Monday, November 14, 2011

My Couponing Methods

Couponing is huge these days. Partially because of that show, Extreme Couponing, and partially because everyone is looking for a way to save a buck. Um, that would be me. I definitely got into the couponing game to help save me money.

The resources are endless, and I feel like I only tapped into the surface. It can be super overwhelming when you are just getting started, so I thought I'd share my super simple method in hopes that it will help someone else out there.

To give credit where credit is due, my church here in Florida hosted a small couponing seminar, taught by a couple of people in the church. They are the pros, let me tell you. A lot of my knowledge came from them. A few other things I picked up along the way. And all of it I adapted to fit my needs and my budget.

The #1 place I get coupons is from local paper inserts. The two common ones are Smart Source and Red Plum. Occasionally there is a PandG Brandsaver in there as well.

Here is the what the experts say: buy one Sunday paper per family member. That may seem like overkill, but in order to save the maximum amount for the size of your family, that is best. I found that even though I am just one person, I would buy two papers. That way if something was BOGO at the store (that's "buy one/get one free") I had two coupons. Most stores let you do that, btw...because you are technically buying two items, so you can use two coupons. You just happen to be "buying" one for free. You save a lot of money that way.

Here is what I found about buying Sunday papers: (some of this may be different in your area, you'll just have to try different things to see what works in your area.)

  1. I was told that the Saturday paper also had coupons. So you were supposed to be able to buy the Miami Herald on Saturday (cheaper) instead of Sunday (not cheaper) and get the same coupons. But I didn't think the Saturday paper had as many coupons. The ones I saw just had a Red Plum insert, while the Sunday ones had all 3 inserts. So I paid about 50 cents more for the Sunday one.
  2. I usually bought two papers, as I mentioned: one Miami Herald and one Sun Sentinel. Both appeared to have the same inserts, but when I actually looked through them, sometimes they would hold different coupons. For instance, in the picture above, there are two Smart Source inserts on the far left. They appear the same, but if you look at the header, you will notice a slight difference. A lot of the coupons inside were the same, but not all. So even though they were supposedly the same thing, sometimes I got an unexpected blessing!
The other two flyers in the picture above (on the right) are local store flyers they put on twice a month-ish. I either pick them up in the store, or sometimes they are in the Sunday paper, too. My store here is Publix, you will just have to check out your stores to see if they offer any store coupons. These can only be used at that store, but you can pair them with a manufactures coupon and save more. So I have a Publix coupon for Kraft cheese, and a manufacturers coupon (one from the newspaper flyers) for Kraft cheese. I can use them both on the same item! Suberb, I tell ya.

Once I cut out the coupons I think I will use, I organize them in a binder:

    That is organized into the following categories:

    There are a couple other categories I have thought of to add. I just haven't done it yet!

    Even though I have cut out all the coupons I think I will use, I don't throw out those flyers. I organized them by date in this expanding file:

    The date is printed on the binding part of the flyer. Why keep them? We'll get to that! :) First, I'll tell you my #2 place to get coupons: the World Wide Web.

    This is where this couponing thing can get suuuupppper overwhelming and suuuuuupppppper time consuming if you are not careful. You just have to find what works for you and what works in your area. If some site only comes through for you 5% of the time, don't bother. Find a couple go-to sites that really help you in the area of printable coupons.

    That being said, here are some places to start:

    1. or Both these sites have about the same coupons, but usually has more of a selection. These are normally manufacturers coupons, and you can print two of each coupon. But your computer is smarter than you...if you print two of the same coupon from, when you go over to it will say "print limit reached." Boo smart computer.
    2. There are a few bloggers out there that channel all the great deals for us, including good coupons not found at the above traditional sites. Here are the ones I use the most: The Deal Scoop, I am THAT Lady I Heart Publix, and Money Saving Mom. Subscribe to these sites in whatever way you prefer to get the best deals from around the web delivered right to you. It takes a little bit of sifting through, but just pick the ones you want. I Heart Publix is more area specific - you know, like if you have a Publix in your area - but she has a fantabulous coupon database...just type in what you want a coupon for, and if there is one out there (printable or not) she knows where to find it. Love her.  This is why you save those coupon flyers you are "done with." Because you need something unexpected for a new recipe or something you don't normally buy is BOGO. So you go to the coupon database and search for that product. Then you find out there was a coupon for that in the paper 3 weeks ago. But you saved the flyer, you smart person, you.
    3. If you "like" just about anything on Facebook, you can get either a coupon or a free sample. Often times, product websites have printable coupons as well. A couple I have used that come to mind are Stonyfield Farm and Coffeemate.  For sites like that I usually sign up to get their email newsletter so I will know when they have new coupons. I normally find out about these coupons from one of the above-mentioned bloggers, so I don't have to go browsing the internet. I let them do all the hard work!
      A couple other things:
      • I opened an email account just for all this couponing. Its waaaaay easier then filling my normal inbox with a bunch of junk. Like I said, it does take a little bit of time to week through those. Normally I just read through the subjects and see if I think the contents will interest me. And delete the rest!
      • Some stores will accept expired coupons. Who knew, right? That is because it is months and months later that the store actually is redeemed the price of that coupon, so who's the wiser? You will just have to ask your store manager what their policy is. And I hear that military families always can use expired coupons. But check that with your store manager, too.
      Believe it or not, I really did just scratch the surface in this post. I know, I've been prattling on and on for forever, but I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! Or if you want even more info, shoot me an email and I'll try and fill you in with the rest of my vast knowledge, ha ha.

      So do you coupon? How has it worked for you? What glaringly obvious tip did I miss?  Leave a comment, I'd love to hear about your experiences!

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