Friday, April 15, 2011

Coupon Basics

This goes out to all the lovely ladies that requested the post via facebook.

*Before you can get your coupon on, one must collect coupons. There are basically 5 ways to do so.

1. Sunday newspaper. There will be 1-5 packets of coupons depending on the week (minus holiday weekends where their are no packets). If this is going to be your primary source, it is best to get one paper for every member of your household. I'll explain more later.

2. Online. Check websites of your favorite products. Chances are they will have a coupon for you that is great. Sign up for newsletters from brand names items and grocery stores. Many of the companies that produce the coupons packets from the Sunday paper have websites (Smartsource, Redplum, A lot of the coupons from the packets are available there, but not all. The general rule is that you can print a coupon twice per computer (so if you have 2 computers in your house you can print out 4).

3. Mail. Sometimes coupons come right to your mailbox via samples and product promotions.

4. Grocery store. There are coupon down the aisles, in the grocery ads, and ones that print out at the register (catalinas).

5. Product packaging. Peel off coupons (peelies) on outside of packaging, and coupons inside the packaging.

*After you've collected your coupons, it is important to organize them. Do what works for you. Personally, I used a 3-ring binder with baseball card holders.

*Look at the ads. Be aware of the stores in you area, the sales they have, and which ones provide the food your family eats.

*Know the coupon policies for the stores you shop. Some accept coupons at face value, some double, some don't accept computer printed coupons, and some don't accept any coupons at all. Some often have special promotions for a limited period of time. Just be aware of those policies. A local blogger, Saving Cents with Sense gave a general run down on Fry's, Safeway, Target, and Walmart policies on her site.

*Match-up coupons with the sales. This can be done is a variety of ways, but I've boiled it down to three.

1. Figure it out yourself. This can be long and tedious going though all your coupons and matching them to the sales in the ads, but it can be done.

2. Use a local blog that will match them up for you. Not only will they match up sales for you for local grocery stores, but they often will post other deals they discover. Saving Cents with Sense is my local favorite (Phoenix area). I found this blog through They used to have an excellent blog database, but currently this link is the the best I could find for those outside my area.

3. Use a coupon match-up site. They rate the sale prices so you know if it is a good, great, or smokin' deal. There are sites that charge a fee for their use, but I use a free one. Use the drop down menu in the top left to pick the state you live in. **Both option 2 and 3 have links to online coupons that correspond to the sale items when applicable.**

*Make a shopping list and stick to it. Using coupons just because you have them will not save you money. Using coupons on items that you need and normally buy will save you money. Don't go crazy :)

*Stock up on good sales. This is where my advice on purchasing Sunday newspapers comes in handy. Say there is a smokin' deal on pasta - on sale for $1 and you have a coupon for $.75 off or $1 off - you can now buy a box of pasta for every member of you family for a fantastic price. While every member does not need one, you now have a stock pile of pasta. In the following weeks, you can plan your meals around what is in your stock pile relieving the budget from that need for a while. Personally I try to keep my pantry stocked enough that I can put together a meal that is at least 90% items from my stock pile in the event that the week is busy, money is tight, or I simply haven't been to the grocery store yet. P.S. Stockpiling is my form of food storage.

*Sometimes there are items that don't have coupons. To still maybe save on those items, I make sure I know where the discounted items/manager specials are located. For produce it is often on the packaging in the produce section. For all else, wander until you locate it. I usually find discounted bread near the bakery or dairy. Discounted toiletries and such are on a table in one of the corners of the grocery store or on a table near an entrance.

*Experiment with different couponing tactics until you find one that is comfortable. Do what you can. I used to buy the Sunday newspaper for coupons and would save about 40-60%. I found it demanded too much time and took away from my schooling, so I am taking a break. Currently I use online coupons and 1 pack of Sunday coupons and generally save between 35-50% on my grocery bill every week and am quite happy with that. It works for our current situation.

If you are interested, I can post a rundown of a week's meal plan/grocery trip as an example of coupon basics in action. Please comment to let me know.

**I am not an extreme couponer. That show on TLC irritates me.**


Iris said...

Thank you for doing this! I have been wanting to give this a try, but wasn't quite sure where to start.

Charli said...

You're a pro! Sometimes Owen saves coupons for stuff he wants in a drawer we rarely open... and there they await their death (expiration date). I need to get better at this. Thanks for the tips!

Karyna said...

Very helpful thanks - I'd love a f/u sample post if u get around to it :)

dusanabotswana said...

Hi Lydia! Awhile back Meghan told me how she got free pasta because of coupons & how you taught her a lot about it. Now I'm excited again to start using coupons when I go back to the US because of this post! I also loved your husband's post about the Atlas Shrugged movie, being out of the country I guess I somehow missed this!
ps- sorry this is kind of stalkerish since I don't actually know you in person, but I feel like I do because of Meg. I just saw your comment on her blog today & clicked & here I am, browsing through your blog. Good luck on your final & happy summer soon!!