Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Couponing: Is it worth it?

I love deals. I love using coupons. I love rebates. And I love freebies.

When my oldest was a newborn, I would spend hours on the computer at home learning the ropes of freebies and deals. I learned a lot, made many friends online, and had fun getting freebies in the mail. I learned quickly how much your savings can add up!

I started couponing a couple of years later and the savings just got better! With a second child in our family, I needed to save more money. Now...six years later, 3 kids and a fourth on the way, I can safely say I am so happy that I know what I know! It has saved our budget more than once, and the amount of food, hygiene items, and household goods I have gotten for free are in the hundreds. My oldest is 8 1/2 now and already knows the ropes when it comes to coupons and deals.

Couponing takes some time at have to get organized, understand how it works, and start to build up your stockpile. But it IS worth it! Here are some pictures to prove it. These are a few of my most recent shopping trips:
Total paid: overage of $2.06! I actually got paid to buy this stuff.

Total paid: $92 (that includes 5 pks of tp and 10 pks of diapers!)

Total paid: $2.49

I don't have a pictures of this one, but one of my best deals EVER was in 2004 at Fred Meyer. I got 40 boxes of Electrosol dishwasher detergent...FREE! I only paid sales tax.


So how do YOU start couponing? Where do you even begin? Does the task seem daunting?

STEP 1: Understand what coupons are, what kinds of coupons there are, and how they work.

Coupons are incentives to buy products. Using coupons to your advantage doesn't mean always using every coupon out there. You have to be smart, combine the coupon with a sale or clearance price, rebates, and promotions. Coupons have expiration dates to watch. Some coupons can be doubled, which means if the coupon is $1/1 item, you would get $2/1 instead. Double coupons are special promotions run by the store. Ask stores in your area if they ever double coupons. That's one way you can get ahead! Always read the fine print on your coupons before you use them to make sure you are matching up the item and coupon correctly.

Manufacturer coupons: These are coupons put out by the companies to entice you to purchase their products. These kinds of coupons can be printable coupons, Sunday coupons, mailer coupons. It will say 'manufacturer coupon' at the top of the coupon. When you use these coupons on a product at the store, the store is reimbursed the value of the coupon plus 8 cents. You cannot combine two manufacturer coupons on the same product.

Store coupons: These coupons are store specific, usually in their weekly ads. Unless other stores accept competitor coupons, you can only use store coupons at the store specified. You CAN combine store coupons and manufacturer coupons on the same purchase. For example, lets say Walgreens has Trident gum on sale for $2 per package. They also have a store coupon in their weekly ad you can use that is $1 off each package. BUT, you also have a manufacturer coupon from the newspaper for another $1off. Use both coupons together and you will get free gum! All you will pay is sales tax.

Printable coupons: These coupons are found online. Printable coupons are manufacturer coupons. Generally you are allowed to print 2 copies of each coupon from printable coupon websites. It is illegal to photocopy coupons!! But you can print them in black and white.

Peelies: These are the coupons you find stuck to store items that you peel off. These are manufacturer coupons.

Blinkies: Coupons in the red boxes attached to store shelves. When you pull out the coupon, another one generates to be pulled out. These are also manufacturer coupons.

How do you use your coupons when purchasing items? Read your coupon. It will tell you how many items you need to buy to use it. It might say $1 off one item, or $1 off 2 items. There is also some common coupon terms and usage meanings that you need to understand.

"One coupon per purchase": This means that you can use one coupon per item, with the item considered to be the purchase. For example, if you had 5 identical packages of gum and 5 grocery coupons for that gum, you could use all 5 coupons for your order. You could not use 2 identical coupons if you were only buying one pack of gum because that would be more than "one coupon per purchase." Don't confuse this term with "one coupon per transaction." A transaction is your entire purchase order you are making, not individual items.

"One coupon per order": This means that you can only use that specific coupon once per order. If a shopper had more than one coupon, they could use one coupon per store visit, which would be one coupon per order.

"One coupon per household": This is the most restrictive coupon term. Some coupons are so generous that stores will limit their liability by making sure shoppers do not make multiple trips to the store to use several coupons.
Please remember that any store can make decisions on how they decide to interpret the coupons. Sometimes they don't understand the terms the way the manufacturer intended them to be interpreted. If you politely explain the terms to them, they are more likely to accept your coupon.

STEP 2: Organize your coupons! There are many ways to do this, and no right or wrong way. But organization is KEY to your ability to maximize your savings!

STEP 3: Begin using your coupons. Check out other posts on this subject:

When using coupons on Buy 1 Get 1 Free items, many times you can use 2 for each item. The first coupon on the item you are buying, the second coupon for the item you are getting free. But this varies from store to store, so your mileage may vary.

Step #4 Begin to accumulate coupons! Sign up for free samples, promos, etc. Get multiple issues of the Sunday newspaper. When you get those coupons in the mail save them with your other coupons. Even if you think you might not use it, keep it. I can't tell you how many times I have benefited from having extra coupons, or coming upon an unexpected sale and having coupons that match up with an item.

Don't forget to also have an organized place at home for receipts! That is equally as important. One day I may do a post on how I organize my receipts. Anyone who knows me knows I am anal when it comes to our finances...and I keep all documentation!

You will also find this information helpful.

Coupon Insert Schedule (yes, there is a schedule! Amazing! Remember, there are no coupons on holiday weekends in the Sunday papers)

Couponing IS worth it! It might take some time to get going, but after you figure it out it's a breeze! When I can get double or triple the amount of food storage, hygiene items, or household goods for my family at such cheap prices....I say you are crazy to NOT coupon! Give it a try!



CJ Sime said...

Agreed- to everything. Well Put!

Rachelle's site said...

Awesome! Thanks for all your tips, huge help!

Shannon said...

Great post. I love your site and I agree that it adds up fast. I've only been couponing for about 6 months and I've already shaved $200-$300 off our monthly grocery/household bill.

The Morris Family said...

This is kind of off topic, but I was at our local Walmart the other day with coupons printed from and they will not take printed coupons anymore. I am not sure if it is just my Walmart, but I wanted to pass this information on to you.

Marne said...

My Walmart's don't either. Kind of a bummer! There has been some coupon fraud happening with people photocopying coupons, and it is hurting all of us!

Angela said...

Marne- Oh my gosh, we have the same kitchen table. What's so funny though is, my son was at the computer with me and as I scrolled down the page (the next post down- previous to this one) my son saw the picture of your son drawing the Scentsy winner and said, "Mom, is that me?" (He has that same camo shirt too.) haha. Just had to share that. :)

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