Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Couponing 101

Now clipping coupons is not just about saving money...I really like to see how much money I can save and what I can get for free. Sometimes it's like a game. A few weeks ago I was at SuperFresh where they double coupons up to $.99. Most of the other stores around here only double up to $.50. Anyways, on this particular day they were tripling coupons. I love triple coupon week. When the clerk was done scanning my 20 or so coupons and gave me my total, the guy standing behind me with his pregnant wife said, "wow, those things really add up. You saved like $30 just with coupons." I smiled, made some cutsy comment and left thinking, "it was really close to $45, but yep...they add up!" Just so you know, my grand total was only $48, so I saved about 50% off my bill just in coupons. Granted, if they hadn't been tripled, it wouldn't have been that much, but if I didn't have the coupons, I would have savednothing and my bill would have been $92. So it can make a difference.

Let's start with the basics...where to get coupons. You're best source is the sunday paper. Our neighbor is gracious enough to give us his sale inserts so we don't have to buy one, but even if I bought it, it's only like $1.50 a week...not bad when you're saving $45! You can also find coupons online at places like smartsource.com & redplum.com. Keep in mind, though, that if you print coupons off the internet, you are most likely using color ink and might be spending more to print them then you actually save, especially when they use an entire page for one coupon and add an advertisement for the product. You get that a lot on those sites. In order to print coupons, you also have to install add-ons, "coupon printers", which can be difficult to get rid of (especially coupons.com). I rarely print a coupon online. Besides they don't really have that many different ones than the paper. I will, however, sign up for coupons online. At flamingoworld.com, you can find a list of grocery coupons that you sign up for from the manufacturer. These are normally much higher values than the regular ones. Still, you're best bet is the Sunday paper.

Before you start clipping, it's good to know your favortite stores' coupon policies? Do they double? Up to what amount? Do they allow competitor's coupons? Do they accept online coupons (many don't)? While you're checking out the coupon policy, ask about their pricing guarantee. It's a little known fact, but most stores will give you an item for FREE if it rings up the wrong price. You have to wait until your transaction is complete, then take your receipt to customer service, but for free, it's worth it. Store misprice all the time. I get something for free almost every week, and since I use coupons, a lot of times, I actually make money. Last week, I bought a three pack of socks that were supposed to be $2.99. It was going to be a great deals anyways since I had a $1.00 off coupon and a $2.00 mail in rebate. But to sweeten the deal, they rang up $4.94! So not only did I get them for free, but I made $2.59 (- $.41 stamp). Not bad, huh? So the morale of the story is to know your store's policies.

The system! I use a 5x7 index card box with dividers for A-Z, plus ones for Expiring, Target, BJ's, CVS, and the specific grocery stores I shop. Now a lot of people ask me why I organize my coupons alphabetically instead of by category. It's much easier to find what I need when they are alphabetical. And as for the other dividers. Sometimes when you check out you'll receive register receipts that are only good at that store. I file those under the store names instead of the product. Stores like Target & CVS will allow you to combine a store coupon with a manufacturer which just sweetens the deal. I like my deals sweet just like my coffee. After you finish clipping your coupons, alphabetize them by brand name. I do have a few exceptions, cereals are filed under the company name like Kellogg's or General Mills, as well as brands like Kraft, Pillsbury & Betty Crocker. Of course you can organize your coupons however you like. I've used several systems over the years and this is by far the best for me.

People also tell me that they think coupons are a waste of time because generic brands are less expensive or because they don't find coupons for the brands they buy. I say...that may very well be true. Sometimes the generic brand is a better deal, but that's not generally the rule for me. And if you are picky about brands, I might not be able to help you anyways. Many times I'll walk out of a store with several FREE or super cheap items. I rarely pay more than a $1 for boxes of cereal. I almost never pay more than $.50 for deodorant. Toothpaste is normally free, as well as toothbrushes and taco seasoning packets.

Later I'll clue you in on the hidden secrets the stores don't want you to know about...there are a bunch! In the meantime, think about starting up a coupon collection. By the way, unless I know that I will absolutely never use a specific coupon, like for Depends or Osteoporosis meds, then I clip them all. You never know when you can use one for something free. And even if you don't use the product, you can donate it to a homeless shelter or halfway house.

Until later comes...

5 comments:

Emily said...

:-) I'm on the edge of my seat for the next installment. :-)

Katy said...

Do you leave your coupon box in the car? I think that's my biggest issue...I cut out the coupons, but I end up running out to pick up this or that that we're out of and forget the coupons...

Becca said...

I read it

katy said...

Ok, I had to share my story with you....though you have more important things now, I figured once you were ready I would forget and this way you know you're making a difference ;-) I was heading to Safeway yesterday (because they had ground beef for $0.99/lb!!) and I was out, and we can always use a little more food...so I thought of you and pulled out my file folder of coupons I haven't gotten to yet. I also went through my ziplock bag of coupons and pulled out the expired ones (yeah, I need a better organization system than a ziplock bag, but I'm new at this!) When I left Safeway, I left with 15lbs of meat, 2lbs of strawberries, as well as 14 other items. I spent $45.00 and my savings was $71! Yup. $71. I matched up the coupons with what was on sale, and they doubled my $0.50 coupons, so I had a 61% savings. I thought you'd be proud!

Clare said...

If anyone has a Giant Eagle store near them they have a deal where for every $50 you spend in gas you get .20 per gallon off of gas. it accumualtes over the month so if you spend $200 a month in gas you get .80 off each gallon for one fill-up. kinda of a nice little perk especially if you have a big car. Just make sure you save the dicount for a time when you are filling up completely. Also it's only at thier gas station but those are gnerally within a mile of the store.