Friday, February 19, 2010

Couponing 101

As requested, and as I promised, I have composed for you a little help guide on getting started with coupons and how to actually use your coupons. First off, let me tell you a little bit about why I started using coupons. About a year ago, Hubby's (ex)work place was giving pay cuts. You know, because of the whole bad economy thing. Anyway, when you are already living paycheck to paycheck, and then you suffer a pay hurts and it hurts bad. I had to find a way to cut cost in my household. So, I took a look at my bills. We had rent, and utilities, cell phone, and grocery bills (we have absolutely no debt whatsoever & we still stay broke). Since there was no way to really be able to cut rent down, and our utility bills were under control, I decided to tackle the grocery bill. On a weekly basis we were going to Wal-Mart, getting 60 dollars worth of groceries (not counting the 20 dollars in Diapers every 2 weeks), and going home with nothing to really show for it. We were really only getting enough groceries to have supper every night, and Bree and I would just scrape by for lunch.

My Mom had got into coupons a few months earlier, and she had cut her weekly grocery bill almost in half and you wouldn't believe the groceries she was bringing home! I mean, she was getting TONS of food for the 60 dollars that I was paying just for a few things. So, after Hubby got the pay cut I decided I'd try out the coupon thing. I wasn't really a believer, and I thought it would be hard, and I mean really, how could this actually work? But when you're broke, what could it hurt to just try it? For me, visiting different grocery stores for their sales seemed a bit overwhelming at first. So, I went to Wal-Mart for my get groceries but I used a few coupons on different things. The first week I went grocery shopping on coupons I immediately saved 10 dollars. That may not sound like a lot, but it was to us and we actually got a few extra things. After about three weeks of this, I decided to go ahead and start checking out the sales ads for different grocery stores. Where I live we have a BILO, a Publix, and a Bloom. So, I gradually started adding in a grocery store with Wal-Mart, until one day I was no longer shopping at Wal-Mart! Currently, our average grocery bill is between 30 and 40 dollars a week and you wouldn't believe the stuff that we get!

Here's where I help you get started! Are you excited? Take some notes, because you will not want to forget any of this!

Where do I get coupons?
You can generally find coupons in the Sunday Newspaper. You know, mixed in with all of the different ads. If you're not looking for them, you'll swear they've never been there. But they have been. There are generally two to three different magazines of coupons in the Sunday Paper. There is Smart Source, P&G (Proctor and Gamble), and RedPlum. All three come in a magazine type booklet, generally with an advertisement on the front and the name of the company. When you open these books, you'll find tons of great coupons for different products like shampoo, deli meat, snacks, laundry detergent, deoderant, etc...

What do I do with the coupons once I cut them out?
Go out and buy yourself a 3 ring binder, dividers, and baseball card holders. Organize your 3 ring binder in the order in which a grocery store is generally laid out, and then slip in your coupons for each divider into the baseball card holders. Here is a wonderful website that will help you get your notebook organized!

How do I find out what is on sale?
Grocery Stores and Pharmacies (like CVS, Rite Aid, & Walgreens) generally put an ad in the Wednesday newspaper and Sunday newspaper with a list of their sales, but I tend to go the grocery store's website and look at their ads from there. I write down what sales I am most interested in. You can go to Southern Savers website, and she actually already has the grocery ads listed with what coupons to use (and even coupons you can print out) and how much an item would cost using the sales & coupons.

When it's time to go grocery shopping, I take an envelope and write my grocery list on the front. I then slip the coupons that I am going to use inside the envelope. It's important that your coupons are also organized inside the envelope. Depending on how many coupons you can be hard to find the one you want to use quickly. If I am going to more than one grocery store that day, I put my coupons in order of how they are listed on my list, and in order of which grocery story I am visiting first, second, etc. It is also a good idea to take your 3 ring binder shopping with you, because there are also a lot of sales that aren't listed in the ads and you could miss out on some more really great deals!

Working The Sales
- Just because something is on sale, doesn't mean it's a great deal. Make sure that you are getting the most out of the sale and your coupon. For instance: Kelloggs Mini Wheats were on sale, Buy one get one free (B1G1) and I had a coupon for a dollar off of 3. After calculating how much the actual price would be with my coupon, I came up with it costing 5 dollars to get 3. That's when I found another coupon for a 1.50 off 2. So I ended up paying 2.50 for two HUGE boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats.

- When an item is Buy One Get One Free (B1G1), you do not have to buy both items to get the sale price. You can buy just one of the items, and get it half off! For instance: A box of spaghetti is on sale B1G1, for a total cost of 1.20 for 2 boxes, but you only need one box. By getting one box instead of two, you will pay only .60.

- Some grocery stores will let you use a manufacturer coupon AND their store coupon together on one item. Use those two together and you'll get an even better deal! For Instance: You have a Mini Wheats coupon for a 1.00 off of a box of Mini Wheats, and you also have your grocery store's store coupon for 1.00 dollar off of a box of Mini Wheats, if you put the two coupons together, you'll get 2.00 off of that one box of Mini Wheats (can you tell how much I love Mini Wheats?)!

- Some grocery stores will double your coupons up to .60! For Instance: You have a coupon for .50 off of a bag of shredded cheese, the grocery store will double that coupon, giving you 1.00 off of that bag of cheese. Doubling and tripling coupons can really, really add up. This is how you can get a lot of things for free, or just a few cents.

For more Grocery Store Savings Tips click here.

There are also websites you can go to, to print out coupons. Yes, grocery stores do take printed out coupons. You don't have to have any special paper, and you won't be arrested for trying to forge a coupon. I know, I was a skeptic myself the first time I used my printed out coupon. I still get a little nervous when I hand the cashier my computer coupon, but they take them without a second thought. Remember those 2 boxes of Mini Wheats that I got for 2.50? I used a printed out coupon to get that deal!

Coupon Mom [DOT] Com provides several different websites that you can print out coupons with. There are even restaurant coupons too!

I know that a lot of you told me that you lack coupon dedication, but the trick to staying dedicated is keeping organized and staying determined. Treat yourself to make couponing worth it. Take the money that you save on your grocery trips and put it back in a savings account for a vacation, or a new pair of shoes, or a special outfit. If you usually spend 100.00 a week in groceries, and by couponing you cut your grocery bill in half...that is an extra 50 dollars a week (200 dollars a month) that you can put into a savings account for anything you want!

I hope I have answered most of your couponing questions, and I hope that maybe you will start using coupons. You wouldn't believe the money you can save, the items you can get for free, and products that you only pay a few cents for (some of which would have cost lots more at normal price)! To most people, saving a few pennies here, a dollar there, and 50 cents here doesn't sound like a lot, but it really adds up. I have watched the total of my grocery bill go from 50.00 to 20 after scanning all of the coupons in. That's incredible!

If you have any questions, make sure you ask me! I want to help you get started! Every week I wonder why more people aren't doing coupons. Remember this post where I spent 4.00 on a Gillette Fusion Razor, Shaving Cream, Peanut Butter and Jelly? I mean really, how could you pass this up? Who doesn't love free stuff?! So come on, and jump on the coupon band wagon! This is one trip that you won't mind taking.

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Ian said...

Hey, do you have a BJs Wholesale club near you? They are the absolute best. Here's a killer deal that not many people know that you can do.

They send out their own coupons for stuff. For example they send out $5 off coupons for pull-ups, right? Everyone knows that they have the best prices for that stuff.

So meanwhile if you can find coupons for the same stuff they send you coupons for, you can use both coupons.

Sometimes you can get so lucky like I did where I had their $5 off store coupon, a $4 Sunday paper coupon and another $4 online coupon. $33 - $5 - $4 - $4 = $20 for a box of pull ups that had like 100+ in em. Tell me that's not a good deal!

You can do that with anything they sell. As long as you have DIFFERENT coupons for the same item you can use multiple of the same coupon there.

Some grocery stores around me allow that as well, but that's more of a YMMV thing. I have verified with other people in other states the whole BJs thing works.

Just a heads up :)

Shell said...

I really need to start using coupons! I saw someone's site the other day that was talking about how they won't pay more than 20 cents for toothpaste!

Harris Teeter by me, triples coupons up to 99 cents and has certain day when it will triple all coupons.

Anonymous said...

We shop at Publix and they double coupons and have a penny item too which is cool. They do a lot of BOGO, too! For moms they have a Lullabye club and a toddler club where they mail you free stuff, tons of great coupons and you can use your UPromise card to earn your points for college.
What great tips you are sharing with us! Thanks so much:)

Brandy said...

good job. this is a great tutorial. you put a lot of thought and effort into it and I'm sure your readers will appreciate it. I really need to start couponing again!

Christina said...

as soon as I read you have a publix i was going to suggest southern savers....but i see you have discovered it!
i keep meaning to use it more

Melissa said...

That is CRAZY impressive! You are one frugal shopper!

Confessions From A Working Mom said...

These are some GREAT TIPS. Can you do a version of this for the new blog in April???

Confessions From A Working Mom

Yankee Girl said...

You are my coupon guru. I will be getting a Sunday paper this week and will start my coupon adventure.

The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

Thank you! I should do that. I really should. It is a giant waste of money to not do it.

Thank for for making it sound so easy!!

Katherine said...

Awesome stuff. I'm bookmarking this page!

I'm actually building a grocery list and checking weekly ads now (yes, at work). We'll see how I do with that. Baby steps!

Salt said...

YES. I've been waiting for this and I'm such a big nerd that I actually bookmarked it. These are great tips!

Kato said...

Thank you! Now that Dave has lost his job, all of this will definitely come in handy!

Did I say thank you? Thank you! xoxo

Tracie said...

I'm doing a little better using coupons these days but I'm not dedicated like you are.