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Couponing Basics

 

Have you been thinking about starting couponing? Don’t let another day go by before you start. There is so much money to be saved. Here’s the basics to get you started:
1.     Call your local stores to find out their coupon policies – At my local Meijer & Kroger coupons are doubled up to 50 cents but I can only use 2 like coupons per order. But a few hours away, at my mom’s local Meijer, coupons are doubled up to a $1 so it’s very important you know before you start planning your shopping trips.

2.     Make a small investment into your supplies – I used a large 3 – Ring Binder (3 inches or larger), comfortable scissors, about 25 baseball card sleeves, approximately 15 regular page protector sleeves & a wonderful organization system I found at the Krazy Couon Lady‘s website and printed out to put in my binder. This cost me around $20 in total but you could wait on everything but the scissors for a few weeks if money is tight.

3.     Get coupons – There are many options for getting coupons. Here are a few I’ve tried myself that you may find useful:
1.     Purchase the local paper on Sunday (I purchase 4 copies of my local paper every Sunday, costing me about $8. In order for this to be budget friendly that means I need to save at least $8 every week.)
2.     Ask friends & family to save coupons for you (FREE!)
3.     Check with the places you ‘belong’ to see if they have a coupon box where people are free to take or give coupons (ex. Church, Work, Community Center, etc) (FREE!
4.     Visit your recycling center and dig through the stacks of newspapers (FREE!)
5.     Ask local vendors what happens with their extra coupons at the end of the night, if you’re lucky and build a relationship with them they may just end up in your hands (FREE!

4.     Cut & Organize your Coupons – Now that you have your coupons it’s time to put them into your new binder. The organization system you printed off in step 2 is very easy to follow but don’t forget this is YOUR binder, feel free to change things, add or delete a category  etc. Your coupon binder needs to fit your family! Because I purchase multiple copies of the same newspaper I cut my coupons in stacks (holding multiple copies of the exact same page together) to shorten my cutting & organizing time. 

5.     Scope Out Your Deals – With your organized coupons you’re now ready to plan out your savings. You have two main options here:
1.     Do your own deal matching by comparing local ads for sale prices to the coupons in your binder
2.     Let someone else do the work for you (my FAVORITE!) There are tons of blogs out there for matching sale prices in your local store. I live in the Midwest so I’m a big fan of the blog Bargains To Bounty since she uses many of the same stores I do. For my family in the South I recommend the Krazy Coupon Lady. Following these blogs is great because not only can these women tell you what products are on sale that you have coupons for but they actually tell you exactly what coupon to use & how much it will cost. There’s nothing quite like saving time AND money!

6.     Plan Out Your Shopping Trip – As I scope out deals I stack my coupons into ‘transaction piles.’ Most trips I take to the store involve 2 transactions. So I create a spreadsheet of each transaction & put the coupons into corresponding envelopes. Cashiers & fellow shoppers tend to be much more coupon friendly when they are dealing with an organized couponer. Check out can be fast & efficient if you plan ahead! On my spreadsheet I include: the quantity I’m purchasing, the name of the product & size that is on sale, the sale price, what coupon I’m using & my final price after sale and coupon savings. This allows me to keep my weekly spending within my family’s budget. 

7.     Go Shopping! – At the store I carry my spreadsheet & two envelopes of coupons. As I find each product on the shelf I confirm that the name, size & sale price match my spreadsheet  Gone are the days of walking up and down every aisle wondering what to cook this week – you’ve already planned ahead & know exactly what you need. This makes shopping with small children a breeze! 

8.     Check Out – As I head to check out I’m always looking for the “right” kind of cashier. This is usually a young man. If there aren’t any young men available I’ll go to others but I avoid older women like the plague, they seem to think I’m stealing and I usually have bad experiences with them. At checkout I pull out my spreadsheet & put my products on the counter in order of my spreadsheet. As soon as my items are on the counter I set my pile of coupons from my envelope out & have my store card to scan out and ready. If you store lets you pre-swipe your credit card you may wish to even do that. I basically want to have everything run smoothly and efficiently to avoid long lines and chaos. Another great rule is to always check your receipt (not in line!) after checking out to check for errors, that way you can visit the service desk right away if something doesn’t seem right. If you have a store that is ‘picky’ about their coupon policy you should even consider having a copy of your store’s coupon policy to refer to in case of any problems with the service desk.

9.     Build Your Stock Pile & Continue Your Savings – Congratulations! You completed your first shopping trip. Now it’s time to put away all of your great deals. Make sure you rotate your stock just like a grocery store (oldest in front, newest in back). 

As you’re starting out with couponing don’t be surprised if you aren’t getting a ton of stuff right out of the gate. It usually takes 4-8 weeks to really get the ball rolling but if you are disciplined your hard work will pay off and you’ll see savings of at least 50% every week!
What couponing tips would you give to a beginner couponer? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 🙂

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