Coupon Rule #1. Never ever ever use a coupon for something (product or brand) that I do not already use. If it's not what I'm already buying, it's a trap not a savings. Say I always use Bumble Bug Tuna because it's the cheapest and my family loves it. (I don't have a favorite tuna, and you could switch or pick different brands; just a parable to illustrate my point. ;) ) Along comes a coupon for Turkey Of The Sea and we try it out because the coupon makes it come out to less than the Bumble Bug (or vice versa). Now what happens if we like Turkey Of The Sea so much that we don't want to go back to Bumble Bug? Now we're stuck having to buy Turkey Of The Sea at it's regular higher price after the coupons run out because nobody will eat Bumble Bug anymore. Or what if we HATE Turkey of the Sea and nobody will eat it? It sits in the cabinet for 6 months and I finally throw it out or donate it because nobody will eat it? Wasn't much of a savings if it wound up in the trash. Now the exception to this rule would be if you were going to try a product or brand anyway and there is providently a coupon for it available at a time when you can afford to try something new. That would be a savings because regardless of whether you liked it or not, you were going to spend your hard earned grocery budget on it anyway. Might as well try it for less. So rule #1 is to never use a coupon for something you wouldn't already be buying.
Coupon Rule #2. Don't print coupons that are worth less than $1 off per product. If you find a printable for $1.00 off when you buy 2 gallons of
Coupon Rule #3. Don't buy coupons- yet. If you're starting out, don't wanna get coupon burnout before you get the hang of it, or just hate couponing, do not buy coupons. This goes hand in hand with the printables theory. Buying the Sunday paper for coupons is great once you get the hang of it or if you enjoy couponing or if you have a bunch of free time on your hands and like to sit around cutting out coupons. Or hey if you have alot of older kids who are pretty good with scissors it might be a good idea after all! Just hand out scissors and coupon fliers and tell them to have at it. It's good for their hand-eye coordination and they will think it's fun. Then you can look through all the coupons afterwards when they are neatly cut out and decide which ones to keep and which to pass on. But if it's just you and you've got kids too young to cut them out for you... it's just not going to be worth your time until you develop a taste for couponing. There are plenty of coupons that are easier to obtain and require less work until your appetite for coupons grows or you find you have enough time to make buying the paper worth it.
Coupon Rule #4. Sign up for coupons and freebies. "If you're not buying or printing your coupons, then where on earth do they come from?!" I get asked this alot! Well the answer is that coupons show up in my mailbox constantly as a result of things I signed up for months ago. Companies keep your mailing address when you sign up for a free sample, then they periodically ship you coupons to keep you coming back to their brand.
WalMart- I know Wally World doesn't have it's own coupons, but if you go to the website you can sign up for freebies HERE. You will have to allow pop-ups for the site because the signup forms for the samples are pop up windows. Most of the free sample companies will not contact you again, but they do usually send a coupon or three in the envelope with your free sample. Besides, who can resist free samples? ;)
Membership Stores- Costco for one will send you a book of coupons each month. Also Carter's and OshKosh childrenswear will mail you a new coupon for 20% off a purchase of $50+ every 3-4 weeks if you register on their website. Toys-R-Us and Babies-R-Us send out periodic coupon fliers and booklets that sometimes don't have anything good but sometimes have the jackpot of good coupons in there. You have to create a registry with Babies-R-Us to get the coupons, or sign up for Geoffrey's Birthday Club to get Toys-R-Us coupons. I know there are probably lots more but these are all I have here. ;)
Print At Register- Some stores like Albertson's have a coupon printer at the checkout that spits out random coupons when your receipt prints. Sometimes these are REALLY GOOD coupons so it pays to check it out instead of just walking away without looking. Alot of times it will print a coupon for the item you just bought so that you can come back and buy more later for less money. I love it when we buy YoBaby there and Albertson's treats us with a juicy YoBaby coupon for the next batch.
Product Websites- If you use alot of a product it pays to check out the website. Alot of times they have rewards programs and/or will mail you coupons for the next 2 years if you register to use the site. Stonyfield YoBaby has a rewards program where you can earn free Leapfrog Tag Junior books by entering codes from YoBaby products. Huggies and Pampers will regularly mail you coupons if you register on their websites. Both also have rewards programs. (But beware Pampers right now- see THIS post.)
Doing the coupon thing can be really easy or really complicated. When I get a new coupon flier in the mail I look through it that afternoon when my son is napping and cut out the 2 or 3 that I will use. It takes all of 2 minutes to do. Then I sort them into some small mailing envelopes in my purse. I don't have a coupon organizer, just a few envelopes with labels scribbled on them. Here's what mine say;
I just stuff the coupons into the appropriate envelopes and then go on about my afternoon. The envelopes stay in my purse all the time when I'm not actively looking at them. On grocery day, or the day before, when I'm making my list, I take out my coupon envelopes. I go throught the envelopes and put all the coupons that match an item on my list into the USE TODAY envelope. I also take note of expiration dates and throw away any that are expired or will be before I can use them. This doesn't take but maybe 5 minutes extra as I'm writing my list as usual. So a few minutes to clip them, and a few minutes to sort them, very low maintainence couponing. Then I put my grocery list into the USE TODAY envelope and when I'm in the stores I have that envelope handy so I can get out and read my list, and then at the register when I put my list back into the envelope for safekeeping to the next store, I take out the coupons I will need to give to the cashier. I used to hold my coupons the whole time I was in the store, then that evolved into paper clipping them to the grocery list, which finally gave way to the USE TODAY envelope. All those methods work, but the envelope is the best for my clumsy coupon-dropping self. ;) Now I only have to hold them in the checkout line. In fact, I have 2 little helpers who love to hold them for me in the checkout line! ;)
I don't save a truckload of money by couponing, but I've saved enough. I typically will save a dollar for every minute or two that I spent clipping and sorting the coupons. Money's tight, the economy is bad, and saving $5 in the checkout for a minute or two here and there of couponing over the past week is totally worth it to me. Even if you're not pinching every penny, just only buying necessities, think about that $5 for a minute- that's the difference between no extras or a Starbucks on the way home. And hey, who doesn't need a Starbucks after a day of shopping with kids, right? ;) If 5 minutes a week earns me a frappuccino, I'll take it! :D
So that is why I DO do coupons! And how, when, where, etc. :) I'm a very basic level couponer. If you already are a basic level couponer and were hoping for advice on how to get a little more hardcore with the coupons, then check out THIS post by Nicki over at 400 Things! She's got a whole bunch of posts on couponing, just click the button in her sidebar that says all about couponing to read more.
This post is linked up to my Question Thursday post! To read what others have to say on the subject, or to link up your awesome post (or just comment with your advice if you don't want to blog it) on why you do or do not DO coupons (and how if so), then click the first link below to go to my original Question post and join the fun!