Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Coupon Crazed

Why I Clip Coupons:
I like to save money, and in some cases I can acquire merchandise FREE of charge (the legal way!). I believe that it is my job as the shopper of the house to help our budget by cutting costs whenever I can. Also, I actively look for deals that I can use to make contributions to our local food bank.

How I Clip Coupons:
Sunday is a big day in our household. After a great morning at church and Sunday school, we head to the grocery store and grab a copy of the newspaper. Later, usually after the rest of my family is asleep, I get to work.

I have two traditional coupon organizers, each with thirteen pockets. Before I add the new coupons to them, I go through each section to remove any expired coupons. This is also a great time for refreshing my memory as to any coupons I might have forgotten I had. Once that's done, I clip what I need and sort them immediately into my organizers.

I have changed my ways a little when it comes to what I clip. At first I clipped everything, but I didn't really understand how to make coupons work for me. At the end of the month I had stacks and stacks of coupons that were not used and then expired. I couldn't find anything I really needed because of the volume of the little pieces of paper in my organizer. It was also impossible to search for something at the grocery store without an embarrassing avalanche. I gave up because I wasn't saving much money and I was doing a lot of work in the meantime.

When I started staying at home with my son, I decided it was time to get serious. This time, I only clipped the coupons that I knew I would use. I threw away quite a few without clipping them, but the ones I kept were generally redeemed. In the meantime, I researched a little and learned how to stack coupons and pair them with store sales to save more.

Recently, after a coupon conversation with a fellow clipper, I realized that I could do more good if I would clip all of the coupons in the weekly inserts. There were many deals--most of the time for items I could have had FREE--that I wasn't getting. So, I'm back to clipping everything, but I've changed my methods just a bit when it comes to how I organize them.

How I Organize Those Valuable Pieces of Paper:
When I clipped only the coupons I knew we would use, I organized them by brand name so that I could easily find them. At the time, I was very brand specific in my purchases, so this worked well. When I started clipping everything, however, on the off chance that I would get a deal I wasn't expecting, this was no longer practical. I needed to organize by category so that I could quickly find coupons of a certain type instead of a certain brand.

I divided my coupons into categories that I created, mostly based on location in a typical grocery store. For example, one of my categories is "Cereal Aisle," and in that section you would find coupons for cereal and cereal bars. The "Bread Aisle" category holds savings for bread, peanut butter, and jams and jellies. My shopping list is also based on the layout of my most-shopped stores, so this method works for me.

My latest problem is that I have a ton of coupons and they are a bit cumbersome in the two 13-pocket organizers I use (one pocket per category). I have decided to add an index card file to my system to hold the coupons I'm really only keeping "just in case." For example, we don't have any pets, and I never clipped the pet product coupons, but I have realized that if it's a good coupon and I can get the pet products for FREE, that would be a great donation to our local food bank. I don't want to carry around a wallet full of pet food coupons that I won't use, though, so they stay at home in my card file until I find an ad that compliments them.

It Works For Me:
My organization is not a perfect system by any means, and it is certainly the product of trial and error, but it works for me. What works for you?

Organization is only the beginning! Check back soon for more coupon posts!


Bryssy said...

I am SO trying to be like you with my coupons. I don't nearly have the hang of it yet, but I'm trying!

Rachel said...

You'll get there, Bryssy! It just takes a while and some practice. You have an adorable price book, and that definitely counts for something! :)