You may be asking yourself, are coupons really worth the effort? Do you really save enough money to make it worth the time? I used to be one of those people who thought coupons were too much effort and I thought that I did not have time for one more thing on my never ending to-do list, until now. With gas prices at an all time high and food prices on the rise, I decided I needed to make coupons work. I mean it is all the rage, all my friends are doing it and saving big so why not me?
I started out small and after a few times of saving money it felt great! We all like positive reinforcement so I kept going and after time it became a habit. Now I never shop without coupons. No, I am not extreme and I do not have stock piles because I only buy what I need. There are times though when I will buy items when they are buy one get one free because that is a great way to donate items during food drives and for back to school items that you can give to your child’s classroom. There is always someone who can use something and it feels great to give back. The best part is that it did not cost me anything extra so it is a win win situation!
Ok, so decided that you are going to give coupons a try too and are wondering where to start? I hope that after you read this post this you will have a road map so you can start your own coupon journey. When I started I did not have all the answers. There are no answers because we all do it differently and the important thing to remember is that you are going to do it differently too and that is ok. I learned through trial and error and so will you. Remember it is important to find what works for YOU!
Getting started can be overwhelming. You might feel stressed, confused and you may feel like not trying but if your goal is like mine and that is to save your household money then it is worth trying! I know you want to save money and I know you are looking for ways to save time and you want it be simple! Me too!
There are so many different ways to get coupons now (and there are probably ways that I do not know about, so maybe you can teach me those) You can get them the old fashioned way, the Sunday newspaper, or you can go online. There are so many sites out there that you could get lost looking so I say just find a few that fit your style. If you try and do too much you will stress yourself out and end up quitting.
These are some of the sites that I use myself (please note that I am not compensated in any way for mentioning them, these are my own opinions) I like these sites because you can sign up to receive their newsletters.
1. The Krazy Coupon Lady @ http://thekrazycouponlady.com Their newsletters are great because they email you the stores along with the sales that are going on that week along with the coupons that you can use, so basically they spell it out for you. So ‘they’ will save you time from having to do it all on your own.
2.Thrifty Girl @ http://thriftygrl.com This is a great site because she will share different sales/specials that are going on as well as recipes.
3. Coupon Mom @ www.couponmom.com This is a wonderful resource! You can sign up to get coupons delivered to your email inbox!
Ok, so let’s start cutting!
First thing you need to do is decide when you are going to cut coupons. Then you need to schedule that on your calendar (You are using a calendar right? If not, get one!)Yes, you are actually going to ‘schedule’ a time with yourself to cut coupons! By making the time each week you are giving yourself the time, rather than waiting until you find the time. I cut coupons on Sunday. My husband likes to go and get the paper on Sunday mornings and he usually brings me back an iced latte as well. Isn’t that sweet? I also plan a time for printing the coupons from the email newsletters. I only clip what I need, some experts say otherwise. Cutting coupons will take time, patience and consistency but you get to decide how much time and effort you want to put into it. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this. All I am doing is sharing with you what I do because it works for me. Other people will have their ways of doing this and I am sure if you searched online you would find all kinds of posts about coupons. I typically spend 1-2 hours on Sunday cutting and organizing them. I usually spend about an hour during the week printing the coupons from the emails.
Next make a list of items that you need. I have a magnetic list that I keep on the front of the fridge that I (or any member of my household <ahem> I hope they are reading this) can write down the items that are needed as I come across them. Then when I go to make my grocery list I already have those items listed. I cross off the items when I write them on my grocery list and then I put the list back on the fridge.
Now you can plan your menu. I only plan a week at a time. We are a family of five with three boys who play sports year round. So that means we are on the go all the time and our schedule is always changing. Planning more than a week did not work as I found myself not sticking to the menu. We would eat out unexpectedly and after having purchased the items needed for those meals, we spent more and wasted food. This does not mean it would not work for your lifestyle. I know people who plan their meals based on what is on sale. I do a combination of what is on sale and what our schedule is like for that week. For example, if we have 3 nights of ball games then I will plan for crock-pot meals for those nights. After planning your menu you make your grocery list based on what you need.
Look over your list for any coupons that you can use on the items. I like to maximize my savings by using coupons when items are on sale. If you have coupons that you are going to use, then make sure you keep them with your list so they will be all set to go. For the coupons that you are not going to use, you can put those away. What do you mean you don’t know where to put them?
You will need a “system” for keeping your coupons organized? Why do I call it a system? Well because there is more to it than just a coupon organizer. You will need something that is going to get you from start to finish. You can store your coupons in whatever you want but if it does not help you “use” your coupons then it is not serving its purpose and they will end up in a pile somewhere and when anything is in a pile, we can’t ‘see’ what we need and therefore go unused.
Here are some things to ask yourself when setting up your system:
1. Will you use a standard coupon organizer? I tried this but did not work well because you can’t see all the coupons at once, you have to take them all out in order to see what you have and that becomes time consuming and a lot of work
2. Will you purchase one?
3. Are you going to create your own coupon binder
I started out using the Couponizer @ http://www.thecouponizer.com and you can also see that I was couponizer of the month in October of 2006 http://www.thecouponizer.com/couponizer_otm_2006.php This is a really great system for getting started. It comes with a complete guide that will teach you how to coupon. I highly recommend this for anyone.
I now use my own binder system and the only reason that I no longer use the Couponizer is because of its’ size. I cut more coupons now and so I need something bigger. I use a binder of my choice and the inside comes from the Coupon Magic Organizer @ www.couponmagicorganizer.com
(Pictured here is my own personal coupon binder. I just chose a binder that I liked and added the pages)
(The first page that you see when you open it up is a full page two sided clear pocket page and I keep my grocery list along with any coupons that I am going to use right in the front)
(The next pages that you are looking at on the left side is a list of clean eating foods that I am trying to learn to incorporate into our lifestyle and on the right side is where I keep extra paper for writing my lists on – these are left over from when I print out coupons and instead of throwing away the paper I reuse them)
(Now you are looking at the section on the left is where I keep receipts that I may need for returns and on the right is where I keep store specific coupons, these slots are bigger so they work out nicely)
(And this is the section where I have dividers and clear pages for the coupons and there you have it simple and easy!)
Another resource for creating your own coupon system can be found at The Krazy Coupon Lady @ http://thekrazycouponlady.com/beginners/ This section is for beginners!
Now that you have found a system that you like and are using (Yes, you will have to use it in order for it to work, its just like organizing, you can get your “stuff” organized and if you don’t maintain it then it will go back to being disorganized and the same is true for using coupons. If you don’t remember to take them with you when you go shopping then you have wasted your time cutting them, organizing them causing you to spend more on groceries than you need to. So, how do you remember to take the coupons with you? One of the ways I use to help me remember is by keeping my binder in the kitchen drawer. I have an actual ‘home’ for it so that I know (and anyone else in my home <ahem>) where it is. Yes, there are times that I forget it. I also keep my grocery list and menu right with the binder so when it is time to go to the store I have everything I need and I can just grab and go!
*tip* when putting your new coupons in the binder be sure to take out the expired ones. I also take out any coupons that are about to expire and keep them with my grocery list and if I don’t use them I discard them.
The expired or unused coupons you can go to Krazy Coupon Lady’s website as she uses this program: OverSeas Coupon Program @ http://www.ocpnet.org/
My favorite part of saving money using coupons is when an item is buy one get one free and I use a coupon!
My keys to success:
1. Make the time
2. Find a system that you fits your lifestyle
3. Use the coupons!
I hope this helps you in some way and if I can answer any questions that you may have please do not hesitate to reach out to me.