$$$ Coupons Are Free Money $$$

My mom raised me to always use coupons when possible. I have been going to the grocery store with her since I was little. We always got the Sunday paper at our house and my mom and I would cut out the coupons together and organize them by category. Then when we would go to the grocery store (almost always Food Lion) we would use any coupons that happened to match up with what we were already buying off of our list.

I have been couponing seriously for almost a year now. While the concept is the same as when I was little and shopping with my mom the application is a lot more extreme now. I still typically go to the grocery store with my mom J I still match up coupons with the items I buy in order to save money, but now I do it in such a way as to save as much money as possible instead of just what is convenient. Instead of first making a menu for the week, then a grocery list, and then picking out the coupons for the items I need, I do it all in reverse. First I look at the sales and my coupons to see what items I can get the best deals on. I then use that shopping list to create a menu for the week. This allows me to save the most money possible.

Coupons are everywhere! You can find them inside boxes of products already purchased, on displays inside stores, in the newspaper, in magazines, on many websites… they are everywhere! With so many places to find coupons it can become overwhelming to figure out what works for you. I mostly use the coupons from the Sunday News & Observer. There are usually 2-4 coupon inserts in the Sunday paper and I go through them every week to cut out the coupons that I am likely to use. (“Likely” means if there is any chance that I will buy it, I cut it out. There is nothing worse than finding a great deal with a coupon you didn’t cut out and then having to dig through the trash can to find it. Trust me, I’ve been there before.) I do receive coupons in my email as well; however I do not print them until I have matched them with a sale and know I am going to use the coupon. I don’t want to waste the paper and ink to print them all ahead of time and risk not using it and just having to “throw it away”.

A good place to start (if you’re in the Raleigh area) is with this website. This is how I got started learning how to coupon. The site explains all the rules of coupon use at different grocery stores. For example Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods double many coupons while Food Lion does not. If you sign up on the site you can receive a daily email with details about good deals in the area. Every Wednesday, when grocery store sales start, she posts a Deals list for each of the main grocery stores matching coupons up with sales and showing who has the best overall price for items that week. It is really helpful at first to have this extra help, however after only a couple of months I began to notice that I could look through the sale paper and match sale items with coupons in my mind before I received the email for the day. It doesn’t take long to catch on! On Fridays she does a post of Friday Freebies with details on free items around town that you can get in the next week. I check her posts every day… it only takes a couple minutes and it helps me to save a lot of money. There are a lot of great sites with good information and tips on couponing out there; this is just the one that I have found to be the most helpful for me.

Here is a look at my method for staying organized with all of these coupons.

This is my official coupon notebook. My mom and I got the same ones so we can stay organized on our shopping trips together… yes, I wasn’t kidding that I still go to the grocery store with my mom 🙂

This is what it looks like on the inside. There are 2 sets of rings which are really helpful in staying organized. The pockets are great for holding extra items that may come in handy. Things I like to keep in my notebook are: a pair of scissors, a small calculator, a small pad of paper, an ink pen, and I always grab a copy of the store’s sale paper when I enter the store and keep it in the front of the notebook for the duration of my visit to that store.

On the left side are all the non-grocery item coupons (i.e. animal food and supplies, personal care items, household items, car care, etc). They are divided into sections like just mentioned. I use plastic dividers to hold all of my coupons. There are pieces of paperboard or cardstock cut out and inserted into each of the pockets to make it easier to get coupons in and out of the slots. I can have coupons on both sides of the dividers so they use fewer dividers. The dividers are easiest to find for sale online from collectible stores advertising them for preserving baseball cards and other paper items, however with couponing becoming more popular you can probably find them being sold for coupon use now too. I got mine in 4 different sizes so I can fit any coupon I come across. There are ones that hold 2, 3, 6, and 8 coupons per side.

This is the set of rings on the right side where I keep the coupons for all the grocery items (aka food). I have this side divided into 9 sections following the layout of most grocery stores. When I first sat down to assemble this notebook I realized that almost all grocery stores have the same layout. Yes there are some that like to make it difficult by putting their freezers in the middle of the store or switching their deli and meat department locations, but for the most part they are all just about the same. So I decided that it would make the least work for me at the store if my notebook followed the layout of the stores I shop at the most. Thus, my sections are in the following order: Condiments, Meats and Refrigerated Items, Dried and Canned Goods, Snack Items, Breakfast Items and Drinks, Desserts and Cooking Items, Bread Items, Dairy Products, and Frozen Items. This order follows the layout of the Food Lion and Harris Teeter that I shop at most often.

There are many possible ways to stay organized in couponing and everyone has their own way that works best for them; this is mine. I hope you all find the way that works best for you so you can enjoy the savings that are in your near future!

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2 Comments

  1. pmillerbsa said,

    May 5, 2012 at 1:21 am

    Really nice post! I like the way you are so organized in your approach to writing as well as couponing! Fantastic job!


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