websites and facebook pages. The best way is to subscribe to this blog, we will keep you up to date, when you need to print and when you should use these coupons. This will save you a ton of time!!!

You can also order clipped coupons from Coupons by Dede, there are many others out there, but she is my favorite and has whole inserts alongside a coupon reward system. To read more about ordering, visit the post here.

All You Magazine is the best magazine for coupons. It is only sold on the newsstand at Walmart, so I suggest a subscription, go here.

A few other companies have their own programs such as: P&G brandsaver has coupons here and Right @ Home does the same here.

Be on the watch for: peelies on the product, hangtags under the product, and blinkies machines that blink throughout the store while you are shopping.

Of course some companies will print coupons in their ads as well. Others even produce full coupon booklets; books found in the store that contain coupons. One great example is Vons (Safeway) will publish at least one book quarterly that is full of manufacturer and store coupons too.

There is also a right time to play your coupons. This is essential to being successful alongside stockpiling at these rock bottom prices. How do you know? Check out the match ups. We will let you know if what is hot and great for stockpiling. Each grocery/drug store match up will contain all coupons found against the sales in the ad. That doesn't mean they are all a good buy. So, check out a match up to see what that is like by going into weekly advertisements here and select a store. If you are in need of items on your shopping list and didn't see it matched up, that simply means it wasn't advertised anywhere, you can visit our Coupon Database here to see if there is a coupon associated with the item on your list. Using a coupon is better than not. For these need based items, try a low price leader store, such as Walmart or Target, they will be your best bet when an item is not advertised at a higher end store.

Different Types of Coupons:
There are 2 different types of coupons: a coupon is either a manufacturer coupon or a store coupon. Meaning that the manufacturer of the product is sending out the coupons and will reimburse the store where it was used or the store will take an adjustment to the price of the item. One tip is that most stores will take one of each per item. This is called stacking. We tend to see this at Vons, Walgreens and Target. Stacking 2 incentives can be very profitable!

Organizing Your Coupons:
Being organized with your coupons is key. It is hard enough if you are a mom shopping with your kids in the first place. If you are not a mom shopping with kids or like me, I try and never take them....being focused on a list will help you buy items that may not be cost effective to purchase at the time and you are more likely to go over budget. Having a plan is the best way to save.

My preferred method is keeping a file folder for the weekly inserts by insert type and then by date. When the advertisements are posted I then pull out the date of the specific insert and clip the matching coupons. I use the MyCityMommy Binder to keep my loose coupons organized for the shopping trips themselves. You could also just get cheap cancelled check files and carry them in a reusable bag, but our binder can fit larger inserts - this comes in handy when carrying your P&G or ads!

Here are a few categories that you could use to title the check file (keep first one blank for your current trip; which I labeled Current): Baby/Toys (you could do rainchecks and catalinas here if you don't have baby items), Beverages, Cereal/Breakfast, Snacks, Canned Foods, Other Food Items, Refrigerated, Frozen, Personal Care, Medicine, Paper Goods, Restaurant Coupons. If you have a baby category, then put your rainchecks and catalinas with your restaurant misc coupons. And viola! You are set. So, you may ask if I am filing away and only cutting for my current run, why do I have all these categories.

Well, the answer is that I am always picking up blinkie coupons along the way and after about 6 months of keeping the inserts, I chunk them, but do cut out any non-expired coupons and I keep these here too. Plus, there are those ones you get with samples, hangtags, ones that I decided not to use because they were out of the items, etc.. and of course my printables. This makes sorting out and getting rid of expired coupons very manageable.

One mistake people make is that they only clip what they will use. There are many times that I have made money or got something for free and donated or winded up using the product myself, that I wouldn't have normally gotten.

Here are some abreviations in the matchups that we use, to see the whole list visit the post here. I use SS for Smart Source, PG for Proctor and Gamble and detail any printable match ups in the advertisements. I will list the matching coupons to the sales advertisements by writing, (1/25, RP) this means the coupon is in the Red Plum insert on January 25th.

Now that you have a stockpile of coupons it's time to match them up to the sales ad's. Each week it seems as if the same coupons come around so you should have at least 3 coupons for dish washing liquid when it finally goes on sale for .99. Being aware of the sales is really key to making all of this work. If you just go to the store with your coupons and no sale is going on then the Palmolive you just bought for 2.85 with the .25 coupon didn't really help matters. You have to watch for the sales. Again, that is where the groupings in my matchup will help you, I utilize the price points and since this is my job, I can tell right away if it is hot or not. You will benefit from this without having to keep your own log, but you could if you wanted to. I wish there was a straight up percent, but 25% off on milk is not the same as 25% off cereal. Also deals come in cycles, 12 week ones mostly, that doesn't mean the deal will be the same, it just means that they coupon popularity will be back and that many stores will have a deal.

Last but not least is creating a stockpile of items so you don't have to purchase out of necessity. This means your non-perishables, toiletries, etc. pick them up when they are on sale and don't just purchase one purchase as many as you have coupons for. If you just get one then the previous purchase that cost $1 may cost you $4 next time even with your coupon. This impacts your budget monthly and not just one time.

If you would like more information and additional tips about BOGO coupons, etc... come to a workshop!

For more reading and store specifics read our FULL eBook (found on the right sidebar)!

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