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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Couponing Tips, Tricks, and Secrets Revealed

NOTE- I wanted to make this prettier and easier to follow but right now I am trying to just get all my tips from my head to the computer and tonight I am exhausted.  Please check out all these tips and bear with me.  I will try to "neaten it up" a little this weekend.  And here we go...............

Couponing is not as complicated and time consuming as it may seem.  It's pretty easy once you get the hang of it.  Start off slow and work your way up.  Remember neither Rome, nor a stockpile was built in a day.  And keep in mind that most people do not shop like the people on Extreme Couponing.  You can still save lots of money and provide for yourself and your family without going overboard.  Before I started couponing in January 2011 we were spending between $150-$200 a week on groceries, toiletries, and paper goods.  And I have no idea what the heck we were buying.  Now we spend between $35-50 a week on groceries.  I was taking another $25-50 a week to spend on buying toiletries in the beginning to build a stockpile of toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, conditioner, soap, body wash, deodorant, laundry detergent, cleaning products, etc. but now we have plenty of all these items that my family will need and so I am not spending much each week on these items anymore either.   

There are several different inserts in the newspaper on any given week.  The two most common ones are Smart Source and Red Plum.  Then sometimes there will be a General Mills Insert and usually the first Sunday of the money has a special Proctor and Gamble insert as well.  When you see websites mention SS, RP, GM, and P&G that is what they are referring to.  So SS 5/22 would be the Smart Source insert from the May 22nd newspaper.  

Coupons are regional so sometimes one newspaper will get a certain coupon and other newspapers will not get that particular coupon.  Sometimes the values on the coupons differ from one newspaper to another.

Coupons coupons everywhere.......Where do you get coupons from?  There are several places.  I personally buy the local newspaper each week.  In my city there is one newspaper that has coupons in the Saturday edition instead of the Sunday edition and it's only $.75 an issue instead of $1.25 like the other Sunday newspaper is.  So this is the newspaper I usually buy.  There are also several local "community" newspapers that come out on Thursday for FREE and have either one or both of the Smart Source and Red Plum inserts from the previous Sunday. 

There are also website to find coupons on such as:

Right now I usually buy 10 copies of the newspaper each week, plus I get one delivered, and my father gives me his.  This way I have at least 10 of every coupon so when I find a good sale I can stock up.  The trick is to buy things on sale with coupons instead of leaving yourself running out of something you need and having to pay full price.  

Something to think about- If you normally buy the same package of cheese every week for $4 and it goes on sale for $2 at your local store plus there is a $1 off manufacturers coupon, you would pay only $1 for the package of cheese.  So you decide to buy 2 packages to "stock up".  You spent $2 and saved $6 overall.  GREAT!  Well in 2 weeks you go through the 2 packages of cheese that you bought (because your children love cheese and you go through a package a week).  But it only goes on sale every other month.  So now for the next 6 weeks until the next sale you will have to pay the full price- $4 each- for a total of $24 plus the original $2 you paid for the first 2 packages so $26 altogether.  But what if you had bought enough cheese for the 8 weeks?  It would have cost you only $8 instead of the $26 you now have to spend.  Yes, you did save $6 on the first 2 packages which of course any savings is great.  

But keep my scenario in mind as you learn the tricks of couponing.  If you have the room for it, try not to run out of any of the staple items your family uses all the time.  Of course it all depends on the shelf life of the item and how much room you have for storage.  You can still save on your groceries just by using coupons smartly, but the most savings are seen when you buy enough of the item to get you through to the next sale cycle.  Most items go on sale between every 10-14 weeks.  

Keep in mind that food items do have a shelf life so don't buy too much.  Figure out how much of an item your family consumes in about 12 weeks and make sure to buy that amount.  Most items go on sale every 12-14 weeks.  Not sure how much of each item you are going through?  Make a spreadsheet of basic items your family uses.  Put a mark next to each item when you take a new one from the shelf.  At the end of 12 weeks see how many of each item your family consumed and plan accordingly for that item when you see a sale. 

How to save even more-
It's not just about finding items on sale.  Another trick is to "match" a sale with a coupon.  There are lots of sites that do this for you so you don't even have to do the work.  

For example, I use for all the Publix match-ups, for CVS, and for Walgreens, and for Walmart.  Those sites pair up or "match" the available coupons with the store's sales to get even better savings.  Google coupon match up and the name of your local grocery stores to see what websites do that match-ups for you.  Don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to! 

Another trick- Be on the lookout for coupon flyers in the front of your local grocery stores and pharmacies.  There are usually great coupons in there to match with sales.  Most stores let you use 1 manufacturer's and 1 store coupon per item you are buying (stacking a manufacturer's coupon with a store coupon).  

Also, many stores now take competitors coupons. This can increase your savings.  For example, I purchased Shedd's Spread Country Crock from Publix.  They were on sale Buy One, Get One Free- ($1.89 each regularly).  So they were $1.89 for 2.  There was also a Target printable coupon for $.50 each one as well as a manufacturer's printable for $.40 off each one.  I was able to use 2 Target coupons ($1.00 off total) and 2 manufacturer's coupons ($.80 off total) so I paid $.09 for 2 tubs of margarine.   And had it all listed for me.  Easy peasy!

Still with me?  Here's another example- At Publix Kraft dressing was BOGO (normally $3.19 each).  I bought 4 bottles.  Before coupons it should have been $3.19 x 2 or $6.38.  I had 2 manufacturer's coupons for $1 off one.  I also had a manufacturer's coupon for $1 off 2.  So using those 3 coupons I was able to get a total of $3 off.  My new total was $3.38.  THEN I had a buy 2 get 1 free coupon from Target.  Since I was buying 2, I was able to get 1 more free one.  The cashier deducted the price of one ($3.19) from my total so when all is said and done I got 4 bottles for $.19 ($6.38-$3.19).

Overage-  Many stores will allow overage.  What that means is the coupon you have is worth more than the selling price of the item.  Here is an example- Similiac formula was on sale for $4.19.  I had $5 off any Similiac coupons.  So for each Similiac bottle of formula that I bought, I had $.81 in overage.  The store I was at (Publix) doesn't give you the money back, but they apply the overage to your total purchase.  So I was able to buy $.81 worth of other items for each bottle of Similiac I was buying.  This is a great way to save money on things like meat, produce, etc. that rarely have coupons.  In this example I happened to have 36 of these $5 off coupons so I had almost $30 in overage to apply to the rest of my order.
CVS and Walgreens often have items that you pay for and then get the same amount of money back in either CVS Extra Care Bucks (ECB) or Walgreens Register Rewards (RR).  These items basically become free because you will have the ECB or RR to spend on something else.  CVS ECB are tied to your CVS card and usually the deals are limited to 1 or 2 per CVS card.  Walgreens isn't tied to a card so you can usually buy more than one of the items that are free after RR but you have to buy them in separate transactions.  

Some stores (I know Publix will now that they changed their coupon policy) will take Walgreens Register Rewards as payment towards your total.  Walgreens Register Rewards say Manufacturer Coupon on them and therefore when you use them at Publix, Publix can mail them to the manufacturer like any other coupon and get reimbursed for it's face value plus a $.08 handling fee.  So if you have a $5 Register Reward, you can use it to get $5 towards your total at Publix.  Some other stores *should* take Register Rewards for the same reason, but ask your individual store managers before you shop.  

Tip- If there is something on sale at Walgreens that you are buying anyway and there is also something that is FREE after Register Rewards, buy the FREE after Register Rewards item first.  Then in a second transaction use the Register Rewards you received to buy the other item.  For example the other day there was an item I went specifically to Walgreens to purchase and it was $2.  But I didn't just pay the $2 and leave the store with that one item.  Instead I bought a package of hair bands that were on sale for $2 with $2 in Register Rewards back.  So I paid the $2, bought the hair band package.  Then I used the Register Reward that I received from that transaction to pay for the item I was buying anyway.  BONUS!!!  AND, the package of hair bands I was buying happened to be a special bonus package that had extra hair bands attached to it- DOUBLE BONUS!!! 
Now you might be thinking, but I don't need the item that is FREE with ECB or RR, why should I buy it.  Well you can donate it.  And sometime if you have a coupon to go with the FREE item it can actually be a money maker.  Here is an example-

Walgreens had ThermaCare heated patches on sale for $2.50 each and you got back $2.50 in RR.  Well I didn't really need the ThermaCare patches, BUT I had several $1.00 off coupons for the ThermaCare.  So I only had to pay $1.50 for each ThermaCare and I got back $2.50 in RR.  I was then able to use the $2.50 in RR to buy Arizona Iced Tea that was on sale for $2.50 each.  Normally these are $3 each a Publix.  Since I bought the ThermaCare for $1.50 each and got $2.50 in RR back I was able to use the $2.50 RR to buy an Arizona tea.  I was basically able to get the teas for $1.50 plus tax each (the price I paid for the ThermaCare).  MUCH better than the $3 at Publix AND I was able to give the ThermaCare patches to my husband's grandmother for her knee.  WIN/WIN!  Hubby got the tea he likes for a lot less (I had just told him the day before he had to stop drinking those teas because they were too much money LOL) and his grandmother got some free patches for her knee pain.

My hubby was asking why I was buying something I didn't need until I explained how buying the patches helped me save on something I WAS buying and did need.  Same thing with the formula from the example above.  I don't have babies anymore and have no need for formula.  But I never get rid of coupons for items I don't need because you never know when an item you don't need might be a money maker that you can donate and use the overage for something you do need.

If you want to know how I organize my coupons, please check out my photo album on facebook where I explain it all. :)

Are you still following?  Any questions?  I know this is a lot of information but I have fans on so many different levels of couponing and I wanted to give a little bit for everyone.  Please e-mail me if you have any questions.



  1. Awesome! Thank you so much for the tips!!

    Just curious, how do you organize your coupons once you clip them?

  2. Great question. Check out my photo album on Facebook for how I organize my coupons.