Coley’sQ;s A Crash Course inthe Art of Couponing
This quick walk thru of coupons was put together to explain how “Super Couponers” shop. I highly recommend you attend a local coupon class in your area to learn more in depth. In the SE Michigan area, 2 great ladies host classes: Jolyn, of Macomb Money Savers Laura, of Sharpen Your Scissors
Why use coupons? So why use coupons? The obvious answer is, of course, to save money. Saving money will ease the stress of tight budgets and allow some expenses that you may not have been able to afford before. Using coupons and stockpiling will also save you the time and hassels of those last minute "what;sfor dinner" trips. Couponing will also allow you to provide charitable donations that you may not have been able to afford before.
Beginning to Coupon What are coupons? I'm sure most of you are familiar with what coupons are, but do you know how they work? Coupons are printed by manufacturers or stores to entice you to buy a product. The store is then reimbursed for the cost of the coupon by the company sponsoring it. Basically, coupons are used instead of cash toward the purchase of an item.
Couponing Myths Often, people who don’t use coupons do so for one of the following reasons: “Coupons don’t save you that much money” “There aren’t coupons for the items my family buys” “Using coupons takes too much time and hassel” Lets examine these statements a little closer to see if they are true….
Coupons don’t save that much money The key to expert coupon useage isn’t clipping coupons, its knowing when to use them. By changing the way you shop, you can increase your savings. The main theory behind savvy shopping is called stockpiling. By learning to pay attention to sales trends and using your coupons effectively, you can “stock up” on items your family frequently uses when they are at their lowest possible price. Sales cycles typically run or 4-8 week schedules. Let look at an example…
Cereal A is typically priced at $3.59 The average family purchase 2 boxes per week, at a yearly cost of $373.36! Lets say you’re an average shopper who uses a coupon that is worth $0.50, and shops at Store X which doubles coupons (more doubling coupons later!) You now paying $2.59/box, your yearly cost would be decreased to $134.68 Sounds like a great savings, right? But what if you could increase that savings even more?
Cereal A is now on sale for $1.99/box. You use your $0.50 off coupon, which doubles to $1. You are now paying $0.99/box. Decreasing your yearly cost to $102.96! That’s a quarter of the cost of a year at full price!
Knowing when to use coupons is all about waiting for items to hit their “rock bottom” prices. Like I stated before , sales are always on a cycle. Some sales are good, while others are great. By learning to recognize when the item is at its lowest possible cost, and using your coupon then, you can save even more. A great way to learn the cycles for items you buy is to start a Price Book. This will help you track prices, and get you familiar with what a good price is. Make sure to track prices in same units (i.e. ounces, pieces).
“There aren’t coupons for the items my family uses..” I must confess, that before I started couponing this was the reason I used. The truth was, I just wasn’t looking hard enough and was being a little picky. Once I started looking for coupons, I found that they are everywhere! The key is to be flexible and not brand loyal. But using coupons doesn’t mean sacrificing quality. Try to determine what products your family must have specific brands of, and which ones don’t matter as much to you. In my family, we love Folgers coffee, which rarely has high value coupons. Since we are less specific about other products, it allows more room in our grocery budget to allow us to “splurge” on a luxury we enjoy.
Where to find Coupons The largest, and most well known resource for coupons is of course the Sunday newspaper. Each week, there are inserts put out by several companies containing manufacturer’s coupons. SmartSource (SS) RedPlum (RP) General Mills (GM) Proctor and Gamble (PG) The general rule of thumb is to purchase 1 paper per family member to begin a good coupon stockpile.
Coupons can also be found online for printing at home. Typically, these coupons are restricted to two prints per computer. These are some the best site for online printing: Coupons.com Smartsource.com Red Plum.com All You.com Many manufacturer’s also have coupons on their websites: Snackpicks.com (Kellog) BettyCrocker.com Pillsbury.com Magazines are also a good resource. The best magazine is All You, and is issued monthly and sold only at Wal Mart.
Many coupons can be found in stores: Blinkies: Can be found hanging on store shelves. Often have a blinking red light, hence the the name “blinkie”. Tearpads: Also found on shelves, a great place to watch for these is at gas stations and convenience stores. Catalinas: These coupons are put out by a company called Catalina, and print at the register, from the printer next to your receipt printer. They are often referred to as “Cats” or “OYNO’s”. OYNO stand for On Your Next Order, as the coupon often print for a certain dollar amount off your next purchase.
“Using coupons takes too much time and hassel” Using coupons is all about being organized. The more planning you do, the less hassle there will be. Plan your shopping trips Sit down each week with your store ad to see what is on sale and find the coupons you will need to match that sale. Plan your meals You don’t need to know exactly what you will be eating, but try to pick meals based on what meat, produce etc that are on sale. Find a local coupon matchup blog to follow for alerts on the best deals. WWW.BargainBriana.com has a great device called The Frugal Map, which list local bloggers by state.
Organizing and Storing Coupons One of the key component to using coupons is having them well organized so you know what you have and they are easily accessible. There are several commonly used methods. Envelopes: Pros- Probably the simplest and cheapest method, simply sort your coupons into envelopes according to category or alphabetically. Cons- Once your start to accumulate many coupons, it can be hard to hold them all, or find them easily.
Binder: Using a 3 ring binder, along with baseball card inserts, all coupons are clipped and sorted into categories or alphabetically. Pros- All your coupons are easily viewable, and easy to take with you for those unexpected sales/deal finds. Cons- a lot of maintenance to keep current, a heavy binder to carry around.
Whole inserts – The quickest and easiest method, each week inserts are pulled from the paper, labeled with the date, and filed according to week. When a coupon is needed, you search for it on a coupon database, pull the correct week and clip the coupon wanted. Pros- Easy and fast. Cons- Not having your coupons on you for those unexpected deals/sales. Requires more pre planning before shopping trips. Coupon databases can be found at Afullcup.com and Couponmom.org
To use a database, simply type in the item your searching for. Then go back to the paper it is listed from and clip the coupon.
Super Couponing Now its time to take all we’ve learned and put it to its best use. Remember our cereal example? Using coupons with the sale, we were able to get our price down to $0.99/box. Lets say that today you found out thru a local coupon matchup that Store X was offering a Catalina deal on Cereal A, buy 4 boxes and receive a coupon for $4 on your next order (OYNO). So we purchase 4 boxes on sale at $1.99. We use our $0.50/1 coupon, which doubles to $1, so we pay $3.96 for 4 boxes of cereal. But……
After we pay for our cereal, we receive our $4 coupon back for meeting the requirements of the catalina deal. That means we actually made a profit of $0.04! FREE CEREAL!!! You can then use your $4 OYNO to purchase other items you needed, thus making your original $4 spending go even further. I like to save my OYNO’s for use on meat or produce, since these items rarely have coupons.
Hopefully, this quick crash course has helped you understand the couponing world a little bit better. I encourage you to attend a local couponing class in your area, as live interaction classes can teach so much more than a quick run thru.