All right friends. Coupons can be tricky, but once you learn how to do it, it becomes second nature. To best utilize your coupons, match them with sales in your area so you're getting a discounted price, then use the coupon on top of it. There's a link at the bottom of this post which might be beneficial.
So where do you find coupons? In the Sunday newspaper and online, mostly. Our local paper has 3 or 4 sources for coupons, and online there are many more. I only print online coupons in black and white (saves $) and have never had a problem redeeming them. We get 4 copies of our local paper every Sunday, which means I get 4 of every coupon. I only pay $17 every month, and it's a rare week when I don't save at least that in coupons. It's usually double or more. A lot of newspapers have similar deals, though some limit subscriptions to 2 per household. The ones that limit to 2 per household are around $1/week.
To cut them, I stack my inserts. First I lay one down on the floor in front of me and open the front page, then lay another one on top of the single left sheet, then open it and lay another one on that open left sheet. Like this:
I then stack up the same pages and cut them out. But I don't trim them very close because sometimes they shift while cutting, and my Red Plum inserts are often printed screwy and don't line up. I've wrecked several coupons in the Red Plum inserts lately by just chopping and not paying attention. Urgh.
Other sources of coupons: Some stores have little machines that print more coupons at the register. They are called "catalinas" and some stores call them different things. Rite-Aid (up rewards, I think), CVS, Walgreens (register rewards), Smith's, Albertsons, and others. I usually take advantage of Wags and Smith's and only discuss theirs because they are what I use.
How do you file all of these coupons? I used to use a box. I'd write the date I received each packet on the front and then I'd put them in the box. I'd cut out coupons as I needed them, based on my grocery list for the week. But I found that things wouldn't always be on the shelf when I got to the store and I'd have to reevaluate, which was harder to do when I didn't have all the coupons with me. Or I'd find something on clearance and know I had a coupon for it at home, but no idea where. So I started a binder. Binder systems are not new at all. I just hadn't converted yet. But I had this cool binder from when I was in college -- it has a small zipper pocket inside which is the perfect size for my coupon scissors, slots for pens, a couple of big pockets in the front and back, is big enough to hold tons of coupons, and the whole thing zips shut! I bought some baseball card holders (with swagbucks converted to amazon gift cards; they were almost free), and I started filing my coupons. I was going nuts with all the disorganization, so I had to think about how it would work for ME to have them filed.
I added a zipper pocket that Kiddo got from school -- it has two zipper sections and the front is see through. (you can see it on the right of the binder.) Behind that insert is a sheet protector. I pull all the coupons I'm going to use for a particular shopping trip and put them with my list inside the sheet protector. As we go through a store, I'll gather the coupons I'm going to use in that see through zippered pocket. If I can't find something I'd already pulled a coupon out for, I'll put it in the other section to refile.
After that sheet protector, I have a baseball card page for store loyalty cards, gift cards, etc. And behind that are about 100 pages of coupons.
I have them sorted into 3 main categories: Food, health and beauty, and household. Each category has several subcategories. Each subcategory began with one page devoted to it -- I used colored paper (one color for each main category), a sharpie, and packing tape, and made tabs to label each section. As I filed coupons, some of them required more pages, and I just stuck them behind the tab. Here are my subcategories.
FOOD: Baking, beverages, candy/snacks, canned/prepared, cereal, condiments, dairy/fridge, frozen, meats/deli, pasta/rice, produce, and misc.
HEALTH AND BEAUTY: Baby, body wash, cosmetics/facial care, dental care, deodorant, eye care, feminine hygiene, fiber/antacids, hair care, lotions, pain relievers, razors, sunscreen/sanitizers, supplements.
HOUSEHOLD: Batteries, bug sprays, canning, cleansers, dishes, laundry, office supplies, paper goods.
Can you really save money with coupons? Last week, Walgreens had Keri lotion on sale for 5.99. A few weeks ago, there were $2 off coupons in the paper, which makes the lotion 3.99. Wags printed $5 register rewards when you bought a lotion. You are reading that right: They PAID me $1 for every bottle of lotion I purchased. For real. Because I had those coupons! I then used those rewards to pay for other things that Wags had on sale, like crayons, toilet paper, school supplies, L'Oreal cosmetics (which had their own coupon, sale, and RR!), etc. They had Cottonelle toilet paper on sale for $4 for 12 rolls and I had 75 cent coupons, which made them $3.25. Score, sign me up, buy two and pay $1.50 and tax and your $4 + $1.50 bought a nice lotion and 2 big packages of toilet paper! The TP is usually $5 and the lotion? 7.99 or something. So for the price of one package of TP, I got two plus a lotion. Saving a bundle there, and if the lotion doesn't work for me? I have a few to give away as gifts. I also bought several mascaras and won't have to buy that again for a year. Again, use them in combination with sale items, and you will save money.
A word of caution: Stick to YOUR budget. You cannot score every deal and still stick to your budget. It's not possible. So figure out what is best for YOU and YOUR family that week/month and get to it. People will suggest things, like the pork coupons last week. I had no idea they existed until someone told me so, which is when I printed them because we do eat pork. It's up to you whether to use those suggestions or do something else for you that week. But because we were running low on proteins, I decided to go get the pork. If something else like that happened this week? I wouldn't go get it. We don't need it and have no room for it in the freezers.
I keep a notebook behind the coupons and track my spending in there. I write down all the bills we have for the month, our expected income, when I should pay them, and I write down everything I spend on gas, groceries, bills, tithing. Everything. It's not fool proof but it helps me stick to the budget.
Items of note:
*Coupons are only good for what's printed on them. Not something else made by the same manufacturer. Not something similar made by a different manufacturer. Not something completely unrelated. Manufacturers reimburse the store, but if you redeem a coupon for something other than the printed item, the manufacturer can and will refuse the claim by the store. I've screwed up and gotten the wrong thing; it happens. But just be mindful because it IS like stealing from the store and/or the manufacturer!
*There are a few different kinds of coupons. Stores print coupons. They are called store coupons or vendor coupons. They can usually be stacked with manufacturers coupons, which are what come in your paper and can be printed online at various websites. You cannot stack two manufacturers coupons, however. Wags prints a little coupon booklet every month; they state they are manufacturers coupons, but most Walgreens stores treat them as store coupons because they don't carry a remittance address. Rewards/catalinas that are "good for X off your next purchase" can be used with store AND manufacturers coupons coupons. Here's a good explanation on that.
*Walmart in Utah County doubles coupons every Tuesday because they are competing with a local store, Ridley's. Up to 50 cents, they double. Between 50 cents and 99 cents, they will bump it to a dollar. People can be very selfish and clear the shelves, so just keep your cool and be kind. There are people lining up around 5 to 7 p.m. on MONDAY night to be first in line to pay for their 5 carts of double coupon stuff at midnight. I went in once at 11 p.m. and didn't get home until well after 2 a.m. I will not go Monday night ever again, even if I miss out on stuff. I try to go around 8 a.m. because Walmart has restocked some stuff and it's not usually that busy then.
*I warn people who get behind me that I might be a while as I have coupons. I did that when we were on WIC too. People usually appreciate the fair warning and will thank you and move on, rather than stand behind you and make snide remarks. If they decide to stay in that line, the snide remarks fall squarely on them.
*You can price match at Walmart for just about anything, but please be honest. Lying about price matches serves no one. It's not worth sacrificing your integrity for a few dollars. If you are price matching produce, they have to be sold the same way (pound for pound or item for item). You can price match meat and dairy as well. Bear in mind that you can only price match listed sale price, not a price after a register reward/catalina.
So that is what is working for us these days. Feel free to ask questions!