I’m coming up on a year of being a couponer. Sure, that doesn’t make me an expert. However, I have learned a few things. First let me say, I’m a stay-at-home-mom with two young children. When my friend suggested couponing to me, considering the budget busting that was happening daily, I was eager to give it a shot. Then she began to relay all of this information about how to get started, what I needed, and the rules of this and that. Letting out a long sigh, I thought, hmmm maybe this might be too much. She assured me to give it a go and offered to help me along the way. So, I started down the path. It wasn’t long after, I felt overwhelmed and impatient. Because, one of the first things you need to know is that in the beginning, you need coupons. Plain and simple. Waiting for Sundays to roll around was like waiting for Christmas. In the meantime, I was gathering my supplies. Binder, sleeves, tab dividers, and printing out a few here and there. After a month or so, I had enough. I was clipping, sorting, and filing. It was time. Time to make my first go. At a real store. Walgreens. I wrote out my list (which took all day and numerous phone calls with said friend). Eventually, I made it there and began. They were out of several items on my list and I thought I was going to blow it. After a few more calls to my friend and list adjustments, it was time to check out. Nervous as I could be, I watched the check-out. Waiting for a moment that there wouldn’t be anyone else at the register. Surprisingly, it turned out ok. As I left the store, still shaking, I felt amazingly good. I did it! My total out of pocket (OOP) was $9.69 and my total savings was $43.48. Yes, I kept my receipts. That was my ah ha moment.
Time is Money and Money is Time:
Some time went by and many, many, many transactions. There was a problem though. Now the coupons were coming at me full speed it seemed. If I didn’t get to clipping the coupons for a couple weeks, I was destined to spend two days clipping, sorting, and filing. Granted, if I didn’t have kids and I had a lot more time, it wouldn’t take as long I’m sure. The point is, it was becoming very difficult to keep up. Then adding the list making process to actually do the shopping and the fact that I was still phoning for help a bit…well let’s say I was about to quit.
My mom became very ill and was admitted to the hospital. Things were looking grim. My siblings and I were staying by her side as much as we could. She was sleeping a lot, so I brought my coupons with me. Believe it or not, I got caught up. Meanwhile, the nurses were coming in and seeing what I was doing. They asked a ton of questions. Asking me if I was an “Extreme Couponer”. I laughed and shyly said no, I’m just a beginner. Realization kicked in and I decided I couldn’t quit. I mean I was saving. My husband wasn’t making $60.00 Walgreen’s runs to get deodorant, toothpaste, and diapers anymore. Thank goodness! Something else had transpired that I hadn’t realized at first also. I was buying more fresh fruits and vegetables. Were there coupons for these. No, not really. I was saving so much in the other parts of my grocery bill that there was more room in the budget for fresh produce. There was a downside to this though. Getting lists and coupons ready for groceries took even LONGER than the Walgreens or CVS runs I was doing.
Unfortunately, my mom did pass, and I was too distraught to think about coupons for awhile. Which of course led to so many coupons to clip. Once again, even though it was helping our budget, I thought I would quit. It was just taking too much time to save money. I ended up muttering through for a couple months with only a few trips here and there and doing minimal clipping. Obviously, I’m still couponing so I did come up with a way to make it work.
What Saved My Couponing:
1. Simply put…tab dividers with pockets. Two pockets per divider.
This is definitely the most important change I made. I no longer clip my coupons to file them. Instead, I have tab dividers that have pockets. One on each side. What I did, was file the first week’s inserts of each month in one pocket. The second week of that same month in the pocket on the other side. Then added one more divider to accommodate the weeks three and four of that month. So, I have two dividers for each month for a total of 24 dividers. They have the tabs already on them so I wrote: Jan. Wk 1+2 on each side of the first divider. Then Jan. Wk 3+4 on both sides of the second divider. You could do this differently. Ex: Jan. Wk 1 then flip it over and write Jan. Wk 2 and so on. Another possibility would be to write dates, however, you would have to change them the following year as the coupons will come on different dates. Also noting, that there weeks we don’t get inserts. The reason this is important is, I file them by insert dates. Smartsource (SS) 1/29/12 got filed into the pocket labeled Jan. Wk 3+4. Since it came in week 4 of January. I do file all of the inserts together. Redplum (RP), Smartsource (SS), Procter & Gamble (PG). There is no sorting them. They go straight into the appropriate week regardless of the company. I clip all of the coupons that are on my list before I head to the store.
labeled by Month and Week
-What about deals you find while shopping that are not on your list?
If you have access to the internet on your phone you can pull up a coupon database (CouponDivas.com is one that I’ve used and bookmarked for easier access) while in store, search for the item, then clip the coupon. I keep a small pair of scissors in my binder. There are many databases out there. Here is another I like to use found at Hotcouponworld.com.
-So how much time did this save?
Well, I don’t clip any coupons on Sunday, unless I’m going shopping. Also, think of all of the coupons you’re probably never going to use. You don’t have to bother clipping them ever ..if not needed. In short, a lot!
*If you have anymore questions on anything in my post, feel free to leave them in comments or email me. I will be glad to help.
2. Match-ups that can be printed out.
Remember, I used to write all of these out. Then do the math and figure out transactions. It took up a lot of my time. These websites will have check boxes next to each match-up for a particular store. You click the ones you need, then print it out at the end. Major time-saver. I’ve even recently found a great website that totals the amount you’re paying for all of those items you’ve chosen. By looking at the website, I wasn’t sure how trustworthy it was. It’s turned out to be very helpful though. Which is Couponmom.com. You’ll need to register to use it, but I’d say it was worth it. The first one I discovered was CouponDivas. That link should take you straight to match-ups. There is no need to register at website. There are more and I’m planning a list of all of the best websites in a later post.
3. Making shorter lists.
I’ve learned that I don’t need to buy EVERYTHING that’s on sale with a coupon match-up. Since we do use diapers/pull-ups and wipes with our daughter, I usually try to make my purchases around that alone. Balancing this can sometimes be tricky, but it does make sense. For example: If I’m going to buy diapers and wipes, and the total would be $11.00, I buy just enough Register Reward (RR) items to pay for the diapers and wipes with the least amount of OOP expense. Not much more than that usually. Less coupons to clip, less work figuring out transactions, and less time hunting down the items once I’m in the store. This may change soon though, as I just learned that I can use RR at my local Jewel-Osco. When it comes to grocery shopping, I’ve started shopping every two weeks instead of once a month. That cuts down on lengthy lists and coupon clipping. I haven’t mastered how to cut down my lists at Wal-Mart. I tend to go once every three months or so with a four page list. This needs to stop! *giggles*
4. Trying to stick to items with stock-up prices.
What this means is, I try to buy items that are on sale for a super low price. This helps by lowering my OOP expense and gives me the best deal. How do I know if they are super low prices? For one, if you haven’t heard of KrazyCouponLady yet, you need to click on that link and check it out. It’s one of the best couponing websites I’ve found. I owe most of my success to the lovely ladies who keep us informed everyday. On their website they explain couponing A-Z. They also do match-ups and in these match-ups, if there is an item with a stock-up price, they place a little yellow and black symbol next to said item.
Here is an example:
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bunny, Cadbury Egg, Reese’s Single Egg, 1.2 oz, Cadbury Mini Eggs, 1.5 oz $0.87 Buy 1, Receive $0.87 Extra Bucks, Limit 1
Pay $0.87, Receive $0.87 Extra Bucks
Really, there is a wealth of information on their website. Do yourself a favor and check it out, if you haven’t already.
5. Creating a junk email account.
This will come in handy for registering with couponing websites and manufacturers. Keeping your couponing mail separate from your friend’s and family email.
Search around and find websites that offer you what you need. For example: Most of the bigger named options don’t usually have your local grocer on their list of match-ups. So, do a search and find someone that’s in the same area as you. If you are lucky enough to find one, this will save you time and hassle.
7. When you’re out and about, look around.
Coupons are everywhere, for all sorts of things. The grocery store I use the most has coupons for local places on the back of their receipts. Good Will almost always has a $5.00 off coupon on there.
All great places to meet fellow couponers and share experiences as well as deals. Facebook especially is a super place to get extra coupons or find out about new deals first. By clicking “Like” on a manufacturer’s Facebook, it may open you up a few new coupons and news about upcoming products or free trials.
9. Free trials can really add up.
I love free trials. A chance to try something new and you don’t have to pay an outrageous price for it (because it’s new). Which reminds me of a note I need to add in here. Coupons for new items are higher value when the item first comes out, but will quickly diminish and/or vanish. If you like it, grab plenty while you have a better coupon.
10. Expired coupons might be useful at your local store.
There are a few grocery stores in my area that take expired coupons up to one month past expiration. This includes store catalinas that print out at the end of the transaction. I know of a great way to find coupons that may have expired for an item I wish to purchase. Coupon databases. Hotcouponworld is great for my situation because you can choose to add coupons in from one month expiration to six months. Since I only need to look back one month, I save a lot of time and energy searching through the database to find the coupon in question.
That’s all for now! This is my first couponing post, so feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks for stopping by and happy couponing!!!