Thursday, December 8, 2011

Couponing - You Knew It Was Coming...

Ah couponing - a more up-and-coming trend thanks to shows like "Extreme Couponing". (FYI, Jason has designated only the pantry and 3 additional shelves for my stockpile - after that I am finished, according to him. This squashes my true dream of stockpiling enough toilet paper for the rest of my life. :-( )

I have been following coupons for almost two years now, but found it to be overwhelming, intimidating, and difficult to navigate. It wasn't until some friends from church attended a coupon class and shared their knowledge with me that I was really able to start making a habit of couponing. I now coupon regularly and love the savings that I accumulate by just stockpiling and watching sales!

Here are what I would consider the Top 5 Beginner Coupon Things to Know:

(5) Stockpiling is the way to maximize savings with coupons. Grocery stores run in cycles with their sales so purchasing items you need when they are at their lowest price and "stockpiling" them is the way to go. For example, if you buy and eat one box of cereal/month for $4.00 you would spend $24.00 on cereal over 6 months. However, if that cereal goes on sale for $1.50 and you buy 6 boxes then you've only spent $9.00 and saved $15.00 or 62.5%. Simple math.

(4) You can coupon as much or as little as you'd like (assuming you don't have a coupon addiction like the women on Extreme Couponing who spend 30+ hours/week on coupons... in addition to full-time jobs. No thanks.) If you have time, then you can look at sales for multiple stores. If you don't, then you know you can easily pull just that week's sales and shop by the list. On average I spend about 2 hours/week on grocery shopping (including cutting coupons, making my shopping list, and actually grocery shopping).

(3) Utilize the online resources that are already available to make your life easier. There are so many coupon blogs, websites, etc. that will match up the week's grocery sales with all available coupons in the newspaper and on the internet. Find a couple of websites that you like and use them regularly for your shopping (I've listed some below that I frequent). I get coupons on the Internet, through the newspaper, and through various products (peelies, extra coupons inside, etc.)

(2) Be prepared when you hit the store - know the store's coupon policies, have your coupons organized, pulled for that shopping trip, and double checked for the items/expirations. And if there is an error after you've already been rung up, simple go to the Customer Service desk and talk to them. I have found the representatives to be kind and helpful if I am kind and respectful.

(1) BE ORGANIZED! Have a coupon box/notebook with different categories. This will greatly reduce the time you spend gathering coupons on a weekly basis. It will take some initial setup time to get your system together, but it's worth it!!

Here is my coupon organizer -

Here are some of my most top shopping trips -
*Spent $13, saved $70
*Spent $32, saved $129
*Spent $36, saved $133
*Spent $14, saved $72
Now here's what I call extreme couponing!! (They were wet - I saved them and dried them so I could use them.)

If you are interested in getting started couponing, then I would suggest using some of the following resources (below are all links to the websites):
Southern Savers
The Grocery Game (requires a $5/month subscription - this is the one that I use the most)
The Krazy Coupon Lady

Online coupon sites (below are all links to the websites):
Smart Source
Red Plum

Here are some other tips/tricks -
*I recommend starting a separate email account for couponing. A lot of products send recipes, coupons, etc. and you don't want them to fill up your regular email inbox.
*Sign up for newsletters, etc. with your real mailing address. I get a lot of (high value) coupons in the mail that I wouldn't otherwise.
*You can print up to two coupons per computer by using the back buttons on your Internet browser.

This is just a small bit of my couponing knowledge/experience. If you decide to start couponing or already are and have questions, I'd love to answer them! Just use the "Contact" button at the top of this webpage to send me an email. :-)

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