Thursday, April 7, 2011

New To Couponing? Here Are Some Pointers!

You would be amazed at the amount of money you can save through the use of coupons. If you are new to the world of couponing, here are some basic tips/strategies to keep in mind to help you save:
  • Match coupons with sales to get the most savings....sometimes waiting for the right sale will even get you FREE products!
    • Let's say you have 4 coupons for $3 off Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets (which just happen to be my favorite laundry product).  The store you shop at reguarly sells them for $4.99 so you use your coupons and get them for $1.99 each.  You'd get 4 boxes for a little under $8 which is not a bad price for at all.
    • However a couponer knows that there is a good chance a sale will pop up before the coupon expires.  Let's say you wait a few weeks and come across a sale where they are $3 per box.  You use your 4 coupons and now you just got the same 4 boxes for FREE with your coupons!  Waiting for that sale put an extra $8 in your pocket!
    • Of course, if's an item that your family needs, you don't have to wait for a sale...the coupons will still save you some $ on the items that you need
  •  You can find great coupons in the Sunday paper AND online.  
    • Personally, I get my coupons from the Sunday paper and online.  If you're just starting out, you should visit coupons.com which offers tons of great printable coupons in one place!  You can also check out my "Coupons" tab at the top of my blog to see many other printable coupons (with some deal ideas) I've discovered online.
    • Never scan or copy online coupons.  Plain and simple: it's fraud.  If you can legitimately print a couple different copies of the same coupon (such as using "back" and "refresh" on your browswer), that's fine.  However each coupon has a unique bar code so if you're copying coupons, it's easy to catch.   Many stores have policies regarding printable coupons because of fraudulent coupons so it's best to play by the rules!
    • Every Friday, I post a sneak peek of the following Sunday's coupons so you can figure out if it's worth buying a paper (or how many you'd like to buy).  I usually get 4 papers every weekend.  We have 2 delivered to our home (we got a deal we couldn't pass up), and we pick up a couple extra at the Dollar Tree for a buck each when the coupons are good.  Please note that some Dollar Tree locations do NOT offer the Sunday paper so call ahead if you're planning a special trip.
  • Keep your coupons organized so you know where to find them when a sale pops up.
    • There are lots of different ways to keep your coupons organized.  One popular method requires little time.  Simply keep your inserts in one spot and don't worry about cutting the coupons out.  If you spot a deal you are interested in on my blog, I always tell you the source of the coupon.  So if I wrote that the coupon is from SS 5/15/11, it means that you should be able to find the coupon in the newspaper from May 15th in the Smart Source insert.
    • Another popular method is the coupon binder.  You cut out your coupons from the inserts and organize them into sections in some kind of sheet protector.  Typically, they are baseball card jackets that you can find at Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc.  This method is more time consuming, but more convenient if you'd like to take your binder to the store with you when you're browsing for clearances or unadvertised sales.
  • Visit my "Store Deals" page.  
    •  I list the best deals each week at several stores, and I tell you which coupons to match up with sale prices.  CVS and Walgreens are the most popular since almost all of South Suburban Savings readers can benefit.  If you're a local Chicago, IL (and NWI area) reader, you're in luck...I cover quite a few Chicagoland stores too :) 
  • If you're new to couponing, take it slow so you don't get overwhelmed.  
    • Couponing is all about saving money...but it's also a lot of fun too!  Explore South Suburban Savings to get your feet wet.  Each week I post up the best deals for Walgreens and CVS, along with some Chicagoland/NWI stores like Ultra Foods and Food 4 Less.  Those posts should help you save some time finding the best deals.
  • Make sure to know the coupon policy of the store you are shopping.  I have some a few coupon policies on the blog...you can find them under the "101" tab.  Each store is different and it's important to know its rules. 
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My Couponing Code of Ethics
There are certain unspoken rules of coupon etiquette. These are the basics...

1. Do NOT clear the shelves.  If you really want to stock up on 20 bottles of body wash, either call ahead and make arrangements with a store manager OR go split the haul among several different store locations.  You'd be surprised how many stores are willing to work with you so you can get your huge haul and they can keep all their other customers happy.

2. Be courteous to other customers.  If you have a large transaction with a lot of coupons, its frustrating for the customer behind you that might have one or two items (and often times makes the couponer feel awkward or embarrassed).  I usually let those small transactions through.  Try to schedule your trip during "off" hours.  If you're at a store like Walgreens or CVS, try to find one of the lesser used check outs (like the beauty or photo department).  I've found that it makes shopping a much more positive for myself, the cashier, and other customers :)

3. Be courteous to the cashier.  Sometimes there are issues with coupons.  Sometimes cashiers are inexperienced or unfamiliar with their store's coupon policy.   Sometimes cashiers are having a bad day and don't want to work with you.  I've found its best to always be polite and friendly with the cashier.  If there is a problem with a coupon, ask to have the manager take a look at it.  Worse case scenario: cancel the purchase and take your coupon to another cashier or location.  Just don't start screaming at the cashier or get into an argument...no sense in letting a coupon ruin your day (or someone else's)!
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Paying It Forward

If you've ever seen an episode of "Extreme Couponing"  you might get the idea that couponers are hoarders who have 20 years worth of toothpaste, toilet paper, and pasta hidden in every nook & cranny of their home.  While I'm sure there are a few people out there like that, most couponers are not.  Sure you might slowly amass a stockpile of items.  But it's up to you how big it gets and what you do with it.

I have a little stockpile myself, and it's not what most people who watched Extreme Couponing would think...lol.  Besides, living in a 1 bedroom apartment doesn't allow much room to stock up anyway :P

Our biggest inventory of any one item is the Purex 3-in-1 laundry sheets.  My husband and I have used them religiously since they first came out and when they were on sale last year, we couldn't stop ourselves from stocking up.  We actually made money buying them.  You can see our trip when you CLICK HERE.  That's the biggest haul we've ever scored of anything, and we ended up giving a few to some friends & family members.  We still have about 10 of these boxes which neatly fit in a corner under our kitchen sink (along with all our other cleaning supplies), and they will last us another year at least.  :)

*If you'd like to see more of our shopping trips & savings, CLICK HERE!


Usually, if I have a nice little stack of coupons for items we can get for FREE with a sale, we'll buy the items, put aside the few we may need for ourselves, and give the rest to a charity or people we know in need of the items.  We started couponing at a difficult financial time in our lives, and now that couponing has helped us out of that rut, we believe in paying in forward.

Shelters and food banks can always use donations.  So if you can get 5 tubes of Colgate toothpaste, 5 packs of Reach floss, and 8 packs of Gushers for FREE, why not donate those items to those who need them after you've stocked up your family for a few months?  Nothing wrong with that :)  If you need a reason to do it aside from helping others, just think about the great feeling you'll get knowing you did something good :P

There are several other ways to pay it forward.   For instance, recently I was able to create these little gift baskets through using coupons and requesting FREE samples.  I donated these as door prizes for my god daughter's school fundraiser which helped them reach their fundraising goal!  The possibilities are endless with couponing!

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A few more things...
  • Recycle. If you get your coupons from the Sunday paper, make sure to recycle your newspaper when you're done with it!  Make sure to recycle the scraps of paper left over after you clip your coupons too!
  • Invest in reusable bags. They are smart, economical, and environmentally friendly and have a few extra benefits:
    • I've found that reusable bags are stronger than plastic or brown paper bags.  They can be strong enough for a couple cases of pop, a few gallons of milk, a couple dozen canned veggies, etc and you don't have to worry about sharp items tearing the bag!
    • You can usually fit more items in a reusable bag.
    • It's environmentally responsible...no worries about plastic bags getting stuck in a landfill!
    • Many stores offer to take a few cents per bag off your total when you bring your own bags. Ultra, Strack & Van Til, Target, and Kroger are just a few of the many stores that offer this discount.
  • Dispose of your expired coupons responsibly.
    • You can put coupons in the recycle bin...just like any other paper.
    • There are several organizations that send expired coupons to troops & their families overseas.  It's amazing that they're allowed to use expireds up to 6 months!   There are several organizations that will accept your expired coupon donations...just do a quick search online.  I can also give you the address of the one in Lansing, IL if you live out this way and would like the info :) 
If you have any questions, just ask.  Everyone was a beginner at one point, including myself, and I LOVE to help people save money.  Honestly, the best way to reach me is on my Facebook page, but if you don't have Facebook, you can leave a comment on this post :)

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