June 2, 2011

A Couponing How-To

I have only been couponing as a hobby for a couple months now but I was a casual couponer for years prior... I am writing this post because I have been asked quite a few times from friends, family and coworkers how I get my deals and instead of sending people to other blogs I thought I could share some of my knowledge here... so here goes.

The low down
In my area there are only two grocery stores that double coupons. They are more like mom and pop hometown grocery stores where the prices are a bit higher than at Wal-Mart and they only double up to 50 cent coupons on Tuesdays, which really isn't that great. Since I live in (and my husband works at) Wal-Mart country, I do all of my grocery shopping there. I am not really into looking for super great bargains because for the most part their prices are ALWAYS lower and if I have coupon it makes it a good deal anyways... so my couponing love has taken me to Walgreens. I have a Walgreens that is about a mile from my house and also happens to be en route to everywhere I go... so saying I am a frequent shopper there would be an understatement.

A few months ago (way before the show, might I add) I started reading blogs about couponing. When I realized that by spending a little extra time on cutting, organizing and planning (all things I love to do), I could make money by saving money, I was addicted. Also, it takes making mistakes and asking lots of questions and studying lots of ads and receipts to learn what you are doing before you have a ton of success... So I am going to share some of my tips and tricks to help you that want to start, know what to do!


The Binder
To be a successful couponer you do not need a binder, you just need to have whatever organizational method works for you or you will spend hours looking for coupons you thought you had or miss deals because you didn't realize coupons that you have... trust me, it has happened to me.


I use a binder with baseball card clear views (they can be found at Walmart by the tobacco aisle with the baseball cards, I looked forever). I have my binder organized with dividers by sections of the store: frozen goods, refrigerated goods, shelved goods, cleaning items, pet items, baby items, personal care items... etc.


Where do you get the coupons?
I get the Sunday paper inserts at my house.
Bryan's coworkers will give me their inserts, my mom saves them for me, my aunt sends them to me and my mother in law has her friends clip me baby coupons.
I use couponing websites like www.coupons.com or the specific brand's website sometimes has coupons (like similac.com), also facebook pages of brands and products have coupons too.

--Step one to couponing is to accumulate coupons (took me one coupon cycle... the time it takes for a coupon to come out and then expire) to really have a good set of coupons.

Okay so I have the coupons, now what?
My favorite thing to do is study the Walgreens (or whatever store you use) ad. I know it like the back of my hand before my shopping trip. I start by circling or writing down every deal that I want to get. After I have a very rough draft of deals I start matching coupons to those deals and figuring out how much I can get certain items for... this is where it gets tricky. Once I get it finalized I paper clip my coupons for each transaction together so I am not fumbling around at the register.

This week, Illy coffee drinks are on sale for $2 and then you get back a $2 RR. Degree deodorant was 4/$12 with a $5 RR. (RR=Register Reward, Catalina... whatever you call it)... and there were several other deals...
I use scrap paper to start making a rough draft of my shopping trip. These pictures are actually of the final copy... it is very very messy because they were out of some of my stuff when I got there so I had to make some changes. I made sure that I put together the best plan possible to maximize my savings...

Another important thing to note is that you can only have 1 manufacturers coupon (mfc, from here on out) for every item, BUT you can stack it with a walgreens coupon (wgc), they don't count towards your coupon count.

Where do I get Walgreens coupons?
Numerous places, the Ad in the paper, on their website or in the monthly coupon books in the store. There are also infant care books in some stores (not mine :( :( I would kill for one!) and a new beauty care book out for this summer.
Walgreens Coupon
How do you use a RR?
So, if I want to buy two deodorants next week but I have two $1 off mfc and I want to use a RR from the previous week, I have to add an item. This is where you look for filler items, for instance, the Illy coffee or BC powder make GREAT filler items this week because they are free, but some other good ones would be the Royal Jello which is on sale for 20 cents a box. It doesn't matter how much your filler items cost as long as your total before tax isn't more than the RR you are trying to use.
RR
The main of point of having multiple transactions is to maximize your savings. For instance in transaction 1, I made $10 in RR that I could use on transaction 2. This week I am going to try something new since the stores in my area are "frowning upon" multiple transactions. I have gone to my Walgreens every day this week and have bought an Illy coffee and BC powder. The Illy coffee, like I said was $2 with a $2 RR which means that I have to spend $2 to get it but then after my transaction a $2 off coupon prints that I can use towards ANYTHING on my next purchase, just like cash, except it counts as a MFC and towards your total coupon count. The BC powder is on sale for $1.50 with a $1.50 RR, so the same deal. Both are basically free but here is the catch. I can't use the RR from the coffee to buy more of that coffee and the same with any other RR, which is where the planning comes in. So I have saved $18 worth of RR to use on my weekly trip on Sunday instead of having to do multiple transactions, we will see how it goes.

So how did I make $0.50 on 4 degree deodorants?
Yes they paid me to take them out of the store.The deodorants were on sale for 4/$12, I had two b1g1 free mfc, making them 4/$6, I then used 2/$0.75 off mfc making them 4/$4.50 and then I got back a $5 RR. Technically I paid $4.50, but then got back $5. I only used 4 total coupons for 4 total items.

Other words of Wisdom
-Always, always, always check your receipts and make sure your RR print.
-Study the Ads and take them with you in the store to compare pictures, prices, and sizes...
-If you don't know, ASK!
-Use your manners, don't clean shelves. It just makes life annoying for the rest of us when our plans don't work because someone already came in and bought it all!
-Find out what day the truck comes in with more goodies in case the above does happen... you can get rainchecks too if you must, I haven't gone down that road yet...
-DONATE, DONATE, DONATE... lately for my filler items I have been looking for things that I can donate to the tornado victims... there is no reason for me to have a small grocery store in my house or to have 19 deodorants especially when someone 45 minutes away just lost EVERYTHING they owned, it could happen to me tomorrow... now that I am really getting into it, I have made a mental note of the products my family uses so when things are free I can help them out too!
-Coupons to me=dollar bills I can spend else where, I am not ashamed.

I think that is the highlights of my knowledge... I am still learning too and I make mistakes all the time, but it is a learning experience and I am having fun doing it! Let me know if you have any questions or other helpful advice.


Check out these posts for my most recent trips: Latest trip, $2.72 and donation edition.

4 comments:

  1. love your blog! We are your newest follower. be sure to stop by and check our our baby/kid boutique!

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  2. Jenna, Thanks for all of your couponing advice. Reading it makes my head spin, but I'm very envious. For me, I just need to start couponing anything. My sister is a big couponer but I haven't started yet. With your advice I may just make this a money saving summer! :) Lana

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  3. Jenna -

    You don't know me, but I go to FBC and have a little boy, Davis, who has been in the nursery with Hudson. I randomly clicked on your blog tonight from Jenna Wiley's because I love couponing too. I have an extra infant care book for Walgreen's if you want it. It's good til 12/31. Email me at kacysuzanne@hotmail.com if you're interested.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Finally I understand Walgreens! I live across the street from one but have never gone in because I'm overwhelmed.

    ReplyDelete

 
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