Couponing 101: Saving Money Clipping Coupons
You've probably stood in a checkout line behind someone who has a coupon for every item they've purchased, and it seems like eternity until they are finished. But, they probably saved over 50% to 80% off their grocery bill in that few minutes! How, you ask? If you want to try your hand at snipping scissors for savings, first you need the coupons! The best source for coupons is in the Sunday newspapers. The inserts are tucked in the middle with the advertisements. With the cost of a Sunday paper usually ranging from $1.00 - $1.50, it is a good investment with sometimes hundreds of dollars worth of coupons.
And can you believe most people throw them away? Ask your friends, relatives and neighbors to save the inserts for you. Be on the lookout for businesses who subscribe and leave papers around for customers to read (ie Gas Stations, Laundry Mats). Check recycling bins. "Dumpster dive" if you have to. On Monday, ask your newspaper carrier and stores if they have any leftover Sunday papers that didn't sell.
Vendors usually only have to send in certain parts of the newspaper (ie the heading) of those that didn't sell to get credit for unsold papers. But they still have the coupons inside! Unfortunately around Holidays, coupon inserts aren't as plentiful. So, you may want to check the Newspaper in the Newsstand on Mother's Day before searching the couch cushions for pocket change. And not all Sunday newspaper carry the same inserts. Some may have one, and another three. And even if they carry the same inserts, the amounts of the coupons may be different! It is common that coupons have a higher dollar value in an urban area over a rural area. More ways to obtain coupons is directly from the manufacturers. Call the toll-free number on your favorite brands asking for coupons. Telling them first how much you like their product is a good introduction to your plea. Most will be happy to mail you coupons.
Also check out to see if the product has a website. Email them or use their contact form to inquire. Don't forget to include your mailing address. Look over your empty canned goods labels and boxed food items before throwing them in the trash. Usually you can find a toll-free number to call (see above) on the package. Some packages also adorn their own coupons good on their next purchase. And many companies are now participating in Boxtops for Education and Campbell's Labels for Education, so take a second to cut out the little symbol for the school of your choice. Those 10¢ add up fast when many people save, and all schools, public and private alike, appreciate them. Also look for "hang-tags" on items in the store. Some will say "Save $$$ now" and if you read the print, it does not have to be used on only that certain item.
Look for hang-tags on wine, as some offer $$$ off soda, meat or produce, with NO alcohol purchase required. Another plan to acquire coupons is to beg, borrow or steal from other couponers. Ok, maybe not steal. Barter. If you don't know any coupon locales, you can meet them through Refund/Coupons Magazines and Internet Chat Boards. It is prohibited to actually sell coupons, but you can "purchase" coupons from Coupon Services who charge a "handling fee" per coupon (for their time to cut, sort and mail). You can even bid on coupons on eBay! The newest way to add coupons to your collection is to print them directly from the internet to your printer (ie FreePrintables.net)! Some stores have yet to accept these thinking they are counterfeit. But printable coupons are definitely the wave the of future. Many sites make you register first, and your name may even appear on the coupon or are barcoded with your information.
Others may only let you print one or two of the same coupon before you get a "Sorry you've already printed your quota for that coupon" message. Once you have your coupons, it is best to have some rhyme or reason to them, so it is easier to find the coupon you want when you need it. You can use a simple recipe box with dividers, a three ring binder with divided pages (like for baseball cards), or you can even buy a "real" coupon organizer. Then you need to categorize your coupons within your organizer. There are several ways people sort theirs. The most simple way is to organize by generic classifications (ie Baby, Pet, Frozen Foods, Dairy, Paper Products, Health & Beauty, etc). Another way to sort is by expiration date. Couponers with thousands of coupons file the full inserts by the name of the insert (SmartSource, Valassis, Proctor & Gamble) and the date that it came out. Make a date once a month with your coupon organizer to weed out expired coupons.
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