Saturday, October 10, 2009

Coupon Basics For The Harried

This one's mostly for a coworker who works full time, has a little baby, AND goes to school. If she wasn't such a sweet person, I'd suspect she was some sort of sophisticated animatronic.

Part of the reason I stopped using coupons a few years ago was because organizing and keeping track of them was a huge pain, and trying to prepare for grocery shopping could take longer than the actual shopping. No good. When I got back into couponing, I tried doing the same thing; clipping and filing coupons, and again I ended up with expired ones I'd meant to use, and hadn't, and ones that just seemed to disappear. And it still took too damn long, and required too much mental work.

Newspaper Inserts

So, now I don't clip coupons. I staple each insert down the side, sort of like a pamphlet, Sharpie the date on the front page, and stick them in a plastic three-drawer chest that was probably meant to hold scrapbooking supplies. The Red Plum and Smart Source inserts each get a drawer, and the third is for miscellaneous ones, like the ones Procter and Gamble puts out, and printed coupons. The drawers give me space to rifle through the inserts and coupons, but you could use something else if you wanted, like a plastic envelope. That would take up less space.

I follow other blogs that list deals and coupon matches, so when one says I need a coupon from the RP 8/3, I can find that insert, and find the coupon. I've been clipping each store's coupons together with clothes pins, but I just got a neat little organizer from Vocalpoint that I think would work well, since it has four sections, and I usually go to three or four stores per trip.

In case you wondering, I haven't traded or ordered coupons for years, but if you know there's a certain coupon you'll want a lot of, you might want to look into it. I buy two papers per week, since a lot of deals involve buying multiples of the same product, but if I were to find a cheap subscription, I might buy three. Two is enough, though, and works well for me.


When someone links to a printable coupon, I'll print it, then press back until I can print it again, or get a notice saying I've printed it too many times. Most coupons can be printed twice. If the link goes to a site like, I'll also see what else looks useful there, and print those off. Most printable campaigns have a limited number of prints overall, so if you see something you like, print it now. It may stop being available soon. I use black ink on fairly good paper that Milo got into, and sort of mangled. Cheap paper would work, too. If a coupon takes up a third of a page, save the rest, and use it for the same campaign, or, which prints three coupons to a page. For an unfamiliar site, use a new sheet, since you don't know where the coupon will print, and using a partial sheet might mean it gets cut off.

Electronic Coupons

I do use electronic coupons that get linked to store loyalty cards, but since I'm forgetful, I tend to put all the ones I can on my card, just in case I happen to have an unexpected need for crescent rolls or dog treats. I really need to get better at checking for these.

Other Sources For Coupons

Product samples often come with coupons, and you can find other ones in dispensers in stores (blinkies), stuck to products (peelies), or in some product packages. Help yourself to the blinkies, take one or two peelies, to save for a sale (but don't clear out all of them, that's just rude), and check inside of cereal boxes when you get them home, to see if there's a coupon you could use now.

What Coupons To Toss

I save coupons for just about everything, since some deals involve items I wouldn't have otherwise purchased. If buying an item you don't need means you save money on items you do need, do it, and give the unwanted item away. Between friends, food banks, and Freecycle, there are takers for pretty well anything. I'm trying to avoid Nestle items, which is sort of difficult, since they own so much, but I do throw out Gerber coupons, and formula ones. This is a matter of principal; it's certainly not something everyone does, or needs to. Also, I throw out pages in inserts that have offers for personalized checks on one side, and mail-order shoes on the other. It's not like saving them does most people any good.

Also, go through your coupons every once in awhile to look for expired ones.

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