Friday, January 2, 2009

Frugal Living Friday: Using Coupons

Welcome to Frugal Living Friday! Each week I will feature a tip that can help us stretch our budget and live more frugally! If you have a tip that you want shared on Frugal Living Friday, let me know and you could become a guest blogger for a day.

Sometimes using coupons has a negative ring to it. Someone said to me once, "Using coupons to save .25 on tuna or .35 on crackers seems pointless to me. I don't have time for that."

What they said is true to a point. When using coupons, it is a waste of time (and money) if you are using coupons to purchase things just to use the coupon, or to buy things you wouldn't normally buy.

Using coupons on items you always buy anyway, going to double/triple coupon days at grocery stores AND combining coupons in conjunction with sales and clearance prices is where you will get ahead! Way ahead! I am talking getting stuff for free or really cheap! It sounds too good to be true, but it's really not. It takes time to learn the process, but once you get the idea of how sales work at certain stores it doesn't take long to get it down.

The first step to take if you have not been an avid couponer before is to get a subscription to the Sunday newspaper so you can get the coupons. Many areas offer 'subscription packages' so you can get multiple Sunday papers for a great price...if you want to have multiple coupons. You want multiple coupons if you live in an area that has double or triple coupon days periodically. Just ask your local newspaper what deals they have. Another way to get more coupons is to ask your friends and neighbors if you can have their coupons from their Sunday paper. Many people throw them away!

Once you begin getting coupons you need to organize them. Some people cut out every coupon in the weekly inserts and file them away. Other people only cut what they know they are going to use. I prefer doing a little of both. I cut all the coupons I will use, plus coupons I would use if I ran across a really great sale. I carry my file with me always when I shop and there have been countless time I have ran across an unexpected sale or clearance item (especially at Target) and because I had my coupons with me, I got the item for free or less than .25!

You also need to file the inserts themselves, even if you don't think you will use the rest of the coupons. Sometimes the coupon in the inserts don't expire for several months, and a sale just might come up. This happened with me and some Visine coupons. I did the KMart Super Double Coupon Days a few months ago and because I had kept older inserts, I was able to go back, get the Visine coupons, and I got 3 bottle of Visine for free!

I use a file folder for my inserts. I put the most current insert on top. If you look closely on the spine of the coupon insert, they are dated. You can find them easily that way. There are a few different inserts that come in the Sunday paper:

Smart Source (SS)
Red Plum (was Valassis) (RP)
Valassis (now Red Plum) (V)
Proctor and Gamble (PG)

TaylorTown Preview tells us the schedule of when coupons will come in the Sunday newspaper. Yes, there is a schedule! It really helps to know, especially if you buy your papers individually. There are weeks (usually by holidays) when there are no coupons. So watch the schedule! It also helps to know the schedule because certain coupons come out in certain inserts, for example, the Proctor and Gamble insert. If you purchase certain items with those coupons, you will know exactly when the coupons will be available again. The 2009 schedule is not up yet.

I will explain how to find deals that go with the coupons in your inserts. You DO NOT need to spend hours pouring over ads.....there are places online you can go that spell it all out for you! I will show you where you can go.

There is "coupon lingo" out there, and it can be confusing if you don't know it. HERE is a fabulous list of abbreviations you will find helpful to know.

You can also get hundreds of printable coupons online! Go HERE to find a list of many places you can go. Many times printable coupons are a higher value than the coupons from the Sunday newspaper. You are usually allowed to print 2 copies of each coupon. PLEASE never, never, NEVER photocopy printable coupons! It is illegal. There are many stores than no longer accept printable coupons for this reason. Shop honestly!

Also here is a post I made last year about some general coupon rules. Come back tomorrow for more on using coupons!

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