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Coupons: I don't know where to start!

Dear Nessa,
I've told you before that I really want to start bargain shopping and using coupons, but don't know where to start. Can you please email me some pointers on how to use coupons to get the best deals? I do not understand how you get all this stuff for a fraction of the cost with one Sunday newspaper! Help me!
Take Care,
K.

Well, I guess now is the time to cover coupon usage in my blog. :-) If you have any questions I have not answered please email me, I'll be happy to help!

First of all, I do not get awesome deals with just one newspaper's worth of inserts. My advice to the newbie couponer is to get every coupon insert you possible can. Let family, friends, and coworkers know that you'd love to have the inserts out of their Sunday papers if they are just going to toss them. I have several family members who save these for me. Multiples of the same coupons can be a blessing, believe me! My first really good deal was thanks to having multiples. All laundry detergent was on sale 3/$5 or roughly $1.67 each, which in my old way of thinking was a pretty good deal, but I had coupons for .50 off which doubled making each bottle .67 each. I luckily had multiples of the coupon and did not run out of laundry detergent for over six months. So, collect those coupon inserts, they will come in handy!

Another important first step is to figure out the best places to shop. I had always been a Walmart shopper and just knew it was the cheapest place in town to shop. Wrong! Since switching to Kroger and CVS, I've cut our grocery budget in half! So, call all your local stores and ask what their coupon policy is. You may be surprised at what you learn! Ask if they double/triple, how many "like" coupons they will double/triple, if they accept internet printed coupons, if they accept competitors coupons, and if the take expired coupons (you read that right, some stores do this!). You will probably want to call the store itself rather than it's customer service line. Kroger's customer service emailed me their coupon policy and it states very clearly that they do not accept internet printed coupons, yet I know that Kroger stores in the DFW area will. So, get copies in writing if at all possible. Get as much information as you can; you want to get the best deals, but want know what you can and cannot do at each store.
***This seems like a good place to add this thought; go here and print out Walmart's coupon policy, then keep it on you at all times. I have been challenged over my coupon use at Walmart and nowhere else. I get the impression that employees there have very minimal coupon training. Keeping the policy with you, so it can be brought out and consulted in front of cashiers, seems to considerably cut down on problems. If you get copies of any stores' coupon policies, I really recommend keeping them in your coupon organize, should questions ever arise in the store. :-)

When I first started using coupons, I would not even bother cutting some of them out, thinking "we never use so and so". Cut out everything! You may think Brand X salad dressing is to expensive, even with a $1 off coupon, but when it goes on sale 10/$10 you'll wish you hadn't tossed that coupon. This has happened to me more times than I care to remember. And even if it is for something you will truly never use, you may be able to pick it up for just pennies or free and bless someone else with it. So, cut all the coupons out, the worst you are out is a little time and the effort may pay off!

I get a lot of free things that I bless others with. I am for the first time in our lives able to donate to the food pantry and women's shelter. School food drives get good donations from us now; in the past I would scrounge some interesting things form the back of our pantry. HBA we will not use go to the shelters or in care packages for our troops. It is awesome that by saving our family money, I am able to bless others as well!

The next step is to get organized. When I first started I was using one of those small accordion style, pre-labeled coupon clutches. One good Sunday with multiple inserts and I found that was just not going to work. I went through several organizational methods until I found the one I like, my binder. The trick here is to find what works for you and everyone is different. There is a lot of information to found online about this. I have been using the binder method for awhile now, but honestly haven't found a way of organizing it that suits me. I tried reorganizing yesterday, I am hoping I've finally got it right! But, as I said what works for me may not work for me, and vice versa. Some options to use are a binder, an index card box, a hinged plastic shoe box, I know of one woman that uses a briefcase, or you can buy several premade coupon organizers online. You may have to try several things before you find the one for you.

This is a work in progress. In the next portion of this article, we'll cover how to actually start using the coupons you've so careful collected and organized. Until then, comment or email me if you have any question. Also, if there is anything specific you'd like me to cover as far as coupons go, please feel free to ask.


1 comment:

Jennifer in Ohio said...

Thanks for the link to the Walmart coupon policy. I am new to couponing and your tip on adding the policies to my coupon binder was really helpful! I would not have thought of that until I was at the checkout and needed it. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!