Thursday, April 28, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Lesson 1: Introduction to Couponing

Lesson 1: Introduction to Couponing

Welcome to my Coupon Boot Camp! This series of posts is designed to teach you the ropes of couponing. A new lesson will be posted each week on Thursday and Friday.

This is our first lesson: Introduction To Couponing

What is couponing?

The premise of a coupon is simple. You get a coupon and use it to save money off an item that you’re buying.  There’s a lot of folks who are under the misconception that coupons can’t really save you very much money or that couponing is too time consuming. They are wrong. Coupons absolutely can and will save you money (big money if you use them correctly) and no, you don’t have to spend hours clipping coupons and plotting your trip to the store in order to get stuff for free and drastically reduced prices. You may have seen the new show on TLC, Extreme Couponing. Just like with anything else, there’s always those that will take anything to the extreme. You won’t need to devote a room in your home to toilet paper or house 7,000 cans of chicken noodle soup under your bed. This course is designed to help real, normal, rational people save real money.  

I like to think of “couponing” (saving money with the use of coupons) as a game. You start out slow and as you learn the in’s and out’s of the couponing game, you become more and more knowledgeable with experience and before you know it, you’re the winner. Pass The Prozac’s Coupon Boot Camp will teach you the tricks of the trade and give you the tools you need to become a winning couponer. I guarantee you will be able to save AT LEAST $100.00 a month off your grocery bill, as well as score freebies of essential household products. If you’re not completely satisfied, you’re protected by a full money back guarantee. Oh wait…you’re not paying for this…..

See? You’re saving money already.

Before you can start using coupons, you have to know where to find them.

1)     In the newspaper
This might seem a bit obvious but with all the IP (internet printable) coupons available these days, it can be easy to overlook. A seasoned couponer buys more than one copy of the Sunday paper and checks all papers available locally. You can get a sneak preview of what coupons will be available in the paper here:

Below is the coupon insert schedule for the remainder of 2010. You’ll want to buy more than one paper when there are multiple inserts available. You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting all inserts available by checking different publications. For example, The Press of Atlantic City has Smart Source (SS) and Red Plum (RP) coupon inserts, but not Proctor & Gamble (P&G). When I know a P&G insert is being distributed, I also buy the Courier Post. Good to know:

1)     P&G inserts are usually only available once a month and are almost always distributed on the first Sunday of the month. 
2)      There are no coupon inserts on holidays.

1 - Smart Source, Red Plum and Procter & Gamble
8 -  Smart Source and Red Plum
15  - (2) Smart Source and Red Plum
22  - Smart Source and Red Plum
29  - No Inserts scheduled (Memorial Day)

5  -  Smart Source, Red Plum and Procter & Gamble
12  -  Smart Source
19  -  Smart Source and Red Plum
26  -  Smart Source and Red Plum

3  - No Inserts scheduled (Independence Day)
10  -  Smart Source and Red Plum
17  -  Smart Source
24  -  Smart Source and Red Plum
31 - Smart Source, Red Plum and Procter & Gamble

7 - Smart Source and Red Plum
14 - Smart Source and Red Plum
21 - Smart Source and Red Plum
28 - Smart Source, Red Plum and Procter & Gamble

4 - No Inserts scheduled (Labor Day)
11 - Smart Source and (2) Red Plum
18 - Smart Source and Red Plum
25 - Smart Source and Red Plum

2  Smart Source, Red Plum and Procter & Gamble
9 - Smart Source and Red Plum
16 -  Smart Source and Red Plum
23 -  Smart Source and Red Plum
30 - Smart Source and Red Plum

6  - Smart Source, Red Plum and Procter & Gamble
13 - Smart Source and Red Plum
20 -  Smart Source and Red Plum
27 - No Inserts scheduled (Thanksgiving)

4 - Smart Source, Red Plum and Proctor & Gamble
11 - Smart Source and Red Plum 
18 - No inserts

Talk to family, friends, neighbors, etc. If they don’t use coupons, ask that they save you the coupon inserts that come in the mail and in their newspapers. The cost of a newspaper is nothing compared to the money saving coupons they contain, but it’s always nice to get coupon inserts for free too. Other places to look for free coupon inserts: libraries, laundry mats, fast food places, restaurants, banks, doctor’s offices and the post office.

2)     Online from printable coupon websites
Internet printable (IP) coupons are all the rage. You get to pick what you want to print, so you’re not wasting ink on coupons you don’t want and they are changed frequently. You are able to print almost all coupons online at least twice. After printing your first coupon, hit the back button on your browser, then click re-send and a second coupon will print. Most IP coupons can only be printed twice per computer. Occasionally certain coupons will “reset” and you’ll be able to print two again.

Here is a list of some my favorite coupon websites:
SnackPicks (Kellogg’s manufacturer’s coupons - Sign up for their e-newsletter to be able to login and print coupons)
Right @ Home (Become A Member on upper right side)

Search for some of your favorite brands websites. More often than not, you have to sign up for an email newsletter to receive and print coupons. It’s a good idea to set up a separate email account to be used for signing up for newsletters and printing coupons so that your inbox doesn’t get overloaded with spam.

3)     Facebook
I get some of my best coupons from Facebook. Search for and “Like” your favorite brands and stores on Facebook and check their pages for coupon offers.

4)     Blinky Machines and Peelies
Blinky machines are the little boxes with red lights, attached to shelves in stores that have coupons. When one of these machines pops up, you can expect the product to go on sale 2 –3 weeks later. The stores generally take them down right before an item goes on sale. If you see a blinky machine with coupons for an item you buy frequently, you’ll want to grab them up. Remember these are manufacturer’s coupons that can be used in any store, not just in the store you got the coupon. Peelies are coupons that are stuck to the item itself. Same rules apply to peelies. Be on the look out for in-store tear pads and coupon booklets too.

5)     Samples
I love getting free samples in the mail! There’s almost always a coupon included with the sample. Be sure to sign up for as many free samples as you can online. Again, a secondary email address just for couponing is a good idea.

6)     On or With Your Receipt

Check everything that prints out with your receipt and the back of your receipt. You can get good coupons this way as many times they’re based on what you have already purchased. I get  coupons for totally free items with my receipts from Shop Rite pretty frequently. The coupons that come with your receipt are called Catalinas. They are usually for products that you normally purchase or for products that are similar to products that you normally purchase. For instance, I recently bought a box of Kotex tampons at Shop Rite (on sale and with a coupon of course) and received a Catalina for a free box of Playtex tampons.

7)     Coupon Clipping Services

Here are the clipping coupon services that I have personally used and can give my seal of approval:

The Coupon Clippers:

It might sound silly to spend money buying coupons in order to save money, but when you’re couponing properly, it pays to spend 5 or 8 cents a coupon to save much more money in the long run. They key to good couponing is sale prices, a large quantity of coupons and stockpiling.

8)     E-Coupons

E-Coupons are the wave of the couponing future.There’s two types – those that are added to your store savings card and deduct automatically when you buy the items and those that you an add to your smartphone and show a barcode on your screen. I don’t have a smartphone, so I can only really tell you about e-coupons that are added to your store savings card.

To add e-coupons to your stores savings cards, check out these sites:

With these sites, you’ll be able to select the coupons you want and click to add them to your store savings card. When you purchase an item you have an e-coupon for, the coupon will automatically come off at checkout.

Important things you should know about e-coupons:

1)     Only one e-coupon will come off for every item that you buy, no matter how many you buy. So if you have an e-coupon for $1.00 off frozen French fries and you buy (3) bags of frozen French fries, only $1.00 will be deducted off your bill even though you bought 3. You with me?
2)     You can add e-coupons to your stores savings card for multiple stores, but you can only add a coupon to one store. You’ll want to choose that store carefully because you can’t change it to another store once you’ve added it.
3)     No matter what the stores regular double coupon policy is, e-coupons do not double.

Homework: If you don’t already do so, start saving your receipts and track what you’re spending at the grocery store. This is beneficial for several reasons. If you don’t know what you’re spending, you can’t know what you’re saving. You also need to know what you’re spending your money on. Before I started couponing, I realized I had spent close to $70.00 on cereal in just one month. We are cereal killers in this house. I now spend roughly $20.00 a month on cereal.

It’s important to remember that couponing, like anything else in life, takes practice. You’re not going to gather a boat load of coupons, go to the store and walk out with $500 worth of product for $5.00 on your first attempt. Start out slow. Pick one store at a time. You’ll get the hang of it!

The next step is to get organized! Come back tomorrow for Lesson #2!

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