Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Beginning Rules of Couponing

Posted by: Stace

You may be sitting there right now with your coupons and your coffee and be thinking, "Where the heck do I start?!" Fear not, we are here to help! We have created this blog for several reasons. One, hopefully to inspire everyone out there to begin saving in their own lives. Two, to show just how easy couponing truly is. "If I can do it, anyone can." And three, to show not what deals "should" work like most other local coupon websites, but rather to show what did work and where and how to do it yourself.

Let's begin.

Basically the key to bottom dollar deals is to match up huge store sales (like BOGOS-buy one item, get one for free) with coupons you have. Pick two to three of your local stores to begin watching. My personal favorites for my location are Farm Fresh, Harris Teeter and Bloom. Each of these stores sends me their flyers in the Wednesday paper but I can also easily stop in and grab one from their entrance when I am out and about on other errands. I like Farm Fresh because they double up to $1 every Wednesday meaning a $1 coupon is worth $2. As for Harris Teeter, I find their prices to be marked up quite a bit but they sometimes run some great deals for people who sign up for their "evic" deal online and when they are running super doubles or triple coupon week, some great deals can be found. Lastly, Bloom--their prices are generally the lowest overall but I watch them mainly because sometimes they run a super doubles (up to, for example, $1.99) for a week at a time.

Some basic rules to keep in mind while shopping:

--BOGO. Head's up, you do not always have to buy two items to get the sale price; check with your store to be sure. At Harris Teeter, for example, uou can buy one and get it at half price. Do that and match it with a doubled or tripled coupon and you are getting stuff for under $1 or free. Another rule..2/$4 or 2/$5. Again you do not have to buy the specified amount. Buy one and it'll ring up for $2 or $2.50

--Always know coupon policies. Farm Fresh only lets you do two like items. Bloom has no limit it seems. Harris Teeter allows three like items. Also know most stores will not give you overage normally. Meaning if something is $2 but your doubled coupon is $3, they would not give you the leftover $1. Coupon policies for your favorite stores can normally be found online.

--Separate transactions. YES, all stores let you do separate transactions. An example: Farm Fresh will run promos sometimes like "buy 5 General Mills, get $3 off instantly for next store visit". If these deals will work for your family, go ahead and buy all your promotional items first then get your $3 coupon and use it immediately on your next line of items. Just make sure you ask the cashier if he minds prior to checking out.

--Enlist the help of local websites. I am getting much better at match ups on my own, but it is very time consuming so I cheat and use SouthSavers or TheCouponConsultant and they do the work for me alot of the time. And obviously once we all actually complete our trips, we will be sharing with our readers where to go and how to do it as well.

--Printing coupons. I admit it, I am not a huge fan of printing coupons. I have done it several times lately only if the item was really worth it, because otherwise I find myself having to refill or buy a new cartridge and it begins to be counter productive to my saving. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that it IS ok to print in black and white ink. Don't waste your color. Most stores will take them but you may want to check with your favorites before printing. A local store of mine just stopped taking internet coupons.

--Know your estimated total. Before check out, make sure you have an estimated total in your head so that if the total at check out is drastically different, you will know a mistake was made. I typically know the total for my shopping list items before heading to the store then just add on any extras I may find while shopping.

--Charity. Ok, so you find that with matching coupons and sale items with rebates and stacking coupons, you can get 20 cans of soup for 50 cents. Good for you. Now, what are you going to do with 20 cans of soup? Or what are you going to do with those 10 bottles of baby wash you paid 75 cents for? And you'd really rather use your bathtub for baths and not for hoarding TP rolls and paper towels. The answer? Donate it. If you find you have a surplus of items or you can get a free item but question if you'll use it, remember your local churches, shelters and food banks. It's a great way to give back to the community even if times are a little tight.

--Have Fun. Don't let saving consume your life. It is addictive at first. I fully admit that. How can it not be when you stand at the register and see your original $35 total go crashing down to $5.00? But remember, as important as saving is, so is living. I normally limit myself to one day a week during which I indulge in my couponing hobby. I still have a young child at home and I don't want her memories of her youth to be the insides of various food stores.