My co-teacher, Terri and I had so much information to share and I really hope it was helpful and not confusing or overwhelming to those just starting with coupons! I spoke first and covered couponing basics, and then Terri explained all the great ways to save at Rite Aid in particular. There was lots of chatting and fellowship throughout the evening so that was so fun.
I'm including my notes in this post although I'm not sure how much of them I actually followed! I think in actuality, I did more rambling than note following! Oh well... I had a table set out with my "free stockpile"... just items in my home that I've gotten for free using coupons. These were not items I got for free because I bought something else, but rather the value of the coupons I used covered the entire cost of the product. The table was completely full. REALLY wish I had a picture! We played a game to get started: whoever had the closest guess for the value of my free stockpile won, as well as a random winner drawn from the slips of paper with guesses on them. The cost was $516.03. That number was calculated based on WalMart regular prices, although none of the items were bought from WalMart. I just wanted to give a fair price (instead of the outrageous regular prices at the drug stores where they were actually bought from). Our two winners were ladies who were guests of our church ladies, so that was neat. They each won a coupon organizer, calculator and a pair of scissors. ☺
Here are my notes:
Can you guess the value of my free stock pile? Closest guess wins a prize!
Our class tonight will hopefully give you an overview and place to start your own couponing adventures! We won’t be able to cover every single aspect of utilizing coupons but hopefully, you will learn enough to start saving significant amounts of your own grocery bill and never pay full price ever again.
What we’re NOT going to do:
- Be extreme to the point that coupons begin to actually hurt our families instead of help them.
Anything can become a bad thing when it is not properly prioritized.
- Buy stuff just because we have a coupon for it.
I still throw many of my coupons out.
- Run ourselves ragged to catch a deal.
I usually shop at RA and PC once a week and Target/Wal-Mart ever few weeks as I feel up to it.
- Be dishonest to get a cheaper price.
No copying coupons. No using expired coupons. Read the coupons, follow the rules.
- Spend more to save more.
It doesn’t matter what the bottom of your receipt tells you that you saved; what matters is how much cold hard cash came out of your wallet.
So HOW does one save all this money with coupons? I used to casually browse through the coupon inserts on Sunday and know that even with $.50 or even $1 off certain products, I could still buy the generic for less. So I would only clip for items that I really liked name brands. Now, I am spending WAY less and having fun using the fancy name brand products I went without for so many years! No trips to Wal-Mart for toiletries where I spend way more than I wanted to because after all, I HAD to have deodorant, etc. Here are the principles of effective couponing:
- Rock bottom prices are gotten by COMBINING, or as couponers call it “stacking”.
Stack coupons with sales, or even clearance. Use both manufacturer coupons and store coupons.
1. Manu. Coupon only: Reach floss $1 off manu. coupon, reg. price $1 = FREE
2. Manu. Coupon + Sale: Bailey’s Coffee Creamer (2) $1 off 1 Manu. Coupon + 2/$3 sale = $ .50 ea.
3. Manu. Coupon + Store Coupon: Benefiber $3 off Manu. Coupon + $3 Target Coupon, Reg. price $5.56 = FREE + little overage
4. Manu. Coupon + Store Coupon + Sale: Afrin $3 off Manu. Coupon + $2 off Store Coupon + $3 UP + Sale price of $6 = FREE + $2 money maker
- When an item is for FREE or very cheap (at least 80% off or more), stockpile.
1. The goal is to never pay full price for anything. If it won’t expire soon, stockpile so you aren’t forced to run out for it and risk paying too much.
2. Having an ORGANIZED stockpile simplifies life. Meal planning, when sickness strikes, last minute gifts, etc.
3. Know WHEN to stockpile. One unexpected benefit to couponing has been really knowing what a good price is. Now when I see a “sale” I’m not fooled by a flashy sale tag; I know the prices of so many items that I know when it’s actually a good price, a so-so price, a bad price or a very very cheap stock up price. Some couponers make a list or little booklet to help them remember.
4. Cut out every coupon, and then patiently wait for the right sale to get your loot for as little as possible. When I first started couponing, I had a few great coupons for Finish Dishwashing detergent. So at the first sale, I bought several boxes, paying about $1.75 a box. I was thrilled since they are usually around $5. Then, a few weeks later, another sale came along which would have meant FREE Finish if I had held onto those coupons. Lesson learned. It doesn’t take long to catch onto the trends and cycles of coupons. Toothpaste is routinely free. Cereal coupons are almost always available. Now, I save almost all coupons, even things I wouldn’t be willing to pay anything for, because I just may come across a sale which will allow me to get to try a new product for FREE. (Ex. Tylenol Precise. Don’t like it but got to try it for free. Anyone want it? ☺)
Firstly, realize that although it may take an investment of your time, you will get faster as you become more experienced. Just like the first time you make a new recipe, and you have to keep checking back to make sure you’re doing it right. I never judge if a dish is a keeper by if it took time. A new dish always takes me extra time. But it’s it really delicious, I’ll find a way to streamline and make it faster next time. Saving hundreds of dollars is worth my time. I typically spend about an hour per week working on coupons and shopping list. This is done while snuggling with a baby or husband. What other work would be so flexible around family that still has that much financial benefit?
Next, you need a way to organize your coupons. Many expert couponers use a binder. I still like the expandable purse sized organizers simply because with 3 kids under age 4, I don’t have the extra arm for a binder! I need it to fit into my purse. Terri has her binder to show you an example. Whatever you choose, organization is essential. Some people save the entire coupon page, not bothering to cut until they know they will use it. A file folder system may be the route for you.
Get coupons. The paper and online sources (see handout) have the manufacturer’s coupons. Also keep an eye out for sticky coupon right on packages. Store websites (i.e. RiteAid.com, Target.com) have store coupons, as well as in store (ie. Walgreens) and in mailers and flyers. Some stores have facebook pages with great coupons, or in store coupon machines (i.e. Price Chopper)
A rule of thumb that many abide by is getting as many papers as there are people in your household. For me, 5 papers are too many to cut out. If I did regularly buy 5 (which I don’t) I would use the whole page method of organizing because cutting out and organizing that many is too time consuming. I normally only get one paper, unless I see a coupon I’m particularly interested in. Whenever I have bought multiple papers, it was well worth it as far as the savings verses the cost of the paper. You may also find free coupon inserts in the free papers around town.
Coupon blogs (see handout) are a great tool is helping find sale and coupon match ups. They take much of the work off our hands.
I suggest starting with one or two stores and concentrating on learning their particular policies. Trying to figure every store’s coupon and sale structure all at once is confusing and frustrating.
Make a list and separate the coupons you plan to use before you go to the store. I often use a bank envelope to write my list on and hold the coupons I am for sure using. I still bring my coupon pouch, just in case I run across an unadvertised deal. Be extra polite to your clerk because you’ll be spending more time with them than usual! Let others go in front of you if you have a ton of stuff and a ton of coupons, especially in a drugstore where most people are hoping to run in for one or two quick items. Print the store’s coupon policy (found on their website) and carry it in your coupon binder or pouch. Some cashiers may not know their own stores policies.
Just like everything else, practice makes perfect! Enjoy your savings and brag to me about your good deals!
These were the two handouts I gave:
Find weekly coupon and sale match ups:
• Great for learning the basics. Nationwide coupon match ups.
• Great for online shopping, such as amazon, and Price Chopper coupon match ups.
• Preview RiteAid sale/coupon match ups weeks in advance
• Price Chopper coupon match ups, Central NY based
Coupons.com RedPlum.com Smartsource.com
Stack ‘em & Stockpile
1. Stack coupons (both manufacturer’s and store coupons) with good store sales.
*Know what good sale prices are. Don’t be fooled by a bright sticker.
2. Stockpile. When you find a great deal by combining coupons and sales, buy as much of it as possible so you never have to pay full price.
Plan weekly menus based on whatever proteins are on sale. Make a list and stick to it. Planning ahead and being organized is vital to saving on groceries. Those quick trips to the store for that night’s dinner will probably result in going over budget.
Use weekly store ads or coupon blogs to find great sales for the items for which you have coupons.
Organize your coupons!!!
Product websites / facebook pages often have great coupons available to print.
Pick one or two stores to focus on as you learn. Add more as you increase your coupon skills!
Save every coupon you get, even for items you wouldn’t normally buy but would enjoy trying. You just may find a sale which will allow you to get it for free!