Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thrifty Thursday: Couponing 101

Since I am not working right now and we are living on a significantly lower income, I have decided to see what all the couponing craze is about! I have been at this for the past 6 weeks and I have learned a bit about what I think is useful and what I think is more time than it's worth.
I will use some Thrifty Thursdays to share couponing tips as well as great deals I have found for the week.

This week I will start with how to get started!

Where to get coupons:
I purchase a single copy of the LA Times each Sunday. You can get your local newspaper if you like, but after comparing the coupons in our local paper and the LA Times, I decided the LA Times had better coupons.
You can also print coupons from the internet... the following websites are great sources for coupons:
You can also find great coupons on manufacturer websites. Many of these are also published on couponing blogs.

How it works:
The most important things to know about couponing...
-you can use one manufacturers coupon per item
-you can use one store coupon per item
*you can however use one store coupon and one manufacturers coupon on the same item.
-you can use coupons on sale items to maximize savings (sometimes free or even money making)

If Cereal was on sale for $1.50 a box, you have a cereal coupon for -$1/1 box and a store coupon for -$1/1 box... then it could work like this:
-$1.00 (cereal coupon)
-$1.00 (store coupon)
=$.50 overage (some stores will credit this to the rest of your purchases! Some stores will just adjust the pricing so the item is free... it just depends on who rings you up!

How to organize the coupons:
I bought a little expanding file folder in the dollar section at Target.
I have the following sections (sub sections are separated by envelopes):
--Body Care
--Home Supplies

I sometimes have to just wing it with the coupons and items that don't have a real home... for example, produce. There aren't often produce coupons, so this isn't really a problem.

I encourage you (if you don't already) to start getting a Sunday paper and clipping coupons! The longer you clip the coupons, the better the deals you can find. And if you have friends/family that throw out their coupons... snag those too! The more coupons you get, the more savings!

Shopping the sales:
A big part of the couponing and money saving efforts is shopping the sales. This can be as complicated and time consuming as you allow it. I typically go between Vons and Albertsons and look at their weekly ads. Whichever has the best sales is where I go. Then I look through the ad and compare it to coupons I have. So when I plan my menu and my shopping list for the week, I am purchasing items that are on sale and then I have my stock up items that have corresponding coupons. I then paper clip my coupons to the list. I also take my little coupon folder with me in case I find something on sale and I think I might have a coupon for it as well. There are people who go to lots of stores during the week and gets lots of sales... I don't know how they do it!

I know that couponing can be overwhelming... but start slow and you will get the hand of it. In the four weeks I have been doing this, I have noticed a large savings on my grocery bill. This week for example I shopped at Vons and without sales and coupons, I would have spent $87. After sales and coupons I only spent $42! Well worth the cost of the Sunday paper and a bit of time.

One final note... I spend about 2 hours a week on couponing (not counting the shopping trip). I usually spend 1 hour making the menu (and looking up recipes) and shopping list... so adding the other hour to organize coupons isn't too terrible. I just do it all at once now. I also read a few blogs and look at store ads online. I do this while I am pumping and am therefore attached to my computer anyway! This can get addicting and very time consuming... so I really recommend starting small!

Good Luck!


kate said...

Thanks for the couponing tips, Michelle! I can be addicting - I've been couponing for only a couple weeks and have more cereal than my pantry can hold (but at $0.88/box, I can't say no!). Some stores have double coupon day - which is a REAL steal, and some websites help you figure out which coupons you need for certain deals/sales, etc (I'd name them but am not sure if thats okay....don't want to hijack or anything). this week (yesterday) I spent $53 and saved $55....the good thing is that you can do as much or as little as you like and still see the rewards!! Great topic, Michelle!

kate said...

oohh...and I agree about getting extra back on the items (as in, couponing more than the item costs), this week oscar mayer bologna and no yolks were on sale 10/$10 at our store, I have coupons for $1 off of one package, if I go on double coupon day, I'm getting $2 off of my $1 item - yay!!

Alison said...

I really like this website too (depending on where you shop) that adds coupons to your savings card AND you can use paper coupons it's like double coupons all the time!

Alison said...

ok, forgot to actually put the site...