Thursday, March 29, 2012

Couponing 101

Last night I went to a free seminar about couponing at the local library, led by Tiffany from Young and Frugal in Virginia.

First thing out of her mouth was "this is not Extreme Couponing - that's fraud!" Ha! She felt very strongly that the behaviors advertised in that show violate every piece of coupon etiquette there is, like not stealing newspapers, not clearing shelves at 5am, and not making illegal copies of coupons.  On one episode, a 16 year old got a schload of free toilet paper using many coupons, and when the store submitted them to the manufacturer for reimbursement, it was determined they were fraudulent!  Your life is so bad you'll use fraudulent coupons to get some free toilet paper?  Yuckball.

After that introduction of what not to do, she covered some great basic beginning coupon tips, so I thought I'd pass them along!  To all 2.5 people who read this ;)  Ok, 1.  Hi Bonnie!


General Tips:
  • Start slow:
    • If you normally spend $250 a month on groceries, aim to spend $240 this month, and $230 next month.  Once you get your sea legs, you'll be able to gradually bring that bill down and see significant savings!
  • Expired coupons:
    • Don't throw them away!
    • Military families on international bases are able to use expired coupons
  • Don't be brand picky:
    • Unless you have an allergy or serious aversion to a specific item, try to be open to trying new brands.  If you can normally use Garnier Fructis but can get Suave shampoo for 89 cents, don't say no!
  •  Free items:
    • Sometimes store sales and current coupons coincide, allowing shoppers to get items for free
    • Even if you can't use the item, like if dog food's on sale and you don't have a dog, go ahead and pick it up
      • To donate that item:
        • Food:
          • Kroger and Martin's have Food Bank bins at the front of the store
        • Pet items:
          • Local county animal shelters or SPCA will accept food, treats, and newspapers
  • Buy groceries based on sale items:
    • Planning your weekly meals based on items that are currently on sale seems like common sense, but I have to admit I'm bad at doing this.  If I want spaghetti, I go to the store and hope maybe one of the items needed for spaghetti has a yellow tag on it. If not, I buy it anyways.
    • If pasta is on sale for $1 per box, and you have a coupon that makes it half off or free, buy as many as you have coupons for to create a stockpile.  Since you always need pasta and it has a long shelf-life, this is a great way to save money!
    • Note: by stockpile, I'm talking about 5 boxes of pasta, not constructing a new wing of your house to store your inventory!


Where to get coupons?
  • Newspapers:
    • Buy more than 1 paper to get multiple copies of coupon inserts
    • Early in the year, there are more coupon inserts; no inserts on holiday weekends
    • Richmond Times-Dispatch:
      • Most places sell for $1.75, but Walgreen's has a current promotion for $1.25
    • Washington Post:
      • $.99 each if you buy 52 weeks of Sunday only
    • Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg area):
      • Comes out on Saturdays and contains all the Sunday inserts
    • Tidewater Review:
      • Comes out on Wednesdays and contains Sunday inserts
    • Free Lance-Star:
      • Sunday paper is $1.50 but some local stores have FLS employees giving away free newspapers and trying to get subscribers
  • Online printables:
    • coupons.com
    • redplum.com - supplier of coupon insert
    • smartsource.com - supplier of coupon insert
    • couponnetwork.com - requires registration
    • Manufacturer websites:
      • Email companies who make products you love - let them know you love their product and they'll probably send you samples or coupons!
  • Facebook:
    • Just like the pages of your favorite products and you'll see coupons and deals on your newsfeed all the time
  • E-coupons:
    • Load grocery coupons from stores like Kroger directly to your shopper card
    • When you scan your card at the register the coupons are deducted from your balance - paperless couponing!
  • All You magazine:
    • I features coupons, recipes, and savings tips
    • Amazon has a subscription for $1.66 per issue for a year right now - half the price of buying the magazine at Wal-Mart
    • On their site, they round up all the deals at each grocery store in your zip code - check it out!
  • Sunday Coupon Preview:
    • Offers printable coupons and a preview of coupons that will be in the next paper


Planning your shopping trip:
  • Make a list of items you know you'll be purchasing, but take ALL your coupons with you in case there are unadvertised deals or clearance items once you get there!
  • Match sale items with those for which you have coupons to maximize your savings


Local coupon policies:
  • Kroger:
    • doubles coupons up to 50 cents every day
    • Tuesday is Senior Citizen day - but I forget what that means since it didn't apply to me! :)
    • $1 = 1 fuel point; 100 fuel points = $.10 off per gallon of gas pumped at Kroger or local Shell stations
    • Rx:
      • 50 fuel points and/or $25 in groceries for new or transferred prescription
    • download their app for coupons and sales flyers!
  • Food Lion:
    • no doubles
    • scan MVP card at the kiosk at the front of the store to find coupons
    • no stacking of manufacturer and store coupons - use one or the other
    • download their app for coupons and sales flyers!
  • Martin's:
    • doubles coupons up to 50 cents every day
    • doubles coupons 51 -99 cents up to $1 every day
    • stacking manufacturer and store coupons is allowed
    • 5 cent credit for using reusable bags - or you can donate the 5 cents to the Food Bank
    • clearance bread with ~a week left on expiration date can be found in the frozen food section
    • download their app for coupons and sales flyers!
  • Target:
    • stacking is allowed
    • coupons can be printed from their site - up to 2 prints allowed per coupon
    • sign up for mobile texts to get extra coupons


Extra tips:
  • 2 for $4 or 10 for $10 doesn't always mean you have to buy 2 or 10 - check store policy to save money

  • pick a favorite cashier so you don't get the newbie who tries to tell you they don't accept coupons at all - that seriously happened to me
  • know the store policies before trying to process a coupon-heavy transaction
  • shop clearance in addition to coupons!
  • when planning your shopping trip, make sure to remember coupon doubling policies - you might get $1 off instead of 50 cents!
  • Sam's and Costco don't take coupons unless they sent them to you, but BJ's takes them
That's a lot of information!  I'm still trying to process it all, and I'm sure it will take me a while to find my groove, but the first step is starting to buy the Sunday paper, clip coupons, and plan my weekly meals based on what meats/vegetables are on sale! 

Happy Couponing!  And may the sales be ever in your favor!  <- Haha see what I did there?

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