By Jennifer E Clark
How to Coupon
When you first learn how to coupon, you may feel overwhelmed. How can I find time to learn? When am I going to clip and organize all those coupons? Is it worth the time and effort? Working a full-time job can add even more doubts and additional stress.
Once you have the tools and knowledge of how to coupon, the time it takes to put into couponing is well worth the effort. You will be able to run in and out of a grocery store in no time flat with a cart full of groceries, saving 50% or more! You can have a pantry full of stocked food and products. You will never pay out of pocket for toothpaste, floss, condiments, shampoos, soaps and more! Couponing will change the way you shop!
Working full-time will give you some advantages but also a few disadvantages, but there are ways around those. You might have to work a little bit harder but isn’t it worth saving your family $200-$400 per month or more? Not everyone is an extreme couponer and no one really has 40hrs a week to devote to just couponing. I’m going to show you some short cuts to save you time and money. Most important, I want you to understand that couponing doesn’t have to control your life.
Getting started, couponing is very frustrating. Start out by learning slowly. On my first shopping trip, I only saved 15% of my total bill. That was because I only had a few coupons to start out with. I was truly disappointed, but I didn’t give up. I was expecting huge savings like on the show. As I started couponing more and more each week, I started to understand that I couldn’t save exactly like those on Extreme Couponing because I had to purchase milk, eggs, bread, produce and meat. If you watch the show carefully, you will notice they are only buying 20 items of the same product. If you had 20 coupons and you only bought 20 items of the same product, you’re going produce 90% or more in savings. They also speed up the checkout process and don’t show you exactly what coupons they are using. The show also doesn’t reveal to you where they found high-dollar coupons. You just can’t find or get coupons for $4.00 off one product. Once you are past the point that Extreme Couponing is just a show, you will come to understand what true coupon saving is all about.
I coupon on certain days of the week, Saturday is when I buy my 2 papers and Sunday is the day I organize coupons and clip. This takes probably an hour to two on my Sunday. My husband watches my son for me while I do this. If my husband is not home I do this during nap time or when he’s watching a movie. This particular day helps prepare me for next week’s shopping trip. I also collect inserts from friends and family that are given to me during the week. By the time I’m ready to cut my coupons out I have about 4 inserts of Smart Source, Red Plum and a few others. During the week, usually Tuesday or Wednesday night is when I get my shopping list together. Thursday is when I shop at Kroger and Publix. Yes, I shop at two stores in the same night. This gets me everything I need and I get the BEST sales at both stores. I compare the best prices at both locations. I can do this because my Publix and Kroger are less than a mile apart. If I only had one store close to me, then that was the store I shopped at. You have to save on gas too! Remember you need to plan and prepare a shopping trip if you want to save 50% or more on groceries. It’s worth the time and effort when you see the savings come back in your wallet! I’m going to show you step by step showing you tips and tricks on exactly how I find, cut and save money using coupons.
Hunting Down those Pesky Coupons
When you’re not looking for coupons you really don’t see them. When you are looking for coupons they are everywhere! Some are hidden, some are out in the open and some are in places you are familiar with. Where you ask? It’s easy!! First, the most obvious spot is your local Sunday paper. Every Sunday, except holiday week, they will have coupon inserts in your local city paper. The general rule is one coupon per person in your home. This depends on how many people are in your family. I get in total about 4 of each insert, giving me 4 of the same coupon. You want as many of the same coupon because you’re going to start building a stock pile. This is how you’re going to save money on top of saving at the grocery store. I currently live in Cobb County, GA. which is great because they give out the AJC nightly Thursday paper for FREE on my front lawn. The Evening Edge carries a preview of the Sunday paper coupons. It’s not a full insert but it still has some great coupons and it’s free! You can call the AJC and ask if they can send the Evening Edge to your neighborhood. Check those odd ball papers; you never know if you’ll find coupons inside. I also get coupon inserts from friends and family. My mother-in law gives me her unused coupon inserts. This adds a little more to my pile. You will be surprise at how many people are willing to let go of those coupons. Ask neighbors too! They may be willing to hand them off to you.
Check your stores. Publix and Kroger have store coupons which are valuable. Store coupons can be combined with manufacture coupons. This gives you maximum savings on one item! Kroger has online e-coupons you can load onto your Kroger card. You can sign up as a member and load your coupons for free! Kroger also tracks what you buy and sends you coupon books in the mail. I have pets and buy pet food, so they send me a coupon booklet with pet coupons inside. When you sign up make sure to list your current address. Currently, I have about 4 to 5 Kroger coupon books from the mail. They also send you bonus coupons for FREE items too! Publix also has coupon books that you can find either right when you walk in or at the customer service desk. Just ask for the latest coupon book besides the yellow advantage and the green advantage flier. You can also check my blog for the latest coupon books. Some of them you have to sign up for and they get mailed to you. Publix also has a baby program that is awesome!! If you have a young one in diapers, sign up! They will send you free items, coupons and more. Just go to their website and sign up for all their programs.
Printable coupons are easy to find and print right at home. Coupons found online sometimes are not in your local paper. Manufactures place coupons on websites like Coupons.com, Redplum.com, Smart Source.com and your favorite brands websites. If you are a Facebook fan, you can also get coupons on Facebook! These coupons are manufacture coupons and will state that on the top of the printed coupon with the expiration date. When printing your coupons, only print what you think you will use or when you have your shopping list. You can waste a lot of paper and ink printing coupons you will never use. We want to save money everyplace we can!
You can purchase your coupons. Yes, eBay, CouponsbyDede.com and CouponClippers.com are a few of the places you can purchase coupons. Why would you buy coupons if you can get them for free?? Well, you are buying the Sunday paper so technically you are buying coupons. Is it against the law to sell coupons? Yes it is. So how are they getting away with this? Well, it’s the service you are paying for. When you buy the paper, it’s the paper you are paying for. You are paying for someone to clip and ship those coupons. Not for the coupons itself. Why do I want to use a coupon clipping service? Coupon clipping services may carry a coupon of a product you use a lot. If you use a lot of detergent and notice a great sale at the beginning of the week and they have an awesome coupon, you want to stock up. In my collecting, I normally will have 4 coupons alike of one item. If I want more of those coupons I can both buy more papers at $2.00 a pop and have a stack of newspapers or I can order that coupon for pennies on the dollar. Most coupon websites have a minimum order. They want you to buy at least $5.00 to $8.00 of coupons. So when I want a certain coupon, I look at other coupons as well. I also look at the expiration dates. Make sure that are FAR enough in advance to predict the next sale. You don’t want to buy 10 or 20 coupons that expire next week, if that item is not on sale that week. As mentioned above those are the main sources where I collect coupons. There are other sources like dumpster diving, coupon trains, magazines, and binkies in your store isle, samples you get, cash registers like Catalina coupons that get printed out at Kroger and inside product boxes. You need to keep an eye out for those really awesome coupons. Some papers will print a coupon for $10.00 off your $50.00 store coupon in an odd section of the paper. Catalina at Kroger also prints coupons like $3.00 off your next purchase. That’s why reading blogs like mine or other coupon blogs will give you a heads up on great coupons. I go to at least 3 to 4 coupon blog websites. I read on what’s new, where I can find the latest coupon book and how to use my coupons when I get them.
Cutting and Organizing
How to cut and organize your coupons- This is actually not as hard as it sounds when you have a pile of coupon flyers to cut. I organize my flyers into piles of Redplum, Smart Source and P&G. I then start to rip each page out and place them on the table into like piles. Once I have everything ripped out, thrown away and organized I then start cutting my coupons. I don’t cut each coupon out. I take the small pile, usually 4 pages and cut them all at the same time. This trick saves me time cutting. Once the coupons are cut. I place them on my kitchen table in piles according to my coupon book. One pile of Fridge, one pile of Freezer, one pile of Laundry, etc. till I have all my coupons cut. I then open my coupon binder and insert all my coupons. If I notice any expired coupons, this is when I take them out. Expired coupons are usually in the middle of the month and the end of the month. Example 12/15/11 and 12/31/11. You can either throw out your expired coupons or donate them to men and women’s families in the military. They can use expired coupons 6 months after the expiration date.
Once I have my coupons organized, I’m ready to get my shopping list together. I normally look at Publix deals on Tuesday. (Kroger deals come out on Sunday) This way its 2 days before the sale starts. I can then pull coupons, print coupons or hunt down booklets I need that have the coupons I want. Once you have collected all the coupons that are on your shopping list, place in a coupon holder. This can be a small envelope or a coupon holder you buy at the store. When putting your coupons together put all of your like coupons together. If you have a store coupon and a manufacture coupon for the same product, try to keep them together. Next, you want to place any FREE items in the front of your pile. You also want to put those FREE items on the cashier check out belt first as well. This will help your cashier find those FREE items fast with those coupons and they will be very thankful for your organization skills. As you shop, you may find that some of the items are gone or not priced on sale per your list. Just simply pull those coupons out of your pile. Cashiers like couponers to be organized and ready. This way you don’t hold up the line and the customers behind you don’t get upset.
Change the Way you Shop
Now that you have clipped your coupons and have them safely stored in your binder, you are ready to start shopping. First and foremost you need to be open minded in trying new products. Coupons come out all the time to let consumers try new products. Sometimes you find great deals and find products you like. Other times the product isn’t worth getting. It’s up to you and your family what products you want to purchase. I currently have 2-3 different laundry soaps that I buy. I like Tide, ALL and Gain. If Wisk has a great coupon I’ll be more than happy to buy Wisk at a lower sale price that week than Tide or Gain. This goes for all products you buy. If you or a family member only likes a particular brand then when that coupon comes out make sure to really stockpile on that product. This will save you money in the long run.
Before I started couponing I always bought generic or store brand items because it was cheaper. Sometimes the store brand was just as good as name brand, but most of the time the quality just wasn’t as great. Now when I shop I only buy name brand items because it’s much cheaper than the store brand. When you get your list together you are making a grocery list of what is on sale. You are starting your stockpile. Once you have your on sale list, you then add items you need like meat, dairy, fruits and veggies. You can find coupon match-ups on my blog or on other blogs that I’ve listed. Make sure those blogs are in your local shopping area so the prices are the same at your local grocery store. Every store varies. Most coupon blogs with give you an indication of what is a good deal and to stock up on this item. This takes the guess work out. A good general rule is under $1.00 is a good stock up deal. Certain items like health products you can find $0.25-FREE are awesome stock up prices.
Sometimes you won’t be able to find that coupon. Generally if I don’t have that coupon, I don’t buy it. Don’t worry, that item will go on sale again. The more you shop each week and build your stockpile the less you will have to buy later on. You will see your grocery bill drop in a few months of couponing. Once you start your couponing journey you will find ways that suit your needs and before you know it you’re a couponing pro!
Want to learn more? Come check out my eBook “A Working Mom’s Guide to Couponing” You can find this ebook on Amazon, Barnes N Noble, Smashwords and on my personal blog, Susie Qpon.com
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