Thursday, July 7, 2011

Couponing 101 - Start here!

I've had many requests from friends to do a "how to start" post on couponing...so here goes.  If it starts to get too long I'll break this up into several posts.

1.  Start gathering coupons. - When you start out you need to be getting the coupons from the sunday paper and if you get  coupons in the mail gather those too.  At our house we get our Redplum and Procter & Gamble coupon packets in our regular mail on tuesdays or wednesdays.

2. Organize your coupons. - If you just throw them in your purse or wallet or in a paper envelope I can pretty much guarantee you won't use them or they will get lost.  I will do a separate post on my system but do what works for you.  They need to be organized so you can easily check to see if you have a coupon for a particular product.

3.  Read your grocery store circulars. - I generally shop at Giant Eagle but we just had a Shop N Save open here and they have some great sales too.  I'm actually heading there today.  The key is to start to know your prices.  This will come with time.  Once you know that you can get toothpaste for free with a coupon almost every month...you'll refuse to pay for toothpaste ever again!

4.  Make your lists - I make my Giant Eagle list of ONLY items that are great deals with coupons.  In my opinion, it's far too expensive to shop there for non-coupon items.  We buy those items at Walmart (or as it is referred to in our house "Fart-Mart") and usually buy off brand.  Now we are fortunate that we have so many stores within 2 miles of our home so we aren't wasting time and gas going from store to store.  You may not have that luxury.  If you don't have other options close by - I would still recommend it but plan your shopping well so you only have to do it once a week.  That puts me at rule #5....

5.  Shop once a week (for groceries) - We typically go on either Saturday or Sunday morning depending on my work schedule.  Unless we run out of bread or milk there are no mid-week runs for groceries.  This alone will probably save most people $50 a week.  I don't know about you but when I run in for "just a few things" I swear the bill jumps to $50!

6. Make your meal plan for the week - Incorporate sale items you buy that week (or previous weeks if you've been doing this a while).  The goal is to eventually be able to "shop" your pantry for dinner.  If you have a plan then you will be less tempted to go out or order pizza - thus saving money.  Not to say we don't order pizza or anything - but it's cheaper and healthier to cook at home.  This is why you will see me buying larger quantities of certain things.  Now granted, I have a big family to feed so you may not need the amount I do but the principle still holds true. 

7. "Purchasing" coupons on ebay - Now this seems like a silly thing to do when I'm talking about saving money.  But hear me out!  Say there is a great coupon - like the $.75/1 Crest toothpaste that just came out.  I know that Crest ALWAYS goes on sale for $3/2 (or $1.50 for 1).  That coupon will double and become worth $1.50 off 1...thus making it FREE!!!!  Since we get our Procter and Gamble coupons in the mail I only have access to one coupon..so if I want more than one tube of toothpaste I need to figure out another way.  In comes Ebay.  We can buy 20 coupons for $3.  Do we need 20 tubes of toothpaste?  Heck no...but our church's food pantry does.  So for $3 I can keep a handful and send the rest off to the church where they can be a blessing to someone else.

8.  BOGO sales - BOGO stands for buy one get one free!  At Giant Eagle this means that each item is going to ring up at half price.  The good thing about this is you only need to buy 1 item in order to get the sale price.  In addition to that, since they each ring up half price, you can use a coupon for each item so you can score some great deals!  Now, the only exception to this rule is in the fresh meat department.  There you need to purchase 2 of the same items and one will ring up free after you scan your advantage card.

9.  Get a freezer - Once you really get good at snagging the deals, a freezer will really maximize your savings.  Again, seems counterproductive to saving money but you can freeze lots of things.  And if you're like me with just a small above the fridge freezer in your kitchen, an extra freezer is such a blessing!  A while back I was able to score Eggo Waffles for $.90 a box.  The kids go through these like they are candy so I bought 10 boxes.  No way were these going to fit into my kitchen freezer!  Check Craigslist - that's where I got mine.  I'm currently searching out an extra fridge!

That's all I can think of for now.....I will work on a post about organizing coupons next - watch for it!

I'm linking this up to Works For Me Wednesdays !


Jodi

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