Welcome to Coupon 101!
You've got the lingo, you know where to find the coupons…now what do you do?
Like most things in life, using coupons effectively won't work unless you are organized
The first thing you need to do is to get those coupons out of the inserts. It can be very tedious, especially if you buy multiple copies of the paper each week (I know you didn't think that I was going to tell you that the actual clipping was FUN, did you?). To make it easier, I generally only clip coupons at night, after the kids have gone to bed and I am sitting on the sofa watching TV.
I know that there are some people that simply create file folders and place their full inserts in each folder and only clip as you need the individual coupons. I tried that approach for one month and you know what happened? My savings (and stockpile) went down dramatically. I find that by actually going through the motions of clipping and filing my coupons helps me to know what I have. I might have a vague recollection that I have a few $.50 coupons for Valley Steamers somewhere in my pile of inserts, but if I have clipped and filed them, then I KNOW where they are because I see them every time I flip through my binder!
So what do you do when you have multiple copies? Do you cut out each coupon individually? Not if you want to remain sane (or not end up discouraged because it takes so long!).
The first thing to do is to grab all your copies of one insert and start pulling it apart. Create stacks of pages (tossing any pages that you know without a doubt that you don't want). Once you have all of your stack, grab 4 like-pages at a time, line them up and start cutting through all 4 pages. I like to avoid the temptation to do more than 4 pages at a time, because the pages have a tendency to shift while you are cutting, and you don't want to be cutting through your barcodes!
Now that you have all of your little piles of coupons, how do you organize them?
Of course the simplest method (and the one that you are likely to grow out of the quickest) is the traditional 8-pocket coupon organizer that costs $1.99 (when/if you can find one). Frankly – if you are looking to save any serious money, you should just skip this method.
One product that receives rave reviews is The Couponizer. The Couponizer is perfect for someone who wants to be more than just a casual couponer, but isn't quite ready to jump in to the realm of “serious couponing”.
And then there is the coupon binder…..ahh…the binder! I love my binder. My husband will occasionally catch me caressing my binder (I usually tell him I was just cleaning it)
To create a coupon binder, you simply need a binder (get a zipper binder – sooner or later you will drop it and a zipper binder will keep the mess contained), page dividers, trading card pages and lots of coupons. If your zipper binder has pockets, you can throw a calculator & scissors in there.
Now here's the part where you need to get over any shyness or embarrassment at using coupons. You are going to want to take this coupon binder with you to the grocery store. Why?
1. To stay organized: Go ahead and make your grocery lists and note which coupons you have, but leave those coupons in there until you actually take the item off the shelf and put it in your cart (unless you are running in for a quick trip for 1 or 2 things). Why do I say this? Because I can tell you from experience that if you pull a bunch of coupons out of your binder and head to the store, any coupons that you didn't use will NEVER find their way back in to the binder. Maybe in the beginning when you are all gung-ho…but after a few months? You'll be pulling coupons from your purse, your jacket pocket, the visor in your car…..
2. To take advantage of unadvertised sales: some of the best deals aren't even found in the circular and you want to have your selection of coupons available for when you happen upon those “Manager Specials”!
3. To spread the wealth: I usually have more coupons that I can use. Either the item isn't a pantry staple or doesn't freeze or I just don't want to get it. Or I bought 15 copies of the paper to get a bunch of specific coupons, but don't need 15 each of many others. I can't tell you the number of times I have handed out coupons to perfect strangers in the store when I see them grabbing something for which I have coupons. Consider it your good deed for the day!
So that's Coupon Organization in a (very large) nutshell.
Next Up? Not sure, but it will be up within the next 48 hours!
Any questions? just leave them in the comments!