Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Couponing 101

       Those of you that are familiar with our blog and Facebook page already know that we are a family of six.  That means it takes a lot of money to do most anything in life.  Especially, keeping the pantry stocked.  In today's economy many are trying to make every dollar stretch to a bare thread.  I know we are.  A couple years ago, a really good friend got me started in couponing.  It was a huge blessing. Couponing allows me to purchase several of a particular item that I would otherwise probably not buy at all because of the price.  In our family, one box of cereal barely makes two breakfasts, one box of "treats" has 8 or 10 at the most and will fill only a day or two of lunches, and a bag of apples might last three days.  Couponing brings the prices down to affordable and allows me to purchase the name brand items. 
          However, for the past several months (since before Christmas), I've taken a break from it.  I didn't really do that intentionally.  I just got distracted with holidays, with home projects, and with "bringing the farm to us".  BUT, it's made a dent in the budget by not using coupons.  Not to mention that my children and even my husband are frequently complaining that "there's nothing to eat around here".  Obviously, we are far from hungry. We are fortunate enough that although the pantry may not always hold the exact special something somebody is craving, we've never had a truly empty stomach.
          This past week I told my husband that I am ready to get back to keeping my coupons organized.  It just so happens that I've had more than one friend from my personal FB page ask me to share tips they've seen me share in the past.  SO, what better way than to write a blog post?  This way, I'm sharing to those that have asked and hopefully I'm introducing somebody new to the beauty of couponing.

     First of all, get familiar with Coupon Lingo.  Here are some terms you will see as you begin to search links for coupons.

(Remember, sales are regional. So be sure to check with the stores you frequent for their particular terms and guidelines dealing with coupons.)
Coupon Lingo
                          B1G1, BOGO, B1G1F – “Buy 1, Get 1 Free”
$/$$ - Dollars off wyb XX dollars
.50/1 - Fifty cents off one item
.50/3 - Fifty cents off 3 items
DND5 - Coupon says Do Not Double, but the bar code starts with a 5, most computers will still double it
NED - No Expiration Date
Blinkies - Coupon dispensed near product, in the store (usually from a “blinking” red box)
Catalina - Coupon dispensed at the register at the time of purchase (on separate paper)
Peelie - Coupon that you peel off the package
Tear Pad - Pad of refund forms or coupons found hanging from a store shelf or display
FAR - Free After Rebate
IP - Internet Printable (a coupon you print off the internet)
MFR - Manufacturer
MQ - Manufacturer coupon
MIR - Mail in Rebate
OOP - Out Of Pocket
YMMV- Your Mileage May Vary (you may find the item priced differently or it may not work for you the same)
PG - Proctor & Gamble Sunday insert coupons
RP - Red Plum Sunday insert coupons
SS - Smartsource Sunday insert coupons
V - Valassis (former name of Red Plum inserts)
FLIP - Food Lion Internet Printable
Regional - Coupon value only distributed to a certain area
UPC - “Universal Product Code”. It is that box of black lines that the checker passes over the scanner at the checkout.
WYB - When You Buy
WSL - While Supply Lasts
SASE - Self Addressed Stamped Envelope
CRT - Cash Register Tape (coupon that prints on your receipt)
ECB - Extra Care Buck (CVS)
ESR - Easy Saver Rebate (Walgreens)
IVC - Instant Value Coupon (Walgreens store coupon, found in Walgreens Easy Saver Catalog and on in store tear pads)
RR - Register Rewards (these are the Catalinas that print out at Walgreens)
SCR- Single Check Rebate (rebate system at Rite Aid)

Here are some other things I do that I think you'll find helpful:

1.      If you haven’t already, subscribe to the Sunday paper.  For now, the paper is still in print so we may as well take advantage of the coupon inserts.  This is where you will get many coupons from Smart Source, Red Plum, and P&G. 

2.    If you have friends who get the paper but don’t use the coupons, get the word to them that you’d like to have their extras…all of the inserts or the ones they’re not using.  The reason for this is because in cases where you want to buy more than one of something that’s a really good deal, you’ll have a coupon for each of the items.  (Recently, Smart Balance milk was BOGO and having a coupon for each one allowed me to get it for free.)

3.    If there is a really good coupon, you may even want to go buy more than one of the Sunday paper.  A paper only costs a couple bucks and sometimes there can be one single coupon for $5 off of an item.
4.    Keep all of the coupons until they expire.  You never know what you’ll try if it’s cheap enough and you have a coupon to go with it.

5.    YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO TRY THINGS THAT ARE ON SALE.  That means, you can’t say, for example, “Well, I won’t buy that 'x brand' peanut butter because I only like 'y brand'.”  If you have good coupons for a certain brand, be willing to try it.  Be flexible about what types of snacks you want to have around the house.  It's always exciting when our local store as a Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) item that I happen to also have a coupon for.  That item will for sure be a snack purchase!
    (With all of that said, only buy what you feel sure you're family will like or be willing to try.  Don't waste your money on something that YOU KNOW your family won't eat or consume.  No matter how cheap it is, if you won't use it or donate it to a good cause, it's a waste of your hard earned money.)

6.    Get an organizational system for your coupons. There are a couple of different methods for this. Your personality type will dictate which system works best for you.  
  • Cut every coupon out and organize it in categories such as dairy, personal care, meat, etc.  You can buy accordion style 4x6 folders for this. The plus of this is that you can get into a habit of cutting coupons every week and when you're ready to use them, they are already cut out.
  • Separate each sheet of the coupon inserts and place them in sheet protectors in a three ring binder….place them alphabetically by product. This allows for page length pages to turn.  The plus is the add is easier to see but the negative is that you'll have to cut the coupon out right when you are ready to use it. (Or when you sit down and match coupons to the weekly ad.)
  • Buy a 3-ring binder and fill it with baseball card protector sheets.  Each little square section a baseball card would normally go in is where you put the coupons.  You can use tab dividers to organize by category.
  • What I do as of now:  I keep the coupon inserts intact and write the date on the outside of them.  That way when a website refers to where to find a coupon (IE:  in the Smart Source from 7/18), then I go to that particular insert and only cut out what I know I need.

Coupons can be printed.  Below is a list of links I frequently visit to see what coupons are available and print out the ones I need.

     Couponing is time consuming.  However, once you get the hang of it you will have a system that works for you and it will get easier and easier.  Some people make "dates with friends" to do couponing.  Socialize with a friend while you work together to clip and sort coupons. You may not be able to break free every week to do it.  Just find time to do it in a way that supports your shopping budget.  If you stock up on things monthly, be sure to do the coupons at least once a month.  If you shop every weekly sale, then clip or print coupons weekly.  You will be surprised at how much money you can save when you spend time preparing for the sales.  Don't get hung up on it though.  Do what works and do it to make your life easier.  It's okay to pay full price for something if you're in a crunch.  Sometimes paying full price is worth the peace of mind of just getting "it" done and getting on to the next thing on your list. 

Here's a photo to encourage you:
By using coupons and taking advantage of the weekly ad, I saved $120.55 on this purchase.  My total out of pocket was $91.90.  That's pretty good considering it included the big ticket items such as washing detergent, diapers, sunscreen, and canned drinks. 

I hope these tips have been helpful and will encourage you to get your pantry stocked in a budget friendly manner.  Happy couponing!

**This post is written based on my own personal experience with couponing.  I am not affiliated with nor am I advertising for any particular link listed. 

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