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Frugal Fridays – Saving Money with Coupons Part 1

August 24, 2012

Happy Friday and welcome to a new series I’m starting called Frugal Fridays.

I don’t know about you but saving money makes me happy, very happy. Who doesn’t love the idea of walking out of a store knowing you saved a whole bunch of money?

The receipt from this week’s grocery trip. Not bad, right? 

For me couponing Is like a gam and almost addicting! I spend a good deal of my free time planning my trips and organizing my coupons.

But lets back up for a minute. I have not always been good with saving money or couponing. In fact, during my pre-couponing days, I had absolutely terrible spending habits. I never knew what I was paying for things and dreaded getting my credit card statement each month because I would have no clue how much it was going to be. Can anyone relate?  I also had no idea what a “good price” on something was either. I simply bought what I needed when I needed it. I have to admit that when I think back to how much money I wasted over the years on silly things I get a little upset.

Then about two years ago I was watching TV (I think it was Rachael Ray or the Nate Berkus show) and came across the Krazy Coupon Lady explaining her process for saving money at grocery stores and the drug store. It seemed too good to be true. How can you really save money by shopping at the drug stores? And could you really leave a grocery store with a cart overflowing with groceries and only pay $10? I was skeptical. Skeptical but curious. I was at a point in my life that I was working pretty hard in my career and needed a hobby to keep my mind off of work. I thought this may be a good fit for me because my husband and I were trying to save as much money as possible in anticipation of starting a family.

So there it began. My obsession fun with couponing.

To get myself going, I started by reading lots of different blogs and articles online about how to organize coupons, how and when to cut coupons, etc. Over the past two years though I have definitely developed my own little process that I am excited to share. Hence the beginning of this Frugal Friday series, where I will show my couponing process as well as other tips and tricks I have employed the past two years in our quest to save our household as much moo-la as possible each month.  Not only is saving money a fun hobby, it also is extremely useful as a new mom that is short on time.  Pre-baby I stocked up on a ton of basic household items and baby supplies that really paid off the first 6 months after his birth when I did not feel like doing huge grocery hauls.

So today I am going to give an introductory look at my couponing process. Next weeki will go into more detail about i prepapre for my shopping trips. Let’s begin:

1) Getting Coupons:

The first step hopefully is pretty obvious – I start by assembling my coupons. You can’t coupon without coupons, right? 🙂 I still prefer using coupons I cut from the Sunday newspaper.  While I do print some coupons electronically (which I will cover in another post), 95% of the coupons I use come from the newspaper. I started by getting us a subscription to the Sunday newspaper. I found the best promotion I could on the paper and went for it.  The Sunday paper generally contains 2-4 inserts each week (one called Smart Source, Red Plum and then sometimes a General Mills, P&G or a third Red Plum).

I try to get as many copies of these inserts as possible each week by asking friends and neighbors for their coupon inserts each week. People are always happy to share what they aren’t using. I now usually have about 3-5 copies of each insert weekly.

2) Preparing the Coupons:

Once I get my weekly coupon inserts, I use a sharpie to write the date on the front of the insert.

This becomes very important because I keep each week’s coupon inserts for a few months after they come out (you will notice that most coupons don’t expire for a few months). I keep them in date order with the most recent on top. By dating each insert, I can quickly and easily find the coupon I am looking for.

You with me so far?

I have tried organizing this big pile of coupon inserts into file folders but find that it is most efficient to just keep my big pile free and clear. This way I can easily locate a coupon that I am looking for without too much fuss.

3) To Cut or Not to Cut, That is the Question:

So now I have my coupon inserts that have the date written on the front. Here is what I do each Sunday with the new inserts.  I start by flipping through the inserts to see whats inside. There are certain coupons I ALWAYS cut because I know I will use them. For example, I ALWAYS cut diapers coupons, greek yogurt coupons, and most cereal coupons because we always use these products. Other coupons, such as shampoos and oral care products, I wait on cutting. Once I cut out the few “essential” coupons I know I will use, the rest of the insert (with the date written on the front) goes on top of my coupon pile in our closet.

But what about those essential coupons that I decided to cut? So what do I do with these coupons?

4) Organizing My Coupons – The True Key to Couponing Success:

In my opinion the key to being successful at couponing is finding a good organizational system that works for you and sticking with it.  How many times have you cut a coupon only to find it in the bottom of your purse two months later expired? I know that was my big problem with couponing for awhile. It just wasn’t worth the $.50 I was going to save.  That changed once I realized how much I could really save by staying organized and having a good system to use.

I have two coupon organizers that I use on a daily basis. The first is my coupon binder, the colorful one on the left, and the second is what I call my counpon organizer, the black and white one on the right. The coupons I cut in step 3 always get filed right away into my coupon organizer.

Here are the categories in my coupon organizer:

1. Baby Items

2) Bags/Wraps

3) Beauty/Health

4) Baking Items

5) Beverages

6) Breakfast

7) Canned Goods

8) Cleaners

9) Condiments

10) Dairy

11) Desserts

12) Detergents

13) Frozen Foods

14) Meats

15) Medicine

16) Miscellaneous

17) Paper Items

18) Snacks

19) Soap

20) Toiletries

21) Vegetables

So after cutting my essential coupons, I file them in one of these 21 categories in my coupon organizer. The coupon organizer (and coupon binder) are ALWAYS in my purse. This way if I randomly stop at a store and find a good deal, such as this awesome diaper deal, I am always prepared.

But my real secret weapon is my coupon binder.

This baby is how I really stay organized when shopping. In next week’s Frugal Fridays post, I will cover steps 5 in my couponing process, 5) Planning My Shopping Trips using this binder and the sale ads each week. You won’t want to miss it.

For now, start gathering your coupon inserts and get ready to start saving some money!  I hope you have a great weekend.

~Kara

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by Kristin Cadwallader

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