Coupons – the basics

As I was going through all my coupons on Sunday, Dylan made the comment “Mommy made a big mess, Dad, right in the middle of the floor!” Keith smiled, and in his ever-encouraging way, responded “Yes she did Dylan, but that big mess saves us a bunch of money!” It was comical – Keith loves that I do coupons, but the tediousness of it is sometimes a bit much for both of us.

I’ve had a few peole ask me about “couponing”, so I figured with all the other shopping we’ll be doing over the next few weeks, now might be a good time to share the basics of what I’ve been doing for a little over a year. Let me preface though – I am not an expert. There are websites and forums, classes and blogs dedicated to the many facets of the couponing world (I’ll list a few that I’ve found helpful at the end of this post). But I’ve chosen not to be an expert – which means that I try to spend the least amount of time saving the most amount of money. My type A “detail” side wants to sometimes go overboard and find the very best deal on every single thing I buy – the “other” side of me reminds me that time is money…and if I spend hours on end trying to find ways to save $20, was it worth it? Sometimes yes and sometimes no depending on what I sacrificed doing to save the money I did.

I’ve heard the opinion that couponing is not worth it because you end up buying things that you don’t need just because you have a coupon. I’ve also heard the opinion that most couponing is only relevant to junk/packaged food. And both can absolutely be true. All I can say is try to keep it simple and don’t start buying things you didn’t before using coupons just to “save” money.

Side note: My favorite product to save on is toothpaste – I can’t remember the last time I paid for toothpaste. Other things you can save a ton on that most people don’t think about is dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, ziploc bags and tissues.

Here the top 5 most effective ways our family saves money with coupons:

1. we get a Sunday paper every week and clip coupons. We also get the weekly ads from each of the nearest grocery stores (Lowes Foods, Harris Teeter and Food Lion for us).

2. we most often shop at Lowes Foods or Harris Teeter because they double all coupons up to $0.99 (up to 20 coupons per order) and we can earn greenpoints and save more.

3. I shop based upon my shopping list – not on what coupons I have. I start with the list, then look for the coupons. The only time I don’t do this is during triples (when some stores will triple coupons for a few days) and I stock up on things I use regularly (ex. peanut butter, soups, paper products, shampoo, etc.)

4. if it’s not around the perimeter of the store (where almost all non-packaged products are found) and I don’t have a coupon for it, I probably won’t buy it.

5. I order coupons for things I buy the most of from www.thecouponclippers.com

Again, these are just the basics. I know I tend to lose interest when people write long blogs…and this one’s headed towards lengthy, so I’ll save the rest for later.

Here’s some good sites:

www.couponclippers.com (ordering coupons online)

www.savvydollar.org (all things couponing)

www.smartsource.com (download/print coupons)

projects.newsobserver.com/taking_stock (a money saving blog written by an N&O columnist)

Also, a great book:

The Smart Spending Guide by Faye Prosser (for local folks, she actually lives locally here in Clayton!)

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