Coupons 101

01/26/2009 9:17 pm · 24 comments

by Sarah A Thrifty Mom

Coupons 101 – Part 1

To be honest I use to think coupons were a waste of time. I would clip just a few and throw the rest in the trash. But my eyes have been opened. Now I look at a coupon as money in my pocket. Hope this info helps, let me know what other question you have.

Where do you get your coupons?
  • Newspaper- I have found the best place to get a wide varitey of coupons all at once is the Sunday coupon inserts. I try to get at least 4 sets of inserts a week. Not all papers carry the same inserts, so you might ask which inserts your local paper has. Once a month, Procter & Gamble has a special coupon insert dedicated to their products but it is available only in select papers. Visit THIS page to find out which papers carry the P&G inserts. I am lucky both my local papers carry this insert. Most papers allow you to purchase just the Sunday paper, or Muliple papers, at a lower price.
  • Printable Internet coupons- There are alot of really good sites to print coupons from. You can print the same coupons from alot of differnt sites. Most of the sites will allow you to print the coupon twice. But if you have more than one computer at home, you can print it twice from each computer. I found it works best to print with Internet Explorer, Firefox, and MAC. If you do not have high speed internet it can be tricky to get them to print. I have a link on the side of my blog listing my favorite print sites. DO NOT try to photo copy your coupons the stores can tell, and it will make using printable coupons harder for us all. Check your local stores to see if they except printed coupons. Most my local stores do.
  • Blinkies- These are the little black boxes with the red blinking light that spits out coupons. You can find these little units on the selves in some stores, like Albertsons and WalGreens to name a few. Go ahead and take a few and save them for your coupon stash. But only take a few, remember to play nice and leave some for the next coupon hunter.
  • Ask around- you would be surprised how many people just throw them away. I have 2 very sweet little old ladies that share their papers with me every week. My husbands work gets Sunday papers. And they just toss them come Monday morning. So he grabs the inserts for me. Once your friends, family, co-works and neighbors know you like coupons they are normally happy to help save them for you.
  • Peelies- these are the coupons that come stuck to a product. They normally have a long shelf life, they tend to not expire for up to a year. They are great to save and combine with future sales.
  • Buying coupons- According to the law, no one can “sell” a coupon. But they CAN charge you for the time and effort put into clipping it. You’ll find lots of coupons for sale on Ebay other sites . You would be surprised how many crazy coupon lady’s are out there, they look for the good ones and buy them up quick.
  • The Manufacturer- Many companies like it when you contact them. You can call, email, or write to them and tell them how much you love the product. Some companies are happy to send you coupons for discounts, or for free products. But not all companies do, you just have to ask around.

Coupons 101- part 2

What coupons to save?
Now that I have talked about where to get your coupons ( click here to read) we are on our way to the next step.
  • What coupons do you save? I clip and save almost every coupon. The only time I don’t save a coupon is if it’s something I would never use even if it was free. So I keep 99% of my coupons. On Sunday when the coupon inserts come out, I spent about an hour clipping them out of 5 different papers. I put them in stacks of similar products. Like all the shampoo goes in one pile, all the cracker coupons in another. By clipping them out of the paper you are able to get rid of a lot of the bulk. Who wants to keep 50 papers around their house. From here you need to organize them, I keep all my coupons in a coupon binder ( I plan to do a post on this next week)
  • Why do I clip and save every coupon? I save every coupon because I never know what is going to come on sale. Or when I might find an item on clearance, and if I have all my coupons in a binder, with me. Then I am able to take advantage of both the coupon and the sale. Before I started my binder I can’t tell you how many times I would buy something that I had a coupon for at home but I just forgot to bring it. Or I didn’t plan to buy it that week, but when I got to the store it was one sale. So I missed a great way to save even more money.
  • Don’t be to stuck on one brand- When you save all coupons, you are able to take advantage of some great sales. If you only save the coupons for the brands, you normally buy then you pay a lot more. For example: My family normally buys JIFF peanut butter, so if I see and coupon for JIF
    F I will hang on to it. But if I see a coupon for SKIPPY I might just toss it in the trash. Now if both peanut butters are $3.00 a jar I will always buy the one I like best. But if I find a sale later that month for SKIPPY for $1.75 and I have a .75 cents off coupon it would make the SKIPPY a $1 and the JIFF still is $3.00 and at that price I would be happy to buy SKIPPY.
    SO clip all brands and always bring your coupons along with you.
  • How many to save- I try to get at least 5 of each coupon but I am thrilled when I get more than that. Why do I save so many? Example: If Albertsons is having a sale on Chili, for 75 cents, and normal price is a $1, plus I have a coupon for .25 cents. That would make it half price .50 cents, a great deal….but I don’t really want to go out of my way for one can of chili. But if I have saved 8 coupons, and I can get 8 cans at half price it will then be worth my time to buy it. Plus I then have a nice “food storage” of chili. When you buy items at a low price, and stock up the goal is to have enough so you won’t have to buy it again till it comes on sale. This way you are ALWAYS able to buy your items half off or more.
Coupons 101- Part 3

When to use your coupons?

  • When to use your coupons- Just because you have a coupon does not mean you should buy an item. In fact if you buy items just because you have a coupon, you will end up spending more money on items you don’t really need, and are still over priced. The trick is to wait for the coupon to go on sale or clearance which is an even better deal.
  • Wait for a sale- Wait for items to come on sale then use the coupon along with the sale. Then buy several of that item, so you don’t need to buy it again till another sale comes along. Example- I have 10 tubes of name brand toothpaste. People I know tell me “But I don’t need 10 tubes of toothpaste!”. Well what I tell them is that if I can get paid over $10 to BUY 10 tubes of toothpaste (see my post here) then why not do it. And know that I wont need to spend that $30 dollars over the next year. Each time you can save like this adds up, and by year end you could save a ton of money. Or go on that vacation you wanted.
  • Buy one get one free sales- When a store has a buy one get one free sale, this is a great time to use your coupons. You can use 2 coupons. One for the item you are buying and one for the item you are getting for free. WHY, you need to remember that a coupon is like cash. The store IS getting paid for that product, by the Manufacturer. So the store gives you the second item for free, but they can turn in the coupon and get paid for that item they just gave you for free. Example- chips are on sale buy one get one free. You pay $4.00 for the first bag of chips, and get the 2nd free. But you have 2 coupons for $1 off a bag of chips. You can use both of those coupons. One coupon is applied to each bag of chips (although one bag is considered free) Both coupons are applied to the total sale price. Bringing the total to $2 for 2 bags of chips. You would have paid $8 for 2 bags of chips, but using the Buy one get one (BOGO) free sale you have saved $4 PLUS $2 in coupons.
  • Stacking your coupons- Stacking your coupons is when you are able to use 2 coupons for one item. You are able to do this when you use a in-store coupon ( a coupon that the store prints, normally in the weekly ad. It will have the store logo on it) along with a MFR (manufacturer coupon). When you use the in-store coupon and the MFR coupon together this is called “stacking” your coupons. So watch for those in-store coupons, and see if you have a MFR coupon to go along with it.
  • Rebates- A lot of company’s offer a mail in rebate for their items as part of a promotion to get you to try or buy their product. Many times this makes the item free after rebate. Example- The store is selling nuts for $5.00, and they have a mail in rebate for $5.00 which would make the item free. But if you use a $2.00 coupon on the nuts, after you turn in your rebate they will give you a check for $5.00. SO you will actually make $2.00 for buying the nuts.
  • Store match or double- Some stores do this every week, but my local stores only do it a few times a year. They will match you coupon amount, which gives you the chance to get twice the amount of your coupon. Example- the store is selling juice for $1.00 but I have a coupon for $.50 off, The store them matches the price of my coupon giving me another $.50 off, making my juice FREE. Normally if a store matches or doubles coupons they only let you do a limited of items per shopping trip. So I plan to make several trip through the checkout line.

Coupons 101 PART 4- How to organize your coupons
(To read my earlier post click link Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
Once you starts to collect coupons you will notice very quickly they turn into a huge pile of clutter. The only way I will use coupons is if I can easily find them, and have them organized. Everyone has their own way, I have used several different methods but this is what works for me. This is a photo of my coupon binder, I found the binder at Walmart for $24 it seems to cover all my needs.

In the front on my binder I have clear sheet protecto
rs , I have them labeled for my catalina coupons and one for rebates for the month. I also have one for each store I shop at example, Albertsons, Target, Walgreens…. In side of each pocket I can put that weeks ad, coupons I plan to use at that store etc. That way if I don’t want to haul my whole binder in with me, I can just take that stores packet. But most the time I take my whole binder in with me, because I never now what I might find on clearance, or sale….and I will need my coupons for that.

I have 20 sections in my binder, each of which have several categories. I use 3 ring photo sheets, some have a spot for 4 photos and others only hold 3. I know some people use card collection sheets to hold their coupons. But I found the sections were too small for my coupons. One thing I like about using the binder I can always add or take out a page as my needs change.

I love that I can zip it closed, when I used a box I was always spilling my coupons all over the place. The binder keeps every thing in place really well.

Before I up graded to getting 6 papers a week, I used these small photo albums you can find for $1 just about anywhere. I clipped holes in the side and put them in my day planner. This worked great when I only got one paper. But now that I get 6 Sunday papers, I quickly out grew my day planner.
These are the categories I have in my binder,
  1. Dairy - milk, Ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, butter, cheese, other dairy
  2. Breakfast- Kellogg’s cereal, Post cereal. GM cereal, other cereal, granola bars, Quaker products, breakfast mix, frozen breakfast, other breakfast
  3. Beverages- soda, fruit juice, veggie juice, powdered, other
  4. Canned- fruit, veggies, soup Campbell’s, soup other, broth, chili, sauce, other
  5. Condiments- mayo, pickles, olives, salad toppings, salad dressings, ketchup, mustard, peanut butter, jelly, other
  6. Grains- Dry pasta, mac& cheese, Hamburger helper, rice, side dishes, potatoes, baking- Brownies, cake, muffin, frosting, sugar, oil, flour, other
  7. Snacks- fruit snacks, nuts, popcorn, gum, candy, chocolate, crackers, cookies, chips, other
  8. Frozen- bread, rolls, pizza, dessert, pasta, veggies, dinners, meat, Asian, other
  9. Food misc.- diet, health, Mexican, Asian, meat, other
  10. Baby- diapers, soap, food, other
  11. Medication- laxatives, aspirin, Tylenol, cough drops, muscle pain, cold meds, tums and pepto, first aide supplies, other
  12. Paper – tissue, t.p., napkins, paper plates, cups, Ziploc bags, glad bags, other
  13. Soap- hand soap, body wash, Dove product’s, Olay products, Shampoo with 2 full sheets,
  14. Personal care- deodorant, feminine, razors, shave gel,
  15. Toothpaste- Colgate, crest, kids, mouthwash, toothbrush,
  16. Make up- cover girl, olay, Revlon, maybelline, other, skin care, lotion, chap stick,
  17. Dish soap- liquid, powdered, laundry soap and products,
  18. Home- other cleaners, carpet, floor, window, Clorox, Lysol, bathroom, glade, air wick, oust, febreze,
  19. Pets- food, care, other
  20. Batteries
This is my system and it works great for me.

Leave a Comment: 24 comments

Filed Under: Coupons 101, Coupons 101 part 2, Coupons 101 part 3, Coupons 101 part 4

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23 comments
LaTonya
LaTonya

Ihave always used coupons, but never can see a big difference in what I've saved... A friend has gotten me more interested in getting a binder and everything and now I'm trying to get this down-packed. But the question that I have is: Is Wal-Mart a good place to use coupons?

A Thrifty Mom
A Thrifty Mom

They can be.. it depends.. Alot of the time the cashiers have no idea.. also the store managers are about clueless at times.. Walmart just doesn't see huge numbers of couponers to get used to us..

A Thrifty Mom
A Thrifty Mom

Since i put coupons away at least once a week, and i shop more then that, i always seem to be glancing at my coupons, and try and keep an eye open for the dates. and plan accordingly. if i miss i miss, but i try and use them only if they are already on sale. food storage is the key. You can wait to buy till they go on sale and get them way cheap, sometimes free.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Do you have a strategy to use coupons prior to expiration? I have tried organizing by date then catagory within a month. I am just getting into coupons and have terrible organizational skills.I love your ability to convey these concepts in a clear manner.Thanks!!Caroline

A Thrifty Mom
A Thrifty Mom

Beth,I would suggest at walgreens to always hand the cashier the MFR coupons FIrst.....then hand over the instore coupons. This has worked best for me. Another thing is you only need 1 instore coupon at walgreens even if you buy 3 items example, if it for toothpaste and you buy 4 you only need to hand the cahsier one instore coupon for the toothpaste....it will ring up all of them at the same price. BUT you do need 4 MFR coupons if you buy 4 toothpaste. Buy your items in small groups that way it is easier to see if it all worked out right. Hope these tips helpsarah

Beth
Beth

Is there any order or secret to checking out with coupons?My 1st coupon shopping trip, nothing made sense and I was at the mercy of the cashier.My 2nd or 3rd trip out, I tried to make sense of the reciept when I was finished and it was mostly greek afterwards since I no longer had my coupons in my hands anymore.And this week I made a trip to Walgreens and only had for different products, and tried to give them one group of items at a time and then the coupon... so I could make sure they were all being deducted... and the guy scanned my store coupons, and set aside the mfg coupons for the end... then he ended up handing me back a couple of coupons and said "you only need one of these"??? And I was confused with a line behind me and left again not knowing if I got all my "deals" or not???I know the cashiers really like organized couponers, any tips on the best way to get through the check out process and still KNOW all your coupons were accounted for?Thank you for all the time you spend on your blog to help the rest of us save money too!

Angie
Angie

I would like to keep track by type of items. So if I pre-cut all of my coupons is it necessary to keep track what inserts they came from? So far I have kept the inserts together and I feel like I have no idea what coupons I do have. Thanks for answering my questions. I have my binder and tabs together. I was scared to start cutting my inserts apart with out this little bit of info. Thanks!

A Thrifty Mom
A Thrifty Mom

Angie- it does help to keep tractRP (Redplum) 3/22 orSS (smartsource) 3/22etc..is a good format to use,Some don't cut coupons till they know what they want before they get to the store. But we go ahead and place everything already cut into our binder.It really comes down to how you want to categorize it.do you want everything by type of food or item.that way if someone tells you granola bars from SS 3/22 you just go to your granola bar sections, and browse through them till you find it ...

Angie
Angie

I am getting ready to organize my binder and was wondering do I need to keep track of what insert the coupon came out of? And if so how do you do it?Thanks!

A Thrifty Mom
A Thrifty Mom

I think about what I need for the week....Look for the lowest price on fresh meat and fruits and veggies. Then I look at the items that have a long shelf life , like pasta, cereal, canned goods. If they are at a low price and I have a coupon then I stock up.

Anonymous
Anonymous

do you have any particular strategy for making your list for the grocery story each trip? i find myself going through the store circular multiple times because then i realize i have a coupon and need to see if something was on sale, then i see something in the circular and realize i didn't look for a coupon, etc.

A Thrifty Mom
A Thrifty Mom

Karis,Each week when I add my new coupons I quickly glance at the coupon already on that page, and look at the dates. This has worked well for me.

Anonymous
Anonymous

How about expiration dates. Do you have any tips for staying on top of those?Thanks! Karis

A Thrifty Mom
A Thrifty Mom

Karis,I use to think the same way, but that is just it I don't buy something just because I have a coupon for it. This past week I have bought dove soap, vaseline lotion, gillette body wash, colagate toothpaste, ALL FOR FREE these are products that would be out of my price range to the name brand cost.....but with coupons I was able to get them totally free. you can't do that with store brands.

Anonymous
Anonymous

I used to use coupons much more faithfully, until I realised that I could usually get the generic/store brand for less than the name brand WITH a coupon. After that, I kinda lost interest. Is couponing only for those with brand loyalties?Karis

A Thrifty Mom
A Thrifty Mom

Natalie, I found these at my local Walmart, in the craft section next to the scrapbooks and photo binders. I think you get 20 sheet for $1.99. Hope that helpssarah

Natalie
Natalie

Sarah, Where did you find your photo sheets? I'm having trouble finding them. Thanks,Natalie

Anonymous
Anonymous

as for coupon organizing mine are in colored envelopes 8 red really break breakfast down red breakfast yellow frozenblue dairypurple snacksorange drinksblack grocerygreen non edible personnal itemsbrown non edible non personnal like cleaningeasy to findput a one inch line on top of envelope and use a marker to color itscott

Jeanette
Jeanette

I've got another question about "deals" ... do you have a way you 'measure' it? Like ... if it's less than $1? .... at least 50% off? ... etc., etc.And how do you measure if it's worth the time, gas, etc. If you're going there anyway? ... if you have nothing else to do? ... etc., etc.

A Thrifty Mom
A Thrifty Mom

Jeanette at first you will start savings on just he items you need... then you will start saving more and more... the longer you do it the more you will understand what is a great stock up price for you and how many to get

Jeanette
Jeanette

Another question ... what about bulk shopping like from Costco or other such places? Any tips there?Also, what is "Terusin Bacanya"?

Jeanette
Jeanette

Good tips. I'm still feeling a little overwhelmed, but I will try to begin looking for these types of things. I do have a few more questions:1. Winco -- do you have that store and do you find deals there?2. Safeway -- is that one with good deals?3. Does it seem to be the store or the coupons or a combination of both that helps you most?We live in a little tiny area. In "town" (15 min. away) ... there is a Walmart, a Safeway and a Rite Aid. To get Albertson's, Winco, Target or Walgreen's (or any others), I have to go to tri-cities (1/2 hr. away); however we are currently going to tri-cities weekly for my son's gymnastics, so I will start looking around ... I usually have 2 hours to kill.I am also curious to know ...1. Are there any concerns to 'signing up' on these websites for free products? Like do you get extra spam? Is your info. sold? Etc., etc. Can you tell I'm a bit of a skeptic.2. Newspapers ... do you end up recouping your cost of the paper in savings? Or is the key to getting the inserts from someone else so you aren't actually paying for the paper?Okay, I think that's all for now. I will continue to visit your site regularly and I'm sure I'll learn as I go.Thanks for all the tips!!

A Thrifty Mom
A Thrifty Mom

Jeanette- yes we post winco deals, No I d not have a safeway local..... combo of both coupons is where the huge savings comes in. check freebies 101 link on the top of my page yes use an extra email when signing up for freebies and don't give to much info. Start our buy asking others for old papers they don't want... then you will see the huge savings to buying extra. Hope that helps

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