Abundant Frugal Life

Finding Deals, Spending Less, Being Content

Mar
28

How to Coupon Shop

Posted by Lisa

COUPONING : BASIC – MODERATE – EXTREME SKILLS

Did you know the higher your income bracket, the more likely you are to coupon shop?  Where are you on the coupon shopping scale?  Want to take it to the next level?

I love the mental challenge of coupon shopping to save and make money.  If I didn’t love it I wouldn’t do it. Doing deals is exciting because the payoff is money in the bank!  If you don’t absolutely love paying rock bottom prices when you shop, chances are you’ll feel stressed and burdened by coupon shopping.  Then, you’ll lose interest and drop it altogether.  I understand; not everyone has interest or time to spend on it. However, if you’re curious, you might just give it a try!

Most seasoned couponers have worked the full spectrum of the basic-to-extreme scale.  Typically, after we go crazy doing deals, we burn out.  But we all come back to couponing because we see the value in it. However, we’ve learned temperance.  We’ve learned to not clip every coupon, we’ve learned to let deals go, and we’ve learned to cherry pick the deals we like.  I know some people who do seasons of stockpiling and working all the deals because there are certain seasons of the year they can devote to it.  Then, other times of the year, they don’t coupon at all and simply live off their stockpiles.  To each her own!  Balance it the way that works for you.

First rule you’ll learn very quickly is that you need to drop brand loyalty.  I’m a brand snob for only two items.  That’s me.  Everything else doesn’t matter, so I’m fine with that.  Don’t worry, your pantry will be stocked with name brand items because they’re cheaper than store/generic brands.  They may not be your personal favorites, but they’ll get eaten or used.

COUPON COLLECTING

Where do I find coupons?

The most common type of coupon is a manufacturer (mfr.) coupon (Q).  There are also store coupons. When stores offer coupons, you can stack 1 mfr. Q + 1 store Q on 1 product that you purchase. When you do this during a good sale, you’re paying rock bottom price for your item.  That’s the bare bones of coupon shopping.

Basic

1. Sunday papers – purchase, get them from family & friends, library, coffee shop, etc.

A. For discounted newspaper subscriptions: http://www.discountednewspapers.com/
B. I can get a bundle of two papers at Walmart on Saturday for $5 (extra day to clip coupons)
C. My dollar store sells the Sunday paper for $1 but I must wait until Sunday to get it.

There are three types of inserts that can come in the Sunday paper: Red Plum (RP), Smart Source (SS), and Procter & Gamble (P&G).  Here is a website I use to see which inserts will come out each week, and which coupons are in each insert.  This helps me plan how many papers I want to take on any given week.  I suggest at least two.

http://www.sundaycouponpreview.com/.

2. Printables – online coupon generators (click & print)

Many times you’ll find coupons that aren’t available in the newspaper, and you may also find coupons that are of higher value than those in the paper

A. You must download a coupon printer onto your computer

B. You may only print 2 like coupons per computer

Do not make photo copies – it’s illegal (coupons have numbers, and you’ll be stopped at check-out).  If you have five computers at your house, you may legitimately print 10 coupons in total.

Sites for printables:

http://www.coupons.com/
http://www.couponnetwork.com/
http://smartsource.com/smartsource/index.jsp?Link=MKRU3JAAR6CCY
http://www.redplum.com/
http://www.cellfire.com/
http://reg.coolsavings.com/rd_p?p=198030&t=14078
http://www.freecouponalerts.com/
https://savingstar.com/

Store specific printables are printed mfr. Q’s that can only be used at that specific store.  Since they are legitimate mfr. Q’s, you should be allowed to use them at any store, no matter what logo is on them, but if you try that, be prepared to run into some snags.

http://coupons.target.com/
http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/coupons/

There are others.  Just google for them.

Coupon database site (search for any coupon for any product):

This is great if you are going to the store and you need a specific item, but don’t have a coupon for it.  you simply start typing what you need in the search box, and if there’s a coupon out there, the database will find it and you can print it.  Say you’re out of tomato sauce and desperately need some.  Just start typing “tomato sauce”  in the search area and if there’s a coupon out there for tomato sauce, it will come up.  There are many sites with coupon databases, but here’s one for the newbies: http://coupontom.com/

3. Loadables – online sites that allow you to load digital coupons directly onto your store loyalty card.

Downside is that you can only load one at a time – no multiples of the same coupon.  When it’s redeemed at the store (by simply scanning your card at the register during check-out) it’s removed from your card.

These are mfr. Q’s that will double or triple according to your store’s policy.  I suggest you read through each program’s “how to’s” and Q&A page.

http://www.cellfire.com/
http://www.upromise.com/welcome (cash back!)
http://shortcuts.com/Home.action

Moderate

1. All basic methods plus…

2. Writing to companies that make your favorite products

A. Go to the company’s website
B. Click “Contact Us” and email them which products you like and why.  Request coupons.  They may mail/email you coupons or free product.  It’s a one time deal, but you usually score high value Q’s.
C. Sign up for their newsletters (Nestle is a great example)

3. Magazines – often have mfr. Q’s (All You – sold only at Walmart, has the most coupons.  Can buy a scubscription.)

4. Blinkies – a little grab-a-coupon box at the grocery store, attached to the shelf near the product it’s promoting – just pull out a coupon.  The box has a little red blinking light.

5. Hang tags – coupons that come around the bottle neck of products like ketchup, syrup, oive oil, etc.

6. Peelies – coupons that you peel off the product package (may use now or later)

7. Tear pad – located throughout the store, tear a coupon off and use it at check out-now or later

8. Home mailers – coupons that come in your mailbox

9. Catalina coupons – mfr. Q’s that come out of a little gray machine located right next to the cash register.  You usually get those coupons handed to you with your receipts.

10. Mobile coupons – Research this because there are many different types of coupons and many different ways to use them.

11. Social media – liking/following facebook & twitter can produce mfr. Q’s

12. Store coupons – often fouund in weekly sale ad fliers, or in a separate booklet (stackable!).  You can also sign up on your store’s website to receive emails, coupon booklets and other special promotions.

TIP: Learn how to read your coupon bar codes.  All mfr. Q’s start with the number “5″ or”9″.  Store coupons will start with another number, or they won’t have numbers on their bar codes.

http://www.groceryshopforfree.com/dians-videos-2/how-why-to-read-a-coupon-barcode/

13. Competitor coupons – most stores don’t accept, but many do.  Know your store’s policy.  Sometimes they only accept certain types or amounts.

Extreme

Extreme couponers know the value of a stockpile.  There is nothing wrong with stockpiling.  You’re not stealing from the store or the manufacturer.  in fact, stores love couponers.  Stores are reimbursed for your coupons by the manufacturer, and often with incentives.  The more product stores can move, the more they benefit from the manufacturing vendor.  So, it’s a win-win-win situation when you use coupons (manufacturer, store, you – all win!).

1. All moderate methods plus…

2. Recycling bin rumaging for inserts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWROKuUYcfE

Don’t worry.  You don’t need to actually get into a dumpster.  Typically you rummage through boxes at drop-off sites.  People who do this think why pay $3.00 for one newspaper which might only have one insert when I can get 50+ full inserts and pay nothing?

3. Find a business hotel in your area that gives their guests the Sunday paper.  Ask the manager if you may pick up their Sunday recycling for them.  You’ll get 100+ inserts per week!  It eliminates his recycling charge and you get a huge stash of free inserts (win-win!)

4. Purchasing coupons in bulk online.

East coast coupons are sometimes different than west coast coupons.  You may want both.  Legitimate clipping services:

http://www.baylifecoupons.com/ (located in FL)
http://www.couponbeat.com/ (located in TN)
http://www.couponsthingsbydede.com/ (located in TX)
http://neclippers.com/shop/ (located in VT)
http://www.klip2save.com/ (located in TN)
http://www.palmettocouponclippers.com/ (located in SC)
http://www.couponsandforms.com/ (located in FL)
http://couponcarryout.com/ (located in OH)
http://www.thecouponclippers.com/ (located in FL)
http://www.thecouponmaster.com/ (located in RI)
http://www.weclipusave.com/(located in TN)
http://ourcouponclippingservice.com/ (located in FL)
http://www.clippityq.com/ (located in FL)
http://store.kuntryklippers.com/ (located in OH)
http://www.theqhunter.com/ (located in OH)
http://www.manufacturerscoupons.net/ (located in WA)
http://shop.blisscoupons.com/ (located in OH)
http://www.mycouponhunter.com (located in FL)
http://www.westcoastcouponclipping.com/ (located in WA)
http://www.couponqueen.com/
Don’t forget ebay!

COUPON ORGANIZATION

How do I organize all those coupons?

Some people clip every coupon because even if they wouldn’t normally use the product, it might be a money making deal if they purchase it.  Most people keep many more coupons than they will ever ue.  That’s actually the best way to do it.  That said, there are three main ways to organize them.  Watch the videos below to get a feel for how people use each method.  Try the method that appeals to you the most.  No matter which method you choose, you will need to consistently purge your stash of expired coupons.

Basic

Coupon Binder: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnVH4GaEnl0

Coupon Box: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFWQELl2BRY

Moderate

Insert Bin (clipping as you need): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bAq-221QYg

Extreme

Any/all/combination of the above methods.  There are other methods, but these are the most widely used.  By the time you’re an extreme, or a seasoned couponer, you know what works for you.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AMO7NqkIqk

SALE & COUPON MATCHING

How do I best use my coupons?

Ultimately, you want to purchase items on sale, using a mfr. Q and stacking on a store Q if it’s available.  Remember, this is how you maximize your savings and purchase items at rock bottom prices!  Honestly, drug stores yield my biggest savings.  They’re fun to start with.  There are so many ways to save money at each one, and it’s really fun getting paid to take products off the shelves!

Basic

If you’re new to this type of shopping, master one store.  Look at your store’s weekly sale ad and do only the deals for which you have coupons (“cherry picking”).  If your grocery store only doubles the first of like coupons, do multiple transactions so all your like coupons will double.  I suggest you go to self-check so you don’t hold up the line and break into a sweat.

Watch the wording of your coupons – size of item may be specified.  There may be other limitations to watch for as well.  For example, Proctor & Gamble coupons only allow you to use four coupons/family/day.  However, there is no way for P&G to know who is making your second transaction.  If your transactions are tied to your loyalty card (like at CVS), simply have a second card.  Stores don’t have policies against having multiple loyalty cards, so that’s another way around limits.

Keep an eye on the expiration dates of you Q’s, and purge your binder/box/files regularly.  Several stores in mid western states accept expired Q’s up to six months.  Know your store’s policy.  Find it online, print and keep it.

If you can stack a store Q on the deal (remember, store Q’s are usually found in the weekly sale ad flier), do it!  Many store coupons have purchase limits.  Again, grab another store coupon (another flier), clip the Q and make another transaction (Tom Thumb is a good example).

Allow yourself the freedom to make some mistakes while you’re mastering this new way of shopping.

Moderate

Here is where you branch out from just one store, to include several grocery stores, national chain drug stores (CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid), national chain office supply stores (Office Max, Office Depot, Staples), restaurants, and reatailers.

Moderate Couponers:

  • Know how to do multiple transactions with relative ease
  • Use multiple store loyalty cards (one for you, one for hubby, one for friend, etc.)
  • Know how to request and use rain checks (when stores are out of stock on a sale item)
  • Know coupon/deal ling.  Just google “coupon lingo”.  There are many sites to help you.
  • Know which blogs and sites to go to for what they want.

There are many bloggers who find and post the deals for you.  All you need to do is click on the deals you want to take advantage of and it automatically creates a printable shopping list for you.  I suggest you find local bloggers for this as weekly grocery sales are local or regional.  The three big drugstore sales, though are national.

Extreme

Extreme couponers:

  • Organize on spread sheets
  • Develop their own strategies for their needs, stores, and time to spend on shopping
  • Do bulk deals, pre-ordering at stores so they don’t clear shelves
  • Do a lot of shopping, but are highly organized, effecient, and effective
  • Stockpile food, but also clothing, auto products, and other consumables
  • Have a set budget
  • Would never step foot in a big warehouse club store (Sam’s, Costco)
  • Do seemingly odd things: travel by train, use layaway programs, etc.

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