One of the best ways to live thrifty and save money is by using coupons for your purchases. Couponing has been all the rage in the past year thanks in part to TLC’s show “Extreme Couponing.” Just like any reality show, this is still a “show”. A lot of what is portrayed on that show is for the purpose of getting viewers. You can still save a ton of money with couponing without being “extreme”.
First, let’s discuss where you can find coupons.
- Inserts in your local newspaper. Sources include Smart Source, Red Plum and occasionally a P & G Insert.
- Coupons on the product Manufacturer’s websites and Facebook Fan Pages – some are printable and some you can request to have coupons sent to you. (Proctor and Gamble, Swifter, Kraft and so on… Just visit their websites, sign up for updates or free coupons and also become a fan on their Facebook page)
-Coupons are not just for groceries and personal care items. Websites like Groupon.com and Socialliving.com offer discounts and coupons to local business and for travel and getaways.
Second, let’s talk about how to organize your coupons.
- Coupon Binder. This is the most well known coupon organizing method. It requires you clipping and cutting coupons for a lengthy amount of time and sliding them in baseball card protector sheets in a 3 ring binder. Many people, especially those who are more visual, prefer this method. You can purchase the 3 ring binders and baseball card inserts pretty much anywhere. If you want a cute, stylish coupon organizer, check out Coupon Clutch. You can take your binder with you and have access to every coupon that you have clipped. The method is more time consuming, so I do suggest you check out the other two methods to save time.
- Photo Storage Box or small accordion pocket coupon/money organizer. This is another great method for those who are more visual but like things categorized and prefer a simpler method than the binder. You can purchase the photo storage boxes (about 8 x 6 x 4 in size) at Wal-mart, Michael’s, AC Moore or most any craft store. You can use the index divider cards that usually come with the box or purchase them separately to categorize your coupons. You can also use one of the accordion pocket coupon/money organizers if you are only clipping a few coupons or want something that is more “on the go” size. A few ways you might want to categorize them: alphabetical by the company name, by product type (dairy, dry goods, canned food, snacks, breakfast, household, personal care…) or by aisle. If you primarily shop at one grocery store, the aisle method may work best for you.
-File Tote. This method requires a file tote or container and hanging file folders. In this method you do not clip the coupons until you are preparing for your shopping trips. You will file the whole coupon insert in a folder by weekly date. Several coupon websites promote this method and help you make this an easy, simple way to organize and maximize your coupon savings. These website post printable weekly match ups and tell you what dates & what insert you can find each coupon that matches up with this weekly sales. Then you just pull out the insert with the coupons you need, clip those and take your match up /shopping list that you printed from the website and you are ready to shop & save. You can purchase very sturdy, beautiful leather file totes from my friends at A Penny Filled Pantry. These totes are a bit more expensive, but they have a lifetime guarantee from the company. You can purchase a starter version of the file tote from our website CEO of Me, Inc. These file boxes are cute, functional and affordable.
Third, let’s talk about how to really save money with coupons.
-Stacking / Matching Sales with Coupons. Never use a coupon on a full price item unless the coupon amount is high enough to get the item for free or next to free. The way to maximize your savings is to wait and use your coupons when the product is also on sale somewhere. This way you get the item for free or almost free. Sales cycles typically run in 6-8 week cycles. using the coupon matchups published on A Penny Filled Pantry or other couponing sites (I’ve listed a few of my favorites in the next section), will help make it easy for you to know when is the best time to use each coupon.
-Stockpiling. There is a difference between stockpiling and hoarding. Knowing that sales run in 6-8 week cycles, when an item you use a lot is on sale and you have coupons for them, stock up on them. Purchase enough of that item at the free or almost free price to last you until it goes on sale again.
-Reward bucks / bonus bucks at Drug Stores. When you can match a coupon with a sale and earn Extra Care Bucks or similar reward bucks at local Drug Stores (like CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens), you can not only save money but make money on your purchases! Learn more about this on the Advanced Couponing page.
Finally, here are links to a few of my favorite couponing websites:
-A Penny Filled Pantry. These ladies are local to me and I have hosted 3 coupon classes for our community with them & they taught me more than I could have ever learned on my own. Their weekly grocery budget for their families is just $15 a week & they have kids in diapers! These wonderful ladies who will teach you everything you need to know. They live in central NC.
- I encourage you to also search for couponing experts / a couponing website that is local to you. Those local to you will provide match up’s specifically for your local stores.
A few other important things to know about couponing:
- Don’t get frustrated when first trying to learn how to use coupons. Take a little time to learn the process, cycles and methods and you’ll save a lot of money in the long run. It may seem like a lot of information and very confusing at first. Attend a couponing class and sign up for email updates at the various couponing websites that post coupon deals, match ups, training video’s and info.
-Plan ahead. Schedule time each week to check out the coupon/sale match ups on your favorite couponing website(s). Print out the match ups. Create a shopping list. Couponing does take a little bit of time, but when you can save $200-$1000 a month by using coupons, an hour or two a month doesn’t seem like much to sacrifice.
-Keep an inventory list. Know how many of each type of product or food you have in your stockpile. This keeps you from buying too much of an item or running out of an item before the next sale/coupon cycle comes around.
-Use Tupperware products to extend the shelf life of your food and keep your pantries and stockpile more organized.
-Donate extra items. When you see a really great deal and can get a lot of that deal or it’s an item you or your family personally does not use, donate it! Homeless shelters, women’s shelters, rescue groups, school backpack programs, the list of people that you can help is endless!
-Don’t throw away expired or unused coupons. Military families can use coupons for up to 6 months after they expire on military bases. Coupons for Troops is a great resource to donate your expired coupons to.
-Join or start a monthly coupon / stockpile swap. This is another great way to get coupons for things you need and help someone else get coupons for things they need that you don’t. Just set up or attend a monthly meet up with other couponers and everyone can swap their unwanted coupons for coupons they want and need. You can do the same with stockpile items. This is also a great way for everyone to turn in expired coupons, chip in fifty cents each to help with postage to send the expired coupons to Coupons for Troops. This is also a great way to meet new people, have a reason to get out of the house and have a little fun!
Ready to learn more about couponing and how to not only save, but make money from couponing? Check out our Advanced Couponing page.
CEO of Me, Inc.com
About the Author: Misty Kearns is a “Jill of all Trades”. She is a successful Independent Director & Team Leader with Tupperware, a business coach, blogger, event planner, organizer, crafter , freelance writer & web designer. Her passion is helping others learn how to use their God-given talents so they can live their lives to the best of their ability & let their inner light shine. Visit http://www.ceoofmeinc.com to learn more.