Here is my how-to-on couponing. I call it “the ABC s of Couponing”
A- Aquire Coupons
C-Create a plan
When you are first starting, or as in my case starting over (see my post Mourning My Coupon Binder). The first step is to aquire and accumulate coupons. How are going to do this? Here are the many ways to get coupons.
1. Sunday Paper inserts- usually there are two Red Plum and Smart Source. There is, however, on occasion one from Proctor and Gamble (P&G). Sometimes, Smart Source will have two inserts. If it is a holiday weekend, there are no inserts.
2. Coupon books- especially with the holidays approaching (October -December) there will be coupon books around the store. I always stop by the customer service booth and look around. I also pay attention when I am around certain products, like baking items, because they might have a display with coupons.
3. Coupon printing sites- There are a few main coupon sites. Here are the main ones I use:
4.Product websites-If there are products I buy often, like Silk Soymilk, I go to their website and sign up for an account and they send me coupons to my email address.
5. Coupon tear pads-These are usually next to the product. It is a coupon that you can take and use right then and there or save for later. I sometimes take 1-2 depending on if it’s a product I use. Also with that are the blinkies, which are the small box shaped coupon holders that spit out coupons when you take one.
6.Peelies- These coupons are directly on the package and are for using when you buy the product. In other words, don’t peel it off if you are not going to buy it. It is intended for the immediate purchase. It is tempting to peel it off and tuck it away for later (like when the product is on sale) but that isn’t cool.
7. Mailers-I have gotten some really, really good coupons in the mail. Sometimes they are store specific like Safeway or Target. I have gotten $10 off a purchase of $50 at Safeway. I have gotten really good Target coupons that I am usually able to pair with a sale item.
8. The product itself-I always peek inside the product box because sometimes there are coupons inside. I have found coupons in: Ziploc brand boxes, scrubbing bubbles, Olay products, Breathe Right, and more.
There are some awesome websites that have the same kind of information I just told you, but there is one that I really like. This one is a video that walks you through all (almost all) the kinds of coupons. The Frugal Find is one of the sites I visit often.
No matter how many coupons you acquire if you don’t have a good system of organization they will be buried and forgotten. I have forgotten about really good coupons even with being organized. Since my goal is to be a SMART shopper, I have to be an organized shopper.
I already posted in My Coupon Organizer Search different ways other people organize their coupons. Here is a quick recap:
- You might want to use a coupon organizer like Coupon Geek. I really like how pretty it is and how easy to carry but I am afraid that I am very visual and if I don’t see the coupon I will never use it.
- Another choice is the coupon binder which you can look at here or here. The Coupon Mom is my ORIGINAL coupon site where I learned how to coupon and she has her very own coupon binder.
- Finally I found the Coupon Box. Here is a method I haven’t really tried. It’s similar to the coupon organizer Coupon Geek uses but she uses a small box. She has a creative way of labeling and organizing her coupons. It does seem like alot of work though!
The above examples are organizational tools for storing your coupons. I want to share how I organize my coupons in my binder:
- I file my inserts by date and kind (Smart Source with Smart Source etc) in the side accordion pocket of my binder. I do clip the coupons from each insert that I will definitely use but I leave everything else as is.
- I now keep my weekly shopping list, store ads, and an envelope for each store in a new removeable accordion file.
When I first started couponing my main source of advice came from a wonderful site called Couponmom.com. She also came out with this book:
I still have it sitting at my work desk so I can skim through when I need to.
When I was beginning to coupon, I went to her site every week. Couponmom has combed through all the ads and has lists of prices for stores like: Safeway, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Target, and more. Of all the sites I have been to, hers is the easiest to maneuver. Couponmom also has a coupon database which really comes in handy when you need a coupon and can’t remember where it was. The best part is: its FREE.
I also tried a paid service called TheGroceryGame.This site provides a similar service but the difference is they send a list every week to your email with the very, very BEST deals for the stores you’ve selected. Each week, I would print my lists for Safeway and Walgreens. They came with the best deals that were to be had. Here was my downfall: I ended up buying things I did not NEED or WANT. I convinced myself that the deal was too good to pass. I filled my cupboards with junk. I learned the hard way that I DONT have to buy it just because it is almost free. I did end up filling bags of food to give away. I stopped The Grocery Game only because of the cost. Since I have to buy gluten free, alot of times the deals to be had were not deals I could take advantage of. It became frustrating to pay for something I could really do for free at couponmom.com.
So now, fast forward probably 6-7 years from when I really dove into couponing. This is what I do now:
- Sunday morning-ads galore. I look through all my favorite ads: Target, Walgreens, CVS, Michaels, and Kohls. I also glance at the coupon inserts just to see if there is anything really good.
- I take a second look at each ad, this time with a pen or sharpe. I mark any items that I may be interested in. I have a piece of paper with each of my stores on it and I write out that list of potential buys. As I am writing down the deals, I make a note if it requires a store coupon or if I remember having a coupon for that item.
- Now, I compare items by store and see if one store has a better deal on similar items (toilet paper, paper towels, etc).
- After I have my list, I start pulling coupons. I usually can remember seeing a coupon, but sometimes I don’t remember where. This is when I utilize websites like couponmom.com. I will look at her lists or even just use the coupon database.
- Once my coupons are pulled, I look through my list again and decide if the items on my list are definately needs. If I could not find a coupon for items on my list, I usually cross it off, unless its something we really need or its actually still a good deal.
- I also visit Target.com to look if Target has added any new coupons to match their sales. I have gotten AMAZING deals using manufacture coupons and Target coupons.
- I go through my Safeway App to “clip” the coupons and deals I will use.
- I now fill my envelopes with the coupons I need and file the ad and coupon envelope in my accordion file holder.
- At this point, I now clip the coupons from my weekly inserts, file them into my coupon binder and file the inserts into their respective folder.
- Mondays, I usually visit some of my favorite coupon sites like Coupon Geek, the Frugal Find, and Coupon Divas. They usually list the best deals to be had. If I see a great deal on something that wasn’t on my list and I WILL use it I might add it on.
- Sundays or Mondays I go to Safeway. Wednesdays or Thursdays I hit Walgreens, CVS, and Target.
- Some of the other stores I visit are Trader Joe’s, Raleys, and Foodmaxx. I always look at Raley’s ads, but usually I only buy my gluten free food there. I don’t “prepare” as much to go to these stores. I might just bring in my whole binder so I can take advantage of deals that I may see that day.