**Links to printable coupons or eCoupons**
**Some of my favorite blogs that I check daily for deals and tips (you can also find links to these pages on the right side of any page on my blog). All of these sites post links to freebies, coupons, and grocery deals. They also offer AWESOME couponing advice and tips (GREAT FOR BEGINNERS!!!) among other things. If these sites weren't around, I would be completely clueless and overwhelmed, just sayin'.**
**This is from my lovely friend Allison's facebook note titled "You asked... Here's my coupon advice!" She was kind enough to let me post this on my blog. This pretty much sums it up.**
Recently, I have had a some of you say to me, “I’ve seen your pictures on Facebook of the great shopping trips you have. You’ll have to tell me how to do that!” So, I’ll share my experience…
First of all, go to moneysavingmom.com. Either subscribe to her blog or “Like” her on facebook. She’s where I started and she IS the Coupon Queen! Her daily posts include online coupons, grocery deal matchups (combining sale prices and coupons for maximum savings), free sample offers, and other good deals & advice for frugal living. She also has categories like “Walgreen’s 101” that will help you out with shopping at particular stores. Read up on her posts and follow her links to other blogs to get the feel for it.
I recommend a few things for getting started. If you plan to sign up for stuff (which you should), create a “deals” email solely for this stuff. Use a free internet service like hotmail or gmail. This keeps your personal email from getting bogged down with offers and updates. (All the offers that the bloggers tell you about are quite legit, but you might get spam. I rarely, if ever, get junk snail mail.)
Also, I recommend starting small. I get coupons from 4-5 newspapers every week, plus I have 2 computers I can use to print coupons. I have a big coupon box, and some weeks I may hit Dillon’s, Target, Walgreen’s, and Leeker’s for their deals. DON’T try to do that much when you’re starting out! You will drive yourself crazy and burn yourself out. Maybe pick one store, or even one week (like Double Dollar Week at Leeker’s) to get the feel of it.
Types of coupons
• Newspaper inserts: Of course you can get coupons every week in your Sunday paper. There are different inserts each week; Smartsource and Redplum, plus the monthly P&G Saver, and occasionally one from General Mills.
• Internet Printables: You can also find coupons online; coupons.com, smartsource.com, and redplum.com all have many pages of coupons you can choose from. Often a particular brand will have a link on their website for a coupon. Most coupons can be printed twice from each computer. Check to see if you can change your printer’s default settings to black & white only and to “fast draft” to save on printer ink.
• Catalinas: These are those coupons that spit out from the cash register when you check out. Some are manufacturer’s coupons for a specific item, others are simply a dollar-off amount towards your next purchase.
• Register Rewards: These are essentially Catalina’s from Walgreen’s. They are always for a specific dollar amount off your next purchase. They usually will not “roll”, meaning you can’t get a $1 RR for Crest toothpaste and then turn around and use it for another tube of Crest toothpaste. If you do, you will not receive the RR for the second transaction.
• E-coupons: These are electronic coupons that are loaded onto your shopper’s reward card (like your Dillon’s card). You can find them on Dillon’s website, as well as a few others. I haven’t kept up with these, because they don’t double. I have heard, but not verified, that they can be combined with a paper coupon.
• Store coupons: These are coupons from a specific store, and can usually be stacked with a manufacturer’s coupon.
Freebies & samples: There are tons of sites and offers online to sign up for free samples. Examples I have received are cereal samples, full size granola bars, travel size shampoos or body wash, many different feminine hygiene products, etc. I’ve even received full size packages of instant mashed potatoes, mac’n’cheese, or Aveeno lotion. You may think that you don’t need samples of stuff, especially if you’ve had the product, but A. it’s free, B. they’re great for travel, and C. they often come with high value coupons inside. I got free Total cereal this week with $1 coupons that came in the samples, and free Always Infinity pads from FREE coupons they included. Also, signing up for samples makes it really fun to check your mail every day!
Store deals: Most people who try coupons say, “I would use coupons, but I still get a better price on the store brand.” Well, that’s probably true, if you took your little .25 coupon to Walmart and expected to get a good deal. But when you start watching the ads, matching coupons with sales, and stocking up at a great price, is when you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Remember that free Total I mentioned a moment ago? I got it at Leeker’s, who normally has pretty high prices. But, they had it on sale for $2 a box, and I had two $1 coupons, and it was Double Dollar Week. Suddenly an expensive, name brand item was free!
Stockpiling: I have 8 bottles of Nivea body wash in my bathroom. I have a dozen boxes of pasta in my kitchen. I have enough light bulbs to last me for years. Why, you ask? Stockpiling! No, I didn’t go crazy for Y2K, I just got a good price (or free) so I stocked up. Yes, it will take me a while to use all that body wash, but it was completely free, so in the meantime I don’t have to buy any other soap! How can you beat that? Oh, and the lightbulbs? I just hate those CFLs, so I’m getting all the free bulbs I can while they’re still on the shelves. : )
Pantry cooking & other money saving tips: Learn the stretch the stuff you have. I use about 1/3 the recommended amount of laundry detergent and everything comes out just fine (except on Jon’s super dirty work clothes). I use cloth diapers at home. I get creative with all that pasta in my pantry-in the past 6 months I’ve invented pasta salad, homemade marinara sauce, etc., just using whatever I have in the pantry.
Brand loyalty: One of the biggest kickers for great deals is you may have to give up your brand loyalty! Remember that free Nivea body wash? Never used it before in my life. But I get just as clean as I would with my favorite Dove soap. But with patience, your favorites might roll around on sale. Walgreen’s had my favorite Dove shampoo (matches that soap) a while back for 3.99, which isn’t a low price, but I received a 3.99 Register Reward back when I purchased that shampoo, essentially making it free. I also used a coupon when I bought it, and ended up making money in the end. Needless to say, I stocked up on a few bottles that week! If you must have a particular brand, at least wait for a good sale and coupons.
Smallest package vs. Econo-size: Sometimes buying in bulk is cheaper. Sam’s Club wouldn’t be in business if it wasn’t! But when you’re using coupons, unless there is a size restriction, your best value is usually on the smallest package. I used to get the 2-packs of Olay bar soap at Leeker’s during Double Dollar Week. Regular price was about 2.39, add in a doubled $1 coupon, and you’re looking at about .20 per bar. If you have multiple coupons, you can get plenty to stockpile without buying the big package. Often you can find trial size deodorant, contact solution, etc for free or nearly free with the right coupons. You’ll never pay $12 on that double pack of contact solution again!
Store policies & store coupons: Most of the frugal bloggers swear by the drugstore deals. In the Wichita area we only have Walgreen’s, and I’ve scored some pretty sweet deals there with very careful planning. Here’s a brief breakdown of the local stores and how they accept coupons.
• Dillon’s: They accept manufacturer’s coupons, both regular and internet printables. All coupons with a face value up to .50 are doubled. Coupons with a face value of .51-.99 are “doubled” up to $1. You can also load “e-coupons” onto your Dillon’s card from several sites. E-coupons do not double, but I have heard that you can “stack” them with paper coupons for a triple-dip. I’ve not tried that myself so I can’t verify it. Dillon’s runs Catalina deals.
• Target: They accept manufacturer’s coupons, both regular and internet printables. They also have store coupons, printed from their website or found occasionally in the inserts. You may use 1 manufacturer coupon and 1 store coupon on an item. I have also found that you can combine a value-off coupon with a B1G1 coupon, for instance, I had a $4 off and a B1G1 coupon for Nivea body wash, which is regularly priced at 3.99. I used the $4 coupon on the first bottle (which made it free, with a .01 overage), plus I got the second bottle free with the B1G1 coupon. Some Target stores have Catalina machines. You can find Target’s official coupon policy on their website here. http://www.target.com/b/ref=br_bx_4/192-8675570-7665569?ie=UTF8&node=2223357011
• Walgreen’s: Their regular prices are pretty high, so you’ll wanna stick to the sales when you shop there. The biggest deals are found when you receive Register Rewards (RR) on a purchase. A RR is a manufacturer’s coupon for a specific dollar amount off your next purchase. They are printed from a little machine next to the register. Walgreen’s also has in-ad coupons and a monthly store coupon booklet that can be stacked (combined) with a manufacturer’s coupon, giving you that double whammy on your savings. Here is Money Saving Mom’s “Walgreen’s 101”. http://moneysavingmom.com/2008/01/walgreens-101.html
• Leeker’s: They are generally higher priced as well. They double coupons with a face value up to .50. Every fourth week or so is Double Dollar Week, when they double coupons with a face value up to $1. That is when I score my best deals. They will not double internet coupons. They recently started a rewards card system, where you earn 5 points for every dollar spent. You may then use your accumulated points to purchase certain promo items. The list changes each month. Points do not expire.
• Walmart: Yes, they have low prices, unless you are a coupon shopper! I get different answers on certain scenarios any time I try them (like when I have a $1 coupon for an .84 item) so I generally avoid it. You can price match at Walmart, but it needs to be a deal from a printed ad, and they will not match RR deals and the like.
• Aldi: I’ve never been there…their store brand prices rival Walmart’s, but I’ve not felt the need to aggravate myself just yet with a new store and all my kids. The frugal bloggers definitely tout the values at Aldi though.
**THANK YOU ALLISON!!!!**
Just a couple more things to add... It is very helpful (and I strongly advise) to print and carry with you a copy of corporate coupon policies. Here are links to the stores we have in and around Wichita:
Dillons, unfortunately, does not have their coupon policy posted on their website so I actually had to email the company for it. I simply printed the email, put it in a page protector and then put it in my coupon binder.
K-Mart does not have a policy posted to their site either. I do not shop at K-Mart very often. Occasionally, they will have a Super Doubles Week in which they double $2 coupons but, you have to REALLY look at the fine print on those sales. The last couple of times they've had it, you've had to purchase at least $25 worth before tax and you could only use 5 coupons per transaction. Last time they did it, it was ONLY on pharmacy and health and beauty products.Leekers also does not have a posted coupon policy. I do know that they do not accept coupons printed from the internet and they double up to and including $0.50. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their Double Dollar Week! This is probably one of my favorite weeks of the month. During that week, they will double coupons up to AND INCLUDING $1.00. This is a great time to get health and beauty products, paper products and cleaning/laundry products. There are also usually good sales on some of their grocery items that can be matched with coupons to equal cheap or possibly FREE items. The only different rule during that week is that they will only accept 3 like coupons per day for any one item (example: purchase 3 mascaras and those 3 $1.00 coupons will be doubled. If you purchase 4 of those mascaras, only 3 $1.00 will be doubled). Just to be certain, though, I would check with the store regarding the policies.