Saturday, July 4, 2009

Couponing 101

Couponing 101

The Basic Concept:
- An item is on sale at the store Buy One Get One Free. You have at least 2 coupons on that item. You buy 2 of that item and use 2 coupons, therefore getting it at a rock bottom price.
- Example: Frosted Flakes normally cost $4 a box. They are BOGO at Publix. You have 2 $1 off coupons. You buy 2 boxes of Frosted Flakes for $4 and then have your coupons $2 total, and you just bought 2 boxes of cereal for $2.

It is absolutely essential to buy multiple newspapers every Sunday. At the very least you must buy 2 to take advantage of the BOGO sales. However, most people buy more. For a family of 4, I would recommend purchasing at minimum 6 newspapers per week. The St. Pete Times is 50 cents on the side of the rd and at most 7-Elevens. Sometimes, people buying 10 or more newspapers are able to strike a deal with the street vendors, like 12 newspapers for $5.
WHY would you buy so many newspapers-- the answer is to create a stockpile of items you buy on sale, so you do not buy that item again until it is on sale again.

This is where you need to think creatively a little. It may seem a little nuts to buy 18 boxes of cereal at a time for example. But most dry and non perishable items will not go bad. Be careful about cake mixes and pancake mixes however, as they can spoil and become toxic. It is recommended to freeze those items if you are stockpiling them. You can freeze just about anything. I freeze milk, orange juice, lunch meat, raw meat, bread, bacon, cheese… you name it, I have frozen it. Just be careful about freezing things like bread that comes in tubes…it won’t rise as much. If you don’t have a chest freezer or upright freezer, you may want to look into getting one if you are serious about creating a stockpile. Also, if you are serious about stockpiling, after your normal food pantry is overflowing, you will probably need to find an alternate place to store your non perishables. Many people have an extra cheap shelf in their garage. Do not rush out this weekend and buy shelving for your garage and a brand new chest freezer. Get those things as time goes… and always on sale or used first. J

There are several ways to organize your coupons. I recommend doing it the cheapest way possible that won’t drive you insane when finding your coupons before your shopping trip. I will outline three ways below:
1. Shoe box organizer: This is the method I use most often. There are 90+ categories in my box. I stack coupons together, staple them and then cut them out. Then I file each stack of coupons under the appropriate category. This is good for me because I am a visual person and if I cut it out, I can usually picture it when I go to find it.
2. File folders or Whole Insert Method: This is probably the least time consuming. It is good for those of us who have a lot going on and just have the time to get the coupons we needs for our trips. Simply stack all of the like inserts together, write the date on the front, and file that weeks coupons in a file folder. Some people have drop files in a crate that they keep the file folders in. Most importantly, do not spend a lot of money on an organization system. Use what you have.
3. Baseball Card Page Method: This is by far the most expensive and in my opinion, the most time consuming. You get a 5 inch binder, a ton of baseball card pages, tabs for the sides with categories and then file your coupons so you can see them. This can be very expensive, as 12 baseball card pages run about $4 or more, and you would need at least 90 to have all the categories.

How to Organize Your Shopping Trip:
1. Utilize one of the many websites listed below to get the coupons that are matched up to the sales at the stores. Make your list from those websites.
2. Pull the coupons from your organized collection of coupons.
3. Put your list and coupons into an envelope.
4. Go to the store, find the items on your list and put coupons in a separate envelope or place as you have the items.
5. Group the items together in your basket and place them that way on the conveyor belt when you check out.
6. Let the cashier know you have a lot of coupons. Sometimes they will want them in advance. If the store is busy, let people behind you know you have coupons, often people get aggravated with couponers b/c it takes longer.

1. This is the ONLY pay website listed here. It costs $4 for the first month and then $10 every 2 months thereafter. I subscribe to this only for Publix. The more stores you subscribe to, the higher the cost. This saves me a lot of time as it lists the sales and the coupons to go with it. It lists EVERY item on sale at Publix, even if there are no coupons available for that item.
2. Coupon Group: Find the group: Florida Couponers. Follow the direction to sign up. This is a message based group of people in the area that coupon big time. They list deals they have found as well as other couponing tips. The owner of this site has been in the paper for her savings. This is where I have learned the majority of what I do.
3. This is good to match up coupons to sales at Walmart. Walmart isn’t the easiest place to shop with coupons, however. I have found that the Gibsonton Walmart is most cooperative with coupons.
4. This is a teacher’s blog. She gives links to internet coupons matched up to sales at Publix. She also mentions many other sales and explains how she saves money each week.
5. An online forum for sales at various stores. Helps you find the best deals. There is also a Target Coupon Generator that allows you to print unlimited numbers of Target coupons.
6. Another blog that helps you find lots of savings. She also lists a more comprehensive list of Publix sales and links them to coupons online.
7. This helps you find great deals at CVS.

Coupon Sources
1. The newspaper every Sunday: Research the papers available in your area. Sometimes street vendors will cut you a deal on multiple newspapers, and you may even be able to get multiple Sunday papers delivered to you at a discounted subscription rate. There are usually several inserts of coupons in each paper on Sunday. The websites listed above will often list the coupons to be expected ahead of time. Then you can plan accordingly. When there are more inserts and the coupons are good, I buy more newspapers that week. The coupon inserts are generally named as follows: Smart Source (SS) Valsasis (V), Proctor and Gamble (P&G) and then there may be one or two others named something else to promote a sale in a category… such as “Healthy Eating”.
2. Internet: Many manufacturers have coupons on the internet that you can print. The rule of thumb is that you can print 2 coupons per month per computer on that item. These must be printed in color or the stores will not take them. Walmart and Target are known to give customers a hard time about Internet Printable Coupons (IPCs). The only place I’ve had a problem is Walmart in New Tampa.
3. Coupon Clipping services: There are coupon clipping services on the internet. You simply order the coupons, pay online and they arrive to you clipped. I do not recommend this unless you know you are going to reap massive savings. This can get expensive.
4. Ebay: You can bid on specific coupons or lots of coupons.
5. Blinkies: These are the coupon dispensers in the stores on the shelves. Pull lots of them out and then file them. You can use these at ANY store, unless the store name is written on it.
6. Store ads: Often times store ads will have coupons such as “Save $10 of a purchase of $50 or more”. It is important to note that Publix will honor these coupons from Winn Dixie and Sweetbay.

I purpose to only buy meat that is on sale or is less than $2.00 a pound. I often find a roast (such as London Broil) that is on sale for less than I would pay per pound for lean ground beef and I ask the butcher at the grocery store to grind it up for me. Then I take it home, separate it into portions and freeze it. I find meat at Publix, Winn Dixie, Sams, and The Land and Sea Market. The Land and Sea Market has a weekly special that provides quite a bit of meat for $25.99 Their specials run Wednesday through Tuesday. I haven’t been there, but a friend recommends Land O Lakes Meat Market and says you can get phenomenal deals there.

Other Important Tips
1. Most stores will take a manufacturers coupon (found in the paper) as well as a store coupon on one item. This maximizes savings.
2. Kmart sometimes has double coupons. However, you must be careful as they often have higher prices and you really don’t save anything. Kmart is really difficult when couponing because it seems that the cashiers aren’t trained to handle multiple coupons in one purchase.
3. Do everything you can to avoid coupon fraud. Do not try to use multiple coupons on one item and do your best to follow the store policies.
4. At first, it will be slow going as you begin to become an avid couponer. It will take a least a month to build a good stockpile of coupons and then you can begin saving more. Keep working at it. The woman who owns Florida Couponers feeds her family of 6 for less than $200 a month. It took her a year to get to that point, but she does it and she has a stockpile to last nearly a year.
5. Go to the store prepared and with a list. It will save you anguish and time.
6. Don’t become discouraged… even a little saved is better than none at all.

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