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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Couponing 101 {Why I coupon and how I do it}

     A year and a half ago I couldn't have been bothered with a coupon. In fact that's what I saw them as, a bother, a waste of precious time I thought I didn't have. All of that slowly changed week by week as I heard the stories a co-worker of mine told of the super cheap and free items she scored each week. She talked about how her family was eating better than they'd ever had and of the small stock pile she was accumulating. I was intrigued and started to try some of what she shared. Over time this has come to revolutionize how and when food comes into our house and in the process has saved thousands of dollars.

     When I saw the savings that could be achieved with little effort, I came under conviction about my role as the homemaker of this house and the importance of being a good steward of the money that God has blessed us with through our jobs. This has given me joy in this "chore".

     The system I now use has taken some tweaking and over time I've become much more efficient at it. {Now it takes me about 30 minutes of prep time per week to prepare for my shopping trip~trust me saving 50% off my bill is well worth this little bit of time to prepare} Here's what I do and how you can get started:

1). Buy or subscribe to the Sunday paper. Every week (except for holiday weekends) the Sunday paper has anywhere from 1-6 coupon inserts. The basic inserts are Redplum, Smartsource, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, and sometimes store coupon inserts from Target or Wal-mart. Often Smartsource will include two different types of inserts in one paper.

2). Find a local blogger who posts each week of the sales at your local grocery store and matches them up with coupons. In west Michigan I use Saving Addiction or Sarah's Deals . {A great national blog is Hip 2 Save} These amazing bloggers will list what is on sale this week, where you can find it and what coupons you need. Choose your favorite store in their store menus and go through their list of weekly deals and add to your list the items that your family will eat even if you don't need that item this week. These bloggers will also provide a link to any coupons that you can get online. Any online coupons can be printed twice with the coupon printer that you can download for free at any of the sites that offer these coupons. {The only exception that I know of is the Meijer mealbox coupons, you can print as many as you want} If you're on facebook, like them on their pages and you will get updates daily about great deals to be had. The best way to maximize your savings is to only buy things when they are on sale and only if you have a good coupon. Check out the Meijer M-perks program on their webpage too, if you're a Meijer shopper~these are e-coupons that you "clip" on your computer then in the check out line you put your mobile phone number into the key pad and it will automatically deduct your coupons from your total.

3). Start small. It's easy to see all of the free or ridiculously cheap items and want to go after them all by hitting all the stores. I started out this way and remember one day in particular hauling two of my kids around to five different stores only to discover that most of them were out of the hot deals. On my way home that day I knew I had to refocus my efforts since this was clearly not a good use of my time. Now I shop for my grocery and non food items at Meijer and will shop Aldi for anything that I need that I can't get for a good deal at Meijer. Every once in a while I will do a trip to Target especially when I can get their clothing for a great price. On Target's website they have coupons you can print. My favorite's are like $4.00 off a woman's sweater or $5.00 off a pair of jeans, then you look for the sweater or jeans in the clearance section. I've gotten some great tops for $2-3.00 each! (Remember you can print two of every coupon!) If there is something specific you need and you wonder if there is a coupon out there somewhere for it check out the coupon database at Happy Homemaker Cindy.

4)   Build a stock pile. Now I'm not talking stock pile like the world is about to end, I'm talking about 3-6 months worth of food that your family will eat before it goes bad. Almost everything will go on sale every 3 months. So you buy enough of that item to last until it goes on sale again. If that item is on sale and you have a coupon and the store or manufacturer is offering an incentive (like buy 5 items get $5.00 off) buy as much as your budget allows or what you can use before it goes bad. Last year there was an amazing deal on olive oil. I use olive oil all the time and it usually cost $5.00 or more. On this sale I was able to get it for .78 cents with the coupons I had and bought enough of it that I still have 3 bottles in my stock. Once your stock pile gets built up your goal would be to only buy the hot sale items each week and fresh items that rarely go on sale or you can't stockpile like Milk, bread, fruit, veggies and meat. It takes about 3 months to get your stock pile going and begin to see your savings add up. In the beginning you are using any savings you get from coupons to buy more items to fill you stock pile.  Buying a small freezer is a good investment and will allow you to buy meat, bread or other frozen items and stock those as well.

5)   Combine a manufacturer's coupon with a store coupon to maximize your savings. The triple threat is to combine the above two with a store/manufacturer promotion like buy 2 get 1 free or buy 5 get $5.00 off. Also pay attention to the Catalina's you can get. (A Catalina is the coupon strip that often prints out with your receipt). Many times with specific promotions they will offer you a Catalina for money off your next order. I keep a clear plastic envelope in my purse and anytime I get one of these it goes right in my pink envelope for my next trip to the store.

     I know this sounds like a lot of work and it may be daunting but start out slow. Stay organized by using a coupon envelope, binder, or file box. {My file box is what is recommended by the girls at Saving Addiction} You can take your box/binder/whatever to the store or take out the coupons you are going to use each week and add them to your clear purse envelope. Both of the above blogs have great tutorials on all of the lingo and can explain things in more detail.

     I hope that this is helpful and will spur you on to greater savings. I'm telling you, this saving money thing is a bit addicting! Since I started couponing and have seen what can be had for little money it makes me almost sick to pay full price for anything! Don't let this get the better of you though. Only buy what you will use or what you will donate to a good cause. Just because you can get 57 Snuggies for $2.00 each doesn't mean you should!

I'm linking up here:


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  2. Jody, I'm so glad that I was able to rub off on you! You sure thought I was crazy at first! Glad to hear you found a good system to maximize the use of your family's income.

  3. I used to coupon hardcore, and had to stop because I had to go to work full time and something had to give. One thing I never did conquer was prep time. I spent hours sometimes getting the deals straight. I guess I was trying to cover too many stores. I like your idea of sticking with deals at only one store. I need to cut my grocery budget again and this just might be the way to do it.

    By looking at your file box, you cut every coupon out ahead of time, right? Do you find that you cut many out that you just don't use? Are you including the cutting out time in your 30 minute estimate? Sorry for so many questions, but I want to master this thing! :) Thanks. By the way, I just discovered your blog today and love your ideas!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jen! I try to just cut out coupons of things I know we will use. I actually take them to work with me and cut on my lunch hour. Some weeks it takes a bit more time and some weeks not. Good luck!

  4. Jody - I love the idea of cutting the coupons on my lunch hour at work - so doable.

    Even with all of the coupon hoopla that is out there on TV and in blogland, your simplified approach is the nudge that gets me going again. Thanks!


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