Sunday, July 25, 2010

Couponing 101

Here's a few "how to's" to get you started into couponing:

1) Find out what your local stores' policies are.

Do they double or triple coupons? If so, what/if any restrictions are there?
Do they accept competitor's coupons?

Some stores - usually the higher end, more expensive stores (ex: in my area - Shaw's) - will double or triple. Usually this means they will double the value of a coupon up to a certain amount. For example, my store will double coupons up to 99 cents. Many times, these stores will put their coupon policy in small print on the back page of their weekly flyer, but sometimes you have to ask at customer service.

Another place to check coupon policies is at the A Full Cup Forums. You will find a forum for just about every store here and most have coupon/store policies posted at the top.

Also, what other stores are near you? Do you have Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid? All of these stores have very high prices without sales, but with sales & additional store deals (Register Rewards at Walgreens, Extra Care Bucks at CVS, and Single Check Rebate programs at Rite Aid), you can get some fantastic deals, where you get things for free and extremely cheap.

Of course there's Walmart and Target too. Did you know both stores will now price match if you bring a current flyer from another store in? You can also combine manufacturer's coupons with store coupons. Target often has "Target coupons" in the Sunday paper now. Combine that with a Manufacturer's coupon and you get even more savings.

2) Clip coupons from the Sunday paper and get familiar with coupon clipping services online.

To really get into some savings, you'll probably want more than one of each coupon you might use. Clipping coupons from the paper is great, but you will only use a certain number of those coupons and you will only get one of each coupon unless you buy multiple papers, which isn't often worth it at $2-3 a newspaper.

It's much easier and more efficient to buy coupons online. You can buy coupons from ebay or from a coupon clipping service. These people clip hundreds, even thousands of coupons, and sell them online for a small fee. Technically they are not selling the coupons (it's illegal to sell coupons) but are selling their time to cut, sort, & mail them to you. Generally you'll pay anywhere from 5-10 cents a coupon and if it's a really valuable, popular coupon, it might be a little more.

Beginner couponers usually balk at the idea of paying for coupons. But when you consider that spending 10 cents for a coupon will enable you to get a free tube of toothpaste or even make money off it, it's absolutely worth it.

Here's one example: My store had Skippy Peanut Butter on sale for $1.50. I bought (30) 75 cents off 1 coupons @ 8 cents a coupon. That cost me $2.40 for coupons. However, the coupons doubled and I was able to get 30 jars of peanut butter for free, or $2.40 if you factor in the cost of the coupons. See?

On average, I spend $5-15 a week at online coupon services. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of coupons. But then again, on a typical week I only spend $50-60 for groceries/Walmart/Target items for my family of 5. You can do the math there. :)

Once you start acquiring coupons, you'll need something to store them in. In the 7+ years I've been couponing, I've gone through many different storage methods - everything from basic coupon binders to actual folders filled with baseball card organizers. I finally settled on my favorite -a simple Rubbermaid photo storage box with file folders that I cut to size and labeled.

You probably won't need something that big quite yet, so I recommend one of the basic coupon binders - you can find a nice selection here: The Coupon Clippers.

Back to the coupon clipping services:

I've listed my three favorites on the side bar and here they are again:
*Coupons and Things by Dede
*Coupon Clipping Crew
*The Coupon Clippers

One thing to be aware of in coupon shopping is that to get the best deals, you need to be willing to shop at multiple stores. If you do all your shopping at the high end grocery store that doubles coupons, you might not be saving as much as you think. Do some of your shopping there - just the sale prices/with coupons - and do you the rest of your shopping at the lower priced store down the road, and you will see a difference.

It's the same thing when it comes to shopping at Walgreens/CVS/Rite Aid. These stores often charge double, sometimes even triple, what Walmart or Target does. I practically never buy anything full price at these places. But use your coupons for the sales and then combine that with the individual rewards programs, and you will see your savings begin to soar.

3) Be Careful..

...that you don't fall into a trap, where you get so excited about saving money that you buy things you wouldn't normally. I did this myself when I first got started. If you buy something you wouldn't normally buy - even if it's a good deal - you're not really saving money, but spending extra. So just be careful.

4) Get your coupons ahead of time.
Just about every week, I buy coupons online. I don't always use every coupon I get. If I wait until there's a sale, it's often hard to find the coupons I need, and I run the risk of not getting the coupons in the mail in time. So buy ahead. I know what products my family uses and I also know what products are likely to go on sale.

Some websites will get store flyers ahead of time, sometimes a week or more in advance. Obviously, this is very helpful, because it gives you more time to plan your agenda and get any coupons you might need. Here's a list of some of my favorite websites that feature these flyers and help to put together good deals for you:

A Full Cup Forums
A Full Cup Target
A Full Cup Walgreens
A Full Cup CVS
I Heart CVS
I Heart Walgreens
I Heart Rite Aid

You can also see this list on the right column, under "Favorite Links"

5) Take advantage of Buy One, Get One Free Deals.

Example: Cheerios were on sale for B1G1F. You can use one coupon for EACH box of cereal. Cheerios are normally approx. $3.50 a box. $3.50 / 2 = $1.75 each. I had $0.75 off one coupons. These doubled at my store. $1.75 - $1.50 ($0.75 doubled) = $0.25 a box. That's not a bad deal for name brand cereal.

6) You can combine store coupons with manufacturer's coupons.

Store coupons are often in store flyers or in an extra coupon booklet available in store or can even be found online or in the Sunday coupon inserts.

Couponing is actually pretty easy and a lot of fun. All it takes is a little organization and planning ahead and you can save TONS of money. It is so fun to watch the cashier's eyes get huge, not to mention the people in line behind you, when they realize you are getting $100 worth of groceries for less than $10!

I hope this helps. If you have any questions, feel free to comment or email me and I'll do my best to help.


Key to "Coupon Talk"

B1G1F or BOGOF = Buy One, Get One Free
ECB or EB = CVS Extra Care Bucks
MQ = Manufacturer's Coupon
OOP = Out of Pocket
RR = Walgreen's Register Rewards
SQ = Store Coupon
WYB = When You Buy
YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary (this means it may vary with store/manager)

.75/1 = 75 cents off one, etc.
$1/2 = $1.00 off two, etc.


CVS 7-13

*2 Complete Contact Lenses solution
*2 Got 2b Smooth Operator

Total Cost: -$3.61
Total Out of Pocket: $0.41
Total ECB Used: $11.96
Total ECB Earned: $15.98

How I did this:
I had a coupon for a free Got 2b Smooth product. When I got to the register, the product rang up at Buy One, Get One Free. So I grabbed another one. The CVS sale price of B1G1F allowed me to get one for free and the coupon paid for the original. Nice, huh?!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Shaw's 7-3 + Classic Good Deal 101

Well it's been awhile since I've posted! We've been pretty busy and I haven't been doing quite as much coupon shopping as normal since we found out our 4th baby is on the way and I've been pretty sick.

Here's a recent visit to Shaws - and this is a classic example why everyone can and should coupon, regardless of what kind of products you buy.

I bought:

*18 pounds of ground beef
*2 beef Ballpark hotdogs
*2 lbs of fresh cherries
*1 Cains relish
*68 pkgs of M&M's (not a typo!)

Total Out of Pocket: $18.13
Total Savings: $124.24
Percentage Saved: 85%


First off, you're probably asking yourself, why on earth does she have 68 packages of M&M's?!

The answer: Buying those M&Ms with coupons allowed me to get money back which I used towards the ground beef & fruit that we did need.

I'll break it down for you:

I had 34 coupons for .75/2 (75 cents off two) M&M's, which I had ordered ahead of time in anticipation of a deal like this. I bought 68 M&M's. The M&Ms were on sale for .49 cents each. The coupons doubled, so the coupons gave me $1.50 for every 2 M&Ms I bought. This gave me overage (money back) of .26 per package of M&M's.

Now tell me you wouldn't like to be paid 26 cents to get some candy!!!?!

This is where the "overage" allowed me to get the ground beef for cheaper, around $1 a pound, plus as you can see, I got a few other things like hotdogs & cherries.

Now bear with me - I could have bought anything to use that overage towards - including organic fruits & vegetables, organic all natural, meats, etc.

I have so many people tell me "Well fine for you to get good deals with coupons, but I only buy organic things so I can't get good deals like you."


I run into deals like this all the time! Now this was a particularly good deal, but nevertheless, they are out there. You just have to get a little coupon savy and you too can be saving big money on your all natural foods.

You know, I got some all natural "green" laundry detergent for free last month? Yep, I didn't pay a penny!

As for me, I tried switching to some more organic foods about 2 months ago, but I've since dropped off. I like & prefer organic, but my grocery bill so quickly doubled that it just wasn't worth it. I'd rather my kids eat as much fruits & vegetables as they want, versus telling them no because a single organic apple is $1 or a peach $1.50! I do still buy some organic/more natural things, just not as much.

And all that candy? I think we'll have some pretty happy neighborhood kids come Halloween this year!

Walgreens 6-19

*10 Schick Hydro razors
*9 Gillette Fusion Razors, including 5 "kits (1 not pictured)
*9 Neutrogena Oil free Acne wash
*2 Neutrogena Deep Clean wash
*1 Neutrogena soap bar
*2 Nivea men's body wash
*10 Skippy peanut butter (not pictured)
*28 candy bars (not pictured)
*2 Wags paper plates

Total Cost: $12.61

Total Out of Pocket: $12.61
Total RR Used: $139
Total RR Earned: $139

Walgreens 6-13

*7 Gillette Fusion ProGlide razors
*3 Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash
*8 Nivea men's body wash
*4 Skippy peanut butter
*7 toilet paper
*12 candy bars (not pictured)

Total Cost: $5.22


Total Out of Pocket: $4.22
Total RR Used: $66
Total RR Earned: $65