Friday, April 22, 2011

Couponing--10 Getting Started Tips

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I  have some friends that are impressive couponers. Seeing how much they save got me thinking. I know myself and know that at this point, I have neither the passion nor do I want to carve the time to be an intense couponer. I used to then think there is no point. But then one day I thought "If all I save is $5 a trip on things I am buying anyway, then why not?" So I started clipping some coupons and saving a few dollars here and there. 


One day, I wondered what it would take to do more and started browsing the web. Um, wow. Sensory overload! There is a lot of information out there! So I turned to my friend Serra for some advice. She is great to let me know about super deals that should not be passed up (I recently bought about 30-40 pounds of pasta for less than $10 thanks to Serra). 


Since most of us want, and close to most really need, to save money, I thought I would ask Serra to share some ideas for couponing with you. Here are her top ten ideas for getting started, along with some links to direct you to helpful blogs and sites if you want to get a little deeper into it.

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I started couponing about a year ago, and although I am not a "serious" couponer like those who write blogs about couponing, you will find me out and about chasing sales every so often. I have been taught all my life the importance of "preparedness" in the way of food storage. I always thought it was in case of world chaos. It wasn't until I got married that I realized being prepared, or having a "stock-pile" of commonly used items could be useful in times of unemployment, during "tight" times or for a variety of different reasons.

Having decent food storage scared me. I didn't know what to put in it, and how to afford whatever was supposed to be there, until I entered the world of coupons. There has been a lot of attention given to couponing lately, and it may seem a bit overwhelming. And with anything that seems a bit overwhelming it is best to take that mountain one step at a time and before you know it, you'll be on top! To get yourself
started I would offer my own personal top 10 couponing tips. You ready for this?

1. Start simple.
  • If you're like me, you like to save a buck (or ten). Don't try to cut your spending by 70% overnight. Start with using a few coupons to familiarize yourself with the process and until you feel confident handing those coupons over to the cashier.
2. Take stock.

  • Take a look at your pantry and current storage. If you’re starting at ground zero just think of yourself as starting with a fresh slate! Make a list of items you always need, use, buy ect. Items such as personal hygiene or oral care. As far as food, think of commonly used items for cooking, baking and snacks. Only include items you and your family commonly use. Then start looking for coupons and sales for these items.

3. Make some goals.

  • This goes with starting simple. Don't try to stockpile everything at once. Even if you find one sale a month to pair coupons with, GREAT! Build your stock slowly if you are on a tight budget and before you know it, you'll just be re-stocking items and never paying full price again.

4. Know your budget. Or MAKE one.

  • If you haven’t pinned down your grocery budget, do it. If you're like me, you need cold hard cash to limit spending. Once the cash is gone, no more trips to the store. Once you have a realistic budget figured out, you can slowly start trimming it down (if needed) as your stock builds up (or buy special treats like ice cream with the extra).
  • -IDEA:: My husband gets paid bi-weekly. Each pay period I set aside the food budget money I didn't spend for the previous two weeks. Then when case lot sales or other stock pile sales come up I have money already set aside to purchase those bulk sale items.

5. Find some coupons

  • I personally get my coupons from a couple neighbors who receive the Sunday paper but do not use the coupons. Many people buy multiple Sunday papers (so they receive duplicate coupons) and others (including myself) just buy what they want from Ebay.

    You heard me. Ebay. You can buy specific coupons or lots of 100 or more of random coupons.
  • You can print a lot of coupons off the internet, usually only 2 of the same coupon at a time.
  • Let's talk more about Ebay. This is a great way to stock pile fast. True scenario: Smiths (A grocery store found in mainly the Intermountain West area of the U.S.) had Colgate toothpaste on sale for .98 cents. I went to Ebay and searched "Colgate toothpaste coupons". It just so happens there were coupons available for $1 off one Colgate toothpaste making it free! If you do the "buy it now" option (assuming it's available) you should receive your coupons within 3 days (if you and the seller are within the continental U.S.). Be sure to allow time for coupons to arrive in time to use them with the sale. Usually you buy coupons like this in clumps of 10-20. What would you do with that many FREE toothpastes? Split the coupons with friends, donate them to food banks, give them as holiday or birthday gifts (ha!). You get the idea.


6. Pair your coupons with a sale. DING DING DING!!

  • The best way to get more for your money is to pair your coupons with sales. Just as with the Colgate scenario. Take your list of commonly used items and start looking for sales. If you are solely an Ebay couponer keep your eyes out for coupons you could use if a sale should come up. You can gamble buying the coupons so you have them just in case...this is up to you. When I am sorting through my Sunday paper coupons and I can't decide whether to hold on to a coupon I think to myself, "Would I want this item if it were free?" If my answer is "yes" I keep the coupon.

7. Don't buy it if you won't use it.

  • Even if it's a good sale price, you're still spending money. Let's say you could only find $.75 off coupons for colgate so you were spending .25 per toothpaste. Still a great deal right? Well, if you're like me, you'd say, "YEAH! Use all the coupons you've got!" (In fact. I did this once, but with the "free scenario." I got 30 tubes of toothpaste for .36 cents (sales tax). That was probably almost a year ago and I still have probably over 20 tubes of toothpaste in my stock. And they are expiring soon. Toothpaste anyone?) Spending 25 cents per tube and having to throw some away because they expire, that's money down the drain! It may not seem like much, but it all adds up. Just because you have a coupon or see a great deal, if you won't use the item, it's a waste of money. If the item is "free" and you can't resist "buying" more than you'll use, donate the item to someone who can.

8. The early bird DOES NOT get the worm.


9. Follow couponing blogs.

  • If you need help figuring out sales (how, what, when, where) find some blogs that target stores you shop at. They do the ground work telling you what prices are a good deal and what coupons to pair with the sale. Some blogs off the top of my head are:

- http://thekrazycouponlady.com
- http://moneysavingmom.com
- http://hip2save.com
- http://fabulesslyfrugal.com

- http://wildforwags.com
-the list would keep going, there are so many out there!

10. Organize your coupons.

  • Trust me when I tell you, there aren’t many things more frustrating than searching for a coupon in the grocery store you swear you just cut out the night before. Add screaming children to the mix and you’ll have to buy extra deodorant due to a massive sweat attack. I don’t mean have a separate envelope for each individual item. But separate them into: hygiene, oral care, hair care, laundry, canned goods ect.

    You can do this with separate envelopes or those envelope things that have plastic dividers. If you get serious into couponing you might consider doing a binder. Here is a great link for suggested binder organization from “thekrazycouponlady”: http://thekrazycouponlady.com/2010/09/24/how-to-start-your-coupon-binder-this-ones-for-you-kathie-lee/


Well, there you have it. Don’t be overwhelmed. It might take a year or more to get your storage built up to where you want it, don’t get frustrated. Babies aren’t born walking. Find some coupons, do some research and before you know it, you’ll be using coupons with confidence every time you check out.

4 comments:

Linds said...

I have always used coupons, but wasn't not that avid about it until I recently started following several couponing sites that list different sales. I would say in the past month and a half I have gotten almost all of our toiletries either free, or over 50% off.

I am in the process of creating a coupon binder and organizing everything better, and can already tell a difference in how it helps me while I am AT the store (especially when I am with both kids and don't have time to flip through TONS of coupons looking for the best deal)!

Kirbi Knop said...

I have always been the same way and was a little intimidated by couponing...living in such a huge city made me think driving across town to save a few cents here and there wasn't going to add up for me. I tried for a while and avidly followed Money Saving Mom and ThrifyCouple and often find good deals online and on Amazon near holidays, but as far as everyday life I find that more times than not, the coupons just never work for our lifestyle. We shop at farmer's markets and health food stores or try to support local foods, I am very passionate about this. So half the time, the food coupons mean nothing to me. There is one good blog called Saving Naturally that does the same thing with much more of an organic point of view which is much closer to our family's needs....but I still feel kind of on different wave lengths with the whole coupon craze. I get super excited when 7th Generation stuff has coupons or I can stack coupons at Whole Foods, otherwise I just end up skimming right over the coupon frenzy posts because we very rarely buy packaged food -- even personal care and household items I go as natural and enviro-friendly as possible. BUT Thanks for your post on this , Val, because it has me thinking that I can try harder at budgeting whether I find ONE coupon for our lifestyle or ten! Maybe I can start shaving some of our monthly grocery budgets down if I look harder! :)

Kirbi

west coast girl said...

SO helpful! i just started following the Krazy coupon lady and i keep getting so overwhelmed with how to get started- the ebay trick is stellar though. thanks for the help!

Plowmanators said...

Kirbi, I am very similar in a lot of ways, which is why I didn't think about couponing working for me. But, like you said, saving on one item is better than saving on zero!

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