Couponing 101

When people think of coupons, they often think of their grandma shuffling through her wallet trying to find the little clipping from the Sunday paper just to save 35 cents, but it has come a long way and if you’re willing to do a little work, be smart about where you shop, and only buy what you really need, you can save A LOT of money!!

There are a few things you need to know about REALLY saving money couponing and I’m going to go through them to help you be able to recognize what’s a real deal and what is worth passing on!!

Key Terms/Abbreviations used in Coupon Blogging:

Types of Coupons: Manufacturer’s coupons=M, Smart Source coupons from the Sunday Paper=SS, Red Plum coupons from the Sunday Paper=RP, Internet/printed coupons=PC,Procter and Gamble=PG,

BOGO=Buy-one-Get-one Free

Double Coupons=the store will double the face value of that coupon

Stacking=when a store will take more than one coupon for one item

WYB=When you buy (indicating the deal for a certain quantity of items)

GM=General Mills coupons/products

The “DON’T’s” of Couponing!

RULE #1: Just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean you’re going to save money
Manufacturer’s will often put out coupons for products that are new or not selling as well as they might like, just to get you to buy their more pricey product.  For example: Kraft recently released a $1 off Shredded Cheese-Touch of Philadelphia, which, before the coupon, costs (I’m using averages here just for example’s sake) $3.50 for an 8 oz. bag, so with the coupon would still be $2.50 , but I can buy the Food Lion Store Brand Shredded cheese for $1.80, so even without a coupon, the store brand is still 70 cents cheaper.

RULE #2: The coupons in THIS Sunday’s paper DO NOT have to be used THIS WEEK!
If you clip coupons every week and keep them organized (which we’ll talk about in the next section) You can coordinate the coupons with store sales and maximize savings.  Most coupons don’t expire for 30-90 days, so you have that much time to use them.

RULE #3: It’s NOT a deal if it’s something YOU’LL NEVER USE!!
No matter how much you saved on that hair color, if you don’t color your hair, you’ve just spent money that you could have put towards something MUCH better that you’ll actually use!

RULE #4: It’s OK to THROW AWAY coupons!
Sometimes you get into a situation (like the example in Rule #1) when that item never went on sale so the coupon expires unused-THROW IT AWAY!!  Or it’s for something you don’t need/want (like in Rule #3) there are two things you can do with that coupon, the first is not clip it at all, OR trade/give it to someone else who will use it.

RULE #5: Store “Rewards” aren’t always Rewarding!
Some stores will offer gift cards, store “dollars”, etc. for buying certain items.  Target will just give you a gift card, but you cannot use it on the transaction for which it is earned, which means you aren’t really saving that money until next week when you sale shop.  CVS has a similar program called Extra Care Bucks that print off at the bottom of your receipt and can be used on future purchases.  Rite Aid also has a program like this called “UP+ Rewards” for buying certain things, but when you use them the next week, you cannot earn any more, which makes it not as good a deal as other stores!  You can see full details about each stores rewards by going to the menu item “Store Policies” and click on whatever store you are interested in.

The “DO’s”

#1: Decide what store/stores you want to coupon at for the week and make sure you know which day the sales start-
In this situation-the “early bird gets the worm”.  When you’re  first learning the “ins-and-outs”, it’s easier to pick just one store to learn their rules/policies when it comes to coupon and sale combinations

#2: Organize your coupons
I find the easiest way to do this is what I call a “couponfolio” which really is just an index card holder with separators with categories-

For Example: Frozen Foods, Cereal, Pasta, Cleaning, Diapers, and for specific stores-Target, Food Lion, Safeway (for those coupons that you get with your receipt from the cashier when you check out).

Within those dividers I put the coupons that are going to expire soonest in the front.
If you think you are going to be a serious couponer I would suggest getting a binder with trading card inserts!

#3: Use the Store’s weekly sales to maximize savings
This is THE TRICK to save the most money!! Look at the store’s ads and couple those with your coupons to save the most.  So, how do you do this? Well, let’s say that Safeway has Pillsbury Grands Biscuits in their weekly ad on sale for $1 each-then you have a coupon will take off another 40 cents off 2 Grands Biscuits-AND Safeway will double that coupon, making it now 80 cents off per 2-that means you end up paying 60 cents per can of Grands, instead of the normal price of $1.79

What I do to make it as simple as possible is keep a list of what’s on sale and what items you also have coupons for (see picture above for full explanation) so when I go into the store, I know exactly what items I’m looking for and I already have the coupons with my shopping list-this makes check-out quick, easy, and convenient you, the cashier, and all those people in line behind you (who will be envious of your savings when they see what you’ve just done!)

#4: Go Online!
There are websites for many different food companies (Kraft, Kelloggs, Ragu, etc.) and they have coupons that you can print-on many of these sites you can print multiple coupons for the same item. Make sure once you print the coupons, you trim them correctly so they fit with your list/other coupons to keep it simple at the store.

#5: Buy the Sunday Paper
It may cost you a few dollars, but what you can save is well worth it.  In additon to the savings, it has all the weekly ads for the stores, so it becomes something that is useful in 2 ways.

#6: Know your Store’s Coupon policy
Many stores will take multiple coupons for the same item-For Example: Target will take a manufacture’s coupon AND a coupon that is specific to their store, which allows for double savings.  Also, many stores will double coupons-meaning they will match whatever the coupon says you get off and will double that (usually up to $1 per coupon).  For full details please go to the “Store Policies” menu and click on whatever store you are most interested in.

One Response to “Couponing 101”

  1. Sheila Shorkey April 2, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    Your girls have done a Great job!

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