-The Hungry Preacher, 2012
By the way, quoting yourself is a great way to broach a topic on a blog AND at a party (more on that in my series on social savviness).
So, coupons. I'll try to remember that figuring out coupons for some people is like figuring out computers for people like me: very intimidating, and you'll always feel like what you DON'T know is more important than what you DO know.
A couple of differences, though:
-The "rules" of coupons are fairly stagnant. It's not like new technology is always coming out, rendering your knowledge obsolete
-A little bit of knowledge of couponing can, in fact, provide you with a little bit of help. In contrast, I have found that a little bit of knowledge with computers usually just means that I will spend an extra 10 minutes poking around before I end up calling an expert.
It also might help to attack head-on the scariest thing about coupons: Being "that guy" (or girl). "That guy" is the one who is at the front of a long line to check out, holding a stack of coupons, while the cashier is trying to figure out why the machine won't scan one of them. The cashier is squinting at the fine print, then digging through your bags trying to find an item that matches the coupon. Your kids are squirming, the kids of the people behind you are squirming, kids all over the world are squirming, and their parents all know that it's your fault. You just want to empty your wallet on the counter, cry "keep it" and run to your car, leaving behind your purchases or even your kids.
First off, I've been that guy, and you're right: it's no fun.
Second, I survived. So can you. If you do your homework, and something goes wrong at the checkout, that's fine. It happens. You don't need to act entitled, rude, or demanding. But you DO have a right to know why your coupon isn't working. The fault may be with you, but even if it is, you still have the right to have the cashier explain what the problem is. Don't apologize for that, and don't feel bad about it. Your job is to save money for your family. Don't let the stinkeye from strangers or a grumpy cashier keep you from doing that.
Over that hump? Good. On to couponing proper.
Since I don't know exactly what might work for you, I'll tell you what works for me, and let your pick which of these bull's horns you want to take and run with.
We begin bright and early on Saturday morning. I hop out of bed at 6:00, put on my robe, and fetch the morning paper.
A couple of those details are embellished, but the important thing is that I do, in fact, get the paper delivered to my home on weekends. It only takes a couple of bucks worth of coupons for the paper to pay for itself. Then, hey, free paper!
Each weekend, there are anywhere from zero (usually on holiday weekends) to three booklets of coupons. I pull out the booklets and set them aside. Then I wait for either a baseball game or a football game to be on television. That is prime clipping time, since clipping is a pretty mindless task and I would be watching the games anyway.
Once a game is on, I flip through the pages and mentally categorize each coupon into one of three categories:
1. I have a high chance of using this before it expires.
2. I have a low chance of using this before it expires, but I might use it if this item goes on some ridiculous sale.
3. I have virtually no chance of using this coupon.
If a coupon is in the first category, I cut it out--right along the dotted line--and put it in a pile. This pile will get sorted into my coupon caddie that I carry with me when I shop.
|a stack like this...|
|turns into piles like these...|
|to get filed into this|
If a coupon is in the second category, I do a "quick cut". Basically, I separate it from other coupons, but don't really care about cutting along the lines. If it's the only coupon on the page, I don't cut it all. If it's on the top half, I quickly cut the page across the middle. These pages get filed into a plastic, portable filing case. I don't carry this case into stores with me, but sometimes keep it in the car.
|some "quick cut" pages to be filed|
Later, if I'm going through ads and see something on some crazy sale--like, if they're literally giving something away (more on that later)--I'll circle the item in the ad, then look through my file box to see if I've got a coupon in there that may even allow me to make a profit on an item.
If a coupon is in the third category, I drop it in the recycling bag.
Once I've cut out all the category 1 coupons, I sort them into new piles by type in order to sort them into my coupon caddie. My caddie has 12 slots. Here are how I catagorize them:
DEODERANT, SHAVING, & MOUTHCARE
ALL OTHER PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS
CEREAL, BREAD, & GRAINS
SNACKS & MEALBARS
SAUCES, SIDES, & TOPPINGS
TOILET PAPER, TISSUES, & PAPER TOWELS
ALL OTHER PAPER PRODUCTS
FROZEN FOOD (this category trumps other categories; e.g., a frozen snack food goes in here)
MEAT & SOUP
That's it. Every coupon fits into one of those categories.
My file box of category 2 "quick cut" coupons is a little more segregated. I've got 15 files:
AIR CARE (things like Glade plug-ins, odor eaters, etc.)
DEODERANT & SHAVING
DOGS & CARS
LOTION & CLEANSER
MEDICINE (INGESTED) (this is for all ingested treatments that do not relate to digestion)
MEDICINE (SKIN & CUT)
PAPER (TOILET PAPER, TISSUE, & PAPER TOWELS)
SOAP & BODY WASH
VITAMINS & SUPPLEMENTS
There are a few products that could make a case for dual-citizenship, like make up products that double as lotion. But there really are only a few.
Each coupon booklet takes me about 20 minutes to go through. Again, these are usually 20 minutes that I would have spent just sitting on the counch watching sports.
So if you put in an hour a week in this manner, in just a few weeks you'll have a pretty good stash of both "quick access" and "on file" coupons. Around the end of each month, I take another hour and flip through all my coupons to pull out the expired ones.
|Caddie and Boxy: I wouldn't exactly call them "friends," but there's a mutual respect|
Friend, you are not a coupon geek. Welcome to the club. Now that you've got your foundation, you're ready for intermediate couponing, where I'll share some very specific tricks and tips to help you maximize your coupon's effectiveness. Until then...