The ins and outs of Couponing. Part 2

Now let's talk about actually getting out and putting those coupons to work!

Before using a coupon read it carefully. Some coupons have limits on them, some require you to purchase another item in order to get the discount, etc. All P&G coupons have a limit of 4 coupons per transaction. Always go by the wording on the coupon.

Each week your stores will put out a sales paper. Use that ad to match up with your coupons for greater savings. Some stores also put out store coupons. You may find these in booklets in the store or on their website. It's important to check these out because some stores will actually let you "stack" their store coupons with your MQs. (manufacturer coupons) Check with your individual store before trying this as some stores do not allow it. Food Lion is one store that does NOT allow stacking. However Dollar General and Family Dollar do. Most of my examples in these couponing posts will be using the Food Lion policies and sales as a guideline since that's my main store. Most coupon rules are universal though.

Once you've looked through your ad you can begin clipping the coupons you need and preparing for your trip. You may also want to check out sites online for additional matchups for your store. www.WeUseCoupons.com have wonderful matchups done by great forum leaders each week so most of the work is done for you.

I know what you're all thinking! This is all well and good but let's get to the good stuff! Actually using your coupons.

This is why it's important to stack coupons with store sales. Kellogg's Cereal is on sale at Food Lion this week BOGO. The boxes are usually $3.50-$5 each. At Food Lion, BOGO items ring up half price. So you could only purchase 1 and still get the sale price. There are printable coupons (IPs) at Kellogg's website for $1/3 boxes. Without a sale 33c off a box of $5 cereal doesn't seem great. But if you take the BOGO sale which bring the cereal down to $2.50 and subtract the coupon it brings your final cost down to $2.17. You must buy 3 boxes in order to use the coupon. So if you purchase 3 boxes at $2 each (after the BOGO discount) that's $6-$1 IP=$5.00 or $1.67 each. Pretty good for Kellogg's right?

By now you're probably wondering how you can get free groceries I'm sure. It is possible. Maybe not cart fulls, but definitely some. Let's go back a few months. Bestlife margarine was on sale for $1 a tub. A couple weeks before the sale there was a $1 off any Bestlife margarine product coupon in the paper. See now why it's important to hang on to those MQs? Paired with the $1 sale and you've got yourself free margarine. Another week Propel water was on sale 2/$1 and there was a $1/2 coupon issued a few weeks before that. That means free flavored water!

Some important closing notes before I go.
If the store is having a 10/$10 sale, you do not have to purchase all 10 to get the items for $1 each. If you only buy 1 you'll still get it for $1. Always check the fine print under the item though because sometimes there are limits on how many you can purchase or other qualifications in order to get the discount.

Again, know your stores coupon policy. But never stand there and argue with the cashier. Chances are they are simply doing how they were trained. If they refuse to take your coupons for any reason, check out the coupon to make sure you did indeed meet the requirements of the coupon. Then politely ask for the manager. Most of the time they know the policy and will know if there was a problem with the register or something that the cashier missed. Try to never lose your cool. It's important to stay focused on the situation at hand rather than let your emotions get in the way. This is also when it's important to have a copy of the policy with you, in case the manager also wants to argue.

If you have any stores in your area such as Food Lion, Rite-Aid, CVS, Harris Teeter, etc go to the store or to their website and sign up for a loyalty card. These will give you additional discounts, points, etc.

OK Let's that for now. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section and I'll be back soon with more about the wonderful world of couponing!

The ins and outs of Couponing. Part 1

Since so many people have expressed an interest in learning how to coupon I thought I would make a post about just that. Couponing is something that takes time. If you don't want to invest the time and energy into researching the deals, clipping the coupons, etc then stop reading right here. LOL It's worth the time if you're willing to do the work.

Let's start with a couple of common misconceptions.
#1 is that you have to be surrounded by stores that double. This is not true. You can have only one store that accepts coupons and still get great deals. Will it take a little more work? Maybe, but you'll soon learn their sale cycles, the staff, etc and it will actually work in your favor.
#2 is that you can start out getting loads of stuff for free. This is more of a half truth than a complete myth. Depending on the sales that week and what coupons you have to start with you might get some items for free/almost free from the beginning. If you've watched the show Extreme Couponing I can tell you this show is not reality. The people on that show do not shop like that every week. In fact most will tell you that they've NEVER done a shop like that before the show and it was simply done for entertainment purposes.

Now on to some basic information. We all know what a coupon is and where they come from. Money off certain item "certificates" that come in the newspaper or are printed from the internet. Using them alone will save you a few cents on the dollar, which is OK any savings is good. However if you pair them with sales, store coupons, clearance, etc you'll save much much more.

The number one rule is to start small! Don't rush into this buying a ton of coupons online or a million newspapers your first week. Pick one store in your town and start there. First item of business, go online to their website and print their coupon policy. Read it, learn it, and most importantly keep it with you. You never know when you will get into the store only to have them argue with you over your coupons.

Now, you MUST get the newspaper every single week. (rule of thumb, unless it's a Holiday there will be at least one insert in the paper, you can find insert schedules online to make sure each week if you want to) The location of the papers will differ in each town. Generally you can find them in the newspaper box out front or inside at the register. Get the paper for the biggest city that is offered. Small local papers have less coupons, if any at all. Important note: if you get the paper from the newspaper box, DO NOT take out more than you pay for. You are not hurting the newspaper company, you are hurting the person delivering the papers because it will come out of their pocket. If you want 2 papers, get one then close the box and put more money in. When you get your papers, take them home and remove all the inserts. Write the date on the front of each insert. When you look up coupon matchups online they will say something like "5/1/11 RP". This means it's from the May 1st Red Plum. Now you can easily go and find the coupon you need. Some people prefer to clip all the coupons from the insert and put in their binder/envelopes or just clip the ones they need and get rid of the rest. Any of these methods will work.

Don't buy an item at full price simply because you have a coupon for it. If you get a coupon for 50c off toothpaste and you don't need the toothpaste right then, leave it. Chances are it will go on sale before the coupon expires.

Part 2 coming soon!