Sunday, July 10, 2011

Further Adventures in Not-So-Extreme Couponing

Ok, I know I've already done this, but this time we're gonna be a little serious, if I can pull it off that is. Here is some more important tips of the trade, and also some opinions thrown in for good measure.

First, the opinions. I'm sure we've all seen Extreme Couponing on TLC, right? In fact, if you're like me, that's what got you started on this whole couponing venture. Now, let me tell you why that show is bs. Have you ever thought, what do they do with 93 bottles of hot sauce?? Let me tell you the answer. They get it free and sell it at a garage sale. Seriously. Sure, some of them "donate" some of it to the less fortunate, but the vast majority make money off of it. I never knew that was true until I started joining coupon sites on Facebook and getting the invites to the sales that these people hold. Those of us who coupon for real can't stand those people, we call them shelf cleaners or shelf wipers. If you're going to coupon, don't do that. It makes you a douche and no one will like you. There are people out there who depend on couponing to feed their family and if you come along and take all 105 boxes of mac and cheese we're going to want to hit you with our cars, so don't. If you think that no one liking you isn't a big deal.. think again. Couponing is a social experience- we trade coupons, let each other know about sales, trade tips, workshops are held.. you'll want friends. Got it? No douchebaggery!

Now for the tips. I kinda glossed over the organizing and planning part in my last go around with this so today we're going to get really in-depth. When I sit down to plan I take up the entire dining room table and cover the top of it with a notebook, calculator, my coupon organizer and the ads. (At this point I have already gone through my paper, clipped my coupons, and put them in the organizer.) First, I go through the ads and write down everything that more than one store has in their ad. When choosing which store you're going to go with there are a few things to keep in mind- The size of the product, the price, if there are any bonuses for buying, and of course if you have a coupon. Remember I don't buy anything unless it's on sale AND I have a coupon. There are exceptions to that rule of course, such as milk, and every once in awhile I like to splurge on something we love. My most common splurges are pizza rolls and drumsticks, the ice cream kind. It's good for the soul to treat yourself occasionally I think.

I'll give you an example from this weeks ad. Meijer has Tide detergent 50 oz.on sale for $5.99, and Target has Tide 100 oz. detergent on sale for $12. At first this seems like the exact same price per oz., but Target is offering a $5 gift card for every two that you buy. I also have two $1 off of 2 coupons. I'm buying my Tide at Target this week since the gift cards and coupons will ad up to me getting one for free. Your decision will be impacted by your household budget. Originally I will be paying more money it's true, but I'll be getting twice as much which means I can go longer in between buying it again, and our budget this week will allow that to work. Whatever decision you make will be based on your own situation, but these are the decisions that you'll be facing. Catching on? Now go through every duplicate item and decide where/if you're buying it.

Once I've made my list of duplicate sale items and decided which store I'm buying each thing at, the real fun starts. There are a few different ways to do this, but I'm only detailing the one I like the best. You can either go through your ad, looking for coupons as you go- or go through your coupons, consulting your ad as you go. I think everyone has their own way of doing it, but what works for me is to open all of my ads up to the same section- usually ads are split up into dairy, meat, cleaning products, produce, etc.- and then pull all of my coupons out from that section of my organizer. I look at every ad and pull out every coupon I have for anything that's in the ad. Then I start comparing. Today for instance, Pantene is on sale. I have seven $1 off of 2 coupons, and five $1 off of 1 coupons. The $1 off 1 is a better deal so I'm using all of those and put the other seven back in my organizer. Just because you have a coupon, doesn't mean you have to use it. You're NOT saving money if you're buying things you wouldn't normally buy, or buying just to use your coupons.

When I'm making my lists, I try to make them as complete as possible. A typical line on my list would look like this:
Tide detergent 100 oz. (4) 2 cpns
I make sure to include what, what size, how many, and cpn stands for coupon, cpns= coupons- that way I can make sure at the checkout that I have the right number of coupons for what I'm buying. It also speeds up shopping. I know when I get to that aisle exactly what I'm looking for and how many I need to buy, this eliminates trying to do math in my head in the middle of the store and also digging through my coupons unnecessarily. Since you only buy when it's on sale and you have a coupon, it's very easy for you to calculate exactly what you'll be spending. In all honesty, sometimes I add it up, and sometimes I don't. It's not mandatory, at least not for me.

Once you're done with the ads it's time for online coupons, if you're going to use them, and also the store card- some stores have a coupon program with only coupons that they offer. If you have a store you frequent, it's worth it to sign up. This is where your coupon friends come in handy. There a few different sites I use that go through and post links to the online coupons for you, it cuts down on literally hours of time. They also do match-ups, I don't use them, but I can see where it could be handy. My understanding of match ups are these people basically go through the ads, and the coupons and tell you where they 'match up'. I only have Facebook links for these, although most of them do have websites. My favorites are: 
Coupon Mom-
Bargains to Bounty-
Cleverly Simple-
Midwest Coupon Chick-

Please make sure that if you visit their site and use what they have to offer (you should, they're fantastic!!)- that you tell them thank you. They put in hours and hours of work so that you don't have to. See? I told you it was good to have friends.

More tips? It is important to have a separate list for each store. I use 3 ads- Meijer, Target, and Walmart, so I have three pieces of paper. Also, when using a coupon, read very, very carefully. They will specify the size of product, which product exactly, etc, and no store will take them if you haven't met each and every qualification to the letter. When I go shopping I take my entire coupon organizer, my envelopes with coupons, even the ones that aren't for the store I'm at, my list, and the ad. It's important to have all of that so you can compare, contrast, and double check your counting, or your memory.

Also, and this is HUGE!! You are probably going to have coupons that expire before you can use them. Don't throw them away! There is an amazing organization, Coups for Troops, that you can send them to. Military families overseas can use coupons up to six months after they expire. I always mail my expired coupons there and I cut every coupon out that I didn't want and send it with them. Their address is:

                                                 Coups For Troops
                                                  PO Box 147
                                                 Winnabow, NC  28479

They also have a website, and a Facebook page,

Let me know if there's anything that isn't clear, or something else that you have a question about. I'd love to help, if I can that is.

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