Monday, November 02, 2009

Couponing: The Strategy

Once you get interested in couponing, the next thing that happens is an overwhelming feeling of having no clue where to start.  But, once you get a plan in place, things feel much less overwhelming. Here are the basics:

Get a subscription to the Sunday paper
I subscribe to the Daily Herald. They have what they call a "Super Savvy" promotion. I get two Sunday papers for $10.35 a month.  The rule of thumb that I've heard is you get one subscription for every member of your family, including children.  I only get two since I don't stockpile like some people do. We just don't have the room.

Figure out which method of organization works best for you.
I use a binder method for my coupons. It works well for me since I've only got two subscriptions and such. I have my binder organized into categories and subcategories.  Each Sunday my husband clips the coupons and I organize them.  I also take out any that may have expired during the week. I used the following thread at Pinching Your Pennies to organize my categories.

Understand a few basic rules
Coupons can save you a lot of money, but to maximize your savings use your coupons with sales whenever possible.  Otherwise, you're really not saving that much. Don't feel bad if a lot of your coupons expire before you use them. You don't have to use them all. In fact, if you did, you wouldn't be saving any money at all.

You also don't have to stock up on everything. Something may be a good deal, but do you really need 20 of them? Think through how often your family uses things before you get 20 of them. For instance, we rarely use ketchup (I hate it). So, one bottle every 6 months is sufficient. I'd be crazy to buy 20 things of ketchup because it was on sale. It would just sit there on my shelf. But, I LOVE Velveeta Shells and Cheese. So, when I had a chance to get it for 50 cents a box, I jumped on it and got 10 boxes.

Some deals don't come from coupons
Buying meat when it's marked down and then freezing it is a great idea.  Shop for holiday decorations when they are on clearance right after the holiday. Do your christmas shopping all year round. Search yardsales!

Don't reinvent the wheel
I don't scour the ads each week to find out what's on sale. I use the fabulous website Pinching Your Pennies. This website and it's message board is pure gold. Each week, the ad is broken down and each item on it is given a star rating for its price. Then, if there are coupons available for the item it lists them and the insert you can find them in. It's like magic. I read the list each week and pick out the things I want, collect my coupons, and go to the store! So, definitely check it out.

Find other people that use coupons
Most of what I learned, I learned from my mom. She never buys things full price. I'm not nearly as frugal as she is. (I sometimes buy my clothes at full price *gasp*) However, she has mastered the art of getting something for almost nothing. Sometimes I take her along on shopping trips. She always calls me when she finds a good deal. Sometimes I'll call her and ask if something is a good deal or not.

This should be a good start for getting your coupon/savings system going. Feel free to leave comments or ask any questions you may have. I'll answer them as best I can.


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