How to Coupon Like a MotherFucking Champ

9 Mar

To Begin:

You have to decide what approach your family will take to couponing. Is your ultimate goal to save lots of money and deviate from the products you like to buy, or do you just wish to save a little bit of money on the products you already use? Your philosophy is going to dictate how you “coupon” (and yes, I’m using coupon as a verb. Deal with it.) so have that in mind when you begin. For instance, I’m somewhere in between the two mindsets. I’ve changed bread brands to accommodate my coupons. In contrast, I’m a big fan of Near East Cous Cous, so when those coupons are published, I stock up. I haven’t changed brands (or used – gaaaa – the store brand) because, well, I’m a snot.

You’ll need to make a couple “investment” purchases to launch your coupon adventures. First, you need to buy a coupon organizing system. I am partial to accordion files, but other people like binders with photo album inserts. For the sake of consistency and brevity, we’re going to pretend you like the accordion file, too, but all the tips I offer can apply to binder-users, as well. The second “investment” you need to make is a subscription to the Sunday paper. Since all papers effectively carry the same coupons, if you have a choice between local papers, choose the cheapest one.

Do you have an organization system? A subscription to the paper? Good job.

Label your organizational system based on your family’s needs. I have a section for baby products, for kitty products, for frozen foods, cleaning products….the list goes on. No pets? Then don’t have a pet section, and don’t clip the pet food coupons! Within each section, I have envelopes to designate what kind of coupons they are. For instance, in my Baby section, I have one envelope for manufacturer coupons, one for just Target coups, one for just Walgreens coups, and one for my local grocery store exclusively. When I’m planning my grocery list and notice that Pampers are on sale at Walgreens, I’ll go through my manufacturer envelope and grab the Pampers coupon. Then, I’ll go to the Walgreens envelope and grab the store-specific Pampers coupon. Using the store’s sale price, plus one manufacturer coup and one in-store coup results in fantastic savings for my baby’s butt.

Many different grocery stores across the country have myriad sales. Some stores offer Buy One, Get One Free promotions. Others have double/triple coupon days. Many offer in-store coupons, which can be paired with manufacturer coupons from the newspaper. Research your local grocery store to determine what promotional method they use. That is going to influence your couponing habits.

My local grocery store has  store-specific coupons, in addition to BOGOs. (Sometimes, in lieu of a BOGO, the store will offer “2 for $5” on a $3 product, so I’m counting that as a Franken-BOGO.) Remember: my methods work for my family and my grocery store. You are going to have to amend my practices to suit your family and your favorite store.

The first few weeks of your new coupon adventure will seem tedious and unfulfilling. During this time, you simply collect your coupons; clip the ones you think you’ll use and file them away in your system. Weeks when the newspaper has a good selection of coupons I like, I go to a newspaper box and buy a few more papers so I can stock up on the coupons I know I’ll use.

The next step requires you to monitor the sales in your area. Often, your grocery store will send an insert in the Sunday paper to alert you to their sales. Other stores, like mine, have a regularly-updated website which lists every sale item. Keep a particular eye on BOGOs and store-specific coupons that compliment the manufacturer coupons you have in stock. If a particular item goes on sale (or BOGO), head to the store, coupons in hand, and get ready to shop! A real-life example: my local drug store often sells the Red Zone body wash my husband likes on BOGO. Coincidentally, that same soap has BOGO coupons in the paper about once each month. On those days, I run out to the newspaper box and buy a bunch of papers to collect as many body wash coupons as possible. Then I wait. And wait. And wait. Inevitably, the drug store will have one of its BOGO body wash sales. That’s when I strike: armed with my coups, I go to the store. If I have 4 BOGO body wash coupons, I’ll buy 8 body washes. Four are free with the store promotion, and the other four will be free once I apply the coupon. Since body wash never expires, I have a large stockpile of Buddy’s preferred soap. This same principle applies to deodorant, razors, shampoo/conditioner, styling products, and home cleaning supplies.

A few suggestions and reminders:

  1. If you have an extra freezer (or a freezer at your parents’ house), pay extra attention to frozen foods. Frozen vegetables are as nutritious, if not more than, their fresh counterparts. When the store sales align with my coupons, I stock up. I have enough spinach, lima beans, green beans, and broccoli to last through December 21, 2012. (Just kidding.)
  2. Since meat and dairy products so rarely have corresponding coupons, I don’t waste my time trying to save on those at my local grocery store. Instead, I go to a specialty butcher shop or Costco and buy my meats in bulk, then portion them out and freeze. This is also a great time to marinate your chicken/pork/beef to simplify your cooking routine. (Shall we save that for another post?)
  3. If you have “special” shopping opportunities, take advantage of them. The first population that comes to mind is the military. If you have a base/post nearby, shop at the Commissary – you just can’t beat those prices, even before coupons are applied! Military ID-holders also receive 15% off at Walgreens on Tuesdays, so I tend to shop there on Tuesdays and stack my discount with store coupons and manufacturer coupons. Some items, like makeup and medicine, are excellent steals when all three discounts work together. They’ve actually paid me to take some products home! If you have a membership to a club like Costco or Sam’s, take advantage, but also take heed: they do not accept manufacturer coups.
  4. Work cooperatively with other couponing friends. I don’t usually buy cereal, but I have friends who do, and I regularly send them my cereal coupons. My child drinks one specific brand of baby formula. I receive coupons in the mail from that company, but I also receive coupons for the other brands, too. I send those coupons to other formula-moms, and they send me their coupons for Pterodactyl’s brand. Everybody wins. =]
  5. Make sure you know your store’s coupon policy. My grocery store will allow me to combine store coupons with manufacturer coupons, but your store might not. Obviously, the best-case scenario is when you can use both kinds of coupons in addition to the store’s sales, but that may not be an option available to you. If your grocery store has double coupon days, what days are those? Can all coupons be doubled, or just those below $1 in value? Learn what you can and cannot do before setting out.

Remember: not everything you shop for will have a corresponding coupon. Produce, dairy, and meat products are staples in our diets which infrequently go on sale. I save money on produce by shopping at produce stands in the rural town next door, and buying the in-season items which are discounted in my grocery store. Do not eliminate these items your family’s diet; good nutrition is far more important than money.

Good luck, and Happy Savings!

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© Daisy and Violet 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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