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Frugal Fridays – Saving Money with Coupons Part 2

August 31, 2012

Happy Friday! I hope you are having a great week.

Welcome to week two of my new series called Frugal Fridays. If you are new around here, Frugal Fridays will feature tips and tricks for saving money — mainly because saving money makes me awfully happy and I am sure it does you as well!

The first topic I am covering in this series is how I use coupons to save money. In last weeks post, I shared a few steps for how I save money with coupons.  Here is a brief review:

1) Getting Coupons (the Sunday paper)

2) Preparing the Coupons (writing the date on the top of each insert and filing it away)

3) To Cut or Not to Cut (cutting only my essential coupons each week, saving the rest until I need them)

4) Organizing My Coupons (using my coupon organizer to file away my essential coupons)

If you recall, I ended last weeks post by discussing the two items I use to organize my coupons: 1) my coupon binder and 2) my coupon organizer.

I ALWAYS carry both this binder and organizer with me just in case I find a good deal. They are both small enough to comfortably fit into my purse.

Now, as promised, on to step 5 in my couponing process:

5) Planning My Shopping Trips

Before we jump in to how I use my coupon binder to keep me organized when shopping and planning my trips to the store, I first have to let you in on a very important secret — if you really want to save money couponing, you should only use coupons to buy what is on sale. For me this was a huge revelation. I was always under the mistaken impression that once I cut a coupon I had to use it right away because I had it (and probably because I was afraid I would lose it if I didn’t use it fast). BIG MISTAKE. Instead, you want to have a good system in place for storing and organizing your coupons UNTIL the time comes that there is a good sale. Then, and only then you buy. You with me?

A sale +  a coupon = real savings

Please don’t make the mistake I used to make of simply buying items because you have a coupon. You will not save much (if any) money this way.

As you are probably aware, most stores have a weekly sale flyer that comes out on Sunday with specials for the following week. Some are “advertised” specials (they are in the flyer) and others are “unadvertised” specials, meaning you won’t know something is on sale until you see it in the store. Unadvertised specials is one of the main reasons why I carry my coupon organizer with me at all times. This way if I see something that I need that is on sale, I am prepared with my coupons even if it wasn’t on my list to buy (see below).

So every Sunday morning I gather all of the Sunday ads (and my cup(s) of coffee) and take a look at what is on sale. I do an initial scan to see how the week is looking. There are three main grocery stores in our area that I shop at, three main drug stores (CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid), and two supercenters (Target and Walmart) – for a total of 8 stores. I am very lucky to have so many options.

I then start making my list. This list will include not only the basics we will need for the week, but also any good sales that are too good to resist. For example, even though I may not need ketchup a particular week, if there is a good deal on it I am buying as many as I have a coupon for. But here is where a little bit of work comes in. I have to figure out what coupons I have in my coupon insert pile to go with the particular sales of the week. The good news is that there are many awesome websites out there that I use to help me accomplish this step more efficiently. Can you imagine just randomly leafing through this to find a coupon? No way!

The first is Money Saving Mom. This website has a coupon database that is awesome (under Coupons tab at the top of the site). I sit down with my sale flyers each week and type in various items that are on sale to see if I have any coupons that go with the sale. You simply type in the item and the database will tell you which coupon insert and paper the coupon can be found. For example, if your sales flyer says that Ken’s Salad Dressings are on sale for $2.28, I would type in “Ken’s” into the database. What I will find is that there is a coupon from the 8/12/12 Smart Source insert (SS = Smart Source, RP = Red Plum, P&G = Proctor & Gamble, and GM = General Mills) for $1/2 (or $1.00 off of 2 dressings). I generally right this deal right on my flyer so if I decide I want to do this deal, I have the information right on the flyer. Are you with me?

This is where my stack of coupon inserts with the dates written on top really comes in handy.

Because we wrote the date on each insert in Step 2 (Preparing the Coupons) and filed them away, if I know which insert a particular coupon is located in (such as the 8/5/12 SS insert), I can easily find the coupon I need.

So if I decide that Ken’s Dressing is a good deal, I just grab the 8/12/12 SS insert and cut out the Ken’s dressing coupon. Easy peasy. I also highly recommend using the Krazy Coupon Lady website to see what is on sale each week. This site lists most of the main grocery stores and all the major drug stores and super centers. Like the coupon database on the Money Saving Mom website, this site will also tell you where to find a particular coupon (which weekly insert).  On both websites, you will find a new post each week with all of the great deals and a list of all of the coupons that go with a particular sale. Isn’t that great? This makes planning my shopping trips much easier because these sites do a lot of the hard work for you.

Oh and another little tidbit – make sure you “like” both Money Saving Mom and the Krazy Coupon Lady on Facebook because their news feeds regularly provide great information on deals.

After I have used my sales ad and the above-described websites to look up all of the deals for the week and matching coupons, I then go and cut them from the appropriate coupon insert from my big stack. Or, if they are one of the “essential” coupons I already cut and filed in my coupon organizer, I will dig them out from the appropriate category so they are handy.

So let’s pause and talk briefly about my handy dandy coupon binder and how that comes into play for keeping me organized when I shop. As I mentioned in the first post, the key to really saving money with coupons is organization. I can’t tell you how many times disorganization has cost me money. If you have ever found an expired coupon in the bottom of your purse you know exactly what I am talking about!

This binder has 6 different dividers and each has a pocket on the front and the back (so that gives me 12 different tabs to work with). I have used the first 8 tabs for various grocery and drug stores and the last tabs to hold “store” coupons (more on that in a second), restaurant coupons, and receipts. The front also has lined paper in the front so I can jot down notes, meal plans, and price track (next week’s topic).

 

Now back to how I use this binder to organize my shopping trips. After I have reviewed the sale ads to decide what I want to buy, located and cut my coupons from the relevant coupon inserts, I then jot down a quick list of everything I will need to buy at the particular store on a sticky post-it note. The list goes right on the front of the individual stores pocket like so with the coupons I will use tucked in right behind.

If I have multiple coupons and will be buying multiple items, I simply write the item and then the number of items in parenthesis. That way, at the store I know from briefly looking at my list how many of a particular item I will need to buy. This method saves me a ton of time shopping and at the checkout.

There are many alternatives out there for shopping with coupons. Some people like to use an envelope for each store and write the list on the front of the envelope with the coupons inside.  That system may work great for you. However, the binder assures that I will not lose anything (like a loose envelope) so that is why I do it.

The binder also provides an easy way to file “catalina” coupons or individual store coupons that you may have. An individual store coupon is just that – it is only for a particular store.  Some places have store coupons that can be combined with manufacturers coupons (such as Target, Walgreens and CVS). When you use both an individual store coupon and a manufacturer coupon together on an item, this can lead to real savings (this is called “stacking” coupons). So back to the Ken’s salad dressing example. If you have a target coupon for Ken’s and the manufacturer’s coupon from the 8/12/12 SS, you could stack both coupons to buy one bottle of salad dressing for even bigger savings.  Make sense?

A catalina is a coupon that prints with your receipt at the end of your shopping trip. A catalina may be for an individual store only (e.g. a Target coupon can only be used at Target) or it may be a manufacturer coupon – just read the top of the coupon to see. So these individual store coupons and catalinas don’t get shuffled away with my receipt or stuck at the bottom of my purse, I stick them right back in the store’s tab so that I will have it the next time I shop or can file them away in the appropriate spot when I get home.

Sometimes you will go to a store with a stack of coupons but may not end up using them all. The store could be out of an item that you intended to buy (make sure you ask for a rain check), or the deal just wasn’t as good as you intended. If I come home with extra coupons that I did not use, I immediately file them away in my coupon organizer so they don’t get lost. I clean out both my organizer and binder every few weeks and dispose of any expired coupons.

Store Coupons: 

In addition to using coupons for our food purchases and general household goods, I also use store coupons whenever I can. Store coupons come from a number of sources including the Sunday paper (for stores like Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics) as well as in the mail (for stores like Kohls and Bed Bath and Beyond).

So how do I organize these coupons? Simple – they go in my “stores” pocket in the coupon binder. This makes organization very simple.  As soon as I come across a store coupon I think I may need, it gets cut and filed.

The same process is used for restaurant coupons. Whenever I see a restaurant coupon we may use, I immediately cut it and file it in my “food” pocket in the coupon binder.

This way if we are out and about and are looking for a place to eat, I can check to see what restaurant coupons we have. I like having lots of choices — especially when it comes to food!

So there you have it. This is how I use my coupon binder and the sales flyers each week to keep me organized when shopping. I would highly recommend trying to find a little binder like this if you can. Mine was purchased two years ago at Marshall’s for just a few dollars.

Next week I will talk a little bit more about using your sales ad to figure out what to buy each week, including price tracking and stockpiling when you find a good deal.

Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions you may have. I would love to hear from you. Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

~Kara

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2012 11:50 am

    i wish i could get coupon inserts! No one one my street gets the newspaper! I find myself spending hours online finding coupons and its just not worth it. 😦 Great tips though!

    • September 6, 2012 7:02 am

      Yeah I hear ya. Even with one set of inserts though you can still do it. I am shocked no one gets the paper! What about the lunch room at work? I found them in there sometimes too.

  2. September 6, 2012 6:28 am

    I love this! I especially like how you sort the store coupons and always cut out the essential coupons. I am learning so much!!

    • September 6, 2012 7:00 am

      Thanks! The system makes it much easier to not lose coupons and to stay organized when shopping. It is really helping me.

Trackbacks

  1. Frugal Fridays – Taking Advantage of Free Picture Deals «
  2. Frugal Fridays – Price Tracking and Stockpiling «
  3. Frugal Fridays – Finding Coupons «

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BLISS AT HOME

by Kristin Cadwallader

Momtog Blog

A new mom blogging about all things that inspire, encourage and otherwise make me happy

The Krazy Coupon Lady

Search printable coupons and deals for Target, Walmart, CVS, & Walgreens. Find coupon codes for top brands and apps to save you money.

Design, Dining + Diapers

Design, Dining and Diapers

Young House Love

DIY Home Decorating Projects, Tutorials, & Shenanigans

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All About Baby, Home Decorating, Places & Spaces, Cooking & Baking. Welcome to Our Life In Charleston!

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