Tip # 1 – Try not to be brand picky You are less likely to get the best deals if you are dead set on a particular brand. Obviously, there will be brands you prefer and brands you outright won’t touch, but the more open you are to a variety of brands, the more likely you are to save money.
ORGANIZATION! I’m not sure I made that big enough! Organization is sooo important. You could clip every coupon imaginable, but if you’re not organized, you’ll never find them and never save money.
How to organize You have to find out what works best for you. Some people prefer binders, some use different envelopes, I use an accordion folder. It’s small enough to fit into my bag, but large enough to hold all of my coupons. There are 12 tabs in my folder. The first six are for non-food coupons and the last six are for food coupons. I change these labels every few months because I find different things that work for me.
Right now my tabs are: Skin Hair Cleaning Meds/First Aid Paper/Bags Non-food Other Frozen Dairy Snacks Dry Goods Bread, Pasta, Cereal Food Other
More organization Those sections worked well for me for a while, but as I became more of a couponer, I realized that I needed more division. I now separate each tab in to other “mini-sections” using paper clips. They’re not labeled, but just looking at the first coupon makes it easy to tell what is what. Here’s an example from my “Skin” section:
Hand soap and Wipes
Tip # 2 – Take your time If you have never tried to have an organized couponing routine before, some of the process can seem overwhelming. Take your time and find what works for you.
Getting started - Matchups Matchups are the combination between sales, coupons, rebates and money back coupons. The beautiful thing is that there are many sites that figure out your favorite stores’ weekly matchups for you! Not only do they tell you what is on sale and what coupons to use, they will link you to online coupons.
Coupondivas.com CVS Dollar General Harris Teeter Kroger Meijer Publix Rite Aid Target Walgreen’s Walmart I know I’ve talked about coupondivas.com over and over and over again, but seriously, that site rocks! Of the stores you all gave me, almost all of them can be found on coupondivas.com. (and many others as well)
Other Coupon Sites Thekrazycouponlady.com – I like that she actually shows the different transactions, but her variety of stores is not as wide. Savingmyfamilymoney.com – I just stumbled onto this site looking for something else. At first glance, they seem to really awesome. Weusecoupons.com – Matchups are listed in the forum. I’m not really familiar with this one, but it looks pretty good. **Of course there are a ton more, these are just the ones I am most familiar with.***
Notes on other stores: Someone mentioned Shop ‘n Save – newenglandcouponsaver.com was the only site I could find with matchups, but they’re not consistent week to week (mostly seem to be every other week). I could not find any matchup sites even remotely consistent for Sentry or Khol’s. Sorry!
Getting ready to clip! I check out my matchup sites first. This helps me to set aside the coupons I’ll be using this week when I start clipping. I also print all of the coupons they link me to.
Tip #3 – The “clip everything” dilemma Many couponing sites will tell you to clip everything, even the stuff you are likely not to buy, because you never know when something will be free or even a money maker (an item that the store pretty much pays you to buy). --- This is true to an extent, however, clipping every single coupon and keeping them organized takes more time than I think most of us have.
The solution? This is another “find what works for you” things. I do not clip every coupon. Those brands I refuse to use? I won’t clip their coupons. Yeah, I might miss a free deal or a money maker every so often, but that’s okay because I also value my time. After a while, you will start to notice that many of the same items or types of items are always on sale super cheap. For example, I’ve come to discover that between Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreen’s that I can get free toothpaste almost every week. So even though I don’t need toothpaste, I always clip the coupons (and add them to my basket of things to donate). Always clip coupons for new items. There is a *really* good chance that you will get that item for free within a week or two.
Setting up Here’s what I have when I sit down to coupon – My circulars, Saturday inserts and Sunday paper (I have the paper delivered), coupon folder, notebook (I usually just use the scraps from my printed coupons though), printed coupons, calculator, note papers, paper clips and scissors
Thursday Circulars Every Thursday, my weekly circulars are on my doorstep. I take out the RedPlum coupons and the circulars for Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, CVS, ACME, Shop Rite and Thrift Way – pretty much the only stores I shop at.
Tip #4 – Are you *really* saving? Don’t spend more money in gas than you’re saving in coupons! I know this sounds silly to point out, but I know too many people that do this. Go to the stores that you already pass in your travels.
Saturday Inserts Since I subscribe to the Sunday paper, I get my inserts on Saturdays - last week’s included 2 Smart Source inserts! (Sometimes it also includes P&G) (I check the Sunday paper every week as well, SOMETIMES there are coupons there, usually not – obviously if you buy the paper at the store, that’s where your coupons will be.)
Clipping and organizing I organize (or try to) as I clip. Because of space, I might only separate into the main categories and split them into the “mini-categories” later.
Set aside coupons from matchups The lil’ blue note papers are what I jotted down from the matchup sites and as I clipped, I pulled out the ones I remembered from those lists.
Going through Circulars The matchups are great, but they may not catch everything. I sit down with my notes from the matchups and go through my circulars, making rough lists of everything I want to buy and the coupons involved. Mini tip – For items that are new to you and that you think you’ll have difficulty finding in the store, cut out the picture from the circular.
Money Back Coupons Many stores offer money back coupons when you buy certain items. CVS calls them “Extra Care Bucks”; Walgreen’s calls them “Register Rewards”; Rite Aid calls them “+Up Rewards” These coupons are used on your next purchase and are almost like gift certificates. They can be used on anything (with a few exceptions like cigs, gift cards, milk, etc.)
Money Back Coupons cont. Because these coupons have to be used on a future purchase, sometimes splitting up your transactions can save you more money on the spot. Or you can pay more money out of pocket on the first week and save your money back coupons for the following week. It’s all about preference.
Rebates Many stores offer mail in (or internet) rebates. These are really awesome and can definitely up your savings factor. Unfortunately, I suck at remembering to send mine in (or even enter them in online), so I avoid them all together. Hence, the lack of information regarding rebates in this lesson. (Maybe someone else is really good at this and can add it in for another lesson?)
Planning transactions I always make a rough list of what I want to buy, what coupons I have and what money back coupons they will give me. Then I figure out the best way to split my transactions so I put out the least amount of money. My rough plan is on the left. My finished plan is on the right. For Walgreen’s last week, Hall’s Warmups were on sale for $1.00 and there was RR for $1.00. Clorox Clean-up was on sale for 2/$6.00 – I had $1.00 off 2 coupon and there was $2.00 RR on 2. I planned to buy those items first. Total OOP = $6.00 ($1.00 for the Halls and $5.00 for the Clorox after my coupon). I would get $3.00 in RR back. . . . . My second transaction would be the SmartRinse - $2.49 less a $1.00 coupon and 4 cans of Progresso soup for $5.00 less a $1.00 coupon. Total = $5.49, but then I would use the $3.00 in RRs, making my out of pocket $2.49.
Shopping plans My completed plans for CVS, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid and Thrift Way, with the coupons attached.
All of my coupon plans go in the folder “use this week” and then into my coupon book. And then I am ready to shop!
Tip #5 – Be prepared to improvise TYPICALLY – the earlier in the week you shop, the better chance of everything being in stock. It can also help to know what days your stores receive their deliveries. But no matter how much you prepare, there is always a chance something will be out of stock, so it helps to know how to improvise. I usually step aside in the store and work out some new figures. Sometimes I do end up spending a tad more – sometimes I end up spending less.
Substitutions and Rain checks Many stores will offer substitutions (but not always allow for your coupon). Rite Aid and Walgreen’s will not give you a rain check for the money back coupons. Ex: Scope is on sale for $2.00 with a $2.00 RR, but it’s out of stock. You can get a rain check for the scope for $2.00, but not the $2.00 RR – so it will not be free when you go back to buy it. CVS will give you a rain check for their Extra Care Buck. When you buy the item, remind them that there is an ECB and they will print it out. CVS’ rain checks do not expire!
CVS – 10/11/11 NOT PICTURED – 8pk. Sparkle Paper Towels (Also, if you can’t tell – there are 2 bottles of 409.) Regular price = $70.96. What I paid = $26.17. Total savings = $44.79
Walgreen’s – 10/11/11 Regular price = $18.79 What I paid = $5.23 Total savings = $13.56
Rite Aid – 10/11/11 Regular price = $32.23 What I spent = $15.47 +Up Rewards received = $17.48 Remember the +Ups are just like gift certificates, so Rite Aid actually paid me $2.01 to buy everything here. (The Preparation H was $3.00 on sale, with a $3.00 +Up Reward AND I had a $2.00 coupon. --- There’s no TMI here – I “bought” it cause they paid me to!) Total savings = $34.24
My total savings on 10/11/11 The total regular price from all stores = $121.98 Total I paid (less money back coupons) = $29.39 Total savings = $92.59 or 75%
Tip #6 – Carry all coupons Bring your coupons with you all of the time. You never know when you are going to make a random stop at a store. Having your coupons on you will help ensure you always save money. Bring ALL of your coupons when you go shopping because you never know when you’ll see a great deal that was not expected.
Tip #7 – Always check the clearance racks This is kind of continued from Tip #6. Many stores will have a designated section or shelf for clearance items. Find it and check it out . . . Every time! Example – A few weeks ago, I checked CVS’ clearance shelf. There was a set of 3 lip glosses shaped like flowers and a little panda eraser from Ty that were both 75% off. Hello – stocking suffers! I bought them for a total of $1.75, but apparently CVS was running an ECB on summer items because I received $1.25 back in ECBs, making the two items 50 cents!
A few extra notes If you want to go a more ‘extreme’ route, sometimes if you call the local post office or other places, you can get extra papers/coupon inserts for free. Donate extra items or those items that were free but you have no use for to a local shelter. Instead of throwing away your expired coupons, send them to military families overseas. They can use coupons past the expiration date. There are a ton of places to do this – here’s one: https://www.facebook.com/CouponsToTroops?sk=wall