Thursday, February 5, 2009

About Couponing and Deal Getting - Tip of the day

Are you desperately trying to get started couponing? The most common thing I hear from people who are trying to get started couponing is that they are really wanting to save money but are just having trouble matching up the coupons to the sales or that the items they need are not on sale.

Is this you? Do you find yourself ready to save only to be totally put off and disappointed when your Sunday paper has no coupons on the stuff on your grocery list?
First, it isn't about what you can get right away with your Sunday coupons. It's about having an organized system for coupon storage so you can find coupons when you need them weeks, or even months down the line when those items are on sale. That is where you score the good deals.
Example: You may not have a use for Muir Glen Tomatoes and the $1 off 1 coupon doesn't appeal to you. However, two weeks later when Muir Glen Tomatoes go on sale for $.90 each you are gonna be glad you set aside those $1 coupons! That is called 'money making' and you can put that overage towards the rest of your order! This is a stock up deal, too.

Here are some general rules of couponing - they may vary per store but these rules are what most stores follow.
  1. You can use one manufacturer's coupon per item. That means on a buy one get one free deal you can use two coupons, one for the item you paid for and one for the free one.
  2. You can use one manufacturer's coupon and one store coupon on one item. Say CVS has issued a coupon for Colgate and you have a newspaper coupon for Colgate, too. You can use both of these on one tube of Colgate. This is called stacking and most stores do allow it. The Commissary, however, DOES NOT allow this.
  3. Expired coupons are almost never accepted.
  4. Some stores accept competitor's coupons. Publix actually encourages this.
  5. If the coupon says "one coupon per purchase" this means you can only use one coupon per purchase of one item (that you can't use two of the same coupons on one item). This does not mean you have separate all your orders, though some cashiers will tell you it does. If you are confused by this just give it a while and you will understand what I mean.
  6. Your cashier isn't likely to give you any overage in cash but you can usually use your overage toward other groceries on your list. Though some stores don't allow overage at all and will scale any coupons that are worth more than your item down to the cost of the item.
  7. Most stores do accept printable coupons. However, it is illegal to photocopy coupons and this can cause a particular store to stop accepting printables all together.
  8. Coupon rules are dictated by each store and may differ from one store to another.
I'll tell you, it is mighty frustrating when the cashiers don't know the store's coupon policies. It is even more irritating when the manager doesn't know. Someday I am going to hold a coupon meeting in Isle 3 of Walgreens to let the employees know how to handle the coupons that come through the door. The best thing to do when you know you are in the right is to not get frustrated. I always keep a smile on my face, never talk down to anybody and I make sure to always keep a civil and friendly tone. Then, when I get home I try to call the manager to straighten the issue out or get clarity about a change in policy. If that doesn't work I get a hold of the corporate office. This has helped 100% of the time. It is key to stay nice.

Here are some tips to help out with getting started couponing and deal hunting. It isn't all that hard once you get started and learn your local store's coupon policies.
  • Don't just look for sales within your grocery list. In truth, the main food staples we use in our home are rarely on sale. We have a regular grocery shopping budget for things like rice, meats, cheeses, etc... However, since I have been getting other items each week for cheap or free the regular grocery shopping trip has been cut in half!
  • Learn to stockpile. By stock piling non-perishables when they are free or very cheap we have turned grocery shopping into a much smaller expenditure. We no longer pay anything (or very little) for toothpaste, toothbrushes, laundry detergent, feminine products, snacks, shampoo, deodorant, some medicines, peanut butter, make up and more. On weeks we can get this stuff at incredible savings or free I stock up. I can even get cereal at less than $1 a box most weeks!
  • Remember others. If I can get something for free, whether we'd use it or not, I always get it for the simple reason that somebody else might need it. I don't have Diabetes but there are many who do and when the testing supplies are available for free I make sure to pick them up to help out others who could benefit. Plus, if you know about Extra Care Bucks then you know this can help with rolling them over before they expire.
  • Allow for some diversity and be open to try new things. There are promotions on foods every week we don't normally buy but after sales and coupons they are free or close to free. I always jump on these items. Free food is always allowed in my freezer and with 9 in our family somebody is always hungry and will eat those freebies up.
  • Don't be afraid to get creative with dinner. If I get a frozen meal for free or very cheap I look for a way to stretch it across our family's dinner table, unless it is a single serving, in which it will go with my husband for lunch. For example, we got some of those broccoli stuffed and breaded chicken roll up things that come 4 to a box. There is no way that would feed our family but when I cooked it, cut it up, and added it to a bowl of pasta with a mayo/cottage cheese sauce it made more than enough for our family for dinner and was totally delicious.
  • Learn to enjoy variety. Snacking on foods that are exceptionally good deals can create variety in a diet and be healthy and yummy. We have been getting a lot of cheap or free yogurt lately. Plus, the All You magazine coupons for Wheat Thins have added to our snack pile, as well as little things at deep discounts at our local discount bread store. My kids have never snacked so healthy.
  • Make sweets a special treat. We don't buy soda however, occasionally it is beneficial to my pocket book to pick some up - as was the case this week. What a treat for my kids (and me too)! We have gotten a lot of free gum and very cheap M&Ms, too, in the last few weeks. And Jello...

Other 'rules' of couponing for the Christian wife are:

  • Omit any rule above that conflicts with your husband's expressed wishes. If he doesn't like meal experimentation or doesn't enjoy 'surprise' new foods in his lunches then you will have to work around that.
  • Stick to a planned budget. If I am planning on spending $20 on my shopping day I only take $30. That way I am less likely to let errors slide at the check out but I have cushion just in case I don't catch something or I need it no matter what. If my detergent was supposed to end up as $1 but it rang up as $4, or if a coupon isn't accepted for some reason, I will kindly ask the cashier to remove the product from my order. I don't budget a lot of room for error which keeps me from going over my budget.
  • Be Christian. Seriously. Don't be that lady who everybody in the store remembers because of her bad attitude. You want couponing to be easy - don't be a butt and make things harder on yourself. If a deal doesn't go right kindly smile and ask the cashier to remove the item(s) from your order. I have seen rude couponers. They really do make it a little harder on the rest of us.
  • Again, Be Christian. Don't try to fake or pass off coupons that weren't received legitimately. Photocopying a printable then taking 20 of them into a store for freebies will likely cause all of us headaches. Using fraudulent coupons causes stores to crack down on their policies. That can mean no more coupons or very strict coupon rules.
  • Don't be a ridiculous couponer. Taking 20 of the same coupon, whether printed or out of a newspaper insert, and using them on 20 items just doesn't look good. My local Walgreens has had this issue and actually stopped allowing many coupons for a short while. After talking to the store manager about this strange change I found out that one lady was coming in with more than 20 legitimate coupons from newspaper inserts, all the same for the same product and was buying out their shelves getting everything for free. Technically, the shopper wasn't doing anything wrong or fraudulent. However, she was a ridiculous couponer and looked suspicious and almost ruined it for all of us.

Finally, think of everything as a gift from God. If you get to the point where you are not using His gifts wisely, are turning greedy with your coupons, deals, and freebies, or you aren't glorifying Him anymore you have probably gone a bit too far. Take a step back, re-evaluate, and start again.

I'd love to add your tips - just leave a comment!


Christy ~ Munch75 said...

Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I'd lost your blog when you changed your name and was thrilled to find it again! :)