Monday, September 27, 2010

Coupons 101

Couponing isn’t difficult, but there really is a method to it!  I first started couponing when I got married and in the beginning, I just clipped from the Sunday paper for grocery shopping. Each week I cut out what I wanted and then threw the rest of the coupons away.  Later I began following CVS and Walgreens deals which is when I realized that I should always save my coupons to match up with hot deals.  Below I have outlined some basic couponing tips - I hope you find this information helpful!  Couponing is FUN!

Where To Find Coupons

1)  The Sunday paper contains coupon inserts most weeks (there are not usually any inserts if there’s a holiday that week).  I get many of the coupons I use from the paper so I subscribe to Sunday only delivery.  If you find that you use a lot of coupons, you may want to get more than one paper or get leftover inserts from family/friends.  You can view the Coupon Insert Schedule to know when and how many inserts will be appearing each week.  Also you can check Sunday Coupon Preview to see a list of coupons in advance, but keep in mind that there are variances by region. 

2) There are tons of printable coupons available online.  These include manufacturer’s coupons through, RedPlum, and SmartSource; coupons from various brands like Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Kellogg’s, Campbell’s and more; and Target store coupons (Target also has mobile coupons which are electronically delivered to your phone).  Also, many products now have Facebook pages that offer coupons when you "like" them.  When you search in our Coupon Database it will include online coupons if available.  Keep in mind that online coupons can disappear at any time, so if you think you’re going to use it, print it now.  Most websites limit how many of each coupon you can print; with some you can hit your browser's back button to print again (but that only works once!).   

3)  Magazines can also be a source of coupons.  ALL YOU is widely regarded as the best coupon magazine so ALL YOU coupons are included in our weekly match ups.

4) Look for free coupon booklets at grocery and drugstores (often near the ad stand) and coupon machines in the aisles.  Sometimes you’ll even find “peelie” coupons on products - but of course don’t take one unless you’re actually buying the product there!  

5) Free sample offers often come with coupons for the product. Vocalpoint is an excellent source of free samples and coupons - you must become a member (it's free to join) to request samples.  You can keep up to date on other free sample offers by reading My Evansville Mommy regularly (subscribe to our RSS feed or sign up for email subscription!).

6) If you're really into couponing, you can even buy coupons that aren't available in your region from sites like The Coupon Clippers.  I recommend doing this at the very beginning of the week to ensure that your coupons will arrive in time to use on sales that week. 

Organizing Coupons

Everyone has their own methods of organization... here’s what works for me.  I used to clip all my coupons and keep them in a small plastic organizer.  I divided them up by types - frozen, refrigerated, cans, boxes, and health and beauty - and had them organized by expiration date.  Now that I am a Serious Couponer (*grin*), I don’t clip my Sunday paper insert coupons (but I do still keep my printables in an organizer).  Instead, I keep all the inserts intact and put them in a 3-ring binder.  This way, when I’m looking for coupons that are matched to an ad, I know exactly where to find them. Handy tip: along the “spine” of the insert, in really small print, you can find the date the insert came out. I like to write the date on the front of the insert.

How To Use Coupons

The very best way to use a coupon is to wait until the item is on sale and then buy it with a coupon. (You can view our Weekly Ad Match Ups here which match coupons to sales or search the Coupon Database to find coupons.)  Of course, if you really need it and it's not a on sale, you're still saving money by using a coupon.  Once you start watching ads and waiting for good sales, you can end with a good stockpile of pantry food items and health & beauty products like toothpaste, detergent, shampoo, shower gel, shave cream, razors, etc.   I get most of my health & beauty stuff for FREE at drugstores like CVS and Walgreens!   When something is free or nearly free, buy as many as you have coupons for.  You can pay it forward by donating extra items to local charity organizations.

You can use one manufacturer’s coupon per item.  At stores like Target or Walgreens who put out store coupons, you can stack a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon to increase your savings!  If an item is buy 1, get 1 free (or buy 2, get 1 free, etc) you can still use one coupon per item. 
Understanding Ad Match Ups

When we post weekly ad match ups, we use abbreviations to indicate where to find the coupons and how to get the best deal.  So, if the match up says:

Downy Fabric Softener, $3.49
Save $1/1 (8/15 SS)
Final price, $2.49

That means a coupon for $1 off 1 softener can be found in the 8/15 Smart Source insert.  The final price is $2.49.

Another example:

Pringles Super Stacks, 2/$3
Save $1/4 (8/29 P&G)
Final price, $1.25 each wyb 4

This means that a coupon for $1 off 4 Pringles can be found in the 8/29 Proctor & Gamble insert.  The final price is $1.25 each when you buy 4 cans.

Coupon Key

P&G – Proctor & Gamble
RP – Red Plum
SS – Smart Source
GM – General Mills
K – Kelloggs
U – Unilever
WYB - "When you buy..."
BOGO - "Buy one, get one" (or B2G1,etc.)
MIR - Mail In Rebate
Catalina - Coupons printed by the store, at the register
Blinkie - Coupons hung where products are located
Peelie - Coupons stuck to products

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