Monday, July 28, 2008

Organizing your coupons

So you've got a lot of coupons now, but how do you organize them? It's honestly up to you. There is no best way to do it, just whatever way is easiest and most convenient for you.

My way is honestly the lazy way. I have a coupon filer where all of my clipped coupons are. Then I have a tote bag filled with all of the newspaper inserts. On those inserts I write the date it came out in black marker on the front so I can easily see which insert I need for a coupon. When it's time to start my list I take a blank envelope and write my shopping list on a separate envelope for each store I am going to. I then put the corresponding coupons in each envelope, with the item listed on the front indicating how many of each item I need.

Others have all of their coupons clipped and filed in some type of storage container for easy access and portability. Some super organized people have binders with their coupons stored in easy to see trading card inserts that they can take a long and easily flip through. I wish I was this organized!

How you organize your coupons is entirely up to you. I've included a few pictures showing my method, but find whatever method is easiest for you. The one thing I do recommend is sorting them by type. My purple coupon organizer has different compartments for paper goods, frozen foods, spices and condiments, meats and cheeses, toiletries, cat stuff, medicine, breads and grains, beverages, packaged foods, sweets and treats, and a miscellaneous category for items that don't fit into the other categories. I try to clip my inserts as often as possible, but as you can see by the picture of my full tote bag, I haven't had much time for it recently.

The main thing to remember is to make your organization system easy for you to use and to make it portable. It's not always easy to stay on top of the clipping as you can see by my example, but by keeping it all organized in a way that's simple for me to find what I need, I can make my lists and match the coupons in a short time.

What are your favorite organization tips? Leave a comment and let me know!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Coupons Basics 101

Okay, so you've decided to try to save money and look into the wonderful world of coupons...but, how do you start? What are the essentials? Will all stores take coupons? How many can you use? Can you combine them? Relax, it's really quite simple although a little time consuming at first, but once you get the hang of it you'll wonder why you didn't start doing this sooner!

The Coupon Commandments

1) Buy the Sunday paper! This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Almost every Sunday (holiday weekends are slim pickings) the newspaper is full of coupons. Red Plum and Smartsource are the most common inserts and they contain a huge variety of coupons from groceries to toiletries to cleaning products. You will also see coupons for medicine and sometimes even rebates and other special treats. Buy multiple papers, or even better, get friends and familiy who don't utilize their coupons (yes, these crazy people do exist!) to save you their inserts. The more coupons you accumulate, the better.

2) Surf the internet. There are loads of coupons you can print online. Now some stores don't take IP's (Internet Printables), but many do. I suggest you set up a separate email address to use for this purpose because a lot of sites you print coupons from will spam you with different offers, but trust me, the coupons are worth it. I have a separate email address that I use specifically for submitting to these sites so my regular email is not clogged with crazy spam emails. You'll find a list of my favorite websites on the side of this site under links for printable coupons.

3) Start a coupon organization method that is easy for you. I have a separate post that deals specifically with organizing your coupons that is a must read. Everyone organizes their coupons in a different way and you just have to find the way that is easiest for you.

4) Always bring all your coupons with you to the store. Yes, if you have a huge amount like I do it can be a little burdensome, but it's the only way to make sure you don't miss out on unadvertised specials or clearanced items.

5) Always be on the lookout for coupons. You may never have noticed them before, but almost everywhere you can buy something, there are coupons to be had. The grocery store is the most logical place to look. Check turnstiles at the entrance which usually hold coupons as well as sales fliers, displays with special promotions, peelies on merchandise, tearpads by items, and of course those blinkie machines set up by items all over the store. Your local drug stores have coupons in and on their displays as well as on merchandise. Also look by the beauty counter and the pharmacy counter for special coupons. Even gas stations have coupons by some of their items inside their little convenience stores.

6) If there is a product you really like, write a letter or email, or even call the company to tell them. Most of the time their gratitude is expressed by offering to send you some coupons for the item you praised.

7) Clip coupons for things you may not even think you'll use. Yes, this sounds like a complete contradiction to the whole saving money thing, but it's not. Sometimes you will see a sale on an item you don't use, but that you can get for free or almost free with a coupon that either someone else you know can use or that gives you a reward for purchase. A perfect example is a blood glucose monitor I recently purchased. I am not a diabetic, but my sister-in-law is. It was on sale for $19.99 and I had a coupon to get it free. On top of it being free and being able to give it to my sister-in-law it also generated $10 in Extra Care Bucks (ECB's) that I could use for a future purchase at CVS for things I actually needed. So my sister-in-law got something free she could use, and I got $10 to spend on items I could use! (More on CVS shopping later!)

8) Look for store specific coupons. Product manufacturers put out coupons regularly, but so do certain stores. Let's use Target as an example. Target regularly publishes printable coupons on their website that you can use at their stores. The best part? If the coupon doesn't specify otherwise, you can combine a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon to double your savings! For example, recently Target had a store coupon for The Good Life Recipe cat food for $2 off. Combine that with the manufacturer's coupon also for $2 off and you just saved $4 on a bag of cat food! Grocery stores such as Publix do this regularly also. Always check the fine print on the store coupon to make sure it can be combined though.

You know where to find your coupons now, but where can you use them? Most grocery stores take coupons, and if you're lucky enough to live where stores double or even triple coupons you can save even more! But, those of us in Florida are out of luck as this state no longer offers coupon doubling. Many major chains like Target and Wal-Mart take coupons and let's not forget your local drug stores such as CVS, Walgreen's, and Rite-Aid. If you have Big Lots nearby, they do have wonderful deals, but they do not take coupons. Something most people don't realize is that Dollar General does take coupons and this can lead to big savings and even some free items! Even stores like Macy's and Kohl's regularly put out coupons on their websites and weekly sales ads.

If you are unsure of your store's coupon policy, call them or check out their website. Most stores have a customer service department that is happy to help you with any questions you might have. Remember, coupons are a good thing and most stores realize this. Manufacturer's reimburse the store for the full face value of the coupon plus 8 cents handling fee so the store is not losing any money by honoring your coupons. You're actually doing them a favor by patronizing their store and buying their merchandise!


I have been bargain hunting and clipping coupons since I was a teenager, but it's only been in the last year or so that I have been doing what I call "extreme bargain shopping". I scour the weekly sales ads, combine them with coupons and shop clearance for the best possible deals. Not only is it economical and saves me hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year, but I also think of it as a game. It's fun to see how much I can stretch a dollar and just how much stuff I can get for as cheap as possible!

Now, my family is small. It's just my wonderful husband, James, myself, and our 3 cats, Sirius Black (yes, he's a black cat!), Jayne "baby cat", and our newest little cuddle-cat, Ianto. Kudos to anyone who can figure out where their names came from, by the way! But, although my family is small, we still spent a lot on groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc. until I started shopping the way I do. We've drastically cut our budget and have accumulated a nice little stockpile of reserves. My only problem is I can't pass up a good deal, so my stockpile keeps growing!

Whether your family is small like mine or very large, I'm sure you'll find some tips and advice that will be worth your time and that will save you a lot of money. I have several blogs and websites that I highly recommend that you will see linked on this site, and I strongly suggest you use all available resources to stretch your dollar the furthest. I will be posting daily (maybe even more) to show not only the best deals, but also to share my own ongoing struggle and learning process to get the most out of my own family's money to reach our goals. My own personal goal? Well, my husband and I both want to have children in the very near future and we both would love it if I could be a stay at home mother. In this oppressive economy it's difficult to do so, so we're trying to make this a reality before we even have children.

I welcome all of you to this site and hope you enjoy the information I share and learn a few ways to stretch your own dollars.