Monday, July 12, 2010

Couponing Part 1 of 4: Find the Coupons

Before we get into today’s post I want to preface this series by pointing out that my way of doing this whole couponing thing is certainly not the only way to do it. There are lots of methods, which is partly what contributed to my confusion and the total time suck this thing became when I first got started. What I’m going to show you with this series is the method I devised with the following objectives in mind:

1) The ability to take advantage of the deals that can be had
2) To not spend an exorbitant amount of time on this process… it can take over your life… or at least your Sundays
3) Create a small stockpile of the products we use on a regular basis
4) Save some money

Please notice: saving as much money as possible, getting as many free things as possible, and taking up a new hobby, are not on the list. If those are your objectives, my method will help you get started, but this is sort of the “in moderation” approach, so you’ll miss the mark.

Alright, first things first, find the coupons -

Newspaper: I buy 2 newspapers every Sunday. If you go to wherever you buy your newspapers first thing Sunday morning and find that they’re all out, it’s probably because there’s a die hard couponer who has already gotten to them… lots of (probably most) people who coupon buy more than 2 papers a week. I don’t though for a few reasons 1) I live in a small house and I don’t have the space or desire to store 18 packages of toilet paper & 25 boxes of cereal even if I got them for free 2) to determine how many papers you should buy each week, ideally you would check out which flyers and coupons are going to be in that paper and decide if those particular coupons would be worth the cost of the paper and storing the flyers and frankly, I just don’t have that kind of time in my life, 3) when you’re ready to use the coupons you’ll have to cut out 15 (or how many ever papers you bought) of them… ugh and 4) depending on the store you use them at, there could be a limit to how many of the item you can purchase at a time, in which case you would have to make multiple trips to the store (see objective 2 above). My last little tip about newspapers is that I buy two, not just one, because some of the very best deals to be had are at stores that take 2 coupons on buy one get one free promos (more about that in part 4 of the series) so you have to have at least two coupons for those.

Online: There are lots of places to find coupons online. just to name a few. However, to avoid having to store the printed coupons, spend money on ink for my printer (objective 4), and using my time visiting all these sites, I only print out online coupons when I have a specific deal I need them for (finding the deal is part 3 of this series) and am about to head out to pick it up. I will warn you though, sometimes the online coupons aren’t available for very long, so using my method could mean you loose out on some coupons. Also, the vast majority of the time, online sites only allow you to print 2 of each coupon. If you want more than two and have multiple computers in your house, you can print your 2 from each computer though.

Other: You can also find coupons in the stores you shop; most of them will have flyers near the front of the store in a rack. Some stores also have “blinkies”, the coupons in the little machines with the blinking light attached to the shelf in front of the products. “Peelies” are the coupons attached to the outside of the product. CVS has a coupon machine where you scan your CVS card and it spits out coupons. There are magazines with coupons; “All You” is a popular one available at Wal Mart. Lots of places have coupons that print from the register when you check out.

I focus mostly on the newspaper and online for coupons just because it’s easier for me to keep track of what’s available via those sources, but if I’m going into a store to pick something up that I wasn’t planning ahead of time to buy (read: I don’t have a coupon for it *gasp* I can hardly bring myself to do that anymore) then I definitely check the flyers in the front of the store and look for blinkies to try to save at least a few pennies.

Next up: File the Coupons.


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