Serving & Saving

Posted On July 5, 2010

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I coupon. I am a coupon-holic! Most people know this about me and when they find out I always get “wish I could do that!” or “Will you teach me?”.

Today I sat at our kitchen table to organize my coupons that have gotten away from me over the last few weeks. Between Nick finishing up school for the year, the weather being so nice and the kids doing every activity under the Columbus sun…my coupons have gone the way of the buffalo~that is to say, they were a jumbled up mess of papers sticking every which way out of my coupon binder.

While cutting, clipping and tossing away expired coupons I decided that I would do a quick “how-to” on here today.

Step 1. Find your nearest big city Sunday Paper. The bigger city papers usually have better coupons. When we lived in the Valley we would opt for the Columbus Dispatch or Zanesville paper instead of the Times Leader.

Step 2. Go through your paper to gather up the coupon inserts. We usually buy 4-5 papers and when I get the inserts I like to flip through them and pull out the ‘junk’. You know, those inserts that are advertisements for socks, ornaments, popcorn tins, ect…and pitch them now. You don’t need them!

Step 3. I like to take my inserts and slip them into large plastic sleeves. The kind that you could get at Staples for business reports. I stack up the inserts for that week, stick them into the sleeve and then take a blank sticker/label and mark the date of the insert (if you need to check the date it’s on the left side of the insert) and the date of the last usable coupon. Example: 7-4-10 RP (RED PLUM) 12-12-10 SS (SMART SOURCE) 9-13-10

Step 4. This is the secret to successful couponing: KNOW YOUR STORE SALES! Think of couponing as like a card game. Do you throw all your cards down on the 1st round? NO! If you did you would lose. There is a chance you might get score a little, but you won’t win big! You hold onto your good cards and you play them when you have a greater chance of winning! Right? So, hold your coupons for those sales!! A sale+coupon=A GREAT DEAL!

Step 5. This is where I cheat. There are programs out there (Grocery Game to think of one of the top of my head) that will take your local stores and will put together deals for you. Say, you shop at Kroger. So you let them know you shop at Kroger and once a week they will send you a spreadsheet that has already matched up the sales and your coupons. How great is that?! Well, it’s okay. The first month is free but after that the monthly fee is about $10 a month. You want to SAVE money! Don’t buy something you don’t need. I like to search for blogs that shop at the same stores *I* do.  Also, HCW is a message board that has TONS of stores with people just like you putting together the same deals that The Grocery Game would…for FREE!

So use the help of blogs and message boards. Very rarely do I put together my deals. I can. But it’s so time consuming and unnecessary!

Step 6: Don’t just rely on newspaper inserts! There are printables on  store websites and company websites. Sometimes, you find something that your household uses all the time and a store that you shop at has a GREAT deal on that product. Stockpiling is a great way to save money! When we find a deal that is too good to pass up we order coupons from eBay or a coupon cutting service! Last year Nick and I stocked up on Heinz Ketchup~we bought 30 bottles of ketchup and with the cost of the coupons we paid $4. That was almost a year ago….we still have ketchup to spare!

Step 7. Don’t expect to come out of the gate with HUGE savings. Most deals are done with coupons that were available MONTHS ago! Do what you can and each week, with every new set of coupons you will be able to save hundreds and sometimes MAKE money. Target is a great place to shop with coupons!

Target always has gift card deals. Example: If you buy 2 Gillette razors for $8 each you get a $5 gift card

Sound good? Not really. You spend $16 to get $5 back? Eh.

But what if you used 2 $5 coupons on those razors?

$16 total-$10 in coupons =$6 (plus tax) for 2 razors. Get $5 back. Once you add in that gift card you are only spending $1 (plus tax).

Now, in this particular scenerio you are not actually MAKING money. But there are plenty of deals at Target where I *have* made money and spent nothing ‘OOP’ (out of pocket)

So, that’s the geest of what I do. It’s not easy. I’ve heard comments from others that *I* should just do this for them. It takes HOURS for me to sit down and figure out each week what I’m buying and spending. Planning is the key! If I can do it with 3 kids then ANYONE can do it!

Maybe it’s not worth saving half of your grocery bill with coupons. But to me, it is. We live from ‘school loan to school loan’ and I have to make that money stretch as much as I can. Coupons help! I think of it as my ‘job’ for my family. At the end of the month I have a stocked pantry and money left over to do something fun with the kids!

I hope that this helps someone out there! I’m up to pointing anyone in the right direction and giving tips! I might even post a deal from time to time! But please don’t ask me to hold your hand and cut coupons with you! (I’m working on my own coupon pile!)

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