Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Couponing 101 - Part 2

In Part 1, we talked about the 1st step in couponing - deciding to do it and plan what to do with the savings.

Now, Part 2 continues with 10 ways to find coupons.

1. BUY SUNDAY NEWSPAPERS!
In general, there are 3 types of inserts that regularly appear - SmartSource, RedPlum and Proctor & Gamble (P&G) - although occasionally there are also other inserts (like General Mills this past weekend). Many weeks of the year there are both SS & RP inserts and P&G comes out the 1st Sunday of each month. Also, on holiday weekends (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years) there aren't any inserts at all. Just knowing this will save you money by not buying unnecessary papers!

2. ASK FRIENDS & FAMILY!
Most people like saving money (especially in this economy), but many do not want to be bothered with clipping and organizing coupons let alone planning their shopping trips by searching ads and matching coupons! Ask your family, friends, neighbors, parent groups at school / after-school activities, fellow church-goers, etc for their coupon inserts! If you know the owners or employees of local stores that sell newspapers, you can ask them to save any extra ones for you.

3. COUPON WEBSITES!
There are MANY websites dedicated specifically for coupons! Searching through the 1,000's of sites that come up when you do a search for "coupons" can be confusing, so here are just a few basic links you can go to each week to find great coupons:

Smart Source
Red Plum
Coupons.com
Coupon Suzy

NOTE: Yes, some of these links have coupons that can also be found in the paper, but you should STILL buy the paper because not ALL newspaper insert coupons can be found online and vice versa.

4. FACEBOOK!
Find your favorite brands' Facebook pages and "Like" them! Many companies offer coupons just for their Facebook fans.

5. BRAND WEBSITES!
Find the website for your favorite brands as well! Sign up for their newsletter(s)! Companies WANT you to buy their products, so they offer coupons to get you to "try" their items so you will start buying them even when you don't have a coupon for it!

6. CALL / EMAIL!
If you can't find coupons on the brand's Facebook or website, CALL their customer service number! You would be surprised how a simple, pleasant conversation with one of their customer service reps can get you coupons for your favorite things!

NOTE: Calling also goes for ANY item you have an issue with! For example, I recently bought some Ziploc "slider" bags that didn't function properly (after you moved the "slider" over to close the back, the seal didn't hold). I called Ziploc and they sent me a coupon for a FREE box of bags to replace the defective box I had purchased along with a few other coupons for money off other boxes of their product!

7. COUPON SWAPS!
Search online (Facebook especially) for couponing groups in your local area! If you can't find a local group, consider creating one just among your immediate family/friends to swap coupons you may not use! This means you will spend more time clipping ALL the coupons from the Sunday inserts and NOT just the ones you will use yourself. Clip the cat treat coupons even if you don't have a cat. You might be able to trade them with someone to get coupons for your favorite cereal or shampoo!

8. STORE COUPONS!
Target, Walgreen's, Publix and many other stores offer coupons. These can generally be paired with manufacturer's coupons for even greater savings! For example, you might have a store coupon along with a manufacturer's coupon for a specific brand of toilet paper, you can use them together and increase your savings. Sometimes these store coupons are printable and sometimes you can "load" them onto your discount card from the store's website. Walgreen's and other drug stores have a monthly coupon book that they put out in stores at the beginning of each month (these tend to disappear fast).

9. COUPON FAIRIES!
I am a "coupon fairy". When I have coupons that I haven't traded that are nearing their expiration date, I like to put them on the shelf with the product they are for in the hope that someone who needs that product can benefit from them. I have also "found" coupons for items on my shopping list from other "coupon fairies". It's sort of like the convenience store "give-a-penny, take-a-penny" jar by the register.

NOTE: If you find yourself with coupons that have expired, do NOT throw them away! Did you know that military families living overseas can use coupons up to 6 months after their expiration date? Visit Coupons for Military Overseas on Facebook to be matched with a military family to send your expired coupons to!

10. FREE SAMPLES!
Sign up for free samples! P&G has a quarterly sampler package available from their website. General Mills has a program called Pssst where you can get new products before they come out to "try" them. In many cases, these FREE samples come with coupons for the full size product so, if you like it, you can go buy it in the store!

JUST FOR THE MILITARY!
So, not everyone can shop at the military commissaries, but if you can, you should because there are coupons that are specifically for military stores (BX/PX & Commissaries). Go to the local Commissary on the 1st Saturday of the month to get these special inserts when they hand them out. Sometimes they go fast, but if you don't get one on "hand out day" that month, go about a week later (half way between paydays) and there should be a nice stack at the entrance.

Now you know where to find them, so go get some & cut them out!

Stay tuned for Part 3, where I will discuss organizing your coupons to easily find the ones you need when planning your shopping!

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