I thought I'd take a minute to tell you how I got from "there" to "here" and what I've learned along the way.
First - where was "there"? Single mom with 5 kids, 1 grandbaby, and 2 dogs. I was a single mom, trying to make every dollar count, for many years. That then brings us to "here" - I'm now very happily married to my childhood sweetheart, we have a total of 7 kids between the 2 of us, still only 1 grandbaby, 2 dogs, 2 homes in 2 different States....the list goes on.
As any of you will know - whether single mom, married couple, bachelor, etc. - life is busy! Laundry piles up, dinner needs to be made, dishes need to get washed, someone needs to vacuum up that dog hair, bills have to be paid, and most importantly - someone get groceries!
I started couponing quite a few years ago, but wasn't very consistent with it until the last year or so. I clipped coupons, stuffed them in an envelope, and headed to the grocery store. Didn't care if things were on sale or not, just bought it because I had a coupon.
I soon graduated from one envelope to 10 envelopes, and made up my categories as I went along. Until a couple months ago cereal and baby products shared the same envelope! Toothpaste, however, had it's own!
If you're going to be serious about couponing, and saving your hard earned money, there are a few things you need to understand and do......so I've compiled a list of what I've learned through trial and error to maybe help you out along the way!
1) Get a coupon binder or organizer. Amazon has several - just do a little search. (or click on the links I've provided and get some ideas) What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for the next. I tried the organizers that look like wallets - they're too small. I tried making my own binder, but I was too new to understand exactly what I was doing and it didn't work well for me. I then purchased a completed binder from Mrs. A's and I don't know what I ever did without it at this point! Although I will admit, that it's now becoming too small, and I'm soon going to have to upgrade to either the large binder Mrs. A's sells, or 2 binders. Binders help you see all your coupons without having to leaf through them, therefore saving you time. (and time is money!)
2) Get more than one newspaper each week. I typically buy 3 newspapers weekly, and some weeks when I know there will be extra inserts or really good coupons I'll buy 5 or 6. I'll keep you updated on what inserts will be included in the weeks newspaper, as well as which coupons are included if we get a sneak peek, so that you can determine how many papers you want to purchase.
3) Keep a price list. Mine is still growing, so don't think that you have to run out this week and figure out the price for your favorite items at 15 different store. I do it as I shop - just jot down a couple regular prices for a few diferent items, and then add it to my price book when I get home. I also keep sale prices and dates in my book so I can determine if something is REALLY a good deal, or if I can/should wait for it to go on sale for less.
4) Start a stockpile!!! I can not stress this enough. A stockpile allows you to purchase items when you can get them for FREE or next to free....rather thank buying what you need this week. You will see your stockpile grows slowly at first, but before you know it you'll have hundreds of items you've received for free. When you need something you can go shopping in your own little store, rather than having to run out and pay for it! My stockpile, after a year, has outgrown the closet I had it contained in. It's now taken over shelves in my bathroom, and I'm getting ready to move it to an "extra" closet very soon. (sshhhhh don't tell my husband!)
5) Keep your calculator handy! There are websites, even my blog, that will tell you how to get deals on different items. The problem is we're all human. I can make a math error just as easily as the next person. I'd like to think that's few and far between, since I double check everything, but it still happens. You will want to run the deal through your own calculator to make sure it's working out as you anticipated.
6) Learn the coupon policies for the stores you shop. My stores pretty much all double coupons up to $0.50, however there is one store, which I had always thought a little pricey, that doubles up to $1.00. There are times when that "pricey" store turns out to be the best deal! Drug stores typically do not double coupons. Neither does the Commissary (for any of you reading this that have Commissary privleges).
7) Learn how to double up coupons! When a store issues their own coupon you can "stack" that coupon with a manufacturers coupon to save even more. Learn about Register Rewards, Extra Care Bucks, whatever language your particular stores uses for the little "money off your next purchase" coupons that print out after your transaction. Even if you have to pay a little bit for an item out of your pocket, if you receive a "money off" coupon for your next purchase you've just reduced the price of that item!
8) Ask questions! If you're not sure how something works - ask! Any of us who have a blog, website, facebook page, etc., that is dedicated to couponing will help you out! There is no such thing as a stupid question - we're here to help you save!!
9) Read your weekly ads. You can sometimes get a sneak peek ad from the drug stores if you go to their website and look 2 or 3 days before the ad is due to be released. Plan your trip ahead of time - write down what you want to buy, how much of it you want, and what coupons you intend to use.
10) Do NOT just take the coupons for specific items with you - take all your coupons. If a deal doesn't work out as you thought once you're in the store there may be another deal you can work out if you have your coupons with you! Yes.....people look at you funny when you walk into CVS with a binder full of coupons, and my kids call me the "crazy coupon lady", but it's worth it! Soon you won't even notice, and the first time you walk away from the register paying absolutely nothing with over $100 of products in your bags they'll be staring for a different reason - they will want to know how you managed it!
Now.......go have fun couponing!