Monday, August 1, 2011
Adventures in Couponing
If you find yourself in dire financial straits...there may be a little relief on the horizon.
I know what you're thinking...you don't want to be THAT person in line at the grocery store. Well...sometimes we all gotta swallow our pride in the name of saving money. Andrew cringed the first time I lunged at two stray coupons someone left sitting on a shelf ($1.00 off for each one plus it was double coupon day!) I waved them fanatically in his face, and said "If you were walking along, and you saw four dollar bills laying there, you would pick them up right?" He said of course. This is how you must think of coupons: They are money that gets delivered to you in more ways than you relize: mail, newspaper, internet, in-store, in packages....they are everywhere. But how do you get started?
1) Join some online couponing communities. BEFORE you head out on your first trips, they will give you the lowdown on what is on sale each week, and what coupons to use on each particular item.
2) Learn the lingo. If you don't know what 6/12 RP, 7/31 SS, RR, ECB or YMMV mean, you need to go study the forums some more. Learning the abbreviations will help you immensely. It will also behoove you to learn how to read your coupons. What does buy one get one free really mean? When the coupon says one per purchase, does it mean per item, or per transaction?
3) Get the rewards you deserve. If you regularly shop at a particular store, sign up for their rewards program. NOW. Stores literally throw money at loyal customers to keep them coming back. This is in the form of gas discounts, store credit, free items and special pricing. Don't just sit there. Do this now. I will wait....
4) Get organized. Find out what system works best for you. I currently prefer a plain 3-ring binder with numerous tabs (Frozen food, canned food, makeup, toiletries, etc) and within each section, several "baseball card" style page protectors. I have a section in the back for all my rainchecks and store credits/rewards coupons. This method works GREAT for me. While I am shopping, I put an item in my cart, remove the coupon from its sleeve and put it in the front pocket of my binder. At the checkout, I just grab all the ones from the front pocket and go. That way I don't piss off the people behind me in line.
5. Unlearn everything you ever learned about name brands. Now that you're coupon saavy, you will have to train yourself not to buy things that are generic. Typically the name brand item will actually be cheaper if you are doing it right.
6. Use "Extreme" caution. Be courteous of your fellow shoppers (couponers or not) and do not buy 100 of the same item in one trip. Clearing the shelves is just plain rude. While it's great to have a moderate "stockpile" so you have a few months worth of toilet paper when it's super cheap....there is NO excuse to have 150 years worth of deodorant.
7. DONATE! When you find an especially amazing deal on something you need, but you get extras, or if something is free or very cheap, why not consider donating it? There are many soliders in the army, women in battered women's shelters, natural disaster victims, etc that could really use a helping hand. Why not get that .25 cent shower gel and give it to someone who is in need? Surely you don't need 400 bottles of lotion...right?
8. Don't be afraid. If you notice a price is incorrect, or a coupon was not added, don't be afraid to speak up. Just make sure you are polite and courteous. No need to go completely batshit crazy on a poor cashier. Accidents happen. If you're not happy with the result, politely take it up with a manager. If you're still not happy, do your business elsewhere, but don't give couponers a bad name by acting like a lunatic.
9. Get a deal on your paper. If you buy the newspaper at the stand like I do, see if your area's paper does an "early Sunday" edition. My metro area has two major newspapers (Star Tribune and Pioneer Press) and both do an "early Sunday" edition on Saturday. The Sunday paper costs $1.75 and the regular weekday and Saturday price is only .75 cents. This means I can get all the sunday coupons a day early and pay a dollar less! I buy four newspapers a week times 52 weeks a year....thats alot of money to save!
10. Have fun! This is most important. You will have to spend a little extra time between clipping, organizing and shopping. Try to make it fun. If you have kids, try to get them involved. Make it a game like a scavenger hunt. Give a prize to each child for helping (say they get to have pizza for dinner if they find a coupon for it, etc) if you don't have kids, clip coupons while watching tv. Think of shopping as an adventure quest. And do something fun for yourself with all the money you save!
Do you coupon? Do you think couponing is annoying or a waste of time? Have you had successes or failures? Share with us some of your tips and tricks!