Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nat’s Couponing Tips – Part One

Wow, I think yesterday’s post stirred a fire in a lot of your bellies! I guess that’s a good thing. I wanted to address some of the things that were brought up in the comments section of the post. This is going to be a two part post because I wrote WAY too much. I hope it comes across well and that it will help some of you out.

As I mentioned yesterday, I use coupons all the time. I get made fun of sometimes (in a fun, joking way) because I seem to always have a coupon on hand for a product or restaurant or what have you. It’s rare that I don’t have a coupon for something when I need it. Having said that, one of the main reasons I never talk much about couponing here on this site is because there are so many great sites devoted to couponing and I actually use those sites to aid me in my quest for the lowest possible price. So, today, I wanted to reply to your comments from yesterday and also share my favorite money saving web sites with you so that you too may be able to start saving some money! It really adds up people, you would be surprised. Even my dad has started using coupons and I think he has also been impressed with the savings he has seen.

I will be the first to admit that couponing can be very time consuming if you do it right. However, if you are a TV junkie like me, then you can always cut coupons while watching TV, or if you are at the ballpark at your kids’ game, take your coupons there and cut them out or work on your grocery list. If you don’t get car sick, you can work on them while riding in the car while your husband is driving (for those of you that have husbands). You get the picture. There are lots of ways that you can multi-task and cut coupons so that it doesn’t have to take up so much of your time. When it comes to making a grocery list, focus on items that are on sale and plan your weekly menu around those items. It will save you a lot of time and money.

So, without further ado, let’s get started…

Mary was the first to comment and she said this, “Amen, sister! And, since we're complaining...I don't like having to submit my name, address or email address to get a coupon. I don't want or need a bunch of junk mail or spam from a company that I might be trying for the first time. I will have to add that I don't use coupons as much as I used to since my boys have gotten older.” In a later comment, Melissa suggested, “I have a tip for when a site requires your email address to get a coupon or other offer (I hate having to do that too!!)...set up a separate email account just for 'junk' mail. When you need to enter an email address for a site that you don't want to get spam from, just give them that junk account address, and you won't have to be bothered with it when checking your regular email. Hope this is helpful :)”

This is also exactly what I do. I actually have three “junk” email addresses that I use so that I can optimize the number of deals I get. A lot of “deal sites” will allow you to have an account per email address and a lot of times you can get a credit for signing up at certain times. For example, this past Christmas, I used three different emails addresses to set-up three different accounts for a deal site. Each account I set up was given a $20 credit. In return, I ended up buying a lunch container, and two Melissa and Doug toys for a grand total of less than $5 (including shipping!). If I had paid full price, it would have been well over $75 for these items.

In addition to signing up for credits at various “deal sites”, you can also use these “junk” email addresses when signing up for coupons on company web sites. That way, you don’t have to deal with all the junk mail and spam that comes as a result of signing up for a coupon. I have found this method to work out very nicely. About once a week I will log on to my ‘junk” accounts and check out the coupon offers (if there are any) and clean out the inbox. Also, a lot of companies (like Procter and Gamble) will offer samples and special coupons on a monthly or quarterly basis but you have to have an account with them to get the samples or coupons. A ‘junk” email account is good for this situation as well.

Melissa also commented, “Hey Nat!! Great topic!! Was I that lady in front of you who spent $150 and used no coupons?!? HA! Just kidding. I would LOVE to learn how to maximize the use of coupons. I NEVER use them, but would love to. I rarely find coupons for things I want/need to buy during that particular week. And, we usually spend about $150/week. Any advice you could pass along would be great...especially for a working mom who does not have much time to plan out my grocery list/coupon usage. Help!!”

I think this is a problem that a lot of people have regarding using or not using coupons. If you are like me, then you are probably very brand loyal; sometimes, however when using coupons, we have to put our loyalties aside and just go for the best deal. As a result of being brand loyal, we sometimes won’t cut out coupons for products that we normally don’t buy. This is a lesson I had to learn myself – cut out and save all coupons, not just those you think you will use. The more coupons you keep around, the more likely you will have what you need come grocery store time.

Another way to maximize the use of your coupons is to use them when an item is on sale and also when your store doubles. I shop at Publix every week. It’s pretty much the only place I shop these days. I occasionally will buy some things at Target, especially on the week that I pick up my prescriptions; but rare and I mean really rare is the occasion that I stop by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is a trap. You will often see things that are strategically placed and you will think, “what a deal”, and throw it in to your basket. The next thing you know, you are spending $200 and wondering how in the heck that happened. This seems to happen every time I’m at Wal-Mart so I’ve stopped going there except on the rare occasion when I need to pick up one or two things that they may not have at Publix or Target or if I need to get something on the way to work (there’s a Wal-Mart close to where I work). Wal-Mart also has a terrible coupon policy and the cashiers usually look at you like you’re the devil when you try to use a coupon there so I generally avoid Wal-Mart and I’ve been pleasantly pleased with my shopping experiences since I’ve stopped going there.

As I mentioned, I love Publix, and here’s why. Publix doubles coupons up to 50 cents (i.e. 50 cents becomes $1, 35 cents becomes 70 cents, etc). Publix takes competitors coupons. Publix often has store coupons, or Publix coupons. You can use one store, one competitor and one manufacturer coupon per item. Now, it’s not often that you will have all three, but many times, I will have a competitor and manufacturer coupon. Each Publix is different as to which competitor coupons they will take. For example, the Publix in Hampton Cove will take Earth Fare coupons, but the Publix on Whitesburg does not. So, be sure and ask at customer service before you start on your shopping venture. I like to buy the “Enjoy The City” coupon books that the schools sell because those books usually have a $5 off $50 or more at Star Market. I always spend more than $50 a week on groceries before coupons; so, each time I go to Publix, I automatically know I’m going to save $5 by presenting a Star Market coupon as a competitor coupon. Melissa, I know you live in Nashville, but I’m sure the schools there sell these books or something like them and I’m sure your Publix takes competitor coupons as well. Stacking coupons is a great way to get items for next to nothing or even free.

Publix also has Advantage Deals flyers that come out about once a month. There is a green flyer (for personal and health items) and a yellow flyer (for grocery items). Each flyer runs for a three week period and contains additional coupons and sale items.

I can’t speak for other stores, but I’m sure there are good deals there too. I’m not a fan of Kroger, but I think they double coupons as well (maybe only on certain days?).

I think this is enough about coupons for one day, how about you? Hopefully some of this information was helpful or at least a little insightful. I tried to find a good breaking point in all that I’ve written and this is the place where it seemed most suitable to stop. Tomorrow I will provide you some tips on where to find coupons and also share with you some of my favorite web sites.


Melissa said...

Thank you for these tips. I know there is plenty of dollars to be saved. Hopefully if I can start my planning more than an hour before hitting the grocery store, I can actually start saving! Looking forward to more posts on the topic! Yes, we actually have a Publix practically at the end of our street....our favorite grocery store EVER! They have the friendliest employees.

Anonymous said...

now if we could only get a Publix, I love that store and emailed them about one in this area and was told the demographics would not support one. whatever that means. My daughter coupons and is always after me to do it as well.

Erika said...

Very helpful!

I didn't realize you could use store, manufacturer and competitor on one single item.

Kimberly Washer said...

I'm so glad you explained the stacking coupon thing because we thought you could just use the same coupon for the same item. We would always go to the self check-out with a buggy full of stuff because the register people wouldn't take all of our coupons and now I know why. No one ever explained they had to be from different "people." DUH it makes sense though. Good post and I'm anxious for those websites!