Thursday, March 3, 2011

How I learned to coupon

By popular demand, I'm going to write down a few things that I've learned about couponing, and show you the system that I'm working on developing that seems to work for me.

It all started months ago, when my friend Cheri recommended a book she was reading - The Coupon Mom's Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half. I was intrigued and I checked it out from the library and devoured it. But it seemed like a LOT to get a handle on, so I didn't really get in to it.

Then, my friend Kristine recommended a few coupon blogs that she subsribes to, so I tried that, but was completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of daily updates and posts that I soon found myself behind and almost gave up.

Then I decided to really, really give it a go. Here's what I do:

1. Subscribe to these blogs in my Google Reader so that their multiple posts don't clog up my inbox. If you want to do this, simply click on "follow via RSS" on the blog site.

The Krazy Coupon Lady
Fabulessly Frugal

2. Read the posts on Krazy Coupon Lady and Fabulessly Frugal about couponing for beginners. This step is indispensable and makes the whole "world" of couponing (and it IS its own world) more accessible to the newbie.

3. I get 4 copies of the Sunday paper -- yep, that means I have 4 copies of every single coupon. Pretty sweet when you want to stock up on something. I resisted this for a long time and finally gave in when I saw so many stock-up deals pass me by when I was only able to buy 2 or 3 of an item because of a coupon limit. Fabulessly Frugal has a newspaper deal with a few newspapers in the northwest so you can get a discounted rate if you mention Fab Frugal.

4. Organize. Whatever system works best for you. I use a zippered binder with baseball card holders divided in to grocery category and a table of contents in the front (freakish, I know). Thanks, Kris, for pointing me to KCL for her table of contents. :) If you don't have a system, especially if you're getting multiple copies of each coupon, you'll soon be overrun by coupons and probably give up. Krazy Coupon Lady and Fabulessly Frugal both have great posts on some different systems of organization.

5. Now, the practical, every day things I do:

- Check my Google Reader a couple times a day. This really doesn't take long. I just scroll through all the posts and simply add a star to the ones that I'm interested in. Nothing more than that.

- I keep a weekly grocery plan (aka: blank sheet of paper) in my binder, ready for me to jot notes on. And usually a couple of days before I go shopping I'll simply look through all my starred items in my Reader and make notes of what items (including which coupons to use, quantity, and how many transactions I need to do) I want to get at what store this week. I've found that by shopping at multiple stores, you can really get the most bang for your buck. This note-taking really saves me having to comb meticulously through all the store circulars.

- The day before shopping day, I'll pull out my store ads and cut any coupons I need from there and toss the rest of the circular. No need to clutter either my counter or my binder.

- Since sometimes I make multiple transactions in order to use multiple coupons, I go through my coupons, pairing the manufacturers' coupons with the store coupons and staple them together. Then I paper clip each transaction's coupons together. This avoids having to hold up a line and flip through disorganized coupons and makes your cashier a little friendlier. :)

Goodness, that sounds like a LOT. And to be honest, it was in the beginning. But now that I'm getting the hang of it, it's really not too hard or time consuming at all.

I have to say, though, that the BEST thing I ever did was subscribe to the blogs. They do a lot of the "thinking" for you, pairing sales with weekly ads and manufacturers' coupons. If I had to do all that work myself, I wouldn't do it. Honestly. It's so nice to just check these blogs and make my grocery list according to the sales that they alert me to in my Reader.

I hope this helps anyone who might be on the verge of really going gung-ho about couponing. It's not just a freakish obsession with me (really it's not); I really feel God calling me as a wife to be the best darn home economist that I can be. If it's my husband's job to provide the income for our family, then it's my job to manage that money to the best of my ability and make the most of every dollar.

On a side note, I was talking to Tom recently about this...I've noticed a very positive change in our marriage since I've started to coupon seriously. Not that we've ever had problems in our marriage regarding money (thank Goodness!), but Tom and I both feel that now we're really working hard as a team to provide for our family, and it's been wonderful for our relationship.

So, what are you waiting for, Ladies? Jump in! And please let me know if this helped or if you have any questions.


Val said...

Funny, I was just asking my friend Josie to teach me her coupon guru ways last week! Thanks for the post Carrie. You continue to inspire me with your yogurt making and couponing. I'll be taking a good look at all the blogs you and Josie sent me after this weekend and maybe I'll jump on the bandwagon.

The Cichy's said...

Nice post! Glad couponing is working for you.

I have a question regarding healthy foods. I used to coupon a few years ago but found it difficult to find coupons for foods that were healthy and not full of a lot of preservatives. I was finding tons of coupons for sugar cereals, snack foods, etc. that I just didn't buy so I eventually gave up because I wasn't getting the savings I had anticipated. I know the coupons aren't all about food. There are hygene products and such that you can save money on too. Have you been able to have a healthy diet with couponing?

The Herring family said...

I agree, Joanna. I don't clip coupons for products that I simply won't use -- like a ton of the pre-packaged, ton o' sugar, high fructose corn syrup stuff. I make my own bread, granola, yogurt, pizza crust (just some basics) and it seems to work out well for our family. I've noticed a good trend toward coupons for healthier things, so that's nice. I DO use many of my coupons for health/home/beauty products, which is where I think we are saving the most money because these products are most expensive to begin with.

The Cichy's said...

Thanks Carrie, that is encouraging. I may just give it another try!

Annie said...

Just Looking into this now, but I appreciate the post. I just subscribed and am going to start educating myself on how to save 108% like you did. :o)