It is known that coupons can and will save you money. But if you’ve never used them before it can be really hard to figure out where to begin. It will take time each week to sort through all the ads, cut the coupons and make your lists. But if you start small and set aside just a little bit of time each week, it will get easier, trust me.
Here are a few ways to help get you started on your way to saving with coupons.
Where do I get coupons?
1. The best place to get coupons is in the Sunday Paper (some places you can buy them a day earlier on Sat, check with your local stores). If you can get your hands on a paper that only cost about $1.00 it’s worth it to grab a couple so you get more coupon inserts. But before you buy, take a quick look inside and make sure the coupons are there! Sometimes they are missing and that really stinks when you get home and there are no coupons. Ask your friends, family and neighbors to keep their coupon inserts if they don’t use them for you too!
2. You can also buy coupons on e-bay or from a coupon clipping service. When you ‘buy’ coupons, you are actually just paying for the cost of them cutting, sorting and shipping them, you don’t actually ‘buy’ the coupon.
3. Another source is in magazines. Especially parenting and home magazines.
4. You can also find a lot of coupons on products. Either to use when on that purchase, or it will be on the package for you to cut out, or inside, to use next time. Always check the inside of the boxes before you toss them. There may be a coupon.
5. You can also sign up for mailing lists to get coupons mailed to you either through USPS or email. A lot of times if you write to companies of products that you use and either complement them or perhaps complain about the product (please don’t make it up, it should be a real complaint) they will send you coupons and sometimes for FREE items!!! It’s real easy to write to them since most companies have websites and you can email them right from there. Maybe you could take 15 minutes a week and write to companies. Be sure to keep a list of who you write to and then note who sent you something.
6. My 2nd favorite place to get coupons is printable coupons online. A lot of companies will have printable coupons on their web sites and they will change often so check them every now and then. You can usually print out two copies of each coupon from each computer. If you have more than one computer print from each one if it’s an item you use often. You can also get printable coupons from SmartSource.com, Redplum.com and Coupons.com. . Most places will take printable coupons either in black and white or color. It’s best to check with your store about their printable coupon policy.
7. “Blinkies” – These are the coupons you find in the aisle with the food. The machine usually blinks, that’s why it’s called a blinkie machine.
8. Tearpad coupons are also found in stores. Sometimes on the shelf with the product, or on a display and even at the register. Look around, you never know where you’ll find them.
9. Food Stores that sell wine in the same store will sometimes have Wine Tags. These are coupons hanging around the neck of the wine bottle. Most times they are for dollars off certain products or types of products, like meats or produce. Some wine tags will require a wine purchase, but some don’t. You have to read the tag.
10. Catalina’s are coupons that print out at the register. You can get these at a lot of food stores; Walgreen’s and I recently heard that Rite Aid is starting to use them. These coupons are usually manufacturer’s coupons you can use at that store only. Sometimes you will get dollars off your next purchase if you buy certain products. Those are like cash.
Coupons can be found all around you so always keep an eye open!
Now that I have the coupons, what do I do?
Each week when you get your sale ads, sit down and go through to see what’s on sale and make yourself a list from each store. Cross reference all the lists to find the best deals since a lot of weeks you’ll find the same thing on sale in a few different places but the prices aren’t always the same. Then check to see if you have a coupon for these sale items. Keep in mind that some stores (like the food store) may double your coupons. So you want to pick the store where your coupons will go the furthest.
If you don’t normally use coupons, this is where you’ll see the difference. Let’s say your weekly food budget is $80. If you have $10 in coupons, then you can buy $10 more food (or put the $10 into the bank). Now if you don’t need $10 more in food and you don’t want to put it in the bank you can always stockpile a few items that are on sale that you have coupons for.
I try to only buy items that are on sale and that I have a coupon for. Of course there are some things that I do need that I don’t always have coupons for like meat, fruit and veggies. There are a few ways to also save on those items.
1. If you shop a certain day of the week, you can find a lot of meats marked down since it’s the last day they can sell them. This doesn’t mean that they are not good, it just means if you don’t cook it that day, you have to freeze it. You can freeze most meats for months! My local food store has a section where they break down the big packs of meat that they need to sell, season the meat, then repackage in smaller portions. A lot of times I can find 4 chicken thighs, 4 chicken legs or 2 split chicken breasts for less than $2.00 a pack! Pick up a few and toss them in the freezer! Check with the meat department to see what day or time of day they do their markdowns and shop then if you can.
2. Wine Tags – I mentioned Wine Tags above. A lot of these will be for dollars off meat, seafood or produce.
3. The produce department will also have markdowns on fruits and vegetables that need to be sold within a few days. If it’s something you are going to use right away, or can cook for later use, this is a great place to save money on produce. My store always has stuff on the mark down rack, but again, ask the produce department at your local store if there is a certain day where you might get the best mark down deals. If they just do it once a week then the produce is best the first day of the markdown.
4. The bakery department will also mark down yesterday’s bakery items. You can find some desserts that you can toss in the freezer for when you have company for half price. They also have bread that is just a day old. How many times do you buy a loaf of bread and then eat it over the next several days. It’s the same thing if it’s a day old! Why not pay half price instead. Ask the Bakery department when you can find the best deals on their markdowns too. Some of them may even do it at the end of the day and at that point it’s not even a day old yet!
What is stockpiling?
If you find a good sale on an item that you use a lot and you have coupons to make it free or next to free, then if your budget allows buy more than one. This way when you need it again before it goes on sale, you don’t have to pay full price for it. I usually stockpile when I have a coupon and it’s
on sale for nothing or next to nothing.
How about rebates? Are they worth the time?
Yes they are!! A lot of companies will give you a full rebate of an item, just to get you to try it hoping you’ll buy it again, but next time at full price. You should always take advantage of these items. It doesn’t take long to fill out the rebate and send it in. When that check arrives in the mail, you’ll be glad you did it.
Some places are making it even easier to send in rebates now Rite Aid. Almost every month they have a lot of items that you can get a rebate on. Some of them are full value and some are not. The ones with a full value rebate can even be money makers if you have a coupon for them. You enter these rebates online and it only takes seconds. All you need is the store receipt, nothing to mail in. At the end of the month, Rite Aid requires you to go into your account and actually request your rebate check. You have about a month to do it, and if you don’t they will automatically send it to you 30 days after the end of the month.
What about CVS? What’s the Extra Care Bucks (ECB’s) program all about?
In order to participate in the Extra Care Bucks program, you need to apply for an ECB’s card. You can do this at the register or online at cvs.com. It’s free. Extra Care Bucks (ECB’s) are like cash. It’s a coupon that will print out at the end of the cash register receipt that you can use next time like cash. This is the CVS way of offering rebates. If you buy a certain product you’ll get ECB’s. A lot of times the product will be on sale for the same price of the ECB’s so it’s FREE after ECB’s. And if you have a coupon then you’ll make money. For example, if the sale is for Colgate toothpaste and it’s on sale for $2.99 and you get $2.99 ECB’s and you have $1.00 manufacturer’s coupon then you’ll spend $1.99 for the Colgate ($2.99 less the $1.00 coupon) and get $2.99 ECB’s so really you made $1.00. This is a great way of maximizing your savings. Each week they have different ECB’s deals and you can use the ECB’s you receive one week to buy the items next week. That’s called Rolling your ECB’s. (You can see scenarios of how I use ECB’s on my website.)
How do I organize my coupons?
This is something I’ve changed over time, as I got more into coupons. I started out with just a little coupon organizer with different slots for each type of food. I got mine at the dollar store. As I started clipping more and more coupons I found I needed more room. I then moved onto a plastic container and filed them alphabetically. That worked for a while too but then I found I was spending way too much time cutting things out and sometimes find later on I wished I had cut out a coupon that I didn’t and now my inserts were gone. Then I began keeping the inserts each week until all the coupons were expired. In order to do this, you must stay organized. Write the date of the insert on the front page for quick reference. Then when you need a coupon, you know where to go and look for it. I do still cut coupons each week. I cut the ones I use most and like to have with me at all times. I have a business card file I keep in my purse with all those coupons sorted by type so they are easy to find.
You really need to figure out what system works for you. Any of the ones I listed are great systems. You can always keep changing like I did as you get better at this.