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Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Basics: In the beginning...

So you have come to this blog thinking to yourself, "Okay. I'm ready. I'm going to take the dive into this coupon craze everybody is always talking about. Time to start saving money." But, what now? Where to start?

I am going to write a series of posts over the next few days that explains the basics of couponing. Hopefully, this will help you get started with what you need to know. From there, you should be able to follow along with the blog on a daily basis! Okay, here we go!

Well, I guess we should start with coupons! Here are some tips for you:

1. First of all, I will go ahead and tell you this- everybody does things a little differently. Everyone tweaks their methods just a bit to fit their styles, goals, agendas, schedules, etc. The tips I am about to give you represent what I have found works best for me. Feel free to take or leave what you want from it and make it work for you!

2. So where do you get coupons? There are many places. To start with, you need to buy or obtain the Sunday newspaper each week. This is where the majority of your printed coupons will come from. Go through the paper and look for coupon inserts. There are a couple of different types: smart source (ss), red plum (rp), proctor and gamble (pg), general mills (gm), and unilever (ul). Most Sundays you will only see 2 of those: smart source and red plum. These are the most common ones. Once a month, proctor and gamble puts an insert in the paper as well. Every now and then, I have seen very thin coupon inserts for general mills or unilever, but it is very rare. So most of the time, simply look for ss, rp, or pg!

3. You will need at least 2 copies of these newspaper coupon inserts every week. I will explain that in detail later, but basically it helps you take advantage of buy one get one (bogo) sales at various stores. Trust me, it will help you save twice as much money if you simply buy or obtain an extra copy of the newspaper. Many people say, "but I don't want to spend that money out of pocket on two newspapers!" (especially since the price just went up). On a weekly basis, my receipts usually say that I have saved anywhere between $50 to $100 in coupons alone, not even counting sales! It is worth that $4 out of pocket expense. So go to your neighborhood grocery store or gas station, and do yourself a favor by picking up 2 copies. If you don't want to buy them, find people who are willing to give you their coupons. You'll find most people don't use their coupons from the Sunday paper. Ask coworkers, family, and friends if they will give you their unused coupons to save on the out of pocket expense of buying the paper.

4. This next step is something that many, but not all, couponers do. Some people really like it, but others don't. Personally, I love this method because I find that it saves me hours of time each week. So if you're one of those people who says to yourself, "well, I'd love to try using coupons, but it just takes so much time," then this method is for you! When I get my coupon inserts every Sunday, I simply grab a sharpie or pen, write the date on the front of them, and file them away using my filing system! I have file folders that are labeled by month, and I place the inserts in the folders in date order. These folders are kept in a simple filing crate. You can go here to see what my organization system looks like.

5. I use coupon databases, blogs, and websites to help me know which coupons I need before I go to the store. If I see that the coupon for a specific item is in the August 30th Red Plum, I simply find it in my filing system, and clip out the coupon that I need in the Red Plum insert! This method has pros and cons. One pro, as I already mentioned, is that it saves a lot of time. Also, it keeps you from spending time cutting coupons on Sunday that you may never end up using. Plus, it prevents you from throwing away the rest of the insert that contains valuable coupons you think you will never use (but that you might be able to get a great freebie deal on later!). The only con is that it does involve a bit of planning before going to the stores to catch the deals. I usually spend about one hour a week planning my trips to Publix, CVS, and Walgreens. I still think it saves time and effort, though.

6. Other places to get coupons include:
  • the internet (they usually have a print limit of 2 per computer-it is illegal to make copies of printable coupons from the internet).
  • blinkies, tearpads, and peelies in stores. Blinkies pop out of those machines on the aisles. Tearpads are usually on endcaps of aisles or on a display. You can tear them off of a pad next to a product. Peelies are the little coupons you can peel off of a product that you buy.
  • Store fliers. You can get fliers in the mail or in turnstyles at the front of stores. Ever time I go into Publix, I check the turnstyle at the front of the store. There are store coupons, manufacturers coupon booklets, magazines, and store ads.
  • Insides of products. Before you throw a product container away, check the inside! There are often loose coupons or coupons on the inside cardboard of a box that you can cut out and use in the future!
  • Just collect coupons everywhere you go!
7. I store all of these loose coupons that I mentioned above in a small accordion style coupon carrier. You can get one for a couple dollars at your local Walmart, dollar store, or Target. I label it in categories like dairy, snacks, drinks, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.

So go get started...collect some coupons! Set up your system. Then move on to The Basics: Part Two!



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