Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cheap Batteries Just in Time for Christmas!

With Christmas approaching I've been on the lookout for some good battery deals.  I used to buy my batteries at Costco, but recently I've found that I can get them cheaper with coupons at other stores.

For example, CVS sells 4 AA/AAA batteries for $4.99 - at full price it's a rip off for sure! Last week CVS had these batteries on sale for $2.99.  I had coupons for $1.50 off any Duracell batteries which brought the cost down to $1.50 each.  They also were running a promotion where you'd get $5 in ExtraCare Bucks if you purchase $15 in Duracell batteries. 

So I bought 5 packs (total cost $14.95 - CVS will accept a few cents shy of the amount).  I also used 5 $1.50 coupons for a total $7.50 off, which brought the total down to $7.45.  I then received $5 of ExtraCare Bucks, bringing my net cost down to $2.45 for 20 batteries.  Not bad, and definitely cheaper than Costco. 

Now we'll be all set for batteries for Christmas presents!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Try, Try Again...

I bought some items for Christmas from Target.  Two days after purchasing them, I got the following two coupons:
  • "get a $15 gift card when you spend $150" and
  • "get a $10 gift card when you spend $50"
Both coupons clearly state that they cannot be used on previous purchases.  Bummer!

Well I went to Target to see if I could return the items, and then do a new purchase with the coupons in order to abide by the rules of the coupon.  Well this would have worked perfectly except for the fact that they were sold out of one of the items.  They would not let me return mine and then immediately repurchase it.  They explained the item would have to be held for 24 hours and then reshelved.  Ugh.  I left.

I decided to go again later that night and try my luck with a different customer service agent.  I was honest with her and told her I had been there earlier and what I had been told.  This one told me she thought the 24 hour rule was stupid and did the return/re-purchase right on the spot.  So my out-of-pocket cost stayed the same and I left with a $25 gift card.  Of course I then turned around and spent it on more items for Christmas, but that's OK.  My all-cash Christmas is a reality this year!  :)

The lesson here is that you can different results with different cashiers.  If at first you don't succeed.... you know the rest.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Too Overwhelmed To Try Couponing?

A few months ago a good friend of mine expressed some interest in couponing.  When I checked in with him about it recently he reported that he was too overwhelmed by the whole process and decided not to try. 

Feeling overwhelmed is a common emotion I hear from new couponers.  It can seem overwhelming at first, especially if you've watched Extreme Couponing because that level of couponing is a full-time job. 

To borrow an analogy from Dave Ramsey - you don't start out skiing on Aspen Mountain.  You start on the bunny slope.  You're not going to be an expert right away and that's ok - just don't give up.

You can't start extreme couponing on your first day.  Start by collecting 4 sets of coupons every week and organizing them.  After a few weeks of collecting coupons, pick ONE store to start with.  Learn their coupon policies and find a good sales/coupon matchup site for that store online.  Stick with that one store while you build your coupons and your confidence.

Couponing is not hard, folks!  You can do it!  Just start out small and give it a try.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Some Great Buy 1 Get 1 Free Deals

One Sunday last month a bunch of Buy 1 Get 1 Free (B1G1) coupons appeared in the inserts.  Gotta love B1G1 coupons.  At the minimum, it's an automatic 50% off.  Pair it with a sale for an even better deal.  Several of the B1G1 coupons I had were for razors and shaving cream.  As you know, I have a stockpile so I didn't desperately need either of those items, but I cut the coupons anyway.  As tempting as it was to use them on the first sale that came around, I didn't.  Again, because I had enough in my stockpile that I had the luxury of waiting for a better deal. 

Well, lo and behold, last week I was shopping at the grocery store and stumbled upon a B1G1 sale on razors and shaving cream.  Somehow I had completely missed that this sale was happening, but dug into my coupons and found what I was looking for.  The B1G1 sale paired with a B1G1 coupon results in 2 free products at most stores (but not all).

I had 10 of these coupons and walked away with 20 free products.  I could have gotten them at 60-70% off if I had used them during the original sale, which would be awesome, but free is ALWAYS better!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

To Wait Or Not To Wait....

That is the question.  You get a great coupon and find a decent sale.  Do you use the coupon right away or do you wait for something better to come along?  Well, I guess it depends on how much you need the item.  This is where your stockpile can really give you a cushion in terms of time to wait for the great deals.  Of course you run the risk of losing the opportunity to use the coupon - I hate when that happens.

Today I got some great deals and I am totally psyched over them!  At the end of October, P&G released some great $2 off Tide coupons.  Much better than the typical .50 cent ones.  They were only valid for one month, but I held onto them even when Tide went on sale, hoping to find a magic coupon/sale/store reward combo.  Tide goes on sale enough that I figured, if necessary, I could find it on sale somewhere in their final week just to use them before they expired.

Well to my joy, CVS has Tide on sale this weekend in conjunction with their "Spend $30, Get a $10 gift card" promotion.  NOTE:  These promotion totals are PRE-coupon amounts - hooray!  So today I went in and got 4 containers of Tide, and 2 cool battery-operated toothbrushes.  The total came to $33.74 pre-coupons so I qualified for the gift card.  I had a $5 off $25 CVS coupon (they email these a lot), and $14 of manufacturer coupons which brought my total to $14.74.  (I also had some ExtraCare Bucks which brought my out-of-pocket expense down even lower).  I left with a $10 gift card, so the net cost for it all was $4.74 plus tax which is about .80 cents each. 

I was SO glad I didn't use the coupons back during the other sales when Tide was on sale for $5.99 with no store rewards.  Sure, $3.99 for Tide is still a decent price, but .80 cents is so much better!  Next time  I'll tell you about the other great deals I got by holding coupons until just the right time!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Couponing While Traveling

Are you going away for Thanksgiving?  If you are driving, don't forget to pack your coupons!  Different parts of the country have different stores with different coupon policies and different sales.  Spend some time googling the area you are driving to (or through) and research the stores there.  Last time I traveled I got a great deal on laundry detergent by finding a store that would double $1 coupons.  Awesome! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Think Outside of the Box

When couponing for great deals sometimes you have to think outside the box.  For example, where would you normally purchase bottled water and toilet paper?  Probably the grocery store, Target, Walmart or even Costco.  Where did I get mine?  Office Depot and Staples.  Unusual, I know, but I got an awesome deal!

Of course these products typically cost more at office supply stores, right?  Well here's how I got the deals - a combination of a sale at Office Depot, and a great coupon for 75% off any item at Staples.  Office Depot is one of the stores that accepts competitors coupons so I walked in with my Staples coupons and combined them with the Office Depot sale prices and got a 24 pack of bottled water for 75 cents (3 cents each), and a 16 pack of toilet paper for $1.25 (8 cents each). 

The coupons are one per customer so the hubby tagged along and did the deals with me.  I won't drive out of the way for deals, but during our Saturday errands we usually pass by any stores I may need.  We hit 3 local office supply stores and we were set!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Another Coupon Source

We've talked quite a bit about the coupons that come in the Sunday paper, as well as printable coupons.  Another coupon source is Facebook!  Up until recently I have rejected the Facebook revolution.  The reason I give most people is that my school district frowns upon teachers having Facebook accounts.  The other reason is that I tend to become addicted to things like that and would waste enormous amounts of time on it.

Regardless, a few months ago I finally broke down and set up a Facebook page... just for the coupons!  If you "like" certain product pages, you get the opportunity to print coupons from them.  My husband was graciously letting me use his, but does he really need the fact that I "like" Playtex tampons to be plastered on his wall?  So, I set up my own account with no information except my first name.  I use it exclusively for the coupon access.

Do you have a Facebook account?  If not, set one up!  I've gotten some great, high-value coupons from it!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Planning Ahead

A key component to couponing is learning to plan ahead.   This is something I am learning to do because I don't do this naturally.  I am one of those people who wakes up to the first snowstorm of the year and realizes the kids don't have snow boots that fit.  Thankfully my husband is a planner, so rarely do our kids wind up with frostbite on their toes.

I am getting better at planning ahead when it comes to couponing.  I used to only buy what I needed exactly when I needed it.  The stockpile concept requires you to plan ahead and get things you know you will need BEFORE you need them.

Here's an example of some of my recent plan-ahead couponing:  We bake a LOT of cookies at Christmas and go through a ton of ingredients.  Last week I was able to get a great deal on white, brown and confectioner's sugar.  Just today I got 8 packages of butter at a great price (expires April 2012).  I am now on the lookout for flour, vanilla extract and a few other ingredients.  My hope is to have most of what I need in place so I don't have to buy it at full price right before Christmas.  Wish me luck!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Almost Too Lazy To Get 89% Off Tonight

When I got home from work I checked a few couponing sites and saw a one-day-only coupon for 14 free color copies at Office Depot.  As a teacher I have to pay to get color copies of my materials, so this was exciting!

But honestly, I did NOT want to go out at 7:00pm.  I quickly checked through my binder for some other coupon/sales matchups for this week to see if I could make it a bit more enticing for me to drag myself out of the house. 

I found several good ones and decided to head out.  In the end I spent $9.34 for $81.44 of stuff - 89% off!  Well worth the trip, I think!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Know Your Coupons

This morning I received my 4 subscriptions that are delivered to my house, but they only had one coupon insert in them.  Since the number of coupon inserts varies week to week, I might have just assumed that was all that was coming today.  But I regularly check Sunday Coupon Preview and knew 2 inserts should be in there.

So I emailed the newspaper company to let them know I was missing one of the inserts and they dropped off 4 replacement sets later that morning.  On a side note, this is not the first time this has happened.  In fact, it's the 3rd time in 2 months which makes me unhappy.  But I digress...

Regardless, my point is to know what inserts are coming so you can make sure you get them.  If you are buying your papers at a store make sure you check the papers before you buy them.  If you are having them delivered, make sure you check them early enough in the morning so you can report any problems if necessary.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Coupon Clipping Services

A few pretty decent coupon deals have come up lately that require 10 coupons.  Since I only buy 4 copies of the newspaper, I generally don't have 10 of each coupon unless they are printable ones.  So what can  I do? 

There have been times when I have bought coupons from a coupon clipping service.  Clipped coupons are available from 5 to 15 cents each.  You can also get complete, uncut inserts for approximately 80 cents each.  You can get them for less when you get multiple copies.

I haven't gotten complete inserts from a service, because it's cheaper for me to just buy the newspaper instead of paying 80 cents for each of the 2-3 inserts that come each week.  While I don't believe it's a reasonable option for every week, it is a good option if you somehow completely miss a week of coupons. 

A better option all around is hooking up with other couponers and exchanging coupons with each other for free.  It's a win-win situation - you help others and help yourself!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

MORE Free Toothpaste?

I came home from the food store today with 4 more free tubes of toothpaste and was met with the question, "You got MORE free toothpaste?" 

Yes, I will admit I have too many tubes of toothpaste.  It's one of the few items where I have broken my rule of only stockpiling  the amount that my family will use prior to them expiring.

So why do I have so many?  Yes, they were all free, but I also found out that our local food pantry accepts personal care items - and toothpaste and toothbrushes are on the list!

Keep in mind that donating is a great way to share all the great deals you get with coupons!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Finally, A Decent P&G Coupon!

Despite living deep in P&G country, and being friends with several of the Proctoids that work there, I have been known to disparage P&G and their coupons on this blog.  Rarely do you see ".25 cents off 3" coupons these days, but if you do you can be sure they are P&G ones.  You can also be sure they say "limit 4" on them and that they expire within 1 month.  Ugh.  They are the reason I have a basement full of Brawny, Cottonelle and Kleenex instead of Bounty, Charmin and Puffs.

The only thing that saves me from completely trashing them is the fact that they rotate and thrown in one good/great coupon each month.  Last month it was the "$8 off 2 Covergirl products" I used a few days ago.  This month it's "$2 off 1" Tide.  Their Tide coupons are usually ".50 cents off 1."  Now hopefully I can find a store coupon or store reward to pair it with for a great deal before it expires.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Getting Paid to Shop is Awesome!

Being the last weekend of the month, I went through my coupons to check for awesome ones that were about to expire.  I found a great deal that allowed me to not only get $50 of stuff but actually leave the store with more money than I came with.

Here's the scoop:
  1. I had 3 expiring coupons for $8 off 2 Covergirl products.  (Lesson #1: Print/Collect ALL high value coupons). 
  2. CVS was having a "Buy 1 Get 1 50% off" sale on Covergirl products.   These products are also part of the "Buy $30 worth, get a $10 gift card" promotion.  (Lesson #2: Check your favorite coupon deal site and/or circulars carefully - these products were not pictured, just written at the bottom of the page). 
  3. A few days ago I got a $5 off $30 coupon for CVS that I knew could be used in conjunction with manufacturer coupons.  (see Lesson #1 above).
So I got 6 Covergirl foundation products, and with sales and coupons my total was reduced to $9.  My pre-coupon total made me eligible for the $10 gift card so my net gain was $1 - a 102% savings!  I also had $5 of CVS ExtraCare Bucks which reduced my out-of-pocket about to only $4.  Couponing rocks!

For the record, the couponing sites were listing this deal as buying 8 of the Covergirl blushes, and getting everything for free plus making $10.  The deal didn't catch my eye at first because I don't wear blush.  Once I started calculating I figured out products that I actually use and how I could make that work.  Just because you see a deal on a site doesn't mean you cannot customize it to fit products you use.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Lesson Learned

When I started couponing I made some mistakes.  I bought several tubes of toothpaste that I got for only 75 cents each before I found out that toothpaste is one of those items you can always get for free.  Since then I've been a bit more wise, until just recently.  I started stocking up for Halloween candy about a month ago when I found I could get bags of Hersheys and Mars candy for only $1.  Well the coupons and deals are just pouring in right now and I got the same bags today for only 25 cents.  Oh well, live and learn!  Next time I'll know to wait to buy my candy, even though it might kill me!

For the record, if you still need to buy candy, there is a great $1.50 off 1 coupon on coupons.com and a $1 off 2 coupon at Target.com.  These are in addition to all the coupons that came out last Sunday.  If you cannot find a magic deal at any one store, grab your ads from the other stores and head over to Walmart where they'll price match or accept competitor's coupons, in addition to the manufacturer ones.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Startling Revelation in the Shower...

OK, it's not as weird as it sounds, but I did have a startling revelation in the shower this morning.  I was truly shocked when I realized that EVERY product being used in the shower was completely free, or I made money by purchasing it.  Shampoo ($4.99, free at CVS), conditioner ($3.79, money maker at CVS), body wash for men ($4.99, free at Target), body wash for women ($3.99, free at Target), and razor ($8.79, free at Target).  All for free!  Plus, I have between 4-8 more of each of them in the stockpile.

This caused me to start looking around the bathroom.  The toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, hand lotion, shaving cream, razor blades, and deodorant were all free, too.

I was suddenly very proud of my couponing efforts!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Confession...

Previously I'm mentioned in this blog that I am a bit embarrassed by my coupon binder.  Shocking, I know.  I'm sure many couponers carry their binders proudly, but not me. 

Don't get me wrong - I love my coupon binder for sure - but just the act of carrying it from my car into the store remains a stressful activity for me.  Once in the store I feel it could almost pass off as a purchase siting in my cart, but when carrying it into the store, it's pretty noticeable (and has been noticed).

To take it once step further, when I'm in the store I generally keep my binder closed.  Of course I need to open it to check for coupons, etc., and I understand that people see me doing this.  I guess I'm OK with that.  It's really carrying it in from the car I guess.  LOL

Also, I won't bring my binder with me into the smaller drug stores.  I just bring the stack of coupons I intend to use.  Yes, occasionally this results in me having to leave and go back out to my car to get coupons that I had not planned to use, but usually my drug store lists are pretty tight.

Today at the grocery store I ran into a friend I haven't seen in many months.  I had my binder in the car, with my list on top of it.  I found myself hoping she wouldn't notice it.  Why?  I'm not really sure.  I haven't figured out this quirk yet.

Ironically I recently got a coupon-related personalized license plate.  I get a lot of attention from that.  I'm embarrassed by my coupon binder yet advertise that I'm a couponer on my license plate?  Go figure...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Success!!!

This weekend I heard from two friends about couponing. 

One visited recently and took an interest in my stockpile.  He started collecting coupons the weekend he was out here, and has continued for the last few weeks.  I'm excited because he "gets" the concepts of needing multiple coupons and needing many weeks of coupons to get off and running.  YAY!  He also contacted me about doing a coupon exchange.  He is definitely on his way to success.

The other friend, who has couponed for a while, recently saw my coupon binder and was hooked!  She has spent the last few weeks making her own and just let me know that she saved $58 at the grocery store.  She credits her success to the easy access to the coupons in her binder.  Another success!

You can do it, too!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Krazy Coupon Lady

My favorite coupon deal site, The Krazy Coupon Lady, tracks coupon/sales matchups for several of the major national chains - Target, KMart, and Walmart, as well as some other large chains - CVS, Walgreens, and RiteAid.  It also covers some small grocery stores that may or not may be local to your area.

One of my local grocery stores is included, and one is not.  I have recommended this site to several friends in the northeast, and none of the local stores there are included either.  Even if your local stores are not included, this site is still worth it for the national chains - and frankly those stores are where I do the bulk of my couponing.  But what about your local stores?  You'll need to start doing some research to find some good sites.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Favorite Site For Coupon Deals

Hands down, my favorite coupon site is The Krazy Coupon Lady.  That site is the reason that I will never attempt to do a coupon/sales matchup site myself.  I could never do it as thoroughly and update it on a constant basis as they do.

There are countless numbers of coupon/sales matchup sites out there.  Honestly, many of them are lame and not even worth checking out.  What are the characteristics of a truly awesome site for coupon deals?
  • Deals updated regularly - at least once a day, but usually continuously every day
  • Includes many stores - including super stores, grocery stores, drug stores, etc.
  • Is accurate - the deals are calculated correctly and are valid
  • Has visitor input - comments from other couponers offer valuable information
If you haven't done so already, check out The Krazy Coupon Lady.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding the Great Coupon Deals

So you've got all the coupons.  Now how do you find the great deals? 

Back in the day (circa 1998), I had to pour through all the circulars  to find all my deals.  Those were also the days when stores TRIPLED coupons up to and including $1, so that made finding deals a lot easier.  Imagine getting up to $3 off with just a manufacturer's coupon!!!!  It was awesome!!!!!  I digress...

These days I still look through the circulars, but I find the majority of the coupon deals online.  There are countless websites out there where hardworking couponers have spent hours and hours tracking down the best deals.  I am forever indebted to these couponers and would be up the proverbial creek without their efforts.

Next we'll cover some great sites, and how to find more of them.

Monday, October 17, 2011

OK, That's Quite Misleading

Last night the family and I were watching the latest Extreme Couponing.  As much as I love the show, I do get frustrated with it (sometimes I yell) and this one was no exception. 

Here's the scenario: the gal was shopping at Kroger, which is a store that I often shop at as well so I know their coupon policy.  As she was going through the aisles she was saying how this item was going to be only 50 cents, that item would be only $2, etc.  She then ended up getting her groceries down to just a few dollars.  Now, I happen to know that Kroger does NOT allow for overage, so how'd she do it? 

Well, a freeze-frame of her checkout screen (YAY Tivo) revealed a $150 discount for transferring prescriptions.  That means she transferred 6 prescriptions over.  Now, I don't begrudge her using that discount.  It's a great way to get your bill down, but it's not something you can keep getting and using indefinitely. 

Regardless, I feel this is misleading and gives the wrong impression to viewers that all their savings are due to coupons alone.  Extreme Couponing should have pointed out this idea for additional savings so everyone could benefit from it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

So Why Are Coupon Policies Changing?

A lot of people are blaming Extreme Couponing and the onslaught of couponing that is happening as a result of it for why coupon policies are changing. Who knows if that is the reason, but even if it is, what does it matter? The show is here and more and more people are couponing.  It doesn't help to sit around and complain. Figure out the best way you can work within the new coupon policies and keep on couponing!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Are Multiple Transactions the Answer?

Despite new, more limited coupon policies, most stores will allow you to do multiple transactions. This basically means you check out with some of your items and pay.  Then you do the same with the rest.  If I find a really great deal, I have been known to do a 2nd transaction on some occasions - usually only if the deal or my coupons are about to expire. I still usually bring my husband with me for the 2 transaction trips. Not because I need to, but because it just makes me feel justified about it since technically one transaction is mine and one is his.   Honestly I'm still somewhat embarrassed by doing multiple transactions.

That being said, doing two transactions results in using double the amount of allowed coupons, just split over 2 transactions. Like I said, some stores allow it. Some don't. I was watching Extreme Couponing the other day and the woman did 42 separate transactions. Good grief! The question is, if the store limits coupons per transaction, why do they then allow multiple transactions? Maybe that will be the next restriction.

So why are coupon policies changing?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Changing Coupon Policies

Today I learned that one of my grocery stores changed their coupon policy. They are limiting the number of like coupons, as well as the amount of printable internet coupons you can use per transaction. Guess what I didn't do? I didn't panic. Sure, the people who like to buy 500 of something will freak out at this news, but we standard couponers can roll with this just fine.

Remember I buy 4 newspapers so I rarely buy more than 4 at a time anyway. So I went in today and bought 4 boxes of Brillo and the new policy wasn't an issue. I would have liked to have used more than 2 of my printable Skittles coupons, but I ended up getting just the two bags. No big deal.

Is mutliple transactions the answer?  Let's cover that tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Organizing Within My Stockpile

Organization is crucial with regard to all aspects of couponing, including organizing your stockpile.  Not only do I have different stockpiles for different purposes, I also have discrete areas within my main stockpile.  For example, I have one section for all the food products, another section for all hair care products, one for soaps and body washes, etc. 

One thing I'm not picky about is soap and body wash.  I find they all get dirt off of your body.  So I have MANY different kinds in my stockpile.  However, I group them all together so I have a true picture of what I have in terms of body wash.  It would make no sense for them to be spread out in different areas.  My stockpile is organized by category.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How Do I Keep Track of Items in My Stockpile?

Being a computer geek, most people assume I have my entire stockpile entered into a spreadsheet.  Well, I don't.  While I could start one, I'm not sure how I'd manage updating it and keeping the products and quanities accurate.  My husband has suggested I need an iPad that I could use for that purpose, and also take couponing with me.  But somehow I think he might have ulterior motives for wanting one....

Right now my stockpile is still fairly manageable by looking it over periodically.  Realistically I may have to rethink my system as my stockpile continues to grow, but for now it's working.  Sure, occasionally I still run out of something - but it's usually because I am looking for a great deal, not because I didn't realize we ran out.  The hubby, kids and I are pretty good about identifying when we've gotten down to only 1 left of something in the stockpile and putting it on the shopping list.  The goal is to NEVER get down to only 1 left.  We're getting there!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Another Reason I Love My Stockpile

This weekend we have a great friend visiting from out of town.  Most of what I needed for the visit was just waiting down in my stockpile. 

This is one of the things I love most about my stockpile.  Most of the time when I need something I can just walk downstairs (or better yet, send a kid) to get what I need.  Talk about never running out of stuff - it's awesome to always have extra on hand!

Friday, October 7, 2011

No Coupons?

A lot of the extreme couponers say they won't buy anything that doesn't have a coupon.  Well, that's not my policy.  I think that's unrealistic.  Tonight I went to the grocery store and bought several things without coupons - fresh produce, steak and fresh bread from the bakery.  While I've seen coupons for these things, they are few and far between, and I happen to have none of them now.

One reason I coupon on so many items is so that I am able to splurge on the non-coupon items that my family loves. 

Of course there are some items that I do not ever anticipate buying again without a coupon, including most personal care products, and thanks to my stockpile I shouldn't have to!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Stockpile Management Plan

Several months ago there were some great deals on those little Post-It Signature Flags.  I bought a few for work, but then started to imagine they could help me manage my stockpile.  The kids spent a whole day checking expiration dates and flagging each perishable item in the stockpile.


If you click on the picture to see a larger version, you'll see that the flags have the expiration month written on them.  The color indicates the year.  Yes, I know what you are thinking.  I am insane.  And that's OK.  This method works for me. 


At a glance I can see when each item is expiring.  This is especially helpful for my just-turned-40 eyes that are having a tough time seeing small print like expiration dates.  (Hence me having the KIDS do this job!)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Potential Pitfalls of Stockpiling

Stockpiling is awesome!  But there are some potential problems with it.  One big problem is having items in your stockpile expire before you get a chance to use them.  Tragic for sure!

How can you avoid this?  First of all you need to become intimately familiar with your stockpile.  Know its contents inside and out.  Check it regularly.  Love it.  Treat it better than you treat your children.

Second, don't buy more than you can use before the items will expire.  But if they are free and you cannot resist, then donate them.

Third, check expiration dates when you buy things.  You'd be surprised how a little digging near the back of the shelf at the grocery store can often yield items with much longer expiration dates than the ones in the front.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Do You HAVE to Stockpile?

I had a conversation this weekend with a good friend who decided he wanted to try couponing. However, he does not plan to stockpile anything. He plans to just buy what he needs, for free, at the time he needs it.

Now it’s pretty rude to laugh right in your friend’s face, so I didn’t, but I wished him good luck.  He’ll need it, for sure.

I’ve said many times in this blog that having multiple copies of coupons is key to succeeding.  The concept of stockpiling goes hand in hand with that.  When you have multiple copies of coupons and a great sale happens, you stock up!  Why?  Because if you only buy one, it is doubtful that a great sale/coupon matchup will be available exactly at the next time you need to buy the product again.  You’ll end up paying too much, or, heaven forbid, full price. 

Please stockpile!  When I find a good price, I buy at least 4 of each item my family uses regularly, which gives me enough leeway to be able to wait to buy it again until the next great deal.  I have passed up items that I could get for 75% off because I know I have enough to hold me until I find them free again.

Similarly to friends who insist on couponing with only one set of coupons per week, refusing to stockpile items is a recipe for couponing disaster.  It’s these people who inevitably declare in frustration that couponing just doesn’t work.  It does work if you following the basic principles.  It won’t work if you don’t.  Period.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It Was A Coupon-Tastic Sunday!

WOW!  There were five different coupon inserts in the paper yesterday.  FIVE!  That is unheard of!  I ended up buying a few extra newspapers, and then got some extras from other sources so right now I am over-run with coupons.  This is one of those rare times when I did not get all my new coupons clipped on the Sunday they arrived.  I barely had enough time to collate them all.  Hopefully I can clip them tomorrow night.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

3 to 6 Months Worth

The general suggestion for how much to keep in your stockpile is to have enough of each item to last your family between 3 and 6 months.  This is because sales and coupons are cyclical.  You don't need to buy 300 containers of mustard because within 3 months or less it will be on sale and have a coupon again.

Obviously what my family uses and what your family uses will be different in terms of products and quantity, so you have to figure this part our for yourself.   For me, this translates to a quantity of between 4 - 8 of most of the items in my stockpile.

The time to break this rule is on items that have a long shelf-life, when there is a really great price or the item is free.  At that point you can stock up between 6-12 months worth.  For example, I have a year's worth of items such as hair dye, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, razor blades, and laundry detergent.  Most were free - how could I resist?  These items will not last indefinitely so I didn't purchase more than we'd use in one year.

There are other items that will last a long, long time, so I will buy as many of those items as I can if they are cheap or free: tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, q-tips, ziploc bags, and printer paper.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Quantity vs. Quality

When it comes to your stockpile, which is more important - quantity or quality?  I say quality.

If you watch Extreme Couponing on TLC, you may have noticed that those lunatics are big on quantity.  They'll buy hundreds and hundreds of a single item.  This week one woman had a giant stockpile of candy and actually said "I have enough candy to last 80 Halloweens!"  Seriously?  Is she delusional?  Now granted, I have already purchased my Halloween candy, at a pretty good deal, but I have enough for ONE Halloween (plus some extra for a random nighttime binge or two).  Regardless, my Reeses expire 09/2012.  They couldn't even last until a second Halloween.

In keeping with my rule of not dissing other people's stockpiles, I won't question her - maybe she has a valid reason for buying that much candy, but I don't.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Refrigerated Stockpile (AKA My Refrigerator)

As I have mentioned in a previous blog post, my refrigerated stockpile is severely limited in terms of space because I have only the one refrigerator in my kitchen.  Accordingly I must be wise when purchasing refrigerated items that cannot be frozen. 

I have stocked up on items such as juice, hot dogs, yogurt, coffee creamer, refrigerated rolls, butter, and cheese.  Oh, how I would love a second fridge in the garage! 

Some gals dream of diamonds and fancy vacations.  I dream of an additional refrigerator...  LOL

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Friendly Reminder

I'm taking a day off writing about stockpile info to remind you that today is the 28th of the month.  It's time to go through your coupons and check for any great ones expiring on the 30th!!

I actually found I had 2 coupons for FREE Pantene conditioner that were about to expire.  I had held on to them hoping to pair them with a buy 1, get 1 freee sale.  That didn't happen, and I was definitely in danger of those great coupons expiring!

Check through your coupons tonight and see if there are any worth using before they expire!

Don't miss out!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Frozen Stockpile

My frozen stockpile, which lives in a chest freezer in my garage, contains about 4% of my stockpile.  I limit this to items that are already frozen (like bagged vegies, frozen rolls, frozen pizza and frozen treats for the kids), and things that I know freeze well (like meat).  I generally only stock enough to last me 3 months.  I don't like things to be in there so long that they get icy.

I haven't tried what I consider to be "extreme freezing."  I have read online that you can freeze orange juice, as long as you leave space for it to expand.  One woman explained how she pours the juice into a gallon ziploc bag, lays it on a cookie sheet and puts it in the freezer.  Once it is frozen flat, she removes the cookie sheet and repeats with the next batch.  Hmmmmm......  What exactly do you do with the juice once you defrost it? 

Well the bottom line is, hooray if it works for you!  I can easily fit many containers of orange juice in my fridge so I won't be trying this one yet, but you never know!  I also have many concerns about how things will taste once they are frozen and brought back to life.  Oh well, there's only one way to find out, and lots of open space left in my freezer!  I'll keep you posted on what I try.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Secondary Stockpile

My secondary stockpile, which lives in a closet in the finished area of my house, contains about 15% of my total couponed items.  This stockpile contains 10 cases of bottled water, and any food that comes in boxes and bags. 

I have this fear of keeping boxed food in the unfinished area - I'm afraid bugs will get into the boxes!  Accordingly, I keep cereal, Pop-Tarts, pancake mix, cake mixes, brownie mixes, chips, crackers, rice, pasta, coffee, cookies & candy there.  In reality, my brain acknowledges the fact that bugs are capable of crossing into the finished areas of our home, but it makes me feel better anyway.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Main Stockpile

My main stockpile, which lives in an unfinished storage area in my basement, contains about 80% of my couponed items.  It includes food in cans, jars and bottles, as well as lots of non-food items:
  • Paper goods (paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, ziploc bags, trash bags)
  • Personal care (deodorant, razors, shaving cream, feminine hygiene, q-tips, band-aids, sunscreen)
  • Cleaning products (laundry detergent, dishwashing tablets, surface cleaners, air freshener)
  • Medicine (vitamins, cold meds, stomach meds, allergy meds)
  • Dental care (toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss)
  • Skin/Hair items (hair dye, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, soap, hairspray, lotion)
  • Office supplies (tape, pens, copy paper, batteries)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Kind of Stockpile Do You Need?

Well, it depends partly on what you have available to you in terms of space.  For example, I have lots of space in the unfinished area of my basement, so I am able to keep a ton of stuff down there.  I have a separate chest freezer which can hold a lot, but I am worried that it will stop working so I'm fairly conservative about what I put in there.

I do not have a second refrigerator, so my ability to stockpile refrigerated-only items is quite low.  I'm not saying I never stockpile any refrigerated items - I've had 5 large containers of orange juice, 18 small ones, 12 packages of hot dogs, 10 tubs of spreadable butter, and 10 packages of various Pillsbury bread items in there.  But that, along with all my regular food, is pretty much all I can fit.

Take a look around your place and identify the potential space you have for your stockpile(s)!

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Stockpile

So what's in my stockpile, you ask?  Well, my first question would be, "Which stockpile?"

Yes, I have multiple stockpiles:
  • Stockpile A, my main stockpile, lives in the unfinished storage area of my basement and represents about 80% of my total items
  • Stockpile B, my secondary stockpile, lives in a closet in the finished part of the house and represents about 15% of my total items
  • Stockpile C, my frozen stockpile, lives in the chest freezer in my garage and represents about 4% of my total items.
  • Stockpile D, my refrigerated stockpile, lives in the fridge in my kitchen and represents about 1% of my total items.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

OK That's Embarassing

I always read my previous day's post before I write my new one.  I just did that and my reaction was "Wow, I might have been a WEE bit dramatic yesterday."  LOL

Yes, I did have someone look at my stockpile and ask me why I would buy some of it, which did make me cranky, but I cannot say it instilled a FEAR in me against showing it to anyone else.  I've just decided to take the "show-my-stockpile-only-if-someone-asks" approach as opposed to the "COME-AND-SEE-MY-GREAT-STOCKPILE" approach.

So far it's working...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Don't Diss My 'Pile!

"So, what's in your stockpile?"  This is one of the most common questions I get.  I will start out by saying that stockpiling items is a key component to couponing.  You need to have enough items in your stockpile to last you until the next time you can get that item for free or cheap. 

How many you need of each item depends greatly on how much of that item your family uses.  Because of this fact, you could look at someone else's stockpile and think that person must be crazy because it doesn't fit what would work for your family. 

Let me just say - please do not judge other couponers!  I have had my stockpile judged and I didn't appreciate it.  So much so that I have not showed it to anyone since for fear of once again having to justify what items are in my stockpile and how many I have.

So what's in my stockpile?  More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Are All Couponers Hoarders?

If you've watched Extreme Couponing you may think that all couponers are hoarders.  Some are, for sure.  Take the lady who bought 100 bottles of mustard and no one in her family likes mustard.  People like that are just organized hoarders.  They don't have a disgusting mess like traditional hoarders, but their homes are over-run with free stuff which makes them...  wait for it.... Hoarders! 

There is a delicate balance between having enough stuff but not having too much stuff.  That's why I like the one-newspaper-per-person-in-your-family guideline.  That way you are not going to end up with 100 of something that will not get used before it expires.

So what is a reasonable, non-hoarding amount of couponing?  We'll delve into the stockpile concept next.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Color vs. Black & White

New couponers often ask me if you need to print online coupons in color.  The answer is no!  We abandoned color printers long ago due to the cost of the ink and its tendency to dry up before it ran out.  We just didn't use it enough.  When it didn't dry up, it was often still a struggle to get a good print.  We have used black and white laser printers for many, many years and have been quite happy.

I'm delighted to report that my black and white printed coupons work just fine in the stores.  I've never had a problem due to their lack of color.  We bought a relatively inexpensive Brother printer (retails for around $100 but we got it for $50 with a trade-in of the old crappy color one!)  We replace the toner about once per year (toner retails for $70, got it for around $40 on Amazon).

Another perk is that the laser printers print more quickly than inkjets and are generally quieter.

If you are in the market for a new printer, consider a black and white laser.  You'll love it for coupons!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Love My Cashier!

A few days ago I blogged about how to choose a cashier.  I mentioned my favorite cashier who works on the weekends at one of my local Walgreens.  Well, he proved himself once again this weekend. 

On Saturday I went to do one last round of the great free Skittles deal before the offer ended.  I had tried this deal at various Walgreens throughout the week and always had a problem.  I was delighted to see my favorite cashier when I showed up and the transaction went through flawlessly.  The issues that tripped up other cashiers and sometimes caused me to leave without the product, were no problem for him.

When you find a great cashier, make sure you let him/her know how much you appreciate all their help.  They are a key piece to successful couponing!  Of course I am thankful and polite to all cashiers, but having one that knows their stuff just rocks!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Can Couponers Be Brand Loyal? (Part 2)

Now that you know many intimate details of my buying practices, let me tell you how coupons fit in to the picture.  If I have a coupon that will get me an item free or very cheap, I will buy one even if I haven't used it before to see if I like it.  I have found that most name brands are pretty good. 

Some items that I am brand loyal to very rarely have coupons.  At that point I need to rely on watching sales and store rewards to get the cheapest price.  I will tell you a secret - not everything I buy has a coupon...  SHHHHH!!!!  Don't tell.  Yes, I still have to buy certain items without a coupon, and I'm OK with that.  Am I walking out of the store paying less than $1 and getting $500 worth of stuff?  No.  But I am still getting good deals. 

Occasionally there are coupons for my brand-loyal items and when that happens I collect as many coupons as I can.  Same for when that item goes on sale.  If expiration dates are not a problem, then I STOCK UP on the item.  At one point a few months ago there was a coupon for Vlasic Pickles.  I got a ton of coupons and a few weeks later they went on sale and enabled me to get them for .67 cents.  Well I bought about 14 jars.  (For the record we only have 2 jars left - we are pickle people!)

So the bottom line is, you can be brand-loyal and still coupon, but the more items you are flexible on the better.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Can Couponers Be Brand Loyal? (Part 1)

Many people ask me if I had to give up all my favorite brands in order to coupon.  My answer is: definitely not.

As you may recall from my very first blog post, I fell off the couponing wagon for many years.  Shortly before I decided to start couponing again I decided to switch to store brands on many items in order to save money.  While that did save some money compared to the brand items, I thought I was going to freak out if I opened one more of my kitchen cabinets and saw "GREAT VALUE" staring back at me.

Once I started couponing I was amazed at how nearly everything I buy is a name brand, and was cheaper than the store brand.  Love it!

On some items I have never been brand loyal.  I don't care if my sandwich bags are Hefty or Ziploc.  I will use Kleenex or Puffs tissues, Duracell or Energizer batteries, Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines cake mixes.

For some items I would always buy one brand, but was open to trying others.  I have found that Brawny paper towels are no different than Bounty, Cottonelle toilet paper takes care of business as good as Charmin, Finish cleans the dishes similarly to Cascade, and Colgate toothpaste gets my teeth clean like Crest.

I am fiercely brand loyal to a few items - Coca-Cola, Vlasic Pickles, Q-Tips, and L'Oreal Hair Color.  I won't budge on these items - there is no substitute.

So how does this affect my couponing?  More on that tomorrow....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Picking a cashier (Part 3)

When I shop at a smaller store, like Walgreens or CVS, there is usually only one cashier.  At larger stores, like Kroger, Target and Walgreens, you usually have several cashiers to choose from.  Choose wisely! 

Call it "Cashier Profiling," but I carefully survey the cashiers to see who I think will give me the least hassle.  Not because I'm using the coupons fraudulently, because I am trying to make the process as painless as possible for both of us.  My experience has been that middle-aged women are the worst.  No offense to all the middle-aged women out there.  I'm one of you! 

I have had the least problems with young, under 25 cashiers - usually male.  If there's one of those I will pick that lane every time.  Sometimes I will also seek out a manager that might be on register.  They tend to be more aware of coupon policies (but not always) and if there is a problem, they can make the decisions themselves.

If you do get a bad cashier try the "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" motto.  I have been known to give up on certain items that are not ringing correctly and go back at another time and they go through with no problem.  Since I buy multiples of items, sometimes I use the "yesterday they let me..." line with some success.

Like I've said previously - I use my coupons only in legitimate ways so usually I'm pretty confident that I'm right.  I am generally not an arguer so if my first attempt fails I usually do not purchase the item and try again at another time.  You'd be amazed at what difference a cashier makes!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Picking a Cashier (Part 2)

Sometimes coupons make the register beep despite having bought the correct item in the correct size.  A beeping register is never a good sign.  It means the coupon is not automatically being accepted.

When this happens, some cashiers will simply just push the coupon through. I find this happens frequently with cashiers like the young man who works Sunday mornings at my local Walgreens. He helps me every week and I feel I have proven myself to him as a reliable couponer. I think he trusts me.

Some cashiers will ask if you did indeed purchase the item, and then put the coupon through. Some will look through your purchases to confirm. Since I always follow the specifics of the coupon, I certainly don't mind.

Some cashiers will immediately panic and call the manager (this happened to me just yesterday). Some will flatly refuse to honor the coupon if it beeps (this also happened to me yesterday).  Some will even accuse you of coupon fraud or trying to steal from the store.  Thankfully this hasn't happened to me.

Part of the reason I carefully choose a cashier is to avoid the hassle and hold-up of having the manager come over. I also want to avoid having an angry mob form behind me as everyone has to wait (this ALSO happened to me yesterday).  Ugh.

So how do you pick a cashier?   We'll cover that tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Picking a Cashier (Part 1)

My husband is very supportive of my couponing and sometimes accompanies me on specific couponing trips.  The only thing we really disagree on is the checkout process.  He wants me to always choose the shortest checkout lane.  Of course that makes sense, but not necessarily when couponing.  I pick my cashier carefully.

I try very hard to follow all the specifics of each coupon in terms of product, size and expiration date.  Even when you buy exactly the right items sometimes your coupons will still make the register beep which means your fate is now in the cashier's hands.

At that point things can go very badly if you haven't chosen your cashier wisely.

What happens when you pick the wrong cashier?  We'll cover that tomorrow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Coupon Fairy?

Last week I blogged about the different newspaper I was switching to.  Yesterday was the first day my 4 new subscriptions were to be delivered, but I was disappointed to find only one newspaper on the driveway.  So I called the newspaper to freak out, yeall and scream, alert them to the issue, and within an hour 3 more papers were delivered.  I was happy, but skeptical about what would happen next week.

Fast forward to this morning (Monday) when I found 3 newspapers on my driveway.  Since I had only subscribed to the Sunday paper, I was confused by this until I noticed that they were actually more copies of the Sunday paper.  COULD THERE BE MORE COUPONS IN THEM?!?!?!?!  I was excited to find that indeed there were coupons in each paper.  In fact, there were DOUBLE coupons in those 3!  So instead of just the original 4 I paid for, I now have 10 copies of most of the inserts!  (Which is awesome because there were some great coupons this week - I was actually tempted yesterday to go buy more papers, but didn't).

So what is the deal?  Did the delivery guy get a note that he shorted me 3 papers so he brought them despite them having been redelivered yesterday?  Did they realize I'm a crazy couponer so they delivered extra to make up for disappointing me on the first delivery?  Who knows.  Let's see what happens next week...  In the meantime, THANK YOU, COUPON FAIRY!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Couponer's Favorite Word: Overage!

Today I went to Target to buy some bags of Starbucks coffee.  Yesterday my hubby spotted them not only on sale, but you also received a $5 Target gift card if you bought two.  The net cost could be $6.39 each.  An extreme couponer knows the best deal is to get it on sale, with a store reward AND a coupon.  I didn't have any coupons, but I knew a $1.50 off 1 Starbucks coupon was coming in the Sunday paper (net cost $4.89 each) so I waited until today.

Did I pay $4.89 each?  No, sir!  Why not, you ask?  Because of overage!  Overage is a wonderful thing that sometimes happens when the amount of a coupon exceeds the value of the item.  Some stores will apply the extra toward other items you are purchasing.  The Target I frequent allows for overage - I've even had it approved by a manager in the past.  I knew from yesterday's trip that the Simply Orange orange juice was on sale for .73 cents and my coupon was for $1, allowing me .27 cents overage per juice.  So today, in addition to the 2 bags of Starbucks, I also bought 8 of the orange juices, which I got for free and which also gave me $2.16 of overage that got applied to the cost of the Starbucks.  Because of overage, my out-of-pocket cost for the Starbucks was reduced to $3.81 each (72% off).

Overage works out best when you are getting an item you will actually use, like the orange juice for me, but I have also done this with items I don't use.  I can always find someone to give/donate the items to, and in the meantime they are reducing the cost of the other items I'm buying.  It's a beautiful thing.
Not all stores allow for overage.  Many stores simply reduce the amount of the coupon down to the actual price of the item.  So the item is still free but you don't get any extra credited toward the rest of your purchase.  Sometimes it even depends on which cashier you get.  Try it and see if it works!

On a side note, my son once figured out that if we bought an iPad and 885 packages of an item that had .60 cents overage each, that it would give us enough overage to completely cover the cost of the iPad.  We haven't tried it... yet!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Shout Out To My New Aspiring Couponer Friends I Met Today In Target!

Today, as I embarked on a relatively small coupon shopping trip at Target, I was approached by two lovely gals who noticed my coupon binder and asked if they could tag along and get some info.  I am always happy to share info - I just wished I could have a more exciting trip planned for them to see. 

I really just went to get some free orange juice and lemonade, and some not-so-free tic-tacs.  I ended up getting 8 orange juices, 8 raspberry lemonades, 8 Tic-Tacs, 4 Skittles and 1 Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Bread -  total $31, saved $26 and spent $5 - 85% off.  Not too bad, but not my best.  Half of what I spent was on the goldfish bread - it was so cool I had to try it!

Anyway ladies, as I mentioned, here is a link way back to the beginning of my blog: The Beginning!! with pictures of all my free and cheap stuff.  You'll love couponing - it's totally worth it!  You can do it, too!  Good luck!  Post here if you have any questions! :-)

P.S.  Thanks for the tip about the Kroger that triples coupons.  I will definitely check that out!

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's Sold Out???? NO!!!!!

Despite the fact that I try to run to the stores on Sunday and get  the great deals, sometime I do miss out.  If this happens to you, don't worry - all hope is not lost.  Here is a phrase every extreme couponer needs to learn: "Can I have a raincheck for that item?"

Rainchecks are WONDERFUL!  Most stores offer them on most sale items, but not all.  If a sale item is out of stock you can get a raincheck that allows you to get the item for the sale price when it comes back in stock, after the sale has ended.  This rocks because within a week of the sale ending, the shelves are usually fully restocked.

The biggest risk is that your coupons may expire before the item comes back in stock.  Even if this happens, all hope is still not lost!  Coupons are fairly cyclical, so hang on to that raincheck and often a new coupon for that item may be released within a short time.

TIP:  Don't wait until the last day of the sale to get your raincheck.  The very first time you go to a store and an item is sold out, get a raincheck.  Don't believe them when they say they are getting another shipment on Tuesday.  Often an item will never come back in stock during the week, or if it does, your extreme couponing comrads may grab it up before you can get there.  Get the raincheck right away.  If you go later in the week and the item is in stock you can buy it, but save that raincheck for a future awesome sale/coupon matchup.  Sometimes you can even coordinate it with a store reward too!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

When Is The Best Time To Go Couponing?

Of course you can go couponing at any time, but there are two guidelines I follow:
  1. If there is a great deal where you can get something free or extremely cheap, go couponing for that item as soon as it goes on sale.  For example, the sales at CVS and Walgreens start on Sundays.  Many times I can get the coupon deal if I go that morning, but can return later in the week on several occasions and the item will always be out of stock.  You are not the only extreme couponer out there, so don't dilly-dally or you'll lose out.
  2. Don't coupon during peak times at the grocery store.  I like to coupon in the evenings or early in the morning.  No matter how hard I plan out my trip, inevitably I have some coupons that won't scan, or some situation that requires the manager.  When there is a line of people with full carts behind you trying to get home and make dinner, this can get very uncomfortable for you, and very inconvenient for others.  I tend to coupon at times when the stores are more empty.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Seriously?!?! Now You Offer Me A Deal?

So on the heels of my post yesterday about newspapers, tonight I received a call from our old newspaper company asking why we cancelled our subscription.  I explained about the deal I got from the new newspaper and how I had contacted the old one to see if they could do a similar deal but they said they could not.

The lady then says, "well we have the same deal - $50 for the year."  So I explained that the best deal they told me was $120, so I had instead gotten 4 subscriptions to the other paper.

I guess I should have known better.  I have found with most services that if you cancel and then wait, they usually call you back with a better offer.  In this case I had already pre-paid for the new newspaper for the year so I'm not switching back.  But I would have been happy to stay if they had matched the deal either time I inquired about it.

One day I'll write about the smoking hot deal I got with XM/Sirius!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cut Down On Coupon Cost

The best way to cut down on your coupon cost is not to pay for coupons at all!  Often you might have friends and/or family who will just give you the coupons they are not using.  While that is great, it can complicate your process if the inserts are from different newspapers, and especially if they are from different regions of the country.  You'd be amazed at the differences in coupons, even if it's just the order they are on the pages.  It causes major problems when you try to collate and clip them.

For years I have subscribed to our major local paper.  I tried to get Sunday only delivery but the minimum they offered was Friday/Saturday/Sunday delivery for $38.25 per quarter - $153 per year for one copy of the Sunday paper.  I would then buy 3 more copies of the paper at the store, for $1.75 each which cost an additional $252, for a total of $405 for coupons for the year.

I recently found a smaller local newspaper that gives all the same coupons as the major one, and they had a Sunday only delivery special - $50 for 52 weeks.  I called my current newspaper to see if they could match the deal but the best they could do was $120 for the year.  So, I called the new newspaper and got 4 subscriptions at the $50 price so now I'm paying only $200 for the year.  That's basically a 50% off sale on my coupons - awesome!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Buy 1 Get 7 Free!

If you were in the grocery store and saw a "Buy 1, Get 7 Free" sale on a product you use, you'd jump on it right? Me, too! Well today I made my own B1G7 sale using store sales and coupons together.

A few months ago I bought a couple of the very cool, Lysol Healthy Touch No-Touch Hand Soap Systems.  I had seen them on sale for anywhere from $9.99-$14.99 but scored them for $3.99!  I was pretty excited... until the soap ran out.  I found out the refills cost $3.99 each - for only 8-oz!  I was used to buying a large bottle of soap to refill my old soap dispensers, and was determined to do the same.

I couldn't get the top off the Lysol container, but my husband was able to do so with a screwdriver.  Hooray!  Unfortunately I was out of refill soap so I went to buy some.  The 40-oz store brand refill was $3.99.  Sure, it was the same price, but it was 5 times the size of the individual Lysol refills.  However I still didn't want to spend that much.  I started to explore other options and looked at the individual 8-oz bottles of Dial soap.  They retailed for $1.60, but were on sale for .88 cents.  I had a .35 cent coupon that would double, enabling me to get each for only .18 cents.  If I bought 5 of them (40-oz worth) and used them to refill my Lysol dispenser, it would only cost me .90 cents instead of $3.99 for the larger refill or  $19.95 if I bought the correct Lysol ones.

I used all my coupons and bought 8, which cost me $1.44 total.  That is less than the $1.60 retail cost for one.  So I look at it like I bought 1 and got 7 free!  I wish I could have gotten as good a deal on the 40-oz refill so I wouldn't be wasting all the individual packaging, but an .18 cent refill was too good to pass up!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Alert! Alert! No Coupons Today!

A rude awakening that most new couponers get is that there are NO COUPONS on most holiday weekends!  Given that tomorrow is Labor Day, there are no coupons in the paper this weekend. 

Many new couponers buy their 4 papers and get them home only to find no coupons.  If you follow my advice, however, which is look in each paper before you buy it to check for coupons, this will never happen to you.  But back in the day when I first started I didn't know about that rule and came home with a stack of papers on Memorial Day weekend and was very disappointed.

If you are ever unsure, you can check SundayCouponPreview.com to see what coupon inserts are coming.  Sometimes I will look to see which specific coupons are coming in each insert, but coupon amounts and details vary widely from region to region, so just understand that the specific coupon you get may be slightly different than the one listed.

Regardless, while no coupon weekends stink for sure, it is nice to get a break once in a while.  Take time today to clear out very old coupon inserts out of your whole insert filing system, or revamp your binder.  And have a great long weekend!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thank You, Random Couponer!

Today, once again, I popped into the grocery store.  We were having some friends over this evening and I needed to pick up some paper goods.  I didn't have a coupon (shocking, I know), so I was evaluating the cost of the store brand vs. the Solo brand of plastic plates.  So I pull out the Solo plates to see how many are in the pack, and to my surprise there was a coupon on top of it!  Some generous couponer had left 2 coupons there.

This is not the first time this has happened, especially in this store which happens to be frequented by many couponers.  I, too, have left coupons for people, but usually it's when the coupon is expiring soon and I know I won't use it.  The coupon I found today didn't even expire until October and saved me $1 off!

For the record, I used one coupon and left the other for the next lucky person.  Sometimes couponers get a bad rap - that we are hoarders or buy things we don't use or need.  This couponer's random act of coupon kindness proves that couponers are good people too!  Thank you!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Take Your Coupons With You ALL The Time

Today I popped in to the grocery store to get a few things.  As I was walking around I noticed goldfish crackers on a Buy One Get One (B1G1) sale.  My kids love these!  Remembering that I had printed some coupons for them, I leafed through my binder and there they were - and they were expiring today! 

So of course I used the coupons and got a great deal.  Keep in mind that you can only take advantage of deals like this if you HAVE your coupons with you.  This means taking your coupon binder in with you to EVERY store, or at least having it in your car in case you need it.  I run into unexpected deals like this all the time!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First of the Month

Today is the first of the month.  This means a few things:
  1. Check the online printable coupon sites including Coupons.com and Target.com.  They often put up new coupons, or "reset" the old ones.  This means that coupons that you have already printed and reached the print limit, may now be available for you to print again.   
  2. Walgreens puts out its monthly coupon booklet.  Remember, these coupons can be combined with manufacturer coupons for great savings.
  3. Now is a great time to even further organize your coupon binder.  With all the blank spaces from the expired coupons you removed, you can move around a few coupons to group them.  For example, I have several Kellogg's coupons that are scattered through several pages of K coupons.  This is the perfect time to shift the Kellogg's coupons so they are all next to each other which helps when you go to use them.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Don't Thow Away Those Expired Coupons!

I married into an Italian family and with regard to food they feel that you always should prepare more than you need.  Running out of food, especially when you have guests over, is to be avoided at all costs. 

I feel the same way about coupons, I always want more than I will actually use.  I hate to run out of coupons or realize I could have used one that I didn't clip.  Since I keep all the inserts I can always go back and clip it, but still I like to have lots of choose from.

Since I clip more than I use, I always have a stack of expired coupons at the end of the month.  What to do with them?  Well don't throw them away.  Military families overseas can use coupons that are up to 6 months expired.  There are many organizations that will accept your expired coupons and get them over to those families that can use them.  If you google "overseas coupon program" or "send coupons to troops" then you'll get many results of charities that participate.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Speaking of Expired Coupons...

Since we are discussing the fact that coupons expire, let's look into that in a little more depth.  These days, almost all coupons have an expiration date.  Back in the day some coupons used to say "DO NOT EXPIRE" but I have not seen any of those in recent years.

Most coupons that come in the Sunday paper expire in approximately 2-3 months.  The glaring exception are the Proctor & Gamble coupons.  We got a P&G insert this past Sunday (8/28) and they all expire in one month (9/30).  We happen to live deep in P&G land here in Ohio, and in fact are friends with several Proctoids (people who work at P&G), but I am not a fan of how they issue coupons.  I'll delve into that on another day.

Many store coupons are only valid for the specific week in which they are issued.  Printable coupons vary with regard to expiration date.

Many coupons expire on the last day of a month.  Since today is the 30th, it's a great time to take a quick trip through your coupon binder and identify which coupons are expiring and decide if they are worth using.  Nothing is worse than realizing you let a great coupon expire, so go take a look through.  I pull all the coupons expiring on the 31st and separate off the ones I plan to use.  I keep the others on the side just in case, but it eliminates the need for me to go through the binder a second time if I do it all at once.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Which Coupons Should I Print?

When I first discovered printable coupons, I printed WAY too many of them.  The stack of expired coupons I ended up throwing out was ridiculously large.  Thankfully I had gotten an awesome deal of printer paper ($6.99 for 10 reams of HP paper), but still.

Which coupons should you print?  Well, it depends. 
  • If there are any high value coupons that I might use ($2 and up), then I print them right away.  High value ones tend not to hang around very long.  Print them immediately.  Don't plan to print them the next morning because they will probably be gone.  Some coupons only have a certain amount of prints available, and they will no longer print once the total number has been exhausted.
  • If it's a coupon I know I will definitely use, then I print it.  For example there was a $1 coupon for Tropicana orange juice last week.  Since I know I buy that orange juice every week, I knew I'd use them. 
  • Some printable coupons remain available to be printed for weeks or even a month.  One example of this is Target coupons.  Since they can be combined with manufacturer coupons they can make for some awesome deals, but I have learned that I can print these coupons when I need them.   I may print a few select ones to keep in my coupon binder, but I don't print most of them until I have spotted a great deal and ready to go shopping. 
These guidelines have enabled me to cut way down on the number of expired printable coupons I end up throwing out.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Disaster Narrowly Averted!!!

So today I learned the following lesson:  Don't wait until 3:00pm on Sunday to go buy your coupons!

I always get my coupons at one specific Walgreens.  Our main newspaper in my area costs $1.75.  This Walgreens happens to sell another newspaper that carries all the same coupons and although it has a sticker price of $1.50,  Walgreens only charges $1.25 for it.  That .50 cent savings adds up to over $100 over the course of a year.

We had a lot going on today and finally got to the Walgreens at 3:00pm.  There was only 1 newspaper left!  I bought it but inquired if they had any more.  The clerk said someone had just come in and bought about 15 of them.  I wonder if it was for coupons, or maybe there was an article about one of their family members....  Regardless, I still needed to get 2 more newspapers because you know that extreme couponers MUST have multiple copies of the coupons to be successful!

So on our way home we stopped at 3 other stores.  At this point I was even willing to buy the $1.75 paper, but everyone was sold out of all papers.  UGH!  The last place, a random gas station, had 2 left and I grabbed 'em!  I ended up paying the full $1.50 for them, but that's ok. 

What would I have done if I couldn't find any?  I would have bought them online.  It's great for when you need extra copies of coupons, but not really cost effective when you are trying to buy multiple sets of entire inserts - especially because there were 3 in the paper today.  That adds up!

Lesson learned!!!

That being said, I know that all you good aspiring extreme couponers went out and got your newspapers today too!  Remember, multiple copies of the coupons it CRITICAL to your success!  Make sure you clip and organize them today.  We'll resume our lesson about printable coupons tomorrow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Installing Coupon Printer Software

In order to print coupons you need to install special "coupon printer" software on your computer.  Before doing so you must set your default printer to an actual real-life printer in your home.  The software will not allow you to print to any type of PDF printer.  Trust me, I've tried.  I know you may be tempted to try too.  Go ahead.  When it gives you a message saying it can't print, and provides all sorts of convoluted directions to fix it, at that point just change it back to a real printer and it should be fine.

There are about 4 major sources for printable coupons on the internet.  Each will require you to install their own specific coupon printer software.  It is a bit of a pain, but the good news is that you only have to do it the first time you try to print coupons for each of the 4 sites.

Where do you get the software?  After you select your batch of coupons, each site will check to see if they are able to be printed.  If it's your first time on that site it will automatically prompt you to download and install the software.  It's quite easy.  You can do it!  I have faith in you.

Friday, August 26, 2011

More Computers = More Coupons

Most coupon sites allow you to print two copies of each coupon per computer, so if you have more than one computer then you are in luck! 

Being computer geeks, we have many computers in our house.  In addition to our current computers, we also have two computers that we replaced because they were too old and too slow.  (One is my old laptop where if you move it at all the entire screen turns bright pink).  We set up both as dedicated "coupon computers" and fire them up for the great coupons!

Don't think you can trick them by using multiple accounts on one computer.  It doesn't work.  We've tried.  However, we have had some limited success using virtual machines on our apple computer.

Workplace computers are generally not an option as you need to install "coupon printer" software in order to print the coupons.  You can only do this if you have administrative rights to install software on the machine.

Another option is to ask people to print coupons for you.  Since obtaining multiple copies of coupons is key to successful couponing, find some way to get them!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Do I Need To Print Coupons?

To print coupons you obviously need a computer and a printer.  Please note: coupons do not need to be printed in color!!  Even if you have a color printer, it would be advantageous for you to change your printer options to print your coupons only in black and white.  Often, your coupon will print with a large advertisement under it.  What a waste of ink!

If you don't currently have a printer, I would suggest purchasing an inexpensive laser printer.  I have a Brother laser printer that I got for $50 at one of the office supply stores.  It prints great, and the toner seems to last and last.  Also, the toner ink doesn't dry out like in inkjet printers.

Also, consider the fact that some stores will offer a credit if you trade in an old printer.  And it doesn't have to work, either!  So if your current printer breaks, hang on to it in the closet - it could be worth a nice discount for you in the future.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When Do I Actually Start Couponing???

So far we have covered how to manage the Sunday coupons and organize your coupon binder.  Things are starting to look good, with only one problem - you haven't done any couponing yet!  That's OK.  Don't panic. 

Being prepared is critical to extreme couponing.  You need many copies of lots of different coupons to be successful.  I tell people you should probably spend about a month gathering coupons before you have a large enough collection to be effective.  Use this time to make sure you have everything organized and ready!

What is the next step?  Once you feel you have a handle on the Sunday coupons, the next step is to tackle printable coupons.  Printable coupons can definitely be confusing and cumbersome.  We'll begin to learn about them tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back To Work...

I am a teacher and I started back to school yesterday. 

I had originally planned to coupon only in the summer and then stop once school started.  I used my summer off to really ramp up my extreme couponing and amassed a huge stockpile in 3 months.  Once I got all my systems in place I realized that I could keep it up once school started.  So this is the real test! 

After dinner I worked on some things for school, then checked my favorite coupon sites for new printable coupons and newly found deals.  I found a few goodies that I plan to pick up on my way home tomorrow.

I really feel it is feasible to keep up couponing while working.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Make Sure You File The Clipped Coupons Right Away

With only one insert this week I was able to complete my coupon clipping pretty quickly yesterday.  First I collated the insert, then I started clipping.  I keep my coupon binder on the table and after I clipped all the copies of one coupon, I file it. 

In the past I used to clip all the coupons first and file them afterward.  I always ended up with a massive amount of coupons on the table that all need to be filed.  Inevitably a meal interrupted the process, so I would end up putting them all in a big stack, or worse yet, they would get all mixed up.  Either way, it's a pain to file them after that. 

By filing them as I go along, I can easily use a post-it note to mark where I stopped in the insert and then just pick up later where I left off.  Remember, try to clip and file your coupons all on the same day you receive them!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy Sunday!

It's the extreme couponer's favorite day of the week - the day the new coupon inserts come out!  Hooray!

As a reminder, the rule is to get one set of inserts per family member.  For me, that means I'm going to buy 4 newspapers today.  Remember, as an extreme couponer you MUST have multiple copies of the coupons in order to get the most deals!

Once you get or buy your coupons, make sure that you collate them and clip the coupons TODAY!  Don't wait.  If you wait, coupons have a way of piling up on you.  Several weeks of unclipped coupons are a nightmare to go through.  Also, you might miss out on some good deals if you don't have all the coupons with you!

Make sure you clip all the coupons you think your family will use, as well as anything you would be willing to try if it were extremely cheap or free.  Once they are clipped, file them directly into your binder.  This should go much more quickly than last week!

Last reminder: Do not throw away the rest of the coupons.  Store them in a folder with today's date in case you need to find a coupon in there at a later date.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Feeling Overwhelmed? Don't Panic!

Let me guess, you are freaking out, right? Today is Saturday, which means more coupons are coming out tomorrow, and you barely have gotten last week's coupons under control. You are not ready for new coupons!!!!

Don't panic! Breathe..... It's going to be alright.....

Rest assured that this couponing thing get easier! We've been working together all week to get your binder set, and now it is!  Next week you won't have to do all that!  It will be much easier to just add in the new coupons.

Tomorrow is one of those weeks were there is only one set of coupons coming in the paper (Smart Source).  There are a handful of weeks that only have one insert, and some holiday weekends that have none.  Normally this is not a happy occasion for the extreme couponer, but in this case we will glady accept an easy week!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Step #3: How Do I Keep Track of All These Clipped Coupons? (Part 4)

So now that you have all the items you need for your coupon binder, you can start to add the coupons to your binder.  Spread the trading card pages and alphabet or category dividers throughout the binder.  Put each coupon in its own section on the trading card page.  If you have more than one copy of a coupon, which you should, put all the copies in the same section.

These pages should contain all of your manufacturer's coupons.  You should also start to collect store coupons.  I don't recommend filing these in with the manufacturer ones.  I use heavy plastic pocket dividers to not only separate off each store's coupons, but also to hold various coupons books and lists of the items I wish to purchase at that specific store.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Step #3: How Do I Keep Track of All These Clipped Coupons? (Part 3)

Let's assume you want to be like the extreme couponers and create a coupon binder to store your coupons.  Come on, all the cool kids are doing it.  Here's what you need:
  1. A Zippered Binder.  You can use a regular binder, but the potential for coupons slipping out is significant.  Also, the zippered ones usually have several large pockets, inside and out, which come in handy.  (This is the one I use - it retails on the Mead website for a staggering $23.79 but Walmart has it for $10.  Also, you can get it for $8.50 if you use the $1.50 coupon available from Target.  Yes, Walmart will accept Target coupons!  - more on that later).
  2. Trading Card Pages.  Primarily used for baseball cards, these plastic protectors have nine sections for coupons on each page.  You may eventually need many of these, but perhaps buy enough to have 1 or 2 pages per alphabet letter or category (depending on your type of organization).
  3. Divider Tabs.  These are a good choice if you are organizing by alphabet.  You can use a standard divider if you are organizing by category.
  4. Pocket DividersStrong plastic dividers with pockets are great for coupon booklets and assorted goodies.
  5. Scissors and Calculator.  While you have these at home, it's a good idea to keep a small pair of scissors and a small calculator in your binder for some on-the-go couponing.
Please note I have linked the above for reference only.  In no way are these the best prices you can get on these items.  Shop around and never pay full price!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Step #3: How Do I Keep Track of All These Clipped Coupons? (Part 2)

Once you've decided on the method you will use to organize your coupons, you need to decide what you are going to store them in.  Again, the choices vary considerably in size, portability and price, but ask yourself the following:
  • Do you want to bring your coupons around with you?  If so, a zippered binder, small accordion organizer or series of envelopes might be the best option. 
  • Do you plan to leave most of your coupons at home and only take the ones you plan to use?  If so, you can use a shoe box with index card dividers, or file folders in a file cabinet (this method works well for those people who don't clip any coupons until they plan to use them.) 
For many years I used a small accordion coupon organizer but I often was unable to find the coupons I needed when I was in the store.  To add to the problem, I didn't really know which coupons I had, and didn't prepare ahead of time for my shopping trip, but that is a topic for another day. 

I have recently changed to a zippered binder that my son had left over from school that was still in decent shape.  It's wonderful and works perfectly for my needs.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Step #3: How Do I Keep Track of All These Clipped Coupons? (Part 1)

At this point you should have multiple copies of quite a few coupons from this Sunday's paper.  What should you do with them now?  You need to give some thought to how you'd like to organize your coupons.   The two most popular options are (1) Alphabetically or (2) By Category.  That being said, you can choose any other method that works for you. 

For many years I used a quasi-category concept - I used categories like "frozen & refrigerated", "stuff that comes in boxes/bags", "stuff that comes in cans/jars", "fresh things", "personal care", etc.  Some people do much more specific categories.  For example, instead of "personal care" they may have individual categories for "oral care", "hair care", "shaving", "soap", etc.  That level of organization was too cumbersome for me.  Likewise, others would have trouble understanding my filing system, but the only person who needed to understand it was me, and I thought it made perfect sense!

That concept worked pretty well when I was doing light couponing, but the amount of coupons in each category became too excessive when the volume of coupons increased.   I have recently switched over to organizing them alphabetically which is working out very well for me!

If you think you'd like to organize by category, start making a list of what categories make sense for you.  You can always change/adapt your system later, but the more you have in place at the beginning, the less work it will be in the future.

Remember, you organization system needs to make sense to YOU! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Step #2: OK, I Have Multiple Sets of the Sunday Coupon Inserts. What Now?

How you clip your coupons can make or break your success as a couponer  When you do it correctly, it is very easy and fast.  When you do it wrong, it can drive you insane make the process very hard.  Usually people don't continue doing things that are very hard, so make sure you do it the easy way! 
  1. Collect all the sets of the coupon inserts before you start clipping.  Although you might have a straggler here or there that you might have to clip individually, it is always easier to clip them all at once.
  2. Collate the pages in each insert.  For example, if you have 4 sets then put all 4 copies of the first page together, then 4 copies of the next page, and so on.  Place the collated sets inside the outside cover.  Kids are great to help with this step! (see picture below)
  3. Go through and identify the coupons you wish to cut.  Choose the ones you know your family uses, and the ones you would be willing to use if the item was free or extremely cheap.
  4. When possible, clip all 4 copies of each coupon at once.  This will save a lot of time.  Use a paper cutter if you have one.
  5. DO NOT THROW AWAY THE REST OF THE COUPONS!!!!!  Many times I have gone back to an insert to clip coupons I neglected to clip the first time.  Get a folder and label it with that Sunday's date and keep the inserts in there.
A particularly large set of inserts!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Step #1: Start Collecting Coupons Now!

Today is the first day of your life as a serious couponer!  The first step is to start collecting multiple sets of coupons.   

It's Sunday! It's Coupon Day! There are two inserts coming in the newspaper today: Smart Source & Red Plum!

Unless you have friends/family/co-workers that you can beg coupons from, you need to go out and buy one newspaper per member of your family RIGHT NOW!   Don't wait! 

And take my advice - look through each newspaper before you buy it to make sure the coupons are in there.  Some less than scrupulous couponers have been known to steal coupons from the newspapers at stores.  There's nothing worse than getting your newspapers home and finding no coupons in them.  OK, maybe there are worse things, but still, missing coupons is pretty bad.

I've said it before but I will say it again:  There's no way around it, you MUST have multiple sets of coupons to be successful.

Friday, August 12, 2011

OK, I'm Convinced! How Do I Get Started?

So you've decided to give couponing a try.  Congratulations!  Get ready to save money and build an impressive stockpile!

Whether you aspire to be an extreme couponer, or just a moderate one, the first step is to start collecting your coupons - as many as you can get your hands on - every week without fail.  Multiple copies, every week.  This is critical.

Some people think they can take one copy of this week's coupons and save a ton of money.  That is just not how it works.  It may take about one month's time after you seriously start collecting coupons until you start to see big savings.  Don't give up!  Be patient and keep collecting!.  It will pay off for sure!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Question #10: How Can I Organize My Coupons?

Not only do you need plenty of coupons, but you also need a way to organize them that allows you to locate the coupons you need quickly and easily.  I used to use the traditional small accordion-style coupon file which I kept organized by category.  I would find myself in the grocery store, digging through it over and over attempting to find a coupon I thought was in there.  Often I couldn't find it.  Sometimes I found it at a later date which made me crazy!

I knew I needed a better system, and have since adopted the "zippered binder / baseball trading card pages" concept that is so popular with extreme couponers.  Mine is organized alphabetically and has been a true miracle in my efforts to coupon.  I now can find any coupon in just a few seconds and never lose out on the good deals. 

If only I could get over the embarrassment of lugging it into stores with me...