February 5, 2012

Yep, I am one of those people...

I have been couponing since the beginning of October.  I've learned a lot about it in the last 4 months.  Here is what you need to know if you want to get started, or get into it more.

1.  Couponing is messy!

This is actually a pretty tamed mess because I've been cleaning everything over the last day.  But, don't be fooled.  Couponing is messy.  You can expect that on any given day your main living area will be cluttered with papers, inserts, circulars, clipped coupons that float around, mailer coupons, catalinas, etc.  My dining table is usually covered with paper, and that includes all our regular junk too (mail, bills, Ashley's school papers) and it drives me crazy.  I've done a few things to help corral the mess, and I'll get to that later.

2.  Couponing takes up a lot of time!

I don't have a picture to illustrate this.  Maybe a huge clock or something.  It takes up a lot of your time.  I usually set aside time on Sundays to clip & organize my coupons.  Then, during the week, I have to take time to browse the circulars, and the couponing websites, to find the deals that I want.  Then I have to make lists (a few, depending on how many stores I want to go to) and then I have to pull all the coupons I want to use together for my shopping trips.

I have to admit, I'm not great at couponing yet.  I am sure there are better ways to organize, and sure there are better ways to time it all out.  I think that the more I do it, the better I will get.  It's just a messy time consuming process!

Ok, so now that you know all that, and you still are interested and haven't shut off your computer or written me off as a wack-a-doodle or something, here is how I do this!!

Couponing 101 from Tee - The whole crazy process! 

I'll try to explain this the best I can.  In all honesty, couponing is worth the effort and time it takes me!  Plus, it's FUN.  I can't describe how good it feels to be at a store, after every item has been scanned, and you give your store loyalty card over and your coupons and you just watch that total dwindle down and down and down.  You feel like celebrating!  Right?!?

Here is my weekly process, hopefully it makes sense!  On Saturday or Sunday, I get The Sun (our city newspaper) delivered to my house.  This is an exciting day because I run out for the paper, flip through it and see what goodies we are getting this week.  Then, I go to my local store and pick up 3 more papers.  I like having 4 all together because my most-visited store (ShopRite) has a limit of 4 items per sale.  I don't always buy 4 of everything, only if it's a great sale matched with a good coupon, but I like having 4 for that purpose, because it can be a great deal! 

Something slightly off topic, I would recommend looking into recycling if you don't.  We didn't before this, but I felt so bad throwing away all that paper that I had to start because I do care about our trees and our earth and our oxygen and trashing 4 papers worth of stuff made me feel extremely guilty.  It was really easy to start, I looked up our county's policy on recycling.  I thought it would be complicated to start, and that we would have to go buy a bin for it and all that.  Not so!  All we had to do was find a container, preferably blue, and put a big X on it and take it out with our trash twice a week.  SIMPLE!  Why haven't we been doing this the whole time?

Ok back to it.  I thumb through each paper and pull out all the circulars that I know I may need, they include:

Wegmans (if there is one - a lot of their deals are usually posted online)

**Safeway and Giant don't always come - their deals aren't Sunday - Saturday deals, so their circulars sometimes come separate.

You can always look up most stores deals online too.

So I pull those out and then I pull out the gold: the coupon inserts.  Then, I recycle the rest of the paper.  I usually don't read it, sometimes I'll read the travel or Dave may want the sports, but usually it all goes to the recycle bin. 

Then I make a pile of all the inserts, matching them together from the 4 papers, i.e. all the Replums go in one pile, all SmartSource in another (those are the 2 main ones) and then the PG, etc.  You can sort of see my system here...

So after I have my piles, I pick one and start.  I'll take each insert and carefully rip all the pages out and match them all up from each.  Then with the pile of each page, I cut the coupons together.  This saves lots of time.  See in the pic above?  I had 4 pages from the same insert (in which I have 4 usually) of women's hair care products and I just clip them all at the same time.  Which saves me from having to cut each individually.  Then you end up with piles of coupons that are the same all spread out (it's messy, remember!  This was a fairly small insert so there aren't as many as usual)..

See?  Nice little neat piles of coupons ready to be filed.  Now, I do the coupon binder system.  So I bought a huge white binder and 3 packets of plain white divider tabs and I made 25 sections.  You can see my binder up above, and here is a close up of the tabs...

My sections right now (they change as I figure out what I need and what I don't) are as follows: cookies/sweets, salty snacks, granola bars/fruit snacks, bread/PBJ, fruits/veggies, pastas/dinners, soup, baking, breakfast, sides/rice, condiments/dressing, drinks, fridge, yogurt, freezer, candy, ziploc/storage, paper products, cleaning, laundry, dishwashing, first aid/meds, womens, mens, pet/misc, and dental.  I have changed these a few times to work for me.  You will probably do different. Right now, we don't have babies so we have no need for those coupons, I usually try to donate them.  This is my system, but really try to do what makes shopping and organizing easier for you!

Anyways after all the coupons from one insert are cut, I file them in here.  I use the baseball card organizers which you can get from Target, WalMart or order off Amazon.  I love them!  They are the perfect size for the most part, sometimes I have to fold the bigger coupons.

As I file I try to see if there are any expired coupons in the section.  If there are, I pull them out and set them aside.  We will get to this later...

Then I'll start with the next insert.  Again I rip all the pages apart, I throw away the ads for granny panties and what not, and make new piles, like you can see here.  I start cutting and organizing all over again!  It takes about 2 hours of my Sunday to do all this, if I work fast and efficiently and don't have LOST on to distract me...like I do right now.  It's the episode about Mr. Eko, and it's very distracting, LOL!

So that is the cutting and organizing part.  Hopefully that all makes sense!  I try to go through the binder every month at the end of the month (when most coupons expire) and pull out the ones that are expired.  I am guilty of not using a lot of coupons.  I once read that you should cut ALL coupons, even if you won't use them.  I don't like that advice.  I've started cutting ones that I know I'll use, and even ones that I may use.  But...coupons for products that I know I won't buy, like hair dye or some certain frozen foods, I don't bother clipping and just put in the trash pile.  GASP.  I know, I should cut these and donate them too, but I don't.  At least not yet.  Oh well.

You can donate your expired coupons to the military.  As long as they are within 6 months of the expiration date.  You can go to this site, the Krazy Coupon Lady, and read how to do this.  I love this site and she is the one that taught me how to coupon from the start.

Speaking of websites, below I have listed the sites that I go to to find the deals for each week.  You can look through your circulars and match your coupons to the deals yourself, but a lot of people out there have done the work for you!  I browse their sites, find my stores, and read about the deals.  Then I decide which ones I want to buy.  Here are the ones I like a lot, but there are SO many out there, just google your store or your area with something like, "Coupon match ups for_____" your store, or "_______ weekly deals and match ups".

Couponing Websites:

Krazy Coupon Lady

Couponing to Disney

Living Rich with Coupons

Deal Seeking Mom

Coupon Mom

Frugal Girls

Hip 2 Save

These are just a few that I like to check a lot each week.  Like I said, there are tons of sites out there!  I like to check them all because sometimes they have different deals posted.  Something to remember though, that deals vary from state to state, as do each stores couponing policies. 

I'll check these sites and from there make my list.  I have a template that I use that lists the store, the item, the original price, the coupon to use, the price after the coupon, how many I want to buy and the total of all items.  Oh here, it's just easier to show you:)  This is a screen shot of my list.  I usually hand write it, but for your sake I typed this one because my handwriting is awful!

Actually I am providing the template for you to use!  You can download it and use it as you embark on a couponing journey;)  Download the template here and enjoy!

So I'll write out my lists, I usually have a few because I shop at a few different stores every week (like ShopRite, Target, Wegmans, etc) and then I'll get my binder and start pulling the coupons I need.  I like to keep them in like accordian file for when I shop, separate from the binder so that I don't have to thumb through that big honker to find what I need.  I got this from Target's $1 section:

I keep the coupons separated by store so there is no confusion.

Then I am all ready to shop!  I'll still take my binder with me, along with my purple accordion file, in case I run into an unadvertised deal in the stores which almost always happens (think of all those clearance items at Target!  I score great deals with those!).  I carry everything in a cute Vera Bradley market bag.

Because Vera makes everything more fun;)

Then, once you have your system down and a few months of gone by, you'll have a wonderful stockpile of goods that you won't know what to do with?!?  Mine has out grown my storage for it, and we are working on fixing that!  Here are some pics of our stockpile.

This is up in our linen closet, we keep all beauty/health stock up here, but I think we'll have to move it to the basement soon because it's growing and growing.

A close up of the top...

and the bottom.  We have enough shampoo, conditioner, body wash and deodorant to last us all over a year!  I probably spend less than $50 on all of this!!

A close up of the basket on the top, which holds tooth brushes, razors, chapsticks, etc.

This is our little cabinet in the basement.  We bought this to hold my stockpile originally, it's not nearly enough space!

Here it is all open and full, you see I have already outgrown it.

Close up

Another close up - we've got all sorts of food stuffs in here!

All that doesn't include our pantry in our kitchen that is full too!  I love having a stockpile.  It means I don't have to run to the store every night for something I need for making dinner, etc.

09/2013 Update:  This stockpile lasted almost 2 years!  The foodstuffs went a bit faster because of expiration dates but we STILL have a few bottles of the shampoo/conditioner/toothpaste stuff!!  It goes to show that once you have a good stockpile, you can chill out for a while, until you get low on something.  Awesome!

Last but not least, here is a little something that I have that helps me stay organized, and sometimes less messy.

This box is handy because it has a top with compartments for this I use when couponing like pens and binder clips and paper clips.

Inside are files and folders that help me separate things and keep them out of the way.  I don't use this as much as a should.  It is handy for keeping all that stuff off my table!

Ok, that is my couponing plan in a huge nutshell;)  I hope it helps clarify the process for you and make it easier.  I am sure there are a million better ways to do this, but this works for me.  I'm not an expert yet, and I am sure there are so many more ways to save money by doing this.  I am hoping that as I do this more, I will learn more, and from there save more money!  It's a tedious process but it's worth every clip, every minute, every inconvenience it may cost me.  I love couponing and the money it saves my family.  We are able to travel with the savings, pay off debt, eat out, and buy things we may need, or even just want.  I enjoy the trip to the cash register every time! 

What do you do that works for you?!

This weekend I've linked up to Tatertots and Jello - for their weekend wrap up party!!