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UPDATE: Complete Couponing for the newbie (Part III & IV added in posts 37/38)

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
I've read a few posts here about confusion on couponing and how to save on groceries, so I thought I'd share some knowledge with everyone. I'm a new couponer, but I've learned a ton over the last few months, not to mention saved a lot of money. I'm going to break this up in parts, so here is Part I: Background info and Base Knowledge.

I'd also like to include a few links to sites/people/videos that helped me on this journey so that everyone here can benefit. If anyone else out there is experienced on this and would like to share their own knowledge/helpful sites, please feel free.

Before I start, I'm going to address a few concerns that I've seen come up on this site and in personal life.

Myth 1: Only highly processed foods have coupons.
Truth: Many organic and more wholesome foods have coupons as well. I've found natural peanut butter coupons in my newspaper inserts, as well as coupons for butter, olive oil and 100% juice. While coupons for produce are rare (do they even exist?), as are those for meat, there is a large part of the grocery bill that coupons do apply to that are not highly processed crap.

Myth 2: I buy food in bulk, so I have no use for coupons.
Truth: Even if you can't/don't use coupons for food, there are tons of other items one can use coupons for, such as: razors, hairstyling products, makeup, toilet paper, paper towels, storage containers, cleaning products, and many more. By combining the right sales & coupons you might be able to get all the toilet paper and toothpaste your family needs for a year for FREE. While it doesn't seem like much, over time even small savings such as these add up.

Myth 3: Coupons don't really save you money--generics are usually cheaper anyways.
Truth: Coupons won't save you money on their own. The trick to couponing is to combine them with a sale. For example, let's say Bounty Paper Towels 8 pack usually goes for $11. In last weeks paper, you found a $1 off coupon for Bounty. The Generic goes for $9. No brainer, right? Well, as it just so happens, this week Safeway is offering a buy one get one free on Bountry Paper Towel rolls. So you are paying $5.50 per package if you buy two. Well, you have a coupon you can use to save an additional $1. Now, if you are a bit more advanced couponer, you have multiple coupons. Since you can use ONE manufacturers coupon per item, you can use 2 one dollar off coupons. So, in essence, you are paying $9 for two packages of Bounty Paper Towels. Mind you, this is what I just did last week. My family is good on paper towels until the beginning of next year if not longer!
Another example (not too healthy, but for cake it's nice to have an inexpensive option):
Duncan Hines cake mixes were reduced 10 for $10 at my local Savemart. Had I had 10 50cent coupons, or even $1 off coupons for Duncan Hines, I would have gotten enough cake mixes to last me a whole year of birthdays for less than $5/free.

Myth 4: Stores hate coupons--they lose money!
Truth:
Some cashiers hate coupons, but stores love them! The manufacturer PAYS the store the value of the coupon. In fact, the stores are making money on you buying their loss leaders since, with the coupon rebate, they aren't losing money on the sale anymore! So not only are you getting what you need for less, you are helping stores' bottom lines.

Myth 5: We don't have space to keep all of this stuff!
Truth: Where there's a will there's a way. I've seen people keep extra toilet paper on a shelf they have higher up in their closets (above the regular shelf in the hard to read place), under the bed (using those bed boosters), behind couches, etc. Honestly, if I can get the items incredibly cheap and/or free that my family uses, I will find a place to put them. Also, remember that sales are cyclical, so you don't need to stock up on toothpaste for the year right.this.sale. Get enough to get you to the next sale, which is usually 3-6 mos later.

Ok, the first step to couponing is setting up a separate email address. I know this might seem excessive, but I like having an email address for coupons only. That way I can give companies that I like that email to contact me without cluttering up my personal email. Gmail takes only a few seconds to set up, as does yahoo. I've found Gmail gets a lot less spam, so I prefer it.

The second step is familiarizing yourself with a few key sites. I'll link to a few of them below, but for an indepth focus, please look at this video. It's a bit cheesy at times but she offers a wealth of sites that will help you on this couponing journey and explains how each site is useful to you. One major site to focus on is A Full Cup. With a little bit of site navigation, you will be able to do what the Grocery Game does for free. For those not familiar with the Grocery Game, it is a paid membership ($ depends on how many stores you want to get) that links up coupons to sales for certain stores. In Afullcup.com, you just go to the specific store forum and in there is a place where the current coupon to sale matching has been made. If you don't want to go to forum to forum, you can also go to the Coupon menu on Afullcup.com, select coupon clippers and enter your zip code, it does the same thing and rates the deal in stars 0.5 being retail price and 4 being the best buy based on previous price points.
Another major site to focus on is HotCouponWorld. Here is another source for coupon knowledge. The members will also post the deals that they find so you can share in the savings!
And, finally, the last major site is Grocery Coupon Guide. There are lots of helpful articles there, even one on finding the best deals on natural & organic grocery options. Some of the articles are reiterated stuff, like buying in bulk, but it's meant to be a guide, useful for those just starting out on the frugal path as well as those more advanced.

The third step is finding the coupons! Many times, people will suggest getting a couple copies of the Sunday paper. This is a pretty good investment, especially if you buy things such as conventional peanut butter, juices (even the 100% juice kind), toilet paper, paper towels, etc. Not all papers are created equal. At Hotcouponworld.com, there is a section titled Coupon Resources. On this page there is another link titled Newspaper Inserts. On this page select your state, then area and you will be shown a list of the newpapers and the types of inserts they carry. Be sure to get a couple copies of the papers with all of the inserts.

Another way to get coupons sent to you is to contact the Manufacturers directly. Google the name of a product you love and tell them why. Quite often, they will send you free coupons. For example, some of you may know of Mambo Sprouts, the organic and health food coupon source commonly found in Whole Foods. If you go to their site (click on their name), you can sign up for internet coupons sent to your email AND the option to receive their booklet by mail. If you see these booklets in your regular Health Food Store don't be shy and grab a few.

Also, the magazine All About You has a ton of coupons in it. It's inexpensive (around $2) and the articles aren't too bad.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I'm telling you to get multiple copies. The answer is simple, but evaded me until recently. The trick to using coupons and saving a lot of money is this: BULK buying. You need enough coupons of a product so that you can buy it super cheap/free when it's put on a really good sale so that you can wait until the next really good sale to buy again. And that is all. Say, for example, your family likes ketchup and goes through a bottle of it every two months. Now, after during the 4th of July sales, ketchup is usually hugely marked down. With multiple coupons, you could buy enough ketchup to get you to the next super sale for next to nothing. You can use ONE manufacturers coupon PER item. So on 10 items you can use 10 coupons.

There are also coupons called store coupons are coupons specific stores give out (Target, Walgreens, etc) that you can only use at that store. HOWEVER, you can combine store coupons with manufacturer coupons. For example, let's say Target has a store coupon out for $1 off Ziplock bags. You also happen to have a manufacturers coupon for another dollar off. So, in effect, you have a $2 off coupon when you combine the two. In some areas I've heard that Walmart will honor other stores' sales/coupons--my Walmart doesn't so I have no experience in this area. Anyone who does, please feel free to share!

The fourth step is organizing your coupons. I'll write more about this tomorrow, lol.
post #2 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by JTA Mom View Post
In some areas I've heard that Walmart will honor other stores' sales/coupons--my Walmart doesn't so I have no experience in this area. Anyone who does, please feel free to share!
WalMart does pricematch. You have to bring in the competetor's ad. (It has to be local and no price matches to somewhere like Amazon.com.) It has to be the same size, etc.

They don't price match rebates or things like CVS's Extra Care Bucks promotions.

If something is Buy 1 Get 1, you may have to talk them into doing a price match. They need the regular price, so if its not listed in the ad, I usually bring in a receipt from the other store's BOGO.

I haven't tried other store's coupons, but I think that would depend on the supervisor. I wouldn't count on it, because WM may claim that their regular prices are lower than the other store's regular prices.
post #3 of 45
I've signed up for Mambo Sprouts and they still WILL NOT send my coupons to me. They send me the newsletter, but I specifically asked to have my coupons sent to me at my home address. Does anyone know the way to get them to send it to me? I recently tried to redo my account but it says I am already signed up.

Also my new Firefox won't let me print coupons and I downloaded the new coupon printer, it says I need to turn off saved printed items, I do that and they still won't print.

Also if you sign up with MOO-mothers of organics on Organic Valley's website they send you a bunch of coupons for $$ off of milk.

Any help on my couple issues? TIA
post #4 of 45
Wow! Thanks JTA Mom for taking the time to help with this! I have ust recently discovered AFC and am wanting to learn just this kind of thing!
:
You must have been reading my mind .....
post #5 of 45
Thanks for all the info. I just started using coupons aprx two weeks ago and am saving money already. Although I have not yet purchased large qty's I have saved. If you add up all the places I've saved money-publix,Whole foods,CVS etc in two weeks I have saved atleast $75 which to me is better than nothing. I'm sure when I collect more coupons and buy more qty's I will save alot more. Thanks for the links I'm going to check them out.
post #6 of 45
Our newspaper does not have any good coupons in it. But, with new found resources, I'm giving it another try. I have signed up at a full cup. Now I have to go to hot coupon world.

love and blessings
angie
post #7 of 45
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Norasmomma View Post
I've signed up for Mambo Sprouts and they still WILL NOT send my coupons to me. They send me the newsletter, but I specifically asked to have my coupons sent to me at my home address. Does anyone know the way to get them to send it to me? I recently tried to redo my account but it says I am already signed up.

Also my new Firefox won't let me print coupons and I downloaded the new coupon printer, it says I need to turn off saved printed items, I do that and they still won't print.

Also if you sign up with MOO-mothers of organics on Organic Valley's website they send you a bunch of coupons for $$ off of milk.

Any help on my couple issues? TIA

I just signed up for Mambo Sprouts myself. I usually asked my cousin to grab a few during her weekly trips to Whole Foods but they haven't been there the last few weeks. I'll wait & see if they show up. Also, have you tried calling them or sending them an email? I'm sure if you do, they might help you out more so than the site will. Can you tell I don't like computers all that much?

I've never had a prob printing coupons of Firefox. Do you block pop-ups and new windows? If so, then that might be why the coupons aren't printing. On my firefox the coupons come up on a new page completely. Whenever they are blocked, I can't get them. Can you see them in the Browser?
Also, look into your Internet Options (Go to Tools, select the Options. Click on the Main tab. On the bottom there's a button for managing your add ons). Try disabling your coupon printer and then try printing your coupons.

Ami
post #8 of 45
Great info. I also just started using the Proctor and Gamble E-Saver coupons loaded onto my Kroger card. With them, I get 3 discounts: P&G, Kroger register coupons and manufacturer coupons! Plus, Kroger always double for $1 or less!

Here's my example: Pampers on sale for $9.99. I have a $1 off Kroger coupon (which doubles to $2), a $1.50 manufacturers' coupon, and the $1 off P&G (which doubled to $2), so I saved $5.50 off of the sale item. What I do to find these deals is make my list with the circular in hand and the P&G website open and my coupon wallet.
post #9 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by TefferTWH View Post
Great info. I also just started using the Proctor and Gamble E-Saver coupons loaded onto my Kroger card. With them, I get 3 discounts: P&G, Kroger register coupons and manufacturer coupons! Plus, Kroger always double for $1 or less!

Here's my example: Pampers on sale for $9.99. I have a $1 off Kroger coupon (which doubles to $2), a $1.50 manufacturers' coupon, and the $1 off P&G (which doubled to $2), so I saved $5.50 off of the sale item. What I do to find these deals is make my list with the circular in hand and the P&G website open and my coupon wallet.
How do you get them to "double" the coupoon? Do you ask? Do they do it automatically? Or does that just mean you have two of the coupons?
post #10 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by ibahippiemama View Post
Our newspaper does not have any good coupons in it. But, with new found resources, I'm giving it another try. I have signed up at a full cup. Now I have to go to hot coupon world.

love and blessings
angie
You might have to look to another, larger newspaper. My town's newspaper stinks, I buy one from 2 hours away (it's available in my town but isn't my town's newspaper...hope that makes sense). Do a little research next weekend.

Great post, OP!!! Beautifully done! I've been couponing for almost 2 years now, I have saved thousands of dollars!!!
post #11 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuamami View Post
How do you get them to "double" the coupoon? Do you ask? Do they do it automatically? Or does that just mean you have two of the coupons?
Some stores do double, but that is usually set up within their system. That means that if you have one 50c coupon, their computer makes it a $1.00 coupon.
post #12 of 45
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyarn View Post
Some stores do double, but that is usually set up within their system. That means that if you have one 50c coupon, their computer makes it a $1.00 coupon.
:

I live in the land of no doubling. So I can't get as good deals as those who do, but hey, every little bit counts!

Ibahippiemama, to find newspapers with all the inserts go here: Newspaper Inserts.

Just click on the side for your state, then it goes further in depth. There's a whole chart that will tell you which papers carry which inserts. Just scroll down and find a nearby paper & check. FYI, there are three types of inserts: SmartSource, P&G Brandsaver and Valassis. I think the PG one only comes out at the beginning of the month.

I'm working on the section on organizing coupons. Hopefully I'll be able to post it tonight! After that I'll get in the nitty gritty of matching local sales to coupons yourself!

And I love sharing this info. Couponing seemed so hard to figure out until I found a few sources and studied them. Now I want to make it as easy and clear for all of you guys here!

Ami
post #13 of 45
Thread Starter 

Part II: Organizing Your Coupons!

Part II: Organizing your Coupons.

By now, you probably have a lot of coupons and are wondering how to sort & organize them. This part can be very overwhelming. I collected coupons for 3 months before tackling this step, so I know the pain of doing this. Ah, procrastination, isn't it grand, lol. If you want a visual way to see the different ways described below, check out this video.

So there are three main ways to sort coupons, with assorted paraphernalia.

Way 1:
Tools needed: Zippered Binder, Page Protectors and dividers.
What to do: This is the easiest but most cumbersome way to sort coupons. Simply place your insert/coupon book into a page protector. For inserts, you can keep track of what they contain by going to this site and printing out the list. Just scroll to the part on the right where it says “Preview Pages.” Then click on the Coupons from the date you got the insert. So, for example, this most recent (this Sunday's) insert list would be found by clicking on Coupons from 10/26/08. Then slide this list on top of your inserts already in your page protector. You can place the different months in different dividers, or even set up dividers per insert (one for SmartSource, one for Valassis, etc). And that's it, you are finished!

Pros: Simple, fast. No muss, no fuss.
Cons: Must clip coupons each shopping trip. It can get messy easily. Also doesn't allow you to group similar coupons from different dates (like Quaker Oatmeal $1 off coupons all together, etc)


Way 2:
Tools needed: Zippered Binder, Page Protectors, dividers and baseball card holders.

What to do: Clip coupons you know you will use. Group similar ones together and place in baseball card holders. So, for example, Jiffy 50cent off coupons all go in the same card holder, which are next to the Jiffy $1 off coupons, and so forth. Coupons you have no use for right now (aka you usually don't buy these) place them in the page protectors with the insert list from this site. Mark off the coupons you've clipped. Then you can organize them according to what makes sense to you. For example, in my binder I have a tab for Food, one for Drinks, Paper Products (Paper Towels, etc), laundry, makeup, dental, as well as specific stores, like Target, Rite Aid, etc. Within each tab, I organize the coupons alphabetically. So all As are in one area (Adam's PB, Amy's dinners, etc), B's in another & so on. As long as the As are on one page it's easy to flip through and find them. That way, if I'm looking for a Skippy coupon, I just flip past till I get to the S's and start looking more closely there.

Pros: Still pretty simple, but a bit more cumbersome than Way 1. Can easily find your often used coupons. Allows you to group similar coupons together from different inserts. A nice midway point between Way 1 & 3

Cons: It takes longer to put together and it's more involved with sorting coupons. You still need to clip coupons for items you wouldn't normally buy if (when) you come upon an awesome deal.


Way 3:
Tools needed: Same as in Way 2, but lots more baseball card Holders
What to Do: Cut ALL coupons. Then sort them all into the different categories. Then alphabetize each category. By alphabetize, I mean roughly. No need to make sure the Country Time Lemonade comes after the Calistoga Water. Just group the C's together, etc.

Pros: Preps all coupons for use. You know EXACTLY what you have by quickly flipping through pages.

Cons: It's the most involved and takes the most time. Once you have the binder set up it only takes 30 -45 minutes each week to clip the new coupons, put them in and take out the expired coupons.


Which way did I choose?

I chose to do Way 3 from the beginning. It took me a month to really sort everything, but REMEMBER I had to also sort through 3 MONTHS of inserts. It literally is the easiest method for me. I love how, if I come upon an unexpected deal in the clearance aisle, I can quickly flip through my coupons and see if I can get an even better deal!

Now a few of you might be wondering why I bother keeping coupons my family doesn't really use, like Air fresheners. Well, it's a little known fact that OVERAGES (when the coupon is worth more than the item) get applied to your grocery bill.

So, for example, let's say I see that Glade Plug ins are on sale for 50 cents each. I have $1 off Glade coupons. The store, in essence is paying me to take the items. Now, you are not allowed to get the difference back in money. So, in reality, my $1 off coupon is going to set the price to 0 and I lose the other 50 cents. UNLESS I buy something else. In this case, the OVERAGE is applied to my bill. So not only did they pay me to take the item, but they also paid for some of my groceries. See why it pays to keep coupons you may not use?

What to do with the items your family does not use? Donate them. There are lots of families who could use the stuff you got for free/the store paid you to take. Even the processed items you don't want. In this way you can donate and help yourself make ends meet better. Or hold a once a year garage sale where you sell these items (like toothpaste, air fresheners, etc) for $1 each. Shoot, you will be making money off of them!

So, on to the good stuff: Pics of my Coupon Binder. In true thrifty fashion, I managed to find it at Goodwill for $1.99. I've bought the baseball card holders & some of the dividers at Office Max/Staples for as cheap as possible. All in all, I think I spent $20 in 'organizational' materials, and that's because I use a lot of the baseball card holders (which are pricey). I make that investment back in one shopping trip using coupons, so it is worth it.

Here's the outside of my binder.

Here'sthe nifty zippered side pocket that I stash the coupons I'm going to use at the store in.

Close upof the inside contents.


The inside pouches.The one on the left holds my list and my trusty $2 calculator. The pouch on the right holds any extra envelopes I have (I used envelopes to sort my coupons before putting them in the holders).


Another pouch hold my highlighter and pens.


Extra Page protectors, dividers, etc.


A section for a price book. I'm going to start doing this soon, hence all the empty spaces, lol. Binder paper works just as well!


My Dividers. There are lots because I'm a stickler for lots of categories, lol.


An example of the coupons in the baseball card holders.


My Store section of the binder, where I put Store Specific coupons, the monthly special papers (each store puts out a list of monthly specials, you can find it near the entrance where the weekly circular is kept. This is a list of all the items that will be on sale all month long). I folded back the coupon holder to show you how I store the Monthly circulars in the page protectors (Please excuse the dirty nails, I had been working in the garden that day!).

And extra paper for scribbles.


And that is all there is to organizing coupons. You can make it work for your lifestyle and personality. Not a lot of time? Go with Way 1. Anal like me, lol? Go with Way 3.

Next up: Part III: How to match up Circular deals & coupons yourself.
This part will be pretty basic, but it will show you how to shop in season (by putting a price limit on how much you will pay for something) and how to compare best buys across different store circulars and look for coupons in your binder to match to those sales. It will probably also contain a bunch of stuff that didn't fit in either category.

Does anyone know if I can put pics directly into the message? I tried but it wouldn't show up. I linked to them, but I'd like to have them show up in the text. If it's not allowed, that's ok too.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Ami
post #14 of 45
I just wanted to add a couple things. I use both baseball card holders and photo pages for larger coupons. If I clip a half page of Campbell's soup coupons, I don't necessarily clip them apaprt...since they are all similar, I just slide that half sheet into a photo page and file it under "soup."

There is no alphabetizing to my binder. I have dividers labeled: breakfast items, fruits and vegetables, side dishes, main dishes, dairy, meats and cheeses, bread, baking, snacks, candy, beverages, disposable goods, dishwashing needs, laundry, shaving, deoderant, oral care, make-up, vitamins and supplements, medicines, baby, etc. (I use a lot of dividers!) I just find a spot within my few pages under whatever category to stick the new coupons...there is no rhyme or reason such as expiration date or alphabetizing. When you're only looking at the fronts of 9 coupons at a time, it's very easy to purge (when expired) or find the coupon you need, so I don't find it necessary to organize these in any certain manner.
post #15 of 45
One thing I find helpful is buying the Sunday paper at the dollar store. Our local papers that have the good coupons are $1.50 and $2 each for the Sunday editions, but both are (obviously) $1 at the local dollar store. You have to get there early-ish on Sunday because they sell out fast, but it's worth it to get multiple copies of coupons for cheap. If it's a good coupon week I will definitely save more than the $3-4 it would take me to get multiple sets of coupons.
post #16 of 45
[QUOTE=JTA Mom;12448008]The third step is finding the coupons!/QUOTE]

I've found that the most efficient way to do this is via a site like www.thecouponclippers.com. You only get the coupons you want for a tiny fee, at a much cheaper price than buying multiple copies of the paper, and there's no clipping on your part!

I've been using that site for probably six months now, and have saved hundreds, if not over a thousand-- no kidding.
post #17 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuamami View Post
How do you get them to "double" the coupoon? Do you ask? Do they do it automatically? Or does that just mean you have two of the coupons?
My Kroger automatically doubles, but some stores have certain days where they double.
post #18 of 45
Great advise, thanks for all the work.
post #19 of 45


A++++! Thank you so much, this covers even the more elusive points about couponing that are either buried, missing or too confusing in other places.

Have you or do you use coupon trains or swaps, where you join up with others and unload coupons you don't use in exchange for more copies of coupons you do use? It sounds like this would be great, but I don't know anyone doing it currently and I haven't been able to find an interested group.
post #20 of 45
Would anyone mind if I stickied this? JTA Mom?

I have to admit that I've been inspired by all this talk about couponing, so last night Rain and I went out to Walgreens to buy one $11 item that we needed... we read up on some deals on the hotcouponworld site and wound up getting $30 worth of stuff for $16, including our $11 item. It was sort of exciting... and I got stuff I needed for baking, like sugar, baking powder (for totally free), baking soda, sweetened condensed milk, plus some other stuff we maybe didn't need but is nice to have, like tea and coffee creamer (I usually just use half and half but Rain really likes the fake flavored ones, so for .75 a bottle I figured it was a reasonable treat!).

Dar
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Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Frugality & Finances › UPDATE: Complete Couponing for the newbie (Part III & IV added in posts 37/38)