Coupon 101

Many people roll their eyes when they hear the word “coupon.”  There are many excuses for not using coupons…”I don’t have that kind of time, They don’t make coupons for the stuff I use, I hate getting behind coupon people in the checkout…” etc., etc.   The fact is, using coupons is not as time consuming as you may think.  Clipping & sorting is the most time consuming aspect, and those can be done during your favorite TV show!  Manufacturers and stores are offering more coupons than ever before. Chances are, there is a coupon for nearly everything you use.  And, yes, there are people who go to the extreme and may appear crazy when you happen to get behind them at the checkout….but you don’t have to be one of those people.

  • Where to find coupons

    Coupons are everywhere! Not only can you get fabulous coupons in your Sunday paper, you can also print hundreds of high-value coupons at home!  Your first stop should be the Sunday paper. I buy my papers at a gas station so that I can look through the coupons first.  If there aren’t many inserts or if the coupons are for things I won’t use, I don’t buy the paper.  If you have access to a large paper, get that one. The larger newspapers always have more coupons with higher values.  You can also ask neighbors and coworkers to save the inserts for you if they don’t use them.

    The next stop is the internet. Apparently there are some sites with fraudulent coupons. In order to avoid that particular pitfall, stick to trusted, authentic coupon sites.  My favorites are:  Coupons.com, SmartSource, and RedPlum.  You can also find coupons at your favorite store’s website. Target always has a lot of coupons online and some grocery stores accept competitor coupons.  You can find links to printable coupons on the Printables page!

Another way to find coupons is to look around.  There are coupon holders and tearpads located throughout grocery, drug, and department stores with coupons.  My son’s pediatrician’s office always had coupons for diapers and other baby items. Magazines have coupons as well.  The best magazine for coupons is All You. It is sold at Wal-Mart or you can subscribe with Amazon here: All You

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Organizing Coupons
Coupon organization comes down to personal choice.  My favorite (and perhaps the most time consuming) method is to use a binder or photo album.  I found a spiral bound photo album, on clearance of course, that holds two 4×6 pictures per page with about 50-60 pages.  I clip coupons usually once or twice per week while I’m watching TV. I put them into the album when I’m waiting at the doctor’s office or again, while I’m watching TV.  I organize mine the way my store is set up…produce, pastas, sauces, & soups, boxed items, baked goods, breakfast items, refrigerated, frozen, household products, health & beauty, etc.  Some people organize them by expiration date. Again, it’s a personal choice.  With the album, you can see what you have as you turn the pages.  You can also use accordion type files or envelopes. The album or binder is the most time consuming, but it’s a lot easier to deal with at the store.
Using Coupons Effectively

Any time you use a coupon, it’s a good thing. You are saving money, but you’re not saving enough if you’re using a coupon on a full-priced item.  The best way to use coupons is in conjunction with a sale.  If possible, find a store near you that doubles or even triples coupons.  In my area, Bi-Lo & Publix double coupons.  Every store has their own coupon policy, try to find yours online or at the store.  I will use Bi-Lo in my examples because that is where I shop most, but be sure to check your store’s coupon policy.

My favorite sales are Buy One, Get One Free, or BOGO, or B1G1.  At Bi-Lo (as with most stores), you do not have to actually buy two items to get the reduced price. If Cheerios are regularly $3.00, when they are on BOGO, you can get ONE box for $1.50. BOGO is basically a half price sale.  So, if I have a $0.55/1 coupon, it will double to $1.10. I can use the coupon at regular price and get my Cheerios for $1.90, OR I can use my coupon during a BOGO sale and get my Cheerios for $0.40!  If you have two coupons (and you should if you bought two papers), you can get 2 boxes.  Sales normally go in cycles, every 4 to 6 weeks.  In the Cheerios scenario, it’s best to stock up (no more than 6 boxes, don’t go crazy) so that you don’t have to go out and pay full price between sales.

Some stores (Bi-Lo included) will accept competitor coupons. So, if you find a fabulous coupon at Target.com for an item that is on sale at Bi-Lo, they will take the Target coupon.  Stores may also “stack” coupons. This means that you can use a manufacturer’s coupon AND a store coupon together.

When I started couponing, I spent at least a couple of hours per week studying sales flyers & matching up coupons. Now, that is done for you! I hope to have coupon match-ups right here at MyRubberMoney.com soon, but in the mean time, use another site that does!  My absolute favorite site for coupon matching is Southern Savers. If you live in the South, Jenny has put our grocery stores sales at our finger tips.  Find your store at the top of the page (some are listed under “other”).  There is even a feature that lets you print a shopping list!  Jenny lists what is on sale, and underneath is the coupon (or coupons) that will get you the best deal. She even puts links to printable coupons. She is my hero. That site has made my life SOOO much easier.  If your store is not listed or you do not live in the South, do a google search for “coupon matchups.”

As you get started, couponing will become easier.  Just remember to stock up when an item is on sale and you have a coupon. That alone will reduce your weekly bill just because you don’t have to buy those items…until they’re on sale again, anyway.

Things to Avoid

As with anything, coupons can be taken too far.  When I first started couponing, I found myself buying stuff that I would never use just because I got such a great deal.  I try to avoid “convenience” foods just for health’s sake. However, when I saw canned pasta or frozen “TV dinners” that I could get for 60-80% off, I would buy them….and never use them. The only time it’s okay to do that is when an item is free after coupons (and it will happen a lot). If you can get something for free, go ahead and get it and then donate it to a food bank or shelter.  If you’re paying for stuff you won’t use, you’re still wasting money (unless, of course, you donate it).  It’s best to make a list of the things you DO need or that you WILL use and stick to those items.

Don’t be “Brand Loyal.”  There are some things that you may prefer under a certain brand name.  If you have tried other brands and absolutely prefer one over another, try to buy it only when it’s on sale and you have a coupon. Otherwise, buy the item that costs the least.  For example, if you need toothpaste and you don’t need a certain brand for health reasons, buy the toothpaste that costs the least. If it happens to be Colgate, so be it..Crest, no problem…something completely different, great.  Be flexible.  If you absolutely have to have a certain brand (Viva will always be my favorite paper towel), contact the company for coupons. Most of the time if you write or call, they will thank you with high-value coupons.

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