Sunday, March 16, 2014

Couponing For Beginners

I frequently get asked how I get such great deals and how did I get started Couponing, etc.  I also have received a lot of requests to write a blog post about this as well so here we go. I apologize if this is hard to follow along with or if I ramble on too much. I tend to be wordy, especially when I'm very excited or passionate about what I'm writing about so with that being said...

The following steps should assist you on your Couponing journey. These steps are what I did when I started out.

I'm going to have to make this post a series because this would just be way too long if I do it all at once. So make sure you come back for part 2 and 3 as well.

Step one:  Find coupons

I started receiving my coupons in the mail sometimes twice a week. Then when we bought our current house and moved to a new zip code they quit coming in the mail. To say I was devastated was an understatement. I then began begging anyone I knew that had a newspaper subscription for their coupons if they weren't going to use them. Finally about three months later Love Muffin got me a weekly subscription to the Sunday paper so I could get my own coupons in the mail without having to beg everyone for theirs.  

At first I only used to cut coupons for items I already used. I wasn't sure how invested I wanted to get in to Couponing so I started out slowly. The items that I found myself cutting coupons for the most were toiletry items, my one brand of clothes detergent and dishwasher detergent I liked to use at the time, and paper towels and toilet paper.  Then over time I began feeling comfortable trying new products because I had coupons to pair to sales items in the store.

Then I also began searching the internet for coupons for products I wanted to try or that I already was using but wanted to save money on. By doing this I found some awesome coupon websites that I began downloading and printing coupons from. (this will require an entire blog post all on its own) .

Once you have begun collecting coupons then next step is very crucial to your saving success.

 Step 2: Understand Your Favorite Store(s) Coupon Policy

Everyone has their favorite or usual grocery store(s) that they frequent. This could be out of lack of variety if you live in rural areas, or due to being a creature of habit and the need to stick to what you know, etc.  Before you begin coupon shopping at your local stores you need to make sure you fully understand their coupon policies. All national retailers have published coupon policies. The easiest way to find this information is to visit their website. Their website should have a link to their coupon policy somewhere. Sometimes it is in the really small text at the bottom of their homepage. If you can't find it easily by visiting their website, then they usually will have a search option at the top of the page. In the search box type "coupon policy" and without fail that usually always works. Once you have found this, read it very carefully and save it as a favorite or bookmark in your internet browser in case you need to refer back to it later.

The reason this step is so important is because each retailer has policies on the number of coupons they accept or some may double coupons up to a certain dollar amount and some may not. Some may accept paper coupons as well as let you use their online coupons together. This is called "stacking" Coupon stacking is the ability to use more than one coupon on one item in a transaction. Since all retailers have different rules you have to do your research ahead of time to avoid a confrontation in the store. If I had a $1 for every time I had a sales associate check me out at the store  that didn't even know or understand the current coupon policy for the store in which they work I could retire. Be educated and informed of the policies so you can be sure you are maximizing your savings and paying close attention as the items are ringing up and that your coupons come off correctly is critical so you don't  end up with surprises once they hit "total" to complete your order.

Step three:  Loyalty Cards.

Every store has them and they all call them something different. Food Lion calls them MVP cards, Harris Teeter calls them VIC cards, Kroger calls them Kroger cards, etc.  These are those plastic store issued savings cards that you can sign up to receive in the store. They give you three copies of them usually.  Two that are credit card size and one that you put on your key ring. Its very important to make sure when you sign up for the cards that you provide a valid email address when you sign up for them as well because they will in some cases email you weekly specials just for you or weekly savings for you that you can take advantage of simply by swiping your loyalty card at checkout.  Usually you will be able to pair paper manufacture coupons with these custom savings so this is key to maximizing savings. Another reason providing valid email address and phone number information is because in some cases your loyalty card offers you discounts on other products or services as you accrue points. For example, at Kroger the more you spend the more fuel points you accrue meaning that you save money at the gas pump at certain fuel branded stations by saving a certain amount off per gallon. Both Lowes Foods and Kroger have fuel point saving programs that you can take advantage of while at the same time you are saving money on your groceries with your paper manufactures coupons, loyalty cards with your store, etc.

By mastering the first three steps you are on your way to a new addiction. The addiction of saving money. Once you get started you can't stop and you'll never be able to pay full price for anything again!

Stay tuned for part two which I will post in a few days. Until then this should keep you busy on the beginning of your Couponing journey.

Until next time....

Crazy Jess