Staying organized is the first rule to saving money. You can’t stay on a budget if you don’t do a little planning. Here are some tips that I use to keep my couponing organized–and managing my time. I break my shopping up into shopping for food and pharmacy shopping because they require two different planning tactics.
Shopping for food:
- Before heading out to my local supermarket, I take a look at the “match-ups”on a local coupon blog, Kansas City Mamas. Every week, they match existing coupons with each store’s advertised sales. Not all of these match-ups make for a great deal, so they highlight those that are at “stock-up” prices. Search for a local or regional blog to follow–and be sure they highlight the deals that are worthwhile. A $2.99 sale on a small box of Cheerios is rarely a good deal–even with a coupon.
- Based on what the blogs have told me, I decide which stores have deals that I want to get. I go to Pricechopper about every week because it is nearby and offers amazing sales. But Hen House and HyVee don’t always have enough on sale to be worth my time.
- I combine trips with taking my daughter to gymnastics or other errands. The last thing you want to do is trade the money spent on food for gas.
- I print out any coupons I don’t have that would make for a good deal. The blogs I follow provide the links to them (in return they get a small kick-back from the coupon companies for the advertising).
- I clip and take only my food coupons in my binder. I never purchase non-food products at the supermarket–because CVS and Walgreens offer better deals. Sometimes I pull out those that I know I’ll be using and put them in the front.
- With my food coupons in hand, I like to stroll each isle looking at the weekly sales, and pull the coupons as a shop. SO many sales are unadvertised, that I find this works bests. Because the sale items usually have noticeable tags, I can move along pretty fast. I have learned what good price points are for most items—so it’s easy now to browse quickly.
- After I have shopped the very best deals at my supermarket–and hopefully stocked up on a few staples, I go back and plan meals around what I was able to purchase. If I don’t have what I need to complete a meal, then I make a shopping list for Aldi. I often have a lot of produce needs that I fill there as well.
- Occasionally, I go to Sam’s Club–usually only once a month. There are only a few things that can be purchased there cheaper than combining coupons with supermarket sales–typically items from companies that rarely offer coupons. I probably will not renew my membership there this year–I don’t use it enough to justify the cost.
Pharmacy Shopping (mostly non-food shopping)
- I don’t clip coupons for non-food items because they rarely have unadvertised sales at CVS and Walgreens–so lugging all those clipped coupons around is just too much work. After I’ve clipped out the food coupons I want, I write the published date on the front of each coupon insert and keep them in my desk. This helps me find the right insert later when referenced in the store “matchup” list. (Note: Saving all of your coupon inserts is also a great idea for other reasons. There are a lot of things that I don’t want or need. But some deals are so good, you can “make money” by buying the product–and then just donate it to a friend. This concept will be addressed more in my posts about using coupons at CVS and Walgreens.)
- I use the blog, hip2save.com to organize my Sunday trips to these two stores. I create a detailed shopping list based on Collin’s match-ups for these stores. She highlights the best deals–and usually those are the only ones I go out for–but I still browse the whole post for things I may be running low on. Sometimes you have to pay a bit more to stay stocked on items of a certain brand. I only like Dove Clinical deodorant–so even though $2 a box is considered a noteworthy deal, sale purchase limits sometimes force me to buy it at $3-4.
- After pulling the match-ups from Hip2Save that I like, I check over the ad myself. I often have personalized coupons they send me (like $5 off $25 in baby items that suddenly turns a decent diaper sale a diaper blowout). I also get a lot of post-purchase coupons for $10 off a purchase of $50 that make moderate deals even better. And ALL of these CVS store coupons can be “stacked” on in the same transaction–CVS is one of the most lenient stores in regards to using coupons.
- Once my list is complete, I pull the coupons I need and take them with me to the store. Hip2Save provides links to those available online. She’s pretty thorough. If the coupon exists and is legal, she will usually have it listed.
- I check my email for any coupons from CVS–they send a few each month that I can send straight to my ExtraCare card. When I check out, the cashier will ask which ones I’d like to apply to the transaction. You also have the option to print if you don’t trust sending them to your card.
- I head to the store and shop for the things on my list. Occasionally, they will run out of the item, so I request a rain check for those items.
CVS and Walgreens are both very difficult to learn to coupon–I still get tripped up on occasion. There are a lot of rules to follow, but also a lot of opportunities. I will create separate posts on how to best use coupons at these stores.