Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stop clipping coupons and keep your sanity

The number one complaint people gripe about when it comes to coupons is having to cut them out and keep track of them.

I'm telling you right now to stop cutting them out. Period.

Let me pass along one of the smartest things I've learned in my new venture in the grocery game, and that is you don't actually need to clip the coupons out. You just need to save the entire inserts and only clip the coupons when you are ready to use them.

Nearly every Sunday you probably get a packet or two of coupons in your paper. Typically there are two companies providing these. The first is called "Smart Source" (SS) and the other is "Red Plum" (RP). Just pull these out of the paper (and preferably collect as many as you can get your hands on), write the date at the top of the packet and stick it inside a clear plastic page protector, the kind that will hold an 8 x 10 piece of paper.

Take those two packets and stick them in a binder. See, we haven't even touched a pair of scissors yet.

Now, here's what you do. You head over to and register (free) and click on her grocery deals by state link on the left side of the page. Find your state and your grocery store and up pops a database listing of every item on sale this week, PLUS every SS or RP coupon associated with the item. You can even sort the items by amount you saved. Each item will tell you in which week you can find the corresponding coupon (this is why you MUST date the packets). Often there are also Internet coupons, too. You can search for these on a link to printable coupons on the home page.

There isn't really a trick to any of this. It's just knowing where to go and where to look. You can even read a super detailed tutorial of basic and advanced couponing strategies off the website.

Just remember a few cardinal rules of couponing:

  1. Don't use your coupons too soon. Wait to combine a coupon with a sale.
  2. Don't buy items with coupons you don't eat. Smart, huh? A deal is no deal if you don't like the product.
  3. Consider donating ultra cheap items to food pantries or shelters. If you won't use it, someone else may.
  4. If an item is buy one get one free (BOGO) you can use TWO coupons (one per item)
  5. You can combine store and manufacturer coupons on one item. If Target has a coupon for Progresso soup, you CAN use this with a coupon from Progress on the same item.
  6. Collect lots of those coupon packets. Likely you have friends who toss theirs (only 1% of printed coupons are redeemed in stores). Buy in bulk items you use when they are ON SALE.
  7. Plan your shopping BEFORE you head out. Know your sales and your stores.
  8. Subscribe to a couple great couponing websites, like the ones on my side bar. These women track sales at all the national chains in detail I can never match. Find deals on what you need at stores near you.

Good luck and happy saving!

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