Friday, May 13, 2011

My Coupon System

Well first, let me say, I am by no means a "pro". I coupon for my family on a regular basis and I frequent blogs like deal seeking mom and money saving mom as well as local ones. Occasionally, I sign up for the fun freebies and samples but I am not a die hard with it, and often times miss the "good" give aways. But thats ok! What I save is still hundreds a month and it doesnt take me hours upon hours to do so!

I have tried couponing off and on since the birth of our first born. I started out with my accordian and tried to do it, but was just lost. I did what I could. I started to think it was cheaper just to buy sale and generic and quit.

After the birth of my second, my sister in law got me back into it. I started the binder method, and paid a coupon site to tell me what was on sale and how to match it up. It was good because it helped me to kind of get the hang of it, but then it was taking me hours and hours to sit and cut everything out,  organize them, match it up, get rid of the expired ones, etc. Then I would hit multiple grocery stores and drug stores, scouting for items on sale and often times coming up short because they had already all been snatched up. So, I slowly quit. 

I have always been frugal, so I would always look for bargains in anything we buy, but often times we would go without fancier items, never stock pile and run out often. 

Now that we have 5 people in our house, I decided to once again get back into it. Here's the good news. This is the longest I have hung in there. I started again in January and am still going strong. It has really become a way of life for us.  And no, I dont have rooms of stockpile items. I don't go all out and buy 5 papers a week. I dont even cut out all the coupons!

Couponing is something that I have found that you have to find what works for you individually. You can not compare your deals to other people's deals. Your lists, your needs and wants are just not the same as everyone else's. Your time is also not the same, and everyone is committed in a different way. 

I will share here what I do for our family. Feel free to add what you do for yours!

I look at it now as a part time job. Two weeks ago, I went to my local grocery store and went in prepared. I took an hour or two the day before, made my list and pulled my coupons and STUCK TO THE LIST. I spent 65.00 and saved 127.00. I only go to one grocery store for two reasons: 1. I earn fuel points that gives me a discount when I reach a certain amount and 2. this one right now honors competitor coupons, already has low prices and increases manufacturer coupons to 1.00. Even when they no longer do those things, I still will only shop at that grocery store. It's most convenient. They will still have low prices and have great promotions. Also, because I have gone regularly for months now, I dont always have to go every week. I haven't gone since last week. AND the day after I saved 127.00 and spent 65, I ran in to get a few things....completely unprepared. You know, I spent 35.00 and saved 3? Yeah. ALWAYS go prepared! I was so mad at myself!!

(I also go to Walgreens and Target. I know you can do great things with CVS ecb's and I know that WalMart price matches but I prefer walgreens and target). See? I am not a pro. Haha!

On Sunday, I have a subscription to the local paper. I found that buying the paper in the store, I wasn't getting all of the inserts, I was spending more on the paper, and sometimes would forget to go buy the paper. I only buy Sunday and get Wednesday (the grocery ads) for free. It costs under 10.00 a month.

I also frequent and even better, use to print out my coupons. This way, I am getting "paid" in points whenever i redeem those coupons. I save up the points and receive amazon gift cards. So that means, sometimes I get paid in gift cards just for using my coupons! You have to print the coupons, and some stores don't take printed coupons, but I think I save the most money from my printed coupons in the long run.

To sign up for different manufacturer coupons and company newsletters and deals, make sure you have an email address ONLY for this. You get a lot of spam that fills your inbox really fast, and this is the best way to keep it all organized.

Check your mail! Since i started signing up for different freebies and samples, I get a lot more coupons this way.

Now how I store the massive amounts of coupons.  This is where it is up to the couponer to decide on what works for them. If you prefer to be able to get to everything fast, have a lot of time to devote to it, and diligently keep up on it, then by all means, cut out all of the coupons and organize by section. My mind doesn't work that way, and I have made a way to do it for our family.

My binder is still used regularly. Buy one with a zipper so that it keeps everything inside. If you dont have time to organize, you arent spilling everything all over the place. Mine has the front pockets that I am able to keep scissors in for when I find a deal in the store and cut out that coupon needed.

Inside there are side pockets. I keep my ads in one pocket, my loose coupons that are needing to be organized, and my printable coupons in each pocket. It's not the most efficient way, but it works for me (usually I know what coupons I have printed out, so this is easiest for me)

For special store coupons, I use baseball card holders up front. This is easiest to grab before running into that specific store:

Right now, I also have my free item coupons in this sections. If I had more of them, I would give them their own sheet. 

We are a very busy family and whether its best or not, we do eat on the run. I have a section for those coupons as well. (Today we went to arby's and for the cost of drinks, we each got a free chicken salad sandwich.) Restaurants like Chili's often have email promotions you can print out as well.

Now it get's a bit trickier.

 I have page dividers for the three main stores we go to with their specific coupons:

I have special ones for specialty inserts, like Proctor and Gamble:

and I have ones for my manufacturers coupons by month:

I always label the top of the inserts so that when I am reading blogs that break down what coupons are where and by what date, its easiest to find them.

I have sections broken up by grocery areas as well, but thats a bit more neglected because I don't take the time to insert the loose coupons in their right places:

See the popcorn coupons? probably not because the picture isn't great. We won't use them because we don't eat popcorn like that, however, I do keep them on hand because if they are ever extremely cheap or free, we can donate items to our church's food pantry. Just because its super cheap or free doesn't mean you HAVE to get it, or you have to eat it. It's all about your family's personal interests and lifestyles. If you eat more natural or organic, there are deals out there, you just have to look for them. I also recommend participating in a local co-op if this is important to you. I have begun doing bountiful baskets for our family.

Also, if you are in the store and see something on clearance or on sale, and know you have a coupon, pull your cart over to the side and do a quick search through your binder. It might be kind of a hassle, but just ask yourself if it's worth buying and searching for. Remember, not buying it if its not needed is cheaper than getting a good deal!

So that's my quick (but very lengthy) run down of how I personally do coupons. Please feel free to ask questions or share your tips if you do anything easier!
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Melissa said...

Thank you for sharing this with me! I have been doing for almost a year and it has proven to be a big help... and a big disappointment. - this last week the Finish dishwashing things were on clearance for $2, and coupon sense stated there were $1 off coupons in one of the adds. Well one of my ex friends told me that by searching different coupon sites she found there to be a $3 off coupon for them. so I got 6 coupons and went to walmart and got 6 products and some OJ and walmart paid me $1.82!

so I am pretty much done with coupon sense and am just trying to figure out how to do it on my own.

Do you do your coupon organizing every sunday or a different day or just whenever? trying to figure out a schedule is kinda hard lol.

Sparklinbecks said...

I try to organize as I go. So today when I got the coupon inserts, I labeled and stuck them in the spots they belong, or if i print them out, i stick them in their pocket, ads go in on wednesday and i open the mail by the binder so that the coupons make it into where they belong. I dont lose them as much this way!


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