7/2/09

Getting Started

Are coupons really worth the trouble?
I have been clipping coupons for about 10 years. I have often been asked, 'is it really worth it to use coupons?' Some prefer to clip coupons and use them when they purchase items they need. Others watch sales and use coupons with sale prices to get an extremely good deal on items. However you prefer to use coupons, you will save money using coupons.

If you would like to begin using coupons and dont know where to begin, I have a few tips that will help you get started and make the most of your coupons. You can also find other websites that offer help clipping coupons.

How to get started:
#1 Find out where to get coupons. Find out which Sunday newspapers in your area provide coupons. Call the newspaper(s) and see how much a subscription is. Be sure to ask for different rates. My local newspaper, the Daily Herald, offers a Sunday only subscription, a Sunday and Holiday subscription, and a Thursday, Sunday and Holiday subscription. The T/S/Holiday is actually less expensive because the Thursday issue is from a smaller local newspaper. A month subscription costs only $3. Some papers also offer 5 Sunday papers for those who would like more coupons each week.

#2 Organization- This step is very important. You need to know which coupons you have and where to find them. There are a lot of different ways to organize your coupons. You can purchase small inexpensive accordion type coupon organizer at most stores. You could even use tackle boxes or other types of boxes. I use a 3ring binder method. The accordion type organizer is great for beginners or those who dont use too many coupons. I used one when I first started using coupons but I did not like it because I was always flipping through it to find the right coupon. I also dropped it on several occasions and most of my coupons would fall out which was sooo frustrating. I have never used a box type organizer but I think you would have the same problem. Plus some of the box organizers are rather big. I wanted something I could take with me to the store. I also wanted something that I could see at a glance so about 8 years ago I created my binder method.
Instructions on making your own coupon binder organizer:
Find/purchase a 3-ring binder. When I made my 1st binder, I just used an old binder that we had. I have worn out that binder and recently replaced my binder and, once again, I just found one we had hanging around the house. A few years ago a local newspaper started a coupon program to help people use coupons. At first they recommended the coupon box organization method but soon after they began using my binder method. Most of the binders I see other people using are a zippered binders. So you could use a zippered binder instead of a regular 3-ring binder. I guess..I am too cheap to purchase one and I have never had any problems with my regular 3 ring binder.
Purchase a packet or 2 of page protectors that are made for baseball cards. The baseball page protectors only have opening on one side but I wanted to make the most of the space that I had so I used my paper trimmer to cut the back side of the page protectors as well. You have to be rather careful when doing so but it allows you to increase the amount of coupons your binder can hold. Scissors may do the trick as well. Sometimes I find it is hard to get smaller coupons out of the 'coupon pockets'. When I originally cut the back side of my page protectors, I cut them straight like the front side pockets but recently I have cut a few of the 'coupon pockets' like the photo below. The page protector pocket wouldnt show up in photos so I cut what the pocket looks like out of white copy paper. Can you see how the coupon is showing below the white paper? The pocket is cut almost like an upside down triangle but without the pointy tip. I have found that I can get coupons out of my pockets much easier with this technique. I have slowly been cutting my pockets this way instead of the straight across method. (I hope this makes sense!..If not email me and I will try to explain it better or I will post more photos)
Cut squares out of white paper. I cut squares out of white copy paper and placed the squares in each 'coupon pocket'. Without the white squares, you will see the back of the coupons that are on the other side of each page, which is a little too chaotic for me. (yes..I know I am a bit of an organization freak..but I wanted my book to look neat & organized) The white squares clean up the pages and you can more easily see the coupons.
Organize your coupon binder. I organized my binder according to my favorite grocery store, Maceys. I know the layout of Maceys like the back of my hand and I always shop in a certain way-I start in the produce, move to the baking, the cereal, canned goods, condiments, meats, etc. Many of you may do the same at your favorite store. The way my binder is organized allows me to open the first page when I walk into the store and turn the pages as I move from aisle to aisle. If I go to another store such as Albertsons, my 2nd fav store, or Walmart, I can easily find the coupons I need because I know where they are.
I just added these pages to my binder. In the bottom photo, there is a small pocket on the left is for a local saving card. The page on the right is actually a page out of an old 'planner'. I think it was for credit cards but it is the perfect size for store coupons, such as $5 off a purchase of $70 or more at Albertsons.
You can organize your binder however you like. Below, I have listed how each page in my binder is organized. Hopefully it will help you organize yours.
Page 1
1- misc coupons, rainchecks-I put rainchecks and coupons that I know I am going to use or want to use this week during my shopping trips.
2-3 misc coupons- these pages are for coupons that I want to use soon or coupons that I dont know where else to put such as a coupon for $1 off marshmallows, graham crackers and hersheys chocolate.
4-5 produce/peanut butter, jam & bread
6-7 baking-spices/oil, jello, sugar, etc
8-9 baking-baking mixes(brownies)/cereal
10-11 cereal/granola bars
12-13 fruit snacks/juice aisle (juices, v8, hot cocoa)
14-15 soups/pasta, spaghetti sauce, rice including rice mixes such as rice a roni
16-17 canned vegetables, canned tomatoes, mixes such as gravy mix/canned meats
18-19 canned fruit, stuffing, potatoes/condiments (salad dressing)
page 20-21 condiments (steak sauce, teriyaki sauce, pickles, etc)/mustard, mayo, etc
22-23 aluminun foil, saran wrap, paper plates, etc/ ziploc bags, trash bags
24-25 paper towels, napkins, hand wipes/toilet paper
26-27 crackers, cookies/cheese, cream cheese, sandwich meat, hot dogs, sausage
28-29 meat/yogurt
30-31 dairy (butter, milk, etc)/ other dairy (pillsbury refrigerated products)
32-33 frozen- cool whip, pies, fruit, vegetables/ pizza, pizza rolls, etc
34-35 frozen - ice cream/ juice, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, corn dogs, etc
36-37 frozen - rolls, other frozen/ frozen meal items (bertolli meals, marie callendar meals, ect.-I dont buy these often but I save the coupons because you never know when they will be on
sale)
38-39 nuts, chex mix, jerky/chips, popcorn
40-41 candy/candy (I know it seems weird to have 2 pages for candy but at Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc you will get soo many coupons. Plus this includes gum and licorice, etc.
42-43 personal-soap, body wash, lotion/deodarant, body spray, feminine hygiene
44-45 personal-shampoo, qtips, contact solution/razors, shaving cream
46-47 personal- misc, makeup/ mouthwash, floss
48-49 personal -toothbrushes/toothpaste
50-51 laundry detergent, hand sanitizers, hand soaps/dishwashing detergent, dish soap, kitchen cleaners
52-53 bathroom cleaners/other cleaners, batteries
54-55 pharmacy-sunscreen, bug spray/1st aid, bandaids, etc
56-57 vitamins, medicine/medicine
58 pullups
You may think that you dont need a lot of room for several items but think carefully before omitting something. I have learned that coupons change throughout the year. During the winter, you will have so many coupons for soups and medicines. During the spring, there will be a lot of spring cleaning product coupons. During the summer, you will have an abundance of ice cream, condiments, & sunscreen coupons. Around holidays, you will have a lot of candy coupons. I have tried to make room for these fluctuations. Also everyone uses different products. Think about the products that you use while making your coupon organizer. My children love yogurt but I have a friend whose family doesn't eat much yogurt so when I helped her make her binder we didnt include a yogurt page.
Add tabs and maybe a table of contents/where to find page.
I use simple tabs for some of the pages in my coupon binder. I know my binder well enough that I dont really need them anymore but I havent removed them just yet.
When I originally made my coupon binder, I made an alphabetized list of products and placed it in the front cover of my binder. Beside each alphabetized item, I placed the page # where I could find coupons for that item. The list looked something like this...
Bread 3
Canned fruit 7
Canned meats 10
Cereal 5
etc....
The list helped me find coupons when I was in a hurry but I no longer need the list.

#3 Clipping coupons-I clip coupons for items I know I use, new products, and products that I might use if the price is low enough.
My family is very brand specific. My boys have allergies so we are only able to use tide laundry detergent, Vaseline intensive care lotion, Dove soap, and others. Some families are not brand specific at all; they can use whatever is on sale. When clipping coupons, I clip any coupon for products that I know I will use. I do not clip coupons for products that I know I wont use such as All laundry detergent or other brands of soap or lotion.
I also clip coupons for new products. I have found that when a manufacturer comes out with a new product, they will often issue coupons for that item and stores will often offer sales on that item as well. This makes a great time to try new products. I would much rather try a new product at a significant discount that at full price. If we try the product and dont like it then I know not to purchase it again but if we do like it I will continue to clip coupons for it.
I also clip coupons for items that I dont regularly use but that I think I might use if the price were to be low enough. You never know when an item will be on sale!
Before I throw away any coupons that I am not keeping, I ask around to see if any of my friends can use them. Coupon swaps are a great option for sharing coupons. Be sure to check out our coupon swap to see if there are any coupons you would like.
I always clip my coupons and put them immediately into my binder. I try to do this on Sundays or Mondays at the latest. That way my binder is organized and ready for my next shopping trip or a quick run to the store for 1 item. As I put the new coupons in my binder, I remove the old expired coupons and throw them away. It is so frustrating to be at the store and have a coupon for something and then at the checkout you realize it has expired.

#4 Studying the ads-Find out when the ads come out each week and get an ad for each store that you are willing to shop at. Study the ads and look for items that you purchase. When I look at the ads, I like to circle any item that is on sale that I use &/or have a coupon for. If I have a coupon for an item, I often write it beside the item in the ad. Once I have looked at each ad, I then compare the prices between the stores. I also look online for coupons. Some weeks I go to each store and some weeks I don't. I choose to shop at the two grocery stores that are about 7 minutes away from my home and I make an occasional (once a month) trip to Walmart. I do have friends that shop at all grocery stores within our area. They dont mind traveling 20 minutes to a store. I have 4 children, that I shop with, and I drive a gas hog so I have decided that it isnt worth it for me to drive to stores that are farther away unless it is an amazing sale or I am going in that direction anyway.
Tip: Be sure to look at your Sunday paper each week. Often grocery stores, such as Albertsons, will place ads &/or coupons in the pages of the regular black and white newspaper and not the colored ad sections.

#5 Online coupons -Be aware that some stores do not accept online coupons. My local store, Maceys, only accepts online coupons from Grocery Guru and Kraft.com. Walmart will accept online coupons if they are in their system. Albertsons will only let you use two online coupons for the same item in one purchase. For example, if you are purchasing 3 boxes of rice a roni and you have 3 online coupons for $50 off 1 box of rice a roni, they will only let you use 2 online coupons per purchase. They do not limit the number of newspaper coupons that you can use per purchase.
There are several websites where you can find coupons online. I have been a little more selective in the ones that I use because I know that there is a lot of fraud in online coupons. Most of the sites I frequent are the manufacturers sites or the companies that print the Sunday paper coupons, such as redplum.There are 3 companies that print the Sunday paper coupons in my area. The links are below:
http://coupons2.smartsource.com/smartsource/index.jsp?Link=5S2ZUA6PWPEPO
http://www.grocerysmarts.com/
http://www.redplum.com/
[Grocerysmarts usually has redplums coupons on their site.]
Coupons.com is another site that has alot of the same coupons as the previous 3 sites.
http://print.coupons.com/couponweb/offers.aspx?pid=13306&zid=iq37&nid=10&bid=alk0524190537bfilj35914519
Below are the manufacturers websites that I have accounts with. Whenever there is a sale on something that I use and I dont have a coupon, I will try to find the manufacturers website and see if they offer a coupon. You will need to create an account with most of these but they will send you extra coupons via email. To keep my inbox from getting bombarded with emails, I created an email account specificially for my coupons.
http://www.kraftfoods.com/kf/home.aspx
http://www.pillsbury.com/coupons-promotions/
http://www.eatbetteramerica.com/default2.aspx
http://www.boxtops4education.com/
http://www2.kelloggs.com/Product/KelloggCoupon.aspx?id=1992
https://www.bluebunny.com/iScreamTeam/Coupons/Coupons.aspx
http://www.wish-bone.com/Home.aspx
http://www.idahoan.com/
http://www.missionmenus.com/MissionExtras.aspx
http://www.tide.com/en-US/offers.jspx
http://www.recipefortogetherness.com/
http://www.duncanhines.com/
http://www.landolakes.com/
http://www.hiddenvalley.com/
http://consumer.darigold.com/
http://www.v8juice.com/Default.aspx
These are just a few..I am always finding new ones and will post new sites when I come across them.Each week as I look over the ads I will check the major sites such as redplum & grocerysmarts to see what coupons they have and if there is a pillsbury or General Mills product on sale, I will look at their site as well.

I hope that these tips help you get started clipping coupons. I have a lot more tips and tricks and I will continue to ad content to this post. I will try to add some info on shopping and using coupons within the next week. If you have any questions you would like answered feel free to email me or comment to this or other posts and I will try my best to answer your questions.

1 comment:

  1. This is super helpful! I like doing the coupon thing but have never been great at keeping them organized....organization doesn't come naturally to me...I have to read other people's organization books to learn how. Really great blog the three of you came up with.

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