Hello friends. So many of you have asked me how I use coupons (without going crazy)...and no I am not a dumpster diver...so I thought I would do a step by step tutorial. Hope you like it and that it will save you lots of money...like us (we save on average about $200 a month on groceries/toiletries).
So sit back...RELAX...and here we go!
Above is a picture of my binder in action. If you want to get into the coupon-ing world...then you need to first create a binder. A binder helps you organize your coupons so that when in a store you can easily grab what you need.
What You Will Need to Create a Binder:
- Zipped Binder so the coupons won't fall out.
- A package of baseball cards holders for smaller coupons.
- A package of larger sheet protectors...divided in 3 sections for larger coupons.
- Several packets of dividers of your choice (I used about 25)
- Label maker (optional)-or you can just simply use a sharpie to write on the divider tabs
- Red, Yellow, and Green Sticker dots for coupons expiring soon-I'll talk more about that below.
- The Sunday paper or any weekly adds from your favorite stores. You can also sign up on line and receive them via email.
- A small notebook to write out your weekly shopping list/deals
- Sticky notes to separate your manufacture grocery section
- Zipper pouches to keep small items like sticker dots and scissor in one place or the "grab and go" system, which I will explain below (optional)
- Cart coupon holder clip (optional)
This is my binder that I purchased at Target for $14. Most important thing is to purchase one that has a zipper. Otherwise your coupons could easily slide out.
This particular binder also came with an according type filing system which I use to keep my weekly shopping list pad, and also any coupons I may have pulled and need to put back or for any coupons I may have collected at the store while shopping...that will need to be filed.
Below is my zipper pouch (optional). I find it easier to keep small things such as my "expiring soon" stickers", scissors etc in one place. I also purchased a coupon holder for the grocery cart from Publix. It simply snaps on your cart handle and I use it to hold coupons that I have pulled and will be taking to the check out. It makes it easier to have all of the coupons ready for the cashier.
Yes, some cashiers do seem to have a phobia when they see people approaching with huge binders...but are pleasantly surprised when they see me coming, and have told me how organized I am. The clip is key to this!
My first divider section I created was my award cards. I got tired of lugging them around in my wallet so thought...hmm...this will work well. And I can easily seem them versus being stuck in the back of my wallet.
My next section was food...as in restaurants. Me and the hubs like to eat out but I just can't swallow (no pun intended) if we don't use a coupon for it! There is no particular order to how I put the restaurants in the pouches. If you wanted, you could do it alphabetically.
The next section is the great deals section. These are any deals that I want to tag...for example Walgreens may be having a buy one bandaid item...and get a complimentary first aid kit. I know I have a ton of coupons for bandaid...so it will cost me very little. I pull the bandaid coupons as well as the clipped add from the Walgreens flyer. I also simultaneously write this store and deal down on my shopping list, which I will talk more about later.
Then there is my free section. Of course any deal where a store is using a promo and gives out free stuff. For example Aldi had a grand opening and gave away 2 free cloth shopping totes just for coming in the store.
Here is a picture of the baseball card holders sheet protector that I use. I got them at Walmart for about $2 for a pack of 20. I use these to hold my coupons throughout the binder.
Here are the sleeves for larger coupons...that are divided into 3 sections. My hubs ordered these off line for me...for about $7 for a pack of 50.
My next sections are Store Specific coupons...which are stores that I frequent often. Here's a bit of awesomeness for you...did you know that most competitor stores will accept each other's coupons on top of their own and any other manufacturer coupons? For example, here where I live in Atlanta, Publix, Kroger, and Target all take each other's coupons! The cashier will do this for you at the register.
Here is a picture of my expiry sticker dot system...a great visual for me to know which coupons are about to expire. Yellow means the coupon will expire in 3 weeks, green...2, and red...that week.
They stick well just on the outside of the coupon on the plastic and I have reused them quite well.
My next section is for items that I use randomly. For example "apparel" is for things like running shoes, which I may get only once per year...and the "hair" section is for when I may get a cut/color...which I normally only do a few times a year.
Trick with this is to make sure they don't have a short expiry date. FYI...most hair salons don't have expiry dates.
My next section I called my Grocery section or what I like to refer to as my gold section! These are all my manufacturer coupons that usually can be used at any store in combination with other coupons. Of course you have to check with the store first. For example, Aldi does not take any coupons.
I've sectioned this off by simply writing on a stick note the various sections in the grocery store and arranging them alphabetical. No genius here...just keeping it simple!
I literally just visualized in my mind the various sections of the store and wrote it on a sticky note.
And that's my binder!
So How Do I Find the Deals?
- Each Sunday afternoon I spread out my Sunday Newspaper adds as well as any I have printed from the internet throughout the week. I start by clipping only items I will use...especially items that won't go off such as paper items etc. At the same time I am also looking for store deals...not only the coupons. For example...Publix may be having a buy one get one free on toilet paper this week...and I already have several manufacturer coupons for the particular product.
- I will cut out the deal from the Publix add and then pull my matching product manufacturer coupons and paper clip them together and place them in my "grab and go" folder (smaller zip folder that I can pull and run into the store instead of taking the huge binder).
- I then write on my shopping list "Publix-Toilet paper" so I know I need to go that particular week to get the good deal. This normally takes me the longest...maybe an hour to do these above steps.
- Then I start my "piles". I have store specific coupon piles...for example...coupons that are only valid at a certain store. Then I start my manufacture coupons piles, which are accepted by most stores...and I categorize them by which section in the store I would find them. For example...I have a "dairy" pile for any coupon that is a dairy item.
- I then take a quick run through of all my coupons I already have in the binder to see if they are expired or expiring. I use the yellow, green, red sticker dot system...which are placed on the plastic sleeve that is holding the coupon and helps my eye focus on things that are about to expire. The yellow dots are for coupons expiring in 3 weeks...the green...2 weeks...and the red...coupons expiring in 1 week's time.
- Once I have gone through all the coupons in my binder to check the expiry dates/and or place the sticker dots...I then put in my new coupons.
- The final step before going to the stores is of course reviewing my list of good deals that week...that I mentioned above...and my own personal grocery list...and double checking my manufacturer coupons and competitor's coupons to see if I can get additional savings. I pull all the coupons and paper clip them together and put in my grab and go folder along with my list...and then I am ready to shop!
- Stores generally will have certain items go on sale every 6 weeks. For example, a certain cereal on sale at Publix will most likely not go on sale for another 6 weeks from that sale date.
- Try to buy when on sale-not just when you need something...especially if it is an item that is non perishable and you have some great coupons for that particular item. Now don't go crazy and stock pile, but you can always use toilet paper, kleenex, etc.
- Do pull all of your coupons BEFORE you get in the grocery line. Remember to be kind to the people behind you and the cashier by being organized!
- Remember to ask your favorite store if they take competitor's coupons
- Keep up with the binder once a week-not everyday...oh my word I think I would go crazy and we don't want that!
Hope this helps you and your family save a ton of money and please leave a comment of any nifty coupon tricks you may have. Happy shopping!