Saturday, August 01, 2009

Couponing for the Casual Couponer..

I was hesitant to put another post here because I don't want to deter anyone away from entering my giveaway. So please, don't forget to scroll down and enter my giveaway in the post below!

On to the couponing... I've had several questions lately about my coupon system.. Well first, let me address this assumption that I have a system.. I am a person that passionately desires to have a system.. I am also a person that can't seem to stop trying to spin a hundred plates at one time.. Often while trying to spin those many plates, a few crash to the floor. Notice that you haven't seen much photography from me lately? Well, that's because my photography is one of those fallen plates at the moment because I'm trying to sweep up the plates that I dropped at the end of the school year... Coupons and paper work kind of stuff are the current plate focus.. Okay, okay, I took the plate analogy too far.. The point is, I want to have a system but usually, I fall just a little short..

So, I will say if you have the dream of becoming a pro couponer... There are a lot better places to learn to do that. I will suggest a few sites during this post from ladies that are experts in the couponing arena. If you want to learn to spin one more plate that will likely teeter every now and then, then maybe I have something to offer... So here is my couponing un-system..

First, I highly recommend that you read "The Southern Saver's" getting started guides. If you read those, you probably will have more information than you can imagine. She also has great sales lists with coupon matchups. Another great place to find deals and matchups is Hot Coupon World. I also post matchups on my blog every Sunday. I began doing this for myself, so I could have all of my lists in one easy to locate place, and for my hard working mom and sister, so they didn't have to learn to navigate through everything to find what they needed. But, as I've found that it's been useful for others, I have added their stores. If you have a store that you would like to be included, let me know. If I can find it, I'll add it for you so you don't have to search through different places to find it.

The most important thing that you need to know is that a coupon is pretty useless on it's own. You have to combine it with sales to really save money. Learn your stores coupon policy. Some will let you double coupons, use competitor coupons, and/or use a store coupon combined with a manufacture coupon.. You can probably find their policy by googling it (or swagbucking it if you want to earn points while you search).

Second, I don't clip coupons.. Well, not until I need them anyway. When I first started doing coupons, I tried to mock my friend Tiffany's system. Tiffany is a dedicated coupon mom. Tiffany uses the baseball card binder method. She clips each coupon and puts them in slot, and has them divided into categories. It is truly a work of art.. It took me one Sunday paper to realize that that was not something I was going to be committed enough to keep up with. So, I switched to an accordian filer. This worked pretty well but I still found that at times when my life was the busiest, I fell behind on clipping coupons and would do something like squander all of my savings by eating out because I didn't have my coupons clipped and ready to go to the store. So, I began to use the system that the girl over IheartCVS described. Basically, you take the coupons out of the paper, put them in a file with the date on it and then you look at a list of the deals and coupon matchups and then you locate your coupons and clip only the ones you are going to use. I have found that this is the system that works best for me.

I just go to the deal and matchup list of the store of my choice, make a grocery list on an envelope, put the coupons that I need in the envelope, and then there is no clipping coupons I don't use and no shuffling coupons around in the store. This does mean that I miss out on any unadvertised deals but for myself, I decided that those deals weren't worth the extra work.. I still have cut my grocery bill in more than half and for right now, I've settled for that being the best I can do.

I would also advise setting some sort of parameters for yourself to keep you buying things simply because you have a coupon for it. Here are my parameters: If it is free, or a money maker like I described in the CVS 101 post, I get it regardless of what it is. If I don't use it, I donate it to someone that can. There is one glaring exception to this and that is when a companies product or philosophy conflicts with my conscience. For example: a company that employees child labor or a company that actively expresses a lack of support for our military troops. For other items, my rule of thumb is that it has to save more money than the generic brand (few exceptions for me are toilet paper, mayonaise, and peanut butter) or it has to replace an item that would normally cost me more money. For example: If there is cereal on a great deal. I might purchase it as a replacement for the waffles that I normally buy for breakfast for the girls.

When I find a great deal, I usually stock up on that item. The goal is to get stocked up enough to where you never have to buy an item when you need it. That way, I can hold out for a deal Example: Last week Kroger had crest toothpaste on sale for 10 for 10. I had three dollar off coupons. I got three tubes of toothpaste for free. That gets me stocked up on toothpaste enough that now, I can hold out for a deal before I buy more, or better yet, get some for free.

Lastly, start small and don't give up. If it's too overwhelming for you, make a small list and do a small trip. Practice makes perfect.. Or rather, practice makes you really good. Who needs to pressure of being perfect. As you do it, things will "click" with each trip.

I know that this just a small jab at all the questions you might have. If you have more questions or other tips and suggestions, please leave them in a comment here so that everyone can benefit from them. If I don't know the answer, I probably know somewhere that we can find it.