Thursday, May 6, 2010

Coupon Basics and Ideas

A friend emailed this morning and asked some questions that I thought would be best to respond to via the blog so that others could read as well.

Q: I have a huge book of coupons...organized with business card holder type things. Anyway, I have read other people getting loads of groceries for 1.80 and what not by using coupons. Can you use more than one coupon for the same item? Is that how you get things for free?

Im not sure I can use more than one at at time here. The most Ive ever saved with coupons has been $18 bucks in one shopping are you buying so much with coupons for so little?

A: This is my thoughts and suggestions.

Where to get coupons: The best place to get coupons really is the sunday paper. You can print some here and there, but mostly the sunday paper is the best option.
There are 2-3 types of coupons in the Sunday paper: Red Plum (RP), Smart Source (SS) and sometimes a Proctor and Gamble (P&G)

How to organize them: We have done lots of research and neither one of us have come up with a great solution. Currently, I have my coupons organized by date in their original form. For instance, We are NOT clipping these coupons until we need them. I put a binder clip on the book to keep everything together and date the front. The reason I do this is because when I see that I can go to CVS and get free toothpaste using a 5/2 RP, I can immediately go to the 5/2 date, RedPlum book and find the coupon.

How do you know what is free? Elizabeth and I 100% totally utilize Google Reader. For those of you who don't know what a reader is, it's basically like setting up your own newspaper. You can tell the reader what things you want to know about and it will automatically populate the information for you. I have my reader set up that it pulls LOTS of blogs from stay at home mom's who have the time to put these deals together. They spend so much time doing this and it saves me a handful of time as well. This is also why Elizabeth and I started this blog. We are giving you the information you need to just take those handy organized coupons straight to the store and get your free items. Below is some of the RSS feeds that come into my reader. You can add them to yours.

How are you buying so much with coupons for so little?
Golden Rule: Only use your coupons on items that are on Sale to get the absolute BEST deal.
Ok, so there are a few ways to do this that we have found.
Clearance: Sometimes you can get really lucky and find an item on clearance that you have a coupon for that will cover the cost of the item.
Travel Sizes: Very often, the price of a travel size item is .99 cents or lower. If you have a $1 off coupon for that item, it makes the item free.
Example: .99 Dove Deodorant, use .99 Dove Deodorant Coupon
CVS: CVS is our favorite. If you look at the CVS ad, you will see that they give you Extra Care Buck or (ECB's) when you buy certain items.
Example in older ad: Buy Milk for $2.99, receive $3 in ECB's = that makes the milk free.
You would still be paying the $2.99 for the milk, but then you receive $3 in ECB's to go toward your next purchase. The idea is to only be buying items with ECB's so that you have a rolling stash of ECB's. The ECB's print at the bottom of your receipt. Tear the ECB off and put it in your wallet to go towards that next purchase.
Example of ECB:
Walgreens: Walgreens kinda does the same thing, but theirs is called Register Rewards (RR). They do the same deal where we purchase an item and receive the Register Reward. The same concept applies as CVS, except at Walgreens you don't have to have a 'memeber card' to get the specials. Therefore, you can go to multiple Walgreens and make the same transactions to get multiple items. I am sure Walgreens wouldn't appreciate this, but that's just the way that it is. Keep in mind, that Walgreens register rewards do not print on the receipt like CVS. They print separately, so make sure that the cashier gives you the register reward.

Example of Register Reward (RR):

How do you use more than one coupon at a time? This can get tricky and varies from store to store. Many of their policies are different. CVS and Walgreens policy is 1 coupon per item you purchase. So, if I know I am using 2 coupons for my deodorant to get the deodorant free, I will find the cheapest item in the store a .25 cent type of item, and purchase it for a 'filler'. Just to make the number of items purchased the same as the number of coupons used.

What do I do if I am a beginner? I would start buying a sunday paper starting now. Then set up your reader to view other people's blogs. Elizabeth and I will keep posting our purchases for you. In each of our post, we provide the information you need to go and do it yourself. We tell you where we went, what we bought, coupons we used and where to find them. If you have any questions, please email us. We would love to help you learn as we learn! Also, we post free items to get samples of. Even though you may not necessarily want the sample sizes, get the free items, because usually you will get a coupon for the full size along with the sample. The sample can ALWAYS be donated. Or in my case, I just add the shampoo sample to my shampoo bottle. At this point, I should have the SUPER shampoo because it has multiple brands, types, in it. :)