Thursday, February 2, 2012

Couponing for busy people.

Couponing... It's all the rage right now. All the cool people are doing it. If you are like me, you just had to tune in for at least 1-2 episodes of Extreme Couponing. Those folks are crazy. I know some spend 40-50 hours per week on coupons. Good for them, I don't have 40-50 hours per week to spare. I really don't even have 4-5. But, I am on board with the coupon craze. I like saving money. I thought I'd just share what works for me.

Today - I did a little 30 minute couponing on my lunch hour. For $18.96 I purchased the following...
1 box Post Shredded Wheat
2 boxes of Wheaties
1 4pk of Activia Yogurt
2 bags of Kraft shredded cheese
2 large bottles of Pace Picante sauce
1 pkg WhoNu cookies
2 boxes Cheezits
1 box Club crackers
1 box Keebler Sea Salt and Olive Oil Crackers
1 pkg 20 Valentine cards with Nerds boxes
1 box of GrapeNuts

 Not one of my best trips, but still pretty good.

Nothing too crazy. 400 packages of nothing. Just regular old food. Took 1/2 my lunch hour.

Here's what I usually do:

*  Buy the Sunday Paper. I first go here to see what coupons there will be, and determine how many papers to buy. Yes, sometimes I buy 3 or 4. I always buy at least 1 copy even if I don't think I will use any of the coupons.

* Keep all, or mostly all the coupons in the paper. Even if it is something you know with 100% certainty you will never use. There are several reasons why. Sometimes, those items can be "money-makers" you use the coupon and they actually pay you to take the item.
   For example, 1 time I had about 25 Dial Body Wash coupons for $2 off. (More on that later). There were no size restrictions on the coupon. One of my bloggers listed that this body wash was selling in a trial size at Wal-Mart for $0.97.  Since Wal-Mart allows overages on your coupons to be applied to the rest of your order, I basically was paid $25.75 plus I got 25 bottles of body wash.
    Even if that is not the case. You can leave the coupons next to the item in the store so another shopper can use them. Or you can use the coupons to buy the item to donate. I once had a coupon deal that made canned veggies $0.09 per can. Our church was collecting canned green beans for a food drive and we were able to make a nice donation with little cost.

* Usually buying the smallest allowable size will give you the best deal. I know, contrary to the normal "buy in bulk" mentality. Just like the example earlier with the body wash... $1 off of a $1.10 can of tomatoes is better than $1 off of a $6 can of tomatoes. That's why I buy the small diaper packs. When I got the 20 $2 off coupons, I could use 1 coupon on each small package. So $2 off every 25 diapers made more sense than buying the large box which would have only been $2 off of 100 diapers.

* Find an organization system that works for you. I use a zip-up binder with baseball card pages that I put my coupons in. Then I have dividers that I sort them by. Dental, Shampoo & Soap, Baby Stuff, Sauces & Dips, Meat, etc.

*  Find several bloggers (at least a few local) that post weekly "Coupon Matchups" and bookmark those. For example, I frequently visit for deals at Homeland. Just google, coupon matchups and you get a zillion results. Find a few that work for you, and the stores in your area. Also, look on facebook. There are several FB pages that do matchups and will post deals and links to your News Feed. Then, you do basically no work. Buy your papers, clip your coupons, and look at the matchups. Scan the matchups, if you see something you want, pull your coupons out of your organization and go get it!

* Know your store's coupon policy. Know what (or if) they double, what about overages, clearance items, etc. Do they price match? Can you stack a store coupon with a manufacturers coupon? Rain checks? Don't try to cheat the store or slide one past an unsuspecting cashier. Let's all be honest. However, if the cashier tries to give you grief and you are within their policy, call them on it.

* Find ways to obtain coupons for free or very low cost. I trade Pull-Ups coupons with my sister for diaper coupons. It works. Someone else I know discovered that local apartment complexes received coupon inserts in the mail on certain days. 99% of the received coupons were promptly inserted into a recycle bin near the mail boxes. 100s of coupon inserts free for the taking. Yes, you do have to pick them up out of recycling. If you are grossed out by that, then don't. I have bought coupons on eBay. Last month, I was able to purchase 20 $2 off a package of Huggies for $2.36, shipped to me. I know for sure I will use those. Especially for items that you use frequently, search eBay and see what you can find.

* Don't be brand loyal. I should say usually. We are loyal to Huggies. But, on Salsa, or cheese, or toothpaste. Be willing to branch out. If I can get Crest for free or pay $4 for Colgate. I'm getting Crest. Now, if you absolutely positively cannot tolerate Crest, don't suffer and die over it, but at least be willing to try new items and brands. Usually the newer items have the best coupons. The manufacturers want you to try their new thing and get hooked. Be brave. You can do it. You might even like it.    

* Go to the store organized. Know what you are going to get, what coupons you are going to use, and how much it should cost.

*  Know what a good deal on your most commonly purchased items is. $10 for a regular package of diapers is not good. $5 or less is. Even though it says it's on sale for $10, you can almost always find them cheaper.

Last but not least... be generous. Share coupons you're not going to use. If you end up with a bunch of something - share it. If you got 20 bottles of laundry detergent for free or close to free... give some away. Another good deal will come along before you run out. Help those who help you. I have my favorite cashiers at my local Walgreens. They help me with my coupons and let me know when good deals are coming up. When they have a store contest on who can sell the most packs of gum, I help them out.

That's all I've got for now. The basics of coupons for busy people.