by Petticoat Prepper
This recession hit my family hard. We are self-employed and there isn’t a helping hand/safety net from an outside source. I began using coupons after seeing ‘that show’ which produced my, ah-ha moment. Books have been written about this subject and there are many dedicated bloggers who can help with your quest if this little tutorial piques your interest.
An extreme couponer is one for whom coupons have ceased to be a small slips of paper cut from the local Sunday newspaper; for them it’s money. Don’t roll your eyes, how many of us will stop and pick up that penny in the parking lot? If you enjoy Las Vegas or a similar sin city you may find a comparable rush if you start on this addictive habit.
This weekend I was at the local Safeway (not my best store to shop at but do-able). I bought $160.51 worth of grocery items and once the checker ran all my savings I paid $40.67. Yesterday, I realized I’d forgotten to pick up the Kleenex and popped in. I bought 2 boxes of cool touch tissues and after all my savings they PAID me $.42 to come in and get them. I am planning on adding gold/silver to my preps this next year off my coupon savings.
Often the first things I hear from those in line behind me when checking out is; how did you do that and where do you get your coupons? The how is a bit time-consuming at first but it gets quicker the more you do it. The trick is to be kind to yourself as the learning curve is huge and you will make mistakes. You’ll need to understand your stores coupon policy and generally you can get it off the internet or from customer service. Carry it with you when shopping in case you have a checker who doesn’t understand the policy. Remember to be polite to them even if they make a mistake.
Coupons are collected from any source I can find, Sunday newspaper insert, magazines, and internet. When you are looking for coupons check the paper from the largest city in your area, for me it’s Portland. They have more coupons in their inserts and often they will be for more money off. I buy between 3-20 papers on Sunday. The rule of thumb is one paper per person in the household. At first I had no money for these papers and I made DH go dumpster diving with me. Yes, self employment is fun!
If you are printing a coupon from the internet the thing to remember is you are allowed to print two coupons per computer. We have three computers thus I get 6 coupons. Do not photocopy as this is illegal! Each coupon has an identifying number and your store will not be reimbursed for fraud coupons.
Once you begin to collect the coupons you’ll need to find a way to store, organize and find them. At first I used a 3 ring binder with baseball trading card plastic sheet holders and filed them by grocery aisles. When I found myself spending 8-10 hours a week cutting and filing plus carrying two oversized binders into the store I realized I needed a different strategy. Now I have a large plastic file box with hanging file folders. Using a sharpie I write the date on the coupon inserts and file by provider(smart source, red plum etc). Never toss a coupon until it’s expired (those can be sent to military bases if you’d like). I can guarantee you that you will be digging through your garbage/recycle for those coupons once you get going, so save them all.
The next step is to ditch brand loyalty. There are few things I’m loyal to with mayo being one of them. Don’t be afraid to try a new product. Often there will be really good coupons such as FREE. Read your coupons. The word ‘any’ is priceless on a coupon. Manufacturers will put a picture the most expensive item on the coupon but it may cover any of their products. Look to see if it says ‘limit of 4 like coupons in a single transaction’. We’ve all seen ‘one coupon per purchase’ but each item you buy is a purchase. So if you have 15 coupons for dish soap you can get 15 bottles unless it says limit of 4 then you have to read the fine print; 4 per transaction or day. Purchase = item…Transaction = trip through the check-out line.
Ok, so you’ve gathered the coupons and filed in a way that makes sense to you. Now what? Start small. Get out the grocery ads and do your regular shopping. Those of you with a stock pile will be able to progress faster than those without but over the course of a year you’ll shop vastly different. The idea is to buy as much as your family will use until the next sale cycle. Sale cycles are about 6 months in rotation, example come January healthy/diet food ie oatmeal, power bars etc. will be on sale. If you’ve coupons then this is the time to stock up.
The object is to build your own grocery store that you restock from their sales. Don’t try to do all the stores at first. Pick one store until you understand how they tick and keep an eye on the coupon policy as you don’t want to get to the check out only to find they messed up your plan. Get their shopper card; I once dropped my total from $180 to $120 off just the card savings. At first you may only have one item you’re couponing but as your stock pile builds you’ll get more and more couponing items until the only things in your cart are the coupon items.
If you live in an area where your stores offer ‘double coupons’, you’re in luck! My area has a couple of store that offer them and their policies are very different. I’ll use my favorite place, Albertson’s for my example of how-to’s. I drive quite a ways to shop there but I save enough on my first transaction to pay for my gas. Yes, I did say first transaction. I’ve been known to go through the line 7-10 times. Why? Because I’m allowed to do 3 transactions in a row and I can only use 3 double coupons in each transaction. Think it’s too much work? If I use 3 double coupons on each of 10 trips/transaction and each doubles a $1 coupon that’s $30 in my pocket just off the double coupons.
Did you know you can ‘stack’ coupons? As an example, the store is having a sale on say ABC pasta sauce and they are normally $2.50 each but they are on sale for $1 each limit of 4 with a store coupon that you cut from their ad and you’ve got a $.50 off manufacturer’s coupon for the product plus a store double coupon. You stack all three coupons on that one can of sauce and you get it for free. Now if like my store you can do 3 double coupons each transaction I’ll get 3 free pasta sauces. I may get 30 free pasta sauces that day.
Another lovely way to save is with BOGO (buy one get one free) recently my Albertson’s had a BOGO sale on disposable razors. I just happened to have 20 BOGO coupons for this product. How many are thinking I’m going to buy one and get two free? I could, but instead I got 40 free razors. I bought one with the manufacture’s BOGO coupon and got one free with the store’s BOGO sale. Yes, it pays to know your store coupon policies!
Another thing to think about is size. My DD likes Nesquik chocolate milk powder and I had $1 off coupons. It would be nice to get a buck or two off a large container but I had 15 coupons and didn’t want 15 huge containers. Instead I used them on the 3.9 oz packet that Walmart had on a roll back for a buck each, free is good.
Depending on your view about the love/hate Walmart you may not be interested but they do ‘roll over’. If you have an MQ (manufacture’s coupon) that exceeds the cost of the item you’re buying the remaining amount on the coupon rolls over to the rest of the basket. Doesn’t sound like much, huh? I had 30 MQ for $8 off ANY (remember how important that word is?) two covergirl products. (Guys heads up you could get free stuff in the fishing section or elsewhere). I went to the makeup area and found the cheapest product. I got items that totaled $4.50 leaving $3.50 remaining on each coupon for my ‘roll over’. 30 coupons X $3.50 = $105.00 that rolled over to the rest of my basket! Of course, I had coupons for everything in my basket and I paid something stupid like $10 for a huge cart of items.
This is long I know and I could go on and on. There are blogs out there that will help you. I use www.thekrazycouponlady.com to look up my coupons. I sit with the sales and the items I want to buy I check for coupons. They list like this: Hunt’s pasta sauce $.50 SS 11/4/12 exp 1/15/13. This means Smart Source (Sunday coupon insert) from the November 4, 2012 newspaper, $.50 off and the coupon expires January 15, 2013. I pull all the inserts from that file folder, cut all the pasta coupons and put the insert back in the file box. SS= Smart Source, RP=Red Plum, PG=Proctor and Gamble. Insert names are on the front page.
Other internet sources for help:
www.DiscountQueens.com www.QueenbeeCoupons.com www.LivingRichWithCoupons.com www.WildForWags.com (Walgreen’s)
Almost all these ladies have beginner sections and you can sign up for their daily feed. Once you begin to understand you’ll see other ways to roll offers. I bought a $50 Sears’s gift card from Safeway because they had an offer of buy a $50 gift card and get a $10 coupon for Safeway groceries. I went to Sears with the gift card because they had a sale going, buy $50 in the men’s department and get a $25 gift card. So I got my DH father’s day stuff and me a free pair of fashion boots plus $10 off my next grocery run.
Coupons have really saved me and I’ve managed to rebuild my stock pile. I’m planning on adding metals to my preps this next year with the money I’m saving. Hopefully, this will help the pack with more cash for preps!