Many years ago, I tried to be a coupon clipper. I would go through the Sunday papers and it seemed that most of the coupons I would find would be things like 10 cents off brand name soy sauce when I could buy the generic for much less. It was a huge disappointment and I kind of gave up on couponing for a while. After I had a baby, I started clipping the diaper coupons because I found only certain styles of name-brand diapers fit my kids well and worked. Then about 6 months ago my sister started following "the blogs" as we like to call them and she started telling me about all of her coupon savings...it took me about a month to catch on and when I did, I was so excited to see there is definitely a method to the madness of the coupon game. This past summer, as I first tried my hand at playing the CVS game, then stepped into the Walgreens game, then moved on to internet printable coupons...well, let's just say during the month of August I spent about $65 a week feeding my family of four! I was doing really well for a while then started slipping and now with the New Year I am ready to go full force. In fact, for the month of January, I am attempting to feed my family for $250 this month (more about that in another post).
Here's how to get started!
1) SET A GOAL TO ESTABLISH A STOCKPILE - As you collect coupons, keep in mind that you are purchasing to build a stockpile of nonperishables: canned goods, paper products, toiletries, etc. Think about setting a goal to have 6-12 months of these products on hand. By doing this, you eliminate buying out of necessity, which is when you pay the most. For example: if you have a stockpile of shampoo, you'll be able to wait three months until it's at its rock bottom price before buying more. However, if you're out of shampoo, you'll end up paying the shelf price for it (or buy the cheapest thing available which turns out to be a waste of money anyway)! Don't worry, stockpiling won't cost you any extra out of pocket. Just figure out how much you spend per month on these items and use that (or a portion of that) as your stockpile budget. I'll show you how to make it stretch! By building up a stockpile of items you will be amazed at the convenience and the savings...it's so nice not to feel desperate for items and go pay full price. Here are some nice items I've got stockpiled - at least 2-3 months worth of batteries, paper towels, shampoo, kids' bodywash/shampoo, shower gel, hand soap, and more.
2) START YOUR COUPON STASH! - The two best places to find coupons are the internet and newspaper inserts.
Newspaper Inserts - Consider buying multiple copies of the newspaper (I usually buy one on Saturday - it's just $1 and my husband will bring home a couple for me from work. On occasion I have been known to go dumpster diving to pick up some extra inserts). So how many should YOU buy? You can get a sneak peek at coupons for the upcoming paper (available Thursday evenings) by going HERE. Then you can adjust the number of papers you buy to fit the quantity/desirability of the coupons! Don't forget to ask friends, family and neighbors for their unused coupons.
Internet Printables - Hot Coupon World and A Full Cup both offer a comprehensive list of internet printable coupons. Both have a search feature so you can see all the available coupons for each product. IP's opened up a whole new world for me - they are usually much higher value than what you will find in the paper. Bookmark these sites!
All You Magazine is the best magazine for couponers. It's available only at Wal Mart or via subscription. You can get two free issues HERE.
Clean Home Journal is an SC Johnson site. Sign up HERE to be placed on their mailing list and receive email alerts when there are new offers and coupons.
Procter & Gamble Everyday Solutions offers the same thing. Sign up HERE.
Spend a few minutes each week emailing your favorite manufacturers, complimenting them on their products and asking for coupons. Usually you will get some, and often it's for a FREE ITEM!
Train yourself to be on the lookout for:
PEELIES - coupons found on the product itself.
TEARPADS - just what it sounds like.
BLINKIES - the small red blinking coupon machines located throughout the store.
HANGTAGS - just what it sounds like.
When you find these, you don't need to use them right away! I pull blinkies I find at the store and file them away until the item goes on sale - there or at another store!
For the hardcore:
COUPON TRADING - Hot Coupon World has a great trading forum. It uses approval ratings, much like Ebay so you can see gauge each persons reliability based on their track record. If you buy multiple copies of your local paper, you are able to trade the coupons you won't use, and get more of the ones you will!
COUPON CLIPPING SERVICE - 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 and over at Coupon Clippers. But you need to be quick! The good ones are scarfed up fast!
3) MATCH COUPONS WITH SALES - For example, if Softsoap hand soap is $2.29 and you have a $.35 off coupon, that's not going to do you much good right? But if you wait for the soap to go on sale for $.99 THEN use your coupon, your OOP will be $.64 or 72% off the regular price! If you have 3 coupons for Softsoap, you will pay less for 3 than you normally do for 1. The extra two go into your stockpile and you don't have to buy hand soap until it goes on sale again! Taadaaa! So what's the easiest way to match up sales and coupons? Here's how I do it: I browse the newspaper inserts, briefly noting items I need or that I have coupons for. Next I visit "the blogs" to find out where the best deals are. Then, I'm off to shop!
By playing the drugstore games, I get most of my health & beauty items for pennies...it makes such a difference in your grocery cart when you're only buying food items - not soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc.! And the craziest thing about this coupon thing is - my pantry has more brand-name than generic items, even though I'm spending so much less!
So start compiling coupons and next we'll show you how we store them!
Thanks to Moms by Heart (http://momsbyheart.blogspot.com/) for a guideline to getting started with this post!