Sunday, October 21, 2012

How to Organize and Save Money with Coupons the Normal Way

Let me give you a little background information: I save money using coupons. And not in a crazy way either.  I don't hoard toothpaste, it doesn't take me hours to shop, I don't steal coupons from recycling bins, I don't leave the shelves empty and, this is important, I never get $300 worth of stuff for thirteen cents. Ever.

But I do save money as in put in in the bank and leave it alone. I do have a nice supply of necessities on hand and I'm able to give plenty to the school food bank fundraiser. Here's my tips for organizing coupons and saving in a nice, normal way.

Keeping up with the Coupons.  In order for couponing to be effective and easy to maintain, you have to store them in a way that is easy for you to understand and in a way that makes you actually want to stick with it. Only you can determine what method works best for you. For me, it was this large, heavy duty file card box made from thick and translucent plastic. It worked like a charm for more than two decades (that's college, single life, married and two babies. Whew! I guess it had a long life!) When it finally died, I switched to an old fashioned, but small, photo album. Like my wonderful box, it's divided into categories that make sense to me: dairy, dinner, pets, baby, snacks, cleaner, medicine, you get the idea.

Be Reasonable.  Know your reasonable expectations of what you will use in a timely fashion and only keep those coupons. I have been known to go online and print coupons for products that don't get purchased frequently. I still don't know what possessed me to acquire seven coupons which expired in a month for bug bite ointment. I wasted time, newspapers, and  printer ink and paper for coupons I couldn't possibly use for a product I probably wouldn't need that much of.I don't need a year's supply of mustard so I don't need to scrounge up ten extra sets of coupons. Maybe one or three will do just fine. The more you overdue it, the less likely you can maintain it.

Maintenance Schedule.  Just because coupon clipping and organizing is an ongoing thing doesn't mean it's painful or time consuming. Get into a rhythm of setting aside a few minutes to remove expired coupons and clipping/filing new ones. I tend to sort/toss mine while we're sitting at the kitchen table doing homework: I'm doing what I need but it isn't difficult, so I can easily put it down and help someone conjugate a verb.  I sometimes do the clipping when I'm catching up on the weather report. If it's taking too long, you need to simplify your plan. You literally only need a few minutes.

Get your Game(plan) On.   Look at the list of things you need to shop for and compare it to your store's circular. Next, match up your coupons. There's no need for trickery or trying to double stack your coupons. Simply buy what you have to, using sales and coupons to lower the price. If your coupon container is small, go ahead and take it to the store with you. Maybe you'll find a great bargain. Just be courteous of the shoppers around you and don't block the aisle looking for an obsure cream of tartar coupon.

Put that Back!  If you love So Yummy! Haggus Soup then, by all means, buy some. But if not, don't waste money getting a cart full. If you won't eat it, you haven't saved money. The only exception is if you want to try something and the coupon makes the product ridiculously cheap. I do that all the time for new products when the coupon and introductory price make something financially attractive. But a whole cart full? I guarantee this will be the one time you hate it and then you're stuck.

 People turn against coupons because they see the near-psychotic appearance/attitude of the coupon hoarders. It doen't have to be like that. A little goes a long way. Slow and steady savings is the way to achieve coupon success.

Happy Clipping!

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