There’s this stereotype of couponers spending their weekends clipping coupons and putting them in laminated baseball card-sleeves in large binders. They lug their binders to their stores, fill up multiple baskets with products, and then meticulously check to see if their purchase added up to the exact dollar and cent amount that they predicted. Sure, there are people like this and they are rock stars if they have the time to do all that to save a boatload of money. But I just don’t have the time.
So I’ve come up with my own strategy for couponing that takes HARDLY any time at all. And best of all, I save a TON. It’s been a while since I’ve actually paid for things like toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, etc. So I want to show you my strategy for couponing for just minutes a week.
This trip: Paid $6.07 and received $6.48 towards a future trip. So I actually MADE 41 cents during this trip!
First of all, realize that the work has ALREADY BEEN DONE FOR YOU. There are some incredible websites out there where they’ve already gone through the work of matching up coupons with sales, so all you have to do is go to their site and see what they recommend you buy. You don’t need to get the ads for stores or clip every coupon you see. They tell you what to buy and where to find the coupon for it.
GET THE NATIONAL DEALS
Things like drugstores (such as Walgreens, CVS, RiteAid) and large chain stores (like Target, WalMart, and Kmart) have common sales across the nation, so I go to my favorite site for national deals, which is thekrazycouponlady.com. My rationale for liking this site may sound silly but it cuts my time in half…at LEAST. You see, when they list their match ups, they have little icons to tell you if it is a deal worth stocking up on:
See that little yellow box? I just scan the list and find everything with that box and determine whether or not I need it. So I only have to read those with the box–big time saver. But I’m jumping ahead of myself. So first go to what store you want. You go up to where it says “Stores” at the top of the screen and a little drop-down menu will come down showing you a bunch of stores. I personally look at all 3 drugstores, then Target and Walmart. I rarely go to the other places.
So let’s say I start off by clicking on “CVS.” I go to that page and right at the top there is a listing of the deals. The current list of deals is always at the top with this website (another reason for why I love it).
Like I said before, I just scroll down and skim the list, looking for the yellow boxes. Now I don’t just buy anything and everything with a yellow box–that’s wasteful and I want to spend money (or save money!) on things my family actually uses. So if my family uses that product regularly, then I will copy and paste that item into a separate document. Krazy Coupon Lady actually has a feature where you can check that box and it will save your items in a list, but on more than one occasion it hasn’t saved everything I checked, so I just copy and paste everything into my own list. It takes just minutes to do.
Once I go through CVS and find all yellow-boxed deals (takes about 2 minutes), I go to the other stores and do the same.
I also think hip2save.com is a great website because the good deals are also easily visible in red.
FIND LOCAL GROCERY DEALS
I also find the deals at my local grocery store. This is where finding a LOCAL website that specializes in coupons helps. I personally love My Frugal Adventures. This site is for my area and they tend to catch many deals. So at that site, I just look at my local stores, Raley’s and Safeway:
My Frugal Adventures also has the option for you to make your shopping list, and I’ve had better luck with this one, but since I am already copying and pasting the lists from Krazy Coupon Lady into a Word document, I just do the same here.
So far, this task should take you no longer than 10 minutes.
TRIM YOUR LIST TO 2-3 STORES
At this point, I have a word document with each store and the deals that I want to take advantage of. Now this is where I take a moment and trim my list down. There is NO WAY I will have the time to go to all the stores. So I pick ONE grocery store, ONE drugstore, and Target (since I practically live there). Sometimes I break that rule if there is a great deal.
Now it’s time to get the coupons. Next to each deal listed they have information on where to get the coupon. Let me walk you through the different things:
* Link: these are great because you don’t need a subscription or anything. The downside is that sometimes you have to jump through a hundred hoops, answer a boatload of questionnaires, etc before you get to the coupon. My rule? If it takes longer then 2 minutes, it’s not worth it. My time is money too!
* “RP” “SS” “PG”: These are codes for the 3 common inserts you get in your Sunday Paper (Red Plum, Smart Source, and Proctor and Gamble). They also give you a date. So let’s say it says “$1/1 in RP 4/12.” That means there is a one dollar off 1 product in the Red Plum insert that you got in the Sunday Paper you received on April 12th. I have had times in my life where I’ve had a subscription and gotten these deals, and there have been times when I haven’t had a subscription and just got deals using coupons printed online. You definitely get an occasional worth-it deal and the subscription cost cancels itself out after not too long. I personally just struggle with the waste of paper since I don’t read the Sunday Paper. You may want to put some word out to friends that you want the coupon inserts from the paper. I know have a friend of mine who gives me a stack of hers.
For my inserts, I just take them and put the date on the front of them in a black marker and then file them by date. OK, FINE, that’s what I WISH I did. Usually they are in piles in my office! But I generally know which ones are which.
Prepare to Shop
Now I just get ready to shop. I got these little file organizers in the front of Target for $1. I labeled them by store and I just put the coupons in there. I print up my list and BOOM, I’m ready to go.
Let me tell you a few lessons I’ve learned that now keep me from a ball of tears at the store–
* Double check the wording of your coupons. The sites are GREAT, but these amazing site owners have a lot of deals to reveal in a short time, and they aren’t ALWAYS right. So just double check.
* You won’t get every deal on your list. Trust me. The store may not have a deal, they may be out of a product, or something. If they are out of a product, and you have the time, you can ask for a “Rain Check” and they will give you that deal when they get that product in.
* I used to be terrified of Walgreen’s based on one terrible experience when I didn’t understand their coupon policy and was a ball of tears at the register as an intimidating cashier made me feel like dirt for using coupons. But now that is one of my favorite places–the rule to remember? You can’t use more coupons than you have ITEMS–and that includes their store coupons. Remember that, and you are good to go!
* For some stores you get money towards future purchases. That’s a great deal, as long as you use them. Every week, just quickly eyeball what may expire that week and be sure to try and hit up that store.
* If you need to print a coupon from coupons.com, instead get the coupon through Swagbucks (go to the top of their page at “Earn” and then go to “Coupons”). I earn 10 Swagbucks for every time I use a coupon from there. I cash those in and get $25 in Amazon Gift Cards every month (1 $5 Amazon gift card is 450 Swagbucks).
This entire process, from start to finish (excluding shopping, which is still super short since I have two toddlers nearing nap time with me), takes no more than 30 minutes. In fact. I do it while filling up my bathtub–so at the end of my measly 30 minutes, I can soak in a relaxing bath and think about all the money I am saving that week!
What are your couponing tips for getting the best deals in the smallest amount of time? What are your couponing questions?