So, I know I haven't posted in my blog in forever, but thought this would be an easy way to answer some questions about couponing. I've never really shared my coupon secrets because I really didn't think anyone would be interested! Every time I used coupons in the store, people behind me groaned & the checkers just seemed annoyed. After seeing some friends get really interested, I'm realizing maybe I need to share my secrets! I first started using coupons in high school when I took over our family's grocery shopping. My mom had introduced them to me & I thought it was fun saving money! I used coupons off & on throughout the years & thanks to the help from some friends & family (Amanda Torres, Kristy Morrison, Jessi Mayfield) and other mom's across the US, I've been able to step up my game now that I've become a full-time SAHM. Also, I very rarely pay full-price for clothing (only when it's something I'm in dire need of or absolutely can't live without). Here are my "secrets:"
1. ALWAYS work from a list when shopping. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've gone grocery shopping without a list. It saves lots of money when you know what you need & you're not buying off the cuff. Plus, you won't end up with a mish mash of stuff when you get home & then wondering what concoction you can make out of what you purchased! HOWEVER, if you come across an item that you KNOW you would use or use often & it's on sale, I buy it. Yes, you may spend a little more than what you planned, but then it saves on future purchase(s), so in the end, really you are saving money!
2. Get organized. I've had my faithful purple coupon wallet for 10+ years & I had my mom's before that. Getting organized at the beginning makes it easier to stay organized. It means you can find what you're looking for in a fraction of the time. Recently, I upgraded to a 2" binder. I used dividers with labels (beverages, breakfast, fridge & freezer, etc.) and baseball card holders. I upgraded because my coupon stash was getting so big I couldn't fit them in my wallet anymore! I got my wallet at HEB (grocery store in Texas) but I'm sure you can find them at Walmart or probably any grocery store (mine was plastic & about the size of a checkbook wallet and had dividers in it). And of course the binder, dividers & baseball card holders can be found about anywhere. I sort my coupons by category & then put them in date order so that I use the ones that will expire earliest first.
3. Take baby steps. I've always used the Sunday paper coupons. Those are pretty straight-forward & easy to use. Just make sure to read the fine print (ie buy the appropriate quantity, item size & follow the rules per the manufacturer like 'only 1 coupon per item'). Once you've got that down you can start taking more baby steps :)
4. Start clipping, printing, texting & trading coupons. The Sunday paper is a staple in my house. And now with the internet, you can print coupons online! I use scrap paper from my husband's company so I don't have to buy paper, just refill my ink! BTW, if you go to Cartridge World (or someplace similar) you can get your ink refilled for WAY cheaper than buying new! They usually offer frequent buyer cards too & you can even earn your way to a free refill. And yes, they work just the same (unless you ahve a high-tech printer with computer chips in the ink cartridges, they aren't able to replace those so your printer may tell you your ink is always out when it's really not, a small price to pay for cheap ink IMO). Plus, you will be recycling (which anyone who knows me well knows I'm a freak about recycling). Here are the websites I use weekly to print coupons from:
Also, if I find a coupon on one of these sites that I would like more of, I either google it to find another site that will allow me to print or I print from someone else's computer. Many times, the coupon sites limit how many you can print based on your IP address. Coupons are also going mobile if you have a smartphone. Target offers them & texts you approx. once a week. Just make sure to take your phone with you & remember to have them scan the barcode! I tend to forget this one :P One last suggestion, find a friend or two who coupon & agree to trade! I clip every coupon in the paper (I don't really print extras online) & give them away. I also get some in return & keep passing along the ones I don't use.
5. Find a website or blog that can be your guide. The one that helped me get started was www.couponsavinggame.com Also, I've used www.thekrazycouponlady.com and I've heard fabulous things about www.coupondivas.com It can be overwhelming trying to navigate more than one when you first begin. I say pick one website & get to know it before adding another. Or if you find that one website works, then stick with it! What I liked about them is they show you how to get the deals. Keep in mind though that sales & coupons vary by geographic area so although it may describe a 'deal' it doesn't always mean that your store will offer the same. I've also come across many of my own "finds" that weren't advertised. Now that I know how to get the deals, I don't rely on the websites so much. This past week, I only scanned them to see if I missed any deals while planning my shopping trip & came across a couple extra coupons I wouldn't have known about (they were on the product's websites).
6. Learn the rules. Each store has their own coupon policy & the websites above should have them listed on there & the stores themselves should have them online. For instance, Target allows you to use 1 manufacturer coupon plus 1 Target coupon per item! If you find something on sale & have coupons for it, it's usually a great deal!
7. Know your unit cost per item. I started figuring this out some 10 years ago when we debated purchasing a Sams or Costco membership. I always heard buying in bulk could save money but I wanted to know if it was true. It may be if you don't use coupons, but when you use coupons & break down the cost to unit, you find buying in bulk does not always save money. I started a spreadsheet (yes, I'm a nerd) that lists common items I purchase, the quantity (like with diapers & wipes) & the store. It then computes the price per unit rather than item (for example, even though the store brand diapers are cheaper than Pampers, if you use a Pampers coupon & figure how much you pay PER DIAPER rather than per box, you find that Pampers is cheaper!). I've found this to be very common among store brand versus name brand. But coupons are the key to saving money! Also, you'll find that price can vary greatly depending on where you buy it. Sometimes Target is cheaper than WalMart (this surprises a lot of people!).
8. Stock up. And I'm not saying you have to be the extreme people on TV with a garage full of stuff. But start a stockpile of items that won't spoil. When toothpaste, toilet paper, kleenex, canned goods & the like are on sale, buy a few! Not only will you have enough Kleenex for when everyone in your house catches that cold, you'll have stuff to donate when you get that Reasors bag in the mail to feed the needy :)
If you have any questions, please ask! Happy shopping!