Couponing has become quite a trend. If you have watched or at least heard of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” series, you know what I mean! Shopping with coupons is “cool”, and every other shopping cart in the grocery store now has a binder sitting properly in the baby seat, or at the very least the mom behind the wheels has her coupons paper-clipped to her shopping list, ready to save!
If you’re reading this, you likely fall into one of 3 categories:
- You are aware that there is such a concept as couponing, and are open to the idea if it will save you money, but only if you can do so without spending a vast amount of time weekly clipping and preparing to shop. That said, you haven’t a clue where to begin.
- You already coupon to some extent, and are saving some on groceries, but have hit a wall and can’t seem to save any more.
- You are an extreme couponer. You purchase nothing without a coupon. You pay full price for nothing. Your savings typically equal 80-90% or more at the store. Your presence annoys Groups #1 and 2 becuse you make it look so darn easy. I’m kidding – you’re really welcome here, and we love you.
If #1 or #2 describe you, the you’re in the right place and I am here to help you either begin to save, or to take your savings to the next level. If #3 describes you best, then your continuing to read will be for entertainment purposes only, because you have this down and don’t need my help!
Before even beginning any type of discussion, I really want to address the number one concern that I find is on the minds of most: Time. Or more appropriately, the lack thereof. Without fail, the people I meet who want to coupon but do not blame it on this culprit. The assumption is that the only way to “extreme coupon” is to spend a corresponding “extreme” amount of time doing so. This simply isn’t so. I am very much like an average person with a full schedule – career, family, spirituality, social life, other hobbies, etc. – and shopping is just a necessity to keep the family fed. So the shopping methods I teach are geared toward the most efficient use of time for those who simply don’t have any extra of it lying around. And who does?
The majority of folks who request information from me are brand new to couponing. I mean brand new… So we will start from scratch. Before getting into the meat of things, there are a few key points to be aware of before embarking on this money-saving venture:
Get the coupons!
It really does us no good to discuss what to do with coupons if you don’t have any…
Seriously, I may sound redundant, but you would be amazed at how many people I have tried to help, week after week talking them through what to do, where the deals are, how to organize, etc., then finally I offer to go shopping with them and I ask where their coupons are… There’s this sheepish look as they make excuses for how they’ve managed to forget to get a paper the last few Sundays.
Now I can’t really fault that, because I’m sure I am the single most forgetful person on the planet, which is why I leave nothing to my memory and simply spring for a subscription to the Sunday paper. It’s a no-brainer. You can probably get the Sunday-only version, it’s cheaper than news stand price, and you don’t have to remember anything. Someone brings it to you. For less! Imagine that!
Ask friends and family to save their coupon inserts for you as well. You’ll be surprised how many people just throw those things away, and will now throw them your way!
Start printing coupons from your home computer. If you’re new to this, keep in mind that you should never pay for this service. There are a number of advertising links that will send you to paid sites or on wild goose chases, having you putting in personal info again and again and never really getting you anywhere. Stick to a few main trusted links such as my favorites to the right. They are always free and never require personal information. Check these sites often (2-3 times weekly), as coupons rotate and the really good ones reach their print limits quickly! Also, many sites such as these reset coupons on the first day of the month so it’s a good idea to set aside just 10 minutes or so on that day to check in. Again, many of the best coupons reach their print limits quickly so even by the end of the day they are often gone!
Organization is necessary, even if only in this one little corner of your life. To keep your mountain of coupons organized, you’ll need a binder. Don’t bother with a dinky pocketed “coupon organizer”; you will find yourself spending more time in the store flipping through the pockets looking for that coupon you know is in there somewhere than actually shopping. Most serious couponers find that the best style is something along the lines of what would hold baseball cards, so you can have one pocket for each actual item in the store. How you have it organized will be up to you – perhaps alphabetically, perhaps by aisle of the grocery store, or whatever other system works for you.
As time goes on, if you find yourself with a number of additional inserts weekly you may want to keep these in a file box, in files labled by date and type (i.e. SS 4-10-11 AJC – meaning the 4-10-11 Smart Source out of the Atlanta Journal Costitution). You can then call on them quickly at a later date if necessary.
It’s not just your binder that needs organization. As your stockpile grows (we will discuss the meaning of this later), you will appreciate the need for keeping it neat and organized. From the beginning, know that in order to maximize your overall savings with coupons, it will be necessary to maintain more than the usual amount of groceries in your home. Put some thought into this – do you have extra room in your pantry or is it already stuffed to the gills? Where can additional shelving space be added? If your pantry looks like Hurricane Hattie went through, you might be surprised how much extra space you’ll create just by organizing it!
Pick Your Store
You mean I can only have one, you say? Yes. Choose your favorite grocery store and stick with it. By “favorite”, I don’t mean where your friend Judy works, or where it is most convenient to shop, or where you’ve just always gone… What I mean is, who doubles coupons? (Find out here.) Who has the best weekly sales? Who has the most coupon-friendly policies? This will become virtually the only store you shop. You will know cashiers and managers by name, and you will know the store layout like the back of your hand! All of this is in the interest of saving time, and of course money.
It is an Addiction!
Whoa… Did I say Addiction? Yes, yes I did. Pure and simple. When you see that subtotal at the grocery store go from several hundred dollars down to almost nothing, it’s a high! You feel this responsibility to provide for your family, and knowing that you just saved a ton of cash and put food on the table is a satisfying feeling that you will want to repeat, again and again. It can become an obsession, which if kept in its proper place can be quite healthy and beneficial for the family. But just beware that you don’t start chasing every “free” toothbrush all over town, or you will find that your savings will fall out the gas tank, and your stockpile will exceed its realistic function. Not to mention the time involved, and isn’t that the point here?
So go… Sunday papers, internet printables, binder, and pantry space. Meet me back here for Couponing 101!