Friday, March 30, 2012

To coupon? or not to coupon?

Is that a question you ask yourself often?

To be perfectly honest I go back and forth with the little slips of free money. I find that when I have the time, I can really crack down and save more than my usual weeks. Then there are some weeks when I fall short on time and lack the effort to sit down and line up sales and coupons.

However, I did attend a couponing class recently and although my husband asked "Are you going to teach it?" (he proclaims I am a great saver) ....I did learn a thing or two and I am happy to share with you my knowledge from before and my new found tips on couponing.

Coupons:

They come to us in MANY ways....
The common way is to get the inserts in the weekend paper. These coupons typically come from SmartSource and RedPlum (referred to as SS and RP thru the rest of this post) and they tend to be targeted towards the area that the paper is marketed for. In the class I found out that this means that sometimes in more urban areas the coupons have higher values, leading to a more desirable savings when matching sales and coupons. So when you find sites on line (which I will list) who give you a break down of stores, sales and matched up savings you will notice that sometimes we do not benefit from those same coupons at the same amount. No fear, the deals can still be found. And I will show you how...
Okay so I have found that most sites will list the company producing the coupons (SS or RP for instance) and then a date. Example: SS 3-18-12 This means that this coupon may be found in the in the SS pull out of the 3-18-12 paper. My suggestion (since class) is to take a manilla folder, the plain office type... and put the date on the outside and then in that folder put all inserts from that date.
This will save you time since you may not need every coupon in the insert, so you might as well not clip every one of them AND if you clipped only the ones you thought you might need you may miss out on a free product or a money maker. (These can always be donated if you won't use them in your home)
Now set that thought aside...
Coupons come in many other formats, you may find coupons attached to products in the store. There are ENDLESS sites online that you can print coupons from. Coupons can be found on manufacturers websites and Facebook pages. Ever see those ones that get printed for you at the grocery store when you are checking out? Those are called "Catalina Coupons" (learned that terminology from class, apparently it's the name of the company who produces them).Then there are store coupons....confused yet? Don't worry it's alot of information, and you may need to refer back to this post a few times to get the hang of all of it.

The best advice I can give you is take a few weeks and just collect coupons. If you have the inserts from the paper put them in your manilla folders and then just take any other loose type coupons and put them in a safe place.

The World Wide Web:

After you have a small stockpile, take an hour (or two) and find a quiet place with a computer. If you have Facebook go to a couple of pages and "like" them....I recommend "Money Saving Mom" and "Thrifty and Thriving" both of these sites have their own websites as well and give wonderful information how to match up sales and coupons each week. There are dozens of these types of pages, so just search around when you have the time and find a couple you like. These are great because you will typically get an alert in your news feed when there is a good bargain to be had.
Then look up http://www.couponmom.com/on the web. Not only does she have an easy to follow couponing format, she also has tutorials on how to start out saving. I suggest "favoriting" her site, you will want to refer to it often.
Coupon Mom for instance is a site I use to both print coupons and match up savings. Do yourself a favor, take a few minutes and explore the site. One tip that I learned a long time ago is to use the zip code of an urban area when printing coupons on the web. The market is more competitive in bigger cities and manufacturers will produce larger denomination coupons. An easy one to remember is "90210"...Beverly Hills, BABY!
But obviously use the proper zip code when searching for the deals in your area. They do a great job tallying all of the savings at stores such as Shaw's, Target, Walmart, Walgreens, etc.


Gather and Go:

Now the next step is to match up sales and coupons.
An example would be: Take the current Walgreen's flyer and browse the ads and see if you can locate any items that are on sale that you also have a coupon for. (Colgate is on sale 2 for $3.00 and you have 2 coupons for $.50 off 1....then you can get 2 packages of toothpaste for $1.00 each) If so, at that time clip your coupon and start an envelope for Walgreen's and place your coupon in it. You now have them all together to take on your shopping trip.
Do this with each of the stores you plan on visiting, or at least browse each flyer and see if there are any items you need or can stock up on.


The next post will dig a little deeper into store coupons, matching those with manufacturers coupons, store policies and register rewards!


Until then...I hope you all take a moment and save a few dimes!

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