Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Coupon organizing pt2

There comes in every couponers life, when a serious decision must be made. Last night I realized that I have too many coupons. there are everywhere - in two binders, in my purse, laying in my empty dishes, on my desk.
Sorting them takes a while, and they spill out. I forget the good ones in the "wrong" purse when I go shopping. I think I let some good ones at the store by mistake. And it makes me sad.

I think I am going to start what other couponers are doing:
- get a filing folder/bucket (the one with the large accordion folder slots)
- Just stick the Sunday insert booklets there, dating them accordingly
- Just cut out coupons as/when I need them

While this eliminates the simple pleasure of cutting them out, it also saves my brain from coupon insanity. Also time, of course.

I'll let you know how it goes.

But overall, the couponing has been great to me so far. I have enough laundry detergent for the next year or so (purchased for 1.50/bottle, instead of 4.99/bottle), shampoo for the next couple of years, razors for a few months (and really expensive ones, not the cheapie 1$ ones). Random hair products that I don't even use (the pretty bottle hair curler mousse made me look like a hobo last time). Toothpase - for a year.
Cereal for the next week or so. Sides - for weeks. Drink mixes for the next several months.
My little "Shelf" is sort of like my dragon's treasure. Sometimes I go to look at it just for the fun of having these things on hand.

Don't want to fall into materialism, but to be honest, its just calming to have stuff that you need, and not worry about running out. Even if its just for a little while.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I heart Publix pt 2

One thing I mentioned about Publix is the other awesome services that they provide. Fist of all - the Baby Club. About once a couple of months after singing up, they will start sending coupons on baby items.
You can combine store coupons with manufacturer coupons.
I have bought  boxes of diapers with 5$ off of them with my coupons. My favorite is the BOGO on wipes, because any mom knows - wipes don't go bad.

So, even if you don't have a baby, but perhaps know someone - its a good idea to sing up for that.

And that's just one of the savings clubs that they offer. There is preschool, paws, and Upromise, which allows you, your friends and family contribute to your kid's college fund while shopping (by buying certain products).
Season's Pick will alerts you to fresh produce that's on sale throughout the year - based on seasonally grown fruits and vegetables.
Wine Guide will not only give you coupons, but also teach you about the wines and how to read wine labels. I haven't signed up for that, because we really don't enjoy wine all that much, but I am sure that I have been doing "wine" wrong all my life.

So, while this is obvious that every business wants to be your buddy, but I feel that Publix rose above the rest by miles, and offers some amazing stuff, while also offering some great savings. I recall buying pre-made Thanksgiving meal from them ( at that point I just did not want or could not cook, I don't recall) - and everything we got was delicious.

Oh, also, Publix offers cooking classes. So, click on Aprons on publix.com, and see if here are classes available in your area! I always wanted to take one.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of cool stuff that  Publix offers, and I know many of us never even heard of. Hopefully you will find something awesome for you and your family there as well!


I heart Publix

While every couponer is free to choose their own favorite grocery store, Publix is one of mine, as well as that of many other couponers. The funny thing is, I always considered it to be one of the more expensive stores, and for years I would spend an unnecessarily large amount of money there.

That is, until I discovered their weekly BOGO (buy on, get one) deals, coupons, and sales. I know, its strange how sometimes we don't notice the obvious, but here I am. Better late than never, and I can now say  truthfully, that with Publix deals + coupons, I have saved hundreds of dollars on groceries in the past 3 months.

How do I do it? Well, for starters, I patiently wait for my little christmas (or for the rest of the world - Thursday).  Every Thursday Publix puts out their new BOGO deals, which you can check on their website: www.publix.com.

You can search the ad by your location, to make sure that you are looking for the correct ones. Once you joyfully find awesome stuff on BOGO sale, and realize - hey I have coupons for lots of these items, that's where the fun begins.

If Publix is the store of your choice,  please make sure to check your local stores coupon policy. Generally speaking, Publix will double the value of coupons that are 50 c and less. Which means, that every 50 c coupon is actually worth a whole dollar at Publix. A 45 c coupon at Publix is more valuable than a 65 c coupon there. Because you will be saving 90 c on that coupon.

My next step is to check my KCL ladies - they provide the awesome service of matching the coupons to the deal. They will not only tell you from where the coupons come (and provide links to websites that carry them), but also estimate the prices after the coupon.

Two of the most common arguments against this practice I heard, is:
1) These are not the brands I usually buy.
And they won't be. 80% of the time the sales are on stuff I never even tried before. And that's one of the core principles of couponing - you will need to set aside brand loyalty and dive into the wild world of gustatory and culinary adventure. Personally, I am thankful I tried. I've actually tried so many products I would never consider buying before, and many of them are now some of my favorite stuff.
2) Its all junk food, never fresh produce.
While its true, coupons and discounts on fresh produce and meat are hard to come buy, many of the items on the list are not junk food. You certainly don't have to buy discounted soda, or candies, or crackers. I frankly don't, because I just don't want that stuff in my house. Unless I REALLY like the candy (oh, Skinny cow, what have you done....). But a lot of them are things that I would use as sides or lazy meals: Canned products, bread, sides, cereal, condiments  etc. Things that would make up the bulk of my grocery cart and the bill. After buying things that I would need to go with the "real food", I would end up with a ginormous bill.
But it doesn't have to be like that. Try the sides you never bought before - if they are discounted 75%, what's the harm? You can put your savings into buying your fresh produce and meat guilt free!

One other thing that I absolutely love about Publix is that you can use the coupons on the free item. You buy one, get one, and use two coupons. And this is completely allowed by their coupon policy. In fact, lately, Publix started to make radio commercials geared towards couponing shoppers. So, while some stores take a while to catch on, and try to make it more difficult to use coupons, Publix realized the goldmine and is probably raking the dollars in like crazy.

Oh, and http://www.iheartpublix.com/ is actually a cool site, that caters specifically to their shoppers. Coupon matching, deal seeking, and everything you might need to know about how to save most there - is there.

Wow, I sound like I should be paid by Publix for endorsement  but in all honesty, thanks for the savings I'm making there and the awesome staff at the local Publix  - I feel like I have been in a way.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Internet coupons

Ever since the rise of couponing, more and more sites are popping up that offer the manufacturers coupons. I was comprehensive at first about having to install their coupon printer, but actually its easy and safe.

My favorite site is Coupons.com, and I would like to share a couple of tips regarding that.

If you are using sites like KCL, who will link directly to the coupon (under Find my Store, and the listing of the sales) - avoid doing that. Reason being is that you will end up printing a single coupon per single sheet of paper. That's wasteful.

Instead, note the coupons you will need from the site, and go there later, picking out the ones you need. You can print 3 coupons on a single sheet of paper. Unfortuantely, in order to print more than one coupon, you have to do it twice (use the "clip" option twice). Basically, as far as I found, you cannot tell it to print the same coupon twice, probably due to the nessesity of tracking the coupons (each one has their own number.)

As far as I can tell, the jury on whether you can use B&W coupons is out. I prefer to print them in color, it just makes them look a bit more official. I have had some cashiers doubt the validity of the coupons printed on regular paper. But it hurts me, so if anyone knows for sure - let me know. I'd rather not waste more color ink than I have to.

In addition to product coupons they also have a section on various coupons, ranging from restaurants to dentists. It's a good way to find extra sweet savings!


The Trust points.

I don't know about you, but I find that the most valuable things in life are other people. Social equity is priceless and irreplaceable. Building it takes time, but can take a split second to get ruined.

Building a relationship with another person is something that we work on all our lives. Cashiers and store managers are a valuable social equity. Building trust points is essentially to your successful couponing.
I hope you all forgive me if I sound somewhat patronizing - I honestly don't mean to. But this is something I am very passionate about. People, of all colors, ages, sizes and shapes are so priceless. Like them or hate them - they are a part of our lives, and you simply cannot know how someone can impact your life at any time.

So, "Trust points". If you are shopping at the same store every week, it only makes sense that the cashiers will remember you. Would you rather they whisper under breath "Oh no, not her/him again", or greet you with a smile as a friend?

The answer is obvious. But, being nice and personable as a couponer is only half of it. You must build Trust points, and that means - using your coupons responsibly. That means not trying to get something for nothing (unless there is a coupon for it haha), cheat the store, and generally make cashier's life miserable. After a few times of meticulously using the coupons correctly, the cashiers will give you trust points.
I found it in my own experience, if the store knows that I always get the correct item for my coupons, they scrutinize my coupons less. THIS SHALL NOT BE ABUSED. EVER. Once you loose your trust points, you will not gain them back.

In conclusion, the person who scans your purchases is a part of your experience as a human being. Most likely you will remember them long after you move from that neighborhood. You might even remember something about their personal life, or about their kids. They might remember you and something about you.

And maybe, just maybe, that 16-year old girl, working part-time at Wallgreens is a child of God, who has the Father's ear. Maybe, just maybe one day she will say a prayer on your behalf, all because you took the time and effort to make her a part of your human social circle.

So, forget the coupons. People first, coupons last. People last, deals come and go.

Rules of the game.

Every game has it's rules, and the Couponing game is no different. If you take anything away from me, I hope it's that for everyone to be able to benefit from couponing, we must all follow the rules.

I won't go into a long tirade about personal honesty, as most of us had the value of honesty taught to us as kids. I just want to say that, as in other aspects of life, trying to cheat the rules hurts everyone, yourself included.

If we don't follow the rules, or attempt to cheat the system, it causes stores to change their policies in order to protect themselves. That gives us less deals, less coupons, less ways to use them, and overall - screwed us all. So an extra buck is not worth it.

So, to go over it briefly:

1). Be familiar with your store's coupon policy.
KCL has the policies on their website, but you can also request a copy from your local store's manager. Read it, learn it. A cashier is no infallible, and sometimes they might simply not know the policy. Don't get angry, be informed. Don't be afraid to point out the policy to the cashier or the manager, but do it in the nice way.

2) Pay attention to your coupons.
Misusing your coupons, knowingly or un-knowlingly takes off your "trust points".  Don't be THAT guy/girl, who makes the cashier scrutinize each item you get. Know what you are buying and what your coupon limitations are. After all, understanding your coupons and getting the best deal despite of the limitation is the biggest part of the game. You are not gaming the system - you are being a smart shopper.

3) Don't be an ass to other couponers/shoppers.
I know, the TLC's "Extreme Couponing" attempted to make the purchase of 300 bottles of ketchup seem cool and savvy. I'm sorry if it offends anyone, but that's an asshole move. Even if you have 100 of coupons for an item, you are not the only one in town that would like to get on that deal. Don't be lazy - call the store and order extra pallet of that stuff. Don't be the shelf-emptyer. That's just greedy.

If you see a fellow couponer, smile. Strike a conversation. Offer a coupon that you weren't gonna use that day, even if they ARE emptying the shelf in front of your eyes - move on. Such is life, and life ain't fair. Not everyone wants to play nice int he sandbox, but it don't mean that you cannot kill them with kindness. Perhaps next time they will pass it on to someone else.

4) Don't duplicate coupons. It's illegal. Enough said. You will get caught, and you will feel like crap. And your mother will be ashamed of you.

5) Let the guy with a single loaf of bread go first.
We are all busy, we are all in a rush. It's not very fair to make your fellow shoppers wait on your 20 separate transactions. Whoever is first, shall be last, whoever is last - shall be first.

6) Don't hoard the knowledge.
A good friend took time out from her busy life and taught me and my friends about couponing. I have saved several hundred dollars on food alone so far. Pass on the knowledge, don't hide it like some super-secret club. Tell the lady in the isle about it, if she is curious about your ridiculous binder. If you found an awesome sale - tell your friends. If you found a cool way to do something, let them know.
Couponing is for everyone - everyone wins. Stores make money, manufacturers make money. You save money, your friends and family save money. Couponing is great for economy!



Delving into details pt.2

One of the things that I find was the most challenging in the beginning, is organizing your coupons. Depending on your level of dedication (or your "crazy level"), organizing them could be as simple as a multi-pocket accordion organizer, to as complicated as an elaborate filing system.

I started out with just a 5-pocket accordion thing I got at the dollar store. I separated the coupons into five basic groups - Food, Personal items (medicine and personal care), Household stuff, Pets, Baby, and Misc. (for store coupons and oddball things).

After a couple of weeks, I had trouble sorting and finding the coupons I need, so I opted for the most popular method - coupon binder. The inserts for baseball cards provide a perfect little pocket for your coupon friends. You can also buy Couponing-specific inserts from places like Hobby Lobby, which have plastic pockets of various sizes. I really like them, but they are pricier than the baseball card inserts. So it's just a matter of what works best for you.

Places like KCL have whole sections devoted on their tips for coupon organizing, and which categories you will need. I haven't really read through them, as what I have now works for me. After a while, you will start remembering what coupons you have where, so looking for the right one will get easy.


Clipping coupons:
If you are like me, and buy more than one Sunday paper - individually clipping each insert booklet takes a lot of time. Overtime I have learned to sort my inserts by stacking the same pages together, and cutting the coupons from more than one page at the time. You gotta be careful though, so you are not over-cutting, and accidentally cutting off the scan bars or the expiration date.

I am actually planning to buy an actual paper-cutter, one of those guillotine-style things that just slices the paper with one slice - neat and precise. I actually got some Office Max coupons to cash-in for that.

If you are just starting out, then good old scissors and a cup of tea will do the trick. Coupons in the inserts are arranged in a way so that cutting out one, does not ruin the coupon on the other side. So that's a good thing.

Shopping with your coupons, the mechanics of.

That is something that actually comes with time. In my first few trips, I found the experience confusing, bulky, awkward,  and LONG. I brought my whole binder with me, and realized very quickly that it takes a long time to look for deals while at the store. Carrying a heavy binder AND my purse just doesn't work for me.

What I do, is basically research for the sales before going shopping, prep my coupons, binding them all with a paperclip, along with the print-out of the shopping list. I don't take my binder with me anymore - if I miss the sale, I miss the sale. That's not as bad as loosing your binder at the store, or worse, get it stolen. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but I have that fear.

I make sure that I have an easily accessible pocket on my purse (I use over the shoulder messenger-bags, so that i have free hands), and this way I can ditch the coupons I don't need, or don't have the chance to use - into the pocket. Once home, I unload my unused coupons back into the binder.


Binder maintenance.

Coupons expire, and that makes me sad. Especially when they are really good ones. What I make sure to do every few days, or at least once a week, is to go through my binder. I look for the coupons that are nearing their expiration date and see if there are any specific deals I can cash them in for before they are no good. Of course, that does not mean that you have to go out and get crap stuff you don't want or need.
On the contrary - if I find that I can use more dish washing liquid, and the Palmolive coupon has only a week left on it - I am not waiting for the "GREAT SALE". I will use it on my next trip before expiration.

It is better, in my opinion, to miss out on the deal of the life time, than to miss a chance on saving on something you would buy anyway two weeks later.

Another thing, you will find yourself running out of space quickly. That's why its important to make sure that the expired coupons are not taking up the space for fresh ones. What to do with the expired precious coupons?

You can actually donate them to the US  military overseas, as they can used them for 6 months after the coupon expiration. KCL ladies have a whole system set up for that, and will tell you exactly how to sort and donate them.