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...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Question #9: Do You Clip ALL The Coupons?

Some couponers clip ALL the coupons that come in the Sunday paper.  I do not.  I clip coupons for products I know my family uses, as well as for products I would consider purchasing if I could get them extremely cheap or free. 

I do KEEP all the coupons just in case.  I have a file box and keep each week's inserts in separate hanging file holders.  This way if I need to go back and retrieve a coupon that I neglected to clip, I can do so easily.  I have done this many, many times.

The bottom line is:  The more coupons you have, the more opportunities you have to save.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Question #8: How Many of Sets of Coupons Should I Get?

You need multiple sets of your coupons to best maximize your extreme couponing efforts.  How many of each coupon do you need?  The question depends on the size of your family.  The "experts" recommend one set of coupons per family member.

When you find a great sale/coupon matchup on an item, you should stock up on enough to last your family 3-6 months.  Usually my four sets of coupons are sufficient for that.  At times when I didn't have enough to do that, I have purchased up to 10 copies of a specific coupon online.

Why 3-6 months worth and not more?  Well, you can buy 100 tubes of free toothpaste, but due to the cyclical nature of sales and coupons you'll most likely be able to find them on sale again within that time period. 

My only exception to this rule is on brand new items.  Often when a new item comes out the first coupons are usually a higher value than they will be in the future.  You can often find some pretty good sales when items are new as well.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Question #7: Where Do You Get All Your Coupons?

The KEY to extreme couponing is to have multiple copies of your coupons.  If you could get a great deal, or get your favorite product for free, would you just buy one?  Of course not.  You would probably buy at least a few.  This week I can get free white board markers to use in my classroom.  Will I buy just one pack?  No, I plan to buy 24!

Everyone always asks me how to get multiple copies of coupons.  Here are some simple, legitimate sources:
  • Ask family, friends and co-workers for their coupons if they don't use them.  Many people just throw them away and will be happy to give them to you.
  • Buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper. Shop around for the best newspaper price in your area.  I just found a local $1 Sunday paper.
  • Purchase coupons online from coupon-clipping services.
  • Print online coupons.  Most sites will let you print off 2 per computer.  We have 7 computers so I will print 2 from each of them when a great coupon comes along.

My Free Deal of the Day:  Expo Markers (2 pack) - FREE at Walgreens!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Question #6: What Are Store Rewards? (Part 2)

You can use your earned store rewards on almost anything.  Today I used $5 worth of Walgreens Register Rewards (RR) to purchase extra copies of the Sunday newspaper.  While that is fine, I didn't earn any new RRs as a result of this purchase.

"Rolling your rewards" is the concept of earning store rewards, and then using them on a future transaction where you earn more rewards.  This is an excellent way to reduce the amount of out-of-pocket (OOP) cash you need to spend.

For example: Recently I bought 4 boxes of cereal at Walgreens. My pre-coupon total came to $10. I used $2 worth of manufacturer coupons and $6 of rewards earned in a previous transaction, bringing my OOP to only $2. Walgreens was running a reward promotion to get a $5 reward when you bought 4 boxes of cereal. So I received a $5 reward with my receipt. My OOP cost was only $2. I used $6 of rewards, but received $5 to use next time. 

My Free Deal of The Day: Colgate 4.6oz - FREE at Kroger!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Question #6: What Are Store Rewards? (Part 1)

Most people are familiar with the concept of store coupons, but perhaps not store rewards.  Stores like CVS, Walgreens and Target offer rewards on a weekly basis when you purchase certain items in certain quantities.  These rewards are printed out with your receipt and can be used on your next transaction for almost any purchase.  This next transaction can occur immediately after the first or any time up until the reward's expiration date. 

Right now I have the following store rewards to use on my next transactions:
  • $24 worth of ExtraBucks Rewards (ECB) which is the CVS reward
  • $19 worth of Register Rewards (RR) which is the Walgreens reward
  • $10 in Target gift cards

These rewards can be used in conjunction with coupons!!! Tomorrow I'll explain the concept of "Rolling Your Rewards" to reduce your out-of-pocket (OOP) cost!

My Free Deal of the Day:  Crayola Markers 8 count - FREE at Walgreens!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Question #5: Aren't "40 Cents Off 2" Coupons Useless?

There will be 152 coupons in this Sunday's paper and only 15 of them have a value of less than $1 AND require the purchase of 2 or more items.  (105 of them have a value of $1 or more, and 103 of them are off only 1 item.)

On the surface, a coupon for "40 cents off 2" may seem completely lame, but don't throw it in the recycle bin just yet.  Check out these scenarios:

Example: Let's say Pillsbury Breadsticks cost $2.99.  If I use a "40 cents off 2" coupon, then I need to spend $5.98 to buy two.  My local stores double, so I would save 80 cents, for a total of $5.18 (or $2.59 each) for a 13% savings.  Nothing to write home about.

Today I walked into Kroger and they had Pillsbury Breadsticks on sale: 4 for $5 (or $1.25 each).  I bought 2 for a total of $2.50.  My doubled coupon gave me 80 cents off for a total of $1.70 (or 85 cents each) for a 72% savings.  Awesome!

The moral of the story: Keep ALL coupons because you never know!

My Cheap Deal of the Day:  Pillsbury Breadsticks - 85 cents at Kroger!  This deal is valid through 8/14/11 and uses a printable coupon!  Head over to coupons.com today to print out 2 copies!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Question #4: Can't You Get The Store Brand Cheaper? (Part 2)

In addition to matching coupons to sales to get great prices on name brand products, another great idea is to match up manufacturer coupons with store coupons.  Yes, you can use 2 coupons on one item, but you have to make sure you are following the rules.  You can use one MANUFACTURER coupon and one STORE coupon on the same item.

Example:  Let's say Zantac (24 count) is $7.59 and the Target brand is $2.49.

If Zantac is not on sale and I use a coupon worth $5, the cost would be $2.59. While that is 66% off, it is still slightly more expensive than the store brand. 

If I also print off a Target coupon for $2 off Zantac, I can use BOTH of them on the same item, for a total of $7 off, making the item only .59 cents.  That is 92% off and well below the cost of the store brand.

Target recently had Zantac on sale for $6.99 which makes it free with coupons.  Given that the expiration dates on the packages were 2015, I say "stock up" if it's an item your family uses!

My Free Deal of the Day:  Ivory Soap Body Wash 12oz - FREE at Kroger!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Question #4: Can't You Get The Store Brand Cheaper? (Part 1)

People often say they don't coupon because they can get the store brand cheaper than the name brand with a coupon.  This is generally true if you use a coupon without first coordinating it with sales and store rewards.

Example:  Let's say Vlasic Pickles cost $2.88 and the store brand is $1.31. 

If Vlasic pickles are not on sale and I use a coupon worth $1, the cost would be $1.88.  While that is 35% off, it is still more expensive than the store brand. 

My store recently had Vlasic Pickles on sale - 3 jars for $5 (or $1.67 each.)  I used my $1 coupons at that point and paid only .67 cents.  That is 77% off , and half the price of the store brand - a much better, and tastier, deal!  (We are pickle snobs).

When you match up coupons, sales, and store rewards, you can beat the store brand price almost every time.  Don't forget to stockpile your family's favorite items when the end price is low!!!

My Free Deal of the Day:  Crest Toothpaste 6.4oz - FREE at Kroger!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Question #3: How Much Time Does Couponing Require?

Serious couponing does take time, but it becomes quicker and easier as you get more experience.  To prepare, I spend an hour or two on Sunday and 15-30 minutes each evening while watching TV.  My actual time spent shopping varies depending on how many deals there are that week, but going in organized and prepared makes it go very fast.  I am a wee bit obsessive-compulsive intense about coupons and spend extra time making pretty spreadsheets of my coupon accomplishments, but that is optional, of course!

When you first start couponing there is a larger time commitment required to:
  • organize the coupons you have
  • learn the unique policies of the stores in which you shop
  • track down internet resources for coupon deals at the stores in your specific area
  • fully understand the intricacies of printable coupons and how best to find them
Don't be overwhelmed!  You're not in this alone.  I will help you and it's worth it!

My Free Deal of the Day:  Keri Hand Lotion - 15oz - for FREE at Walgreens.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Question #2: How Much Gas Do You Waste Getting These Deals?

Today I was asked, "Doesn't the extra money you have to spend on gas exceed the amount you saved by using the coupons?"  The answer is: definitely not.  Last month I spent $185 and stockpiled $1,329 worth of free and cheap items - and I definitely did not spend $1,144 of gas to do so.

I am very fortunate to live in an area with several Kroger, Meijer, Target, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart stores within a 5-10 minute drive.  I bring my children to various activities throughout the week and I try to stop in at these stores as I happen to pass them in my travels.  Occasionally I will make a special trip for a super terrific deal, but not usually.

Here's an example: Yesterday I went to pick up my daughter from a sleepover.  I left a few minutes early and stopped at Walgreens on my way there and Kroger on my way back.  I scored nearly $30 of free items, while not using one extra drop of gas.  The only thing the couponing trip cost me was my time - we'll address that issue tomorrow!

My Cheap Deal of the Day:  4 boxes of Raisin Bran Crunch for .75 cents each at Walgreens. (Hubby's favorite cereal and they don't expire for over a year.)