Thursday, January 31, 2013

Couponing 101


I've developed a bit of a reputation. I'm known by many as a "Couponer". I have over 30 boxes of toothpaste in my hall closet and 20 bottles of salad dressing in the pantry. I had Hubs turn our walk-in coat closet into a stockpile central. I'm not ashamed, I confess: I'm a "crazy coupon lady". I wouldn't consider myself an "extreme couponer"...couponing is simply a way to stretch our dollars. Why pay for things you need when you could save that money for something you want, right? That's my take on it anyway, so when I spot a deal or even better a freebie {the toothpaste, the salad dressing....} I take notice and take 'em home!

This way of life is not as time consuming as it seems. Do I devote a few hours to clipping coupons and watching the sales every week? You bet I do! Did you know you can "earn" an average of $100 bucks an hour by couponing? None of my past pursuits could beat that hourly wage! I love to save money and I love to spread the wealth, so without further ado here are my top tips:

Coupon Round Up:
 Newspaper coupons are found in the newspaper's weekly inserts. The three common inserts are the Smart Source, Red Plum and the Procter & Gamble insert. These inserts are usually distributed in the Wednesday and Sunday paper. I receive 4 newspapers every week but I only pay for one! Most cities have a free local newspaper and The Dallas Morning News has a free edition called the briefing that can be delivered to your door just by asking for it! In our area, there is also the Al Dia paper that can be delivered at no charge. In addition to saving money, you can brush up on your Spanish! I purchased a subscription to the Fort Worth Star through a Groupon deal. While I had been purchasing the $5 Sunday Double paper at Walmart, the Groupon deal only cost $20 for a year subscription. Score!

Coupons are everywhere! Don't be afraid to ask your friends and family for inserts they aren't using and check if your local library has a coupon drop off box. If you have a need for multiples of a specific coupon you can use a clipping service. Oh, and don't forget printable and electronic coupons too!

Shop The Sales:
The best way to maximize your coupon's power is to pair it with a store's sale. All of my freebies are purchased by combining a store sale with a coupon. Kroger is incredibly coupon friendly and has great weekly sales. This past week I purchased 20 Ken's salad dressings which were on sale 10/$10 and used 20 $1/1 coupons to make them totally free! By shopping the sale and using coupons it is possible to get items completely free or well below retail price. Make sure to check the fine print on the coupon, while my Ken's coupons did not state a limit, many coupons have a "one per customer" limit.

Shop at Drugstores:
While many items in drugstores are priced far above the average retail price, drugstores do offer amazing sale promotions and offer store coupons as well. And don't forget to sign up for your store's loyalty program to save even more! When you shop the sale, use coupons AND stack a store's coupon on top of it all you really get a lot of bang for your buck. Best of all, many drugstores have promotions on certain products that trigger a store credit when purchased {CVS calls these Extracare bucks but every store has their own term}. I have over 8 months of shampoo and conditioner on hand because I use this approach to drugstore shopping. CVS is my personal favorite but Target and Walgreens also have great deals. While Target is not a drugstore, they do have similar sale promotions and offer store coupons. If you use your Target Redcard to complete the sale, you'll save an additional 5% {plus free shipping on any online orders}. Can I get an amen?!

Price Match:
 Price matching is one of my favorite ways to save because you don't need a coupon to get a great deal. Of course if you add a coupon on top of it, it makes it even sweeter! Nine out of ten times, when I price match, it's on fresh produce. Once you start to notice the local sales you'll be amazed at the range in price from store to store. I frequently price match avocados at Walmart because they are often on sale at a different shop {that's farther away from my house} for 3 for $1. Since Walmart usually sells avocados for $.50 a pop, I get a $.50 savings just by bringing in the competitor's ad and asking the clerk for the Price Match Guarantee. Do that a few times over for a few different items and the savings really ad up! While Walmart claims that you don't need the competitor's ad to have an item price adjusted {and some Walmart stores even have local store ads at the register} I have found that at my Walmart, having the ad is necessary.

Play By Book:
My number one coupon tip is to play by the book! Seriously, read the coupon's fine print {and follow it} and know your store's coupon policy like it's the back of your hand. Nothing irks me more than being told I can't use a coupon when I know that I can! So to combat this, I have printed out the coupon policies of the stores I frequent, and have on occasion pulled it out when needed. Usually, when a coupon gets questioned I just explain how it works with the purchased item and sweetly say "I'm OK with waiting if you'd like to call the store manager to double check". There's no sense in getting mean over a coupon but don't be afraid to advocate for yourself. And yes, once you start getting items for free you will stumble across a cashier who decides to treat you like a criminal. Kill 'em with kindness and hold your ground!

...And in case you still need some tips and tricks, check out www.thekrazycouponlady.com, these ladies provide a wealth of knowledge! From how to store and file coupons, to what sales are around the bend, this website is by far the best I've found for learning all there is to know about couponing.


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