Believe me the first time I was able to use coupons to get free items I was so excited I did a show and tell at my parents house. My family thought I was crazy at first, but when I showed them I got $4.50 items for $.32 (the tax) they wanted to know how I did it. During that particular haul (purchasing trip) at Publix I had a total savings of $13+ dollars. Today, I want to walk you through a few of the Steps I used to do it:
1. Get Access to Store Sale Information
The very first thing you should do is create an account on Coupon Mom. It is absolutely free and I am getting nothing by telling you this. It is the site I use to have a clear understanding of what sales are in each store. There are many sites out there that do this, but this is the one I felt was the most clear and concise in listing what sales each store is having, where to find the coupon(s) and how much you are going to save.
You also want to go to Hot Coupon World and read the coupons basics articles. They will explain everything you need to know regarding how to double deals and the purpose behind reserves aka stockpiling. There used to be a show on TLC called extreme couponers, please don’t go into this with that in mind. As the show states, they are extreme couponers and I truly feel that they may be addicted to the thrill. I choose to coupon to save my family money and to ensure we have the things we need. I have a set reserve number for various items (usually 2 – 4) and donate the rest or share with family. Read how I stock pile and set quotas here.
2. Rank Stores with Best Sale Items
On Sunday or Monday and/or Wednesday go to the sale website of your choice. For purposes of this article I will be referring to the couponmom website. Click on each store you visit on a regular basis. (For example, I look at Kroger, Publix, Target and then various drug stores) Sort the list based on the “%saved column” so the highest percentage is at the top (free items are in red). Mark the items you are interested in, view your selected items and then print the list.
Personally, I try to only look at items with over 50% savings. Sometimes I just need something and if that is the case you can skim the various lists to see who has the best price/sale but I only do that if I really need the item. I suggest looking on Monday and/or Wednesday because Publix has a different sale cycle than other stores. Theirs starts on Wednesday, so either do all others on Sunday and/or Monday and save Publix until Wednesday or do them all on Wednesday. The problem with waiting is a lot of times the stores are sold out later in the week, especially if it is a really good sale. You can always get a raincheck, which helps but you have to remember to go back. Also, I don’t “store hop”, so it helps for me to go to various stores throughout the week based on if there are items there I need. You do what is best for you.
3. Know your Store’s Coupon Policy
Along with their raincheck policy, you also want to determine the coupon policy for your local stores, for example my Publix takes Target, Kroger and Food Lion coupons. So I can stack a target coupon on top of a Publix deal and a manufacturer coupon. All Publix stores don’t do this, it is based on what is closest to it. Go to the customer service desk and ask for a copy of their coupon policy. Most stores have it printed or can direct you to an electronic version of it. Note, coupon policies are specific to your stores, so don’t assume one policy is transferable to another.
An example, Publix had a BOGO (buy one get one free) on salad dressing. I had a manufacturer’s coupon for $1 off 2 and also a Target coupon for $1 off 2. With the BOGO each bottle of salad dressing was ~$1.00 (for this example assume the price was originally $2.00) because Publix splits the price between the two so you don’t have to buy two. Anyway, So I had 2 coupons for $1.00 off each so I got two bottles of dressing for free (plus tax). You could have bought one bottle and used both coupons on the one item and just had overage that you could apply to other items, but I needed both.
4. Where to Find Your Coupons
Go through your collection of coupons to find the coupons that match your sale items. There are many ways to get coupons without having to purchase the paper. You can start a coupon exchange at work where everyone brings in their unwanted coupons and/or you can ask others to give you their unwanted coupons. I collect coupons from three different people and then participate in a round robin. That is enough for me based on my reserve count.
One thing to note is if you look at the list and it says there are a number of coupons you need in the Sunday paper, it may be worth just buying one from Walgreen’s (the price now are $.99) to ensure you have what you need. Then just bring in the ones you don’t need/want for your coupon exchange at work. It is definitely easier to track coupons if left in the circular because the coupon listings provided by the websites above are based on the circular date, but I have done it both ways so just do what works best for you.
If you found this information helpful, check out my articles on Where I store my stockpile or How to track sales with a price book. I encourage everyone to live their happiest life and there is nothing like saving money! You just have to organize yourself prior to visiting the stores to ensure you have a successful trip. Happy Couponing!!!!
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