My Precious Pennies

I will be AWAY until late February as we do this moving thing...again.

Ginger from Attention Target Shoppers & Tricia from 1stopmom
will be holding down the fort in the meantime - thank you so much, ladies!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Coupon Counselor: the basics (& a giveaway!)

I am starting a new series on My Precious Pennies called "The Coupon Counselor", which will be a tutorial of how to use your coupons wisely and save the most money. If you have a question or couponing dilemma, feel free to contact me - each "lesson" will be held in a question and answer format, and I would love to add some reader questions in there!

Until November 5th, leave a comment with your own couponing question, and be entered in a drawing to win $400+ in coupons! Great chance for you to get some of your questions answered, as well as win a bunch of coupons to start your own stash with! All of the coupons are good for at least a month, and by $400+, I mean I counted until I hit $400 and I just got plain old tired of counting. I have no idea how much is actually in there since there was still a hefty pile after I hit $400, but it could all be yours by simply leaving a comment with a coupon-related question. I'll draw a winner via random.org sometime on Wednesday 11/5.

If you have been wondering about the coupon craze and have been wanting to join but just didn't know where to start, now would be a perfect time to start. As the Coupon Counselor series progresses, we will start to address more complex subjects, so hop on-board now and grow with us! Just to give you a preview of things to come, here are some future lessons:
  • The CVS Handbook - everything you ever wanted to know about CVS and the Extra Care program, and then some.
  • The WAGs Handbook - how to navigate Walgreens Register Reward program and Easy-Saver Catalog.
  • Coupon system - find the coupon system that works for you!
  • Store policies - we will cover the coupon policies of popular stores like Target, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and more!
  • Coupon combinations - learn how to combine manufacturer's coupons with store coupons for maximal savings!
Today, we will be covering the very basics of couponing - where to get them and what to do with them once you get them!

Where do you get coupons?
How do you get multiple copies of a coupon?
Which coupons are actually useful?
When do most coupons expire?
Should I clip the coupons?
How much of a time-commitment is this couponing thing?
Will I actually save money using coupons?
How can I get a coupon for [insert brand/product here]?
Is it worth it to buy coupons online or trade them?
What can I do with all of my unused coupons?
Your question here!

Reader Questions
Is it worth the hassle?
How do you keep your coupons organized?
Where do you find mail-in rebates?
How often do you organize your coupons, take out expired, and put in [them] their places?
Do you print your coupons in color?
How long does it take you to figure out what you will buy where, each week? Do you just get faster as you go?
Do you ever have weeks when you just don't clip coupons, or shop with them?
Is it okay to use different coupons on the same item? For instance, using a newspaper coupon with a printable coupon, e-coupon, or catalina coupon?
Do you know which chain of dollar stores carries it and when is the best time to go purchase it?
How do you keep track of which ad the coupons came from?
Do you print coupons and clip? Do you just print as you need them?
I have the hardest time sitting down with the sales ads and my coupons and deciding what to get where. How do you make that work for you? How do you decide which coupons to use where? How do you make that time for it?
How [do you] "grow" your coupon pile without spending money to buy them?
Why do some coupons say on them "do not double"?
Do you dumpster dive and if so, is it worth the time?
What do you actually bring with you to the store to organize your coupons?
Is [getting things for free or even getting money back] typical or is this something that happens every once in a while?
Is there a time that you actually go through all of your coupons to make sure you are not missing anything?
Are you to the point where you only buy things on sale?
Can B1G1 coupons be used on B1G1 [sale] items [so] you get them for free?

Where do you get coupons?
The easiest place to find coupons is in your Sunday newspaper. I suggest getting a subscription - it will be much cheaper. I currently get the paper on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday for $0.50 a week. Try to put in your subscription order online so you can use a promotional code - retailmenot is a great source for promotional codes...that's where I got mine to get my papers for $0.50 a week! If you would rather buy your paper every week, check out the Dollar Tree - they often sell Sunday papers for $1.00.

You can also print coupons online through sites like coupons.com or smartsource.com. Check out SmartSource's letter to retailers regarding the use of Internet printable coupons. You will have to download some (safe) software in order to print the unqiue barcoded coupons, because you are limited to 2 coupons per computer. If for some reason you are unable to print them, you can also request for a hard-copy to be snail-mailed to your house here. Companies often post money-saving coupons on their websites, or send them out via email newsletter, so make sure you're signed up for those emails! Don't forget to join the loyalty programs of your favorite stores and brands for some exclusive savings.

Keep an eye out when you're shopping - often you can find tearpads, peelies, or blinkies (coupon machines) on the shelves. Some companies will also take out ads in magazines and include a coupon. All You is a magazine with some GREAT coupons, but I've seen some valuable coupon inserts in family magazines as well.

Back to the questions!

How do you get multiple copies of a coupon?
The simplest answer to this question is to BUY MORE NEWSPAPERS! But there are also many ways to get your coupons for free. You'd be surprised how many people do not take advantage of the hundreds of dollars of savings that comes to their doorstep every Sunday morning, so put out the word that you use coupons and start asking your friends, family, and neighbors.

Since there is a limit of 2 printed coupons per computer, there is no way to get multiple copies of an internet printable unless you have access to multiple computers. Try to see if there's a computer lab at your local library with printing capabilities, or you can always ask your friends or family to print them for you.

Please do not try to duplicate a printable coupon. Each printable has an unique pin number and other identifying factors. The company can trace which computer printed which coupon, so if 20 of a coupon start popping up, they will know where it originated and will block that computer from printing coupons in the future.

Back to the questions!

Which coupons are actually useful?
All coupons are useful - yes, even those penny coupons. Stores will often have double (or triple) coupon events, so it pays to hang onto your coupons. Also, what you might not buy in a million years might be a necessity to someone else. And you never know when something might go on sale at Walgreens or CVS that will become free (or even a moneymaker) after store promotion and manufacturer's coupon.

Never throw a coupon away - there are so many ways to "use" a coupon. You can exchange them, give them away, or even send them overseas to help out military families overseas. You can read more about the Coupons for Troops program here.

Back to the questions!

When do most coupons expire?
Internet printables mostly have a rolling expiration date of 30 days - meaning they will expire 30 days from whenever you print them. Most coupons expire within a month or two of when they come out, but some manufacturer's coupons that come with samples or as peelies can have an expiration date a year or two later! This is because they cannot possibly know when the product is going to sell or the sample will be sent out, so these coupons often have a longer "lifespan" than others.

Back to the questions!

Should I clip the coupons?
This is a matter of personal preference, but I generally recommend it. By clipping the coupons, you have an idea of what coupons you actually have on hand. Clipped coupons are also easier to sort and manage, and it actually cuts down on your planning time. Clipping coupons is a great thing to do while watching TV, or if you have young children you can practice cutting skills with them. If they're just starting out with scissors, I wouldn't let them clip an actual coupon in case they cut through it or something, but they can definitely cut out pictures on the rest of the page!

In order to participate in the Coupons for Troops program, you coupons must also be clipped. This is the same if you decide to participate in a coupon exchange. Clipped coupons just take up less room and are easier to manage!

How much of a time-commitment is this couponing thing?
This can vary from person to person - if you've got 10 sets of inserts to clip every week, I'd say you're spending a bit of time on this couponing thing. On average, I spend about 30 minutes a week - and this includes clipping, sorting, organizing, and eventually pulling them back out to do my shopping plan. It might seem a bit tedious at first, but think about the money you're saving as an hourly wage. By using my coupons in conjunction with store promotions, I can save over $30 in a single store visit. Sometimes I even get "paid" to shop since I'll have overage after rebates. $30 for 30 minutes of work is not too shabby of a deal.

If you're just starting out, don't give up. It can seem a bit overwhelming and pointless at first, but as you start to do it more and find your own rhythm, things will go a lot faster. It used to take me 30 minutes JUST to clip the inserts because I was so overwhelmed with the clipped coupons floating around aimlessly on my table. I was so paranoid that I'd throw away a coupon accidentally. Now that I've found my system of filing them as soon as I clip them, it doesn't take nearly as long.

Back to the questions!

Will I actually save money using coupons?
YES! Coupons are actually a form of advertising, and you'd be in real big trouble if you bought everything that you had a coupon for. However, if you're CAREFUL and WISE about your coupon usage, you could save hundreds of dollars a week. Like I mentioned, I can easily save $30 by using coupons in conjunction with store promotions. The trick is to keep your coupons and to only use them when:
  1. The item is a necessity that you need to buy regardless (i.e. diapers, dog food...etc.)
  2. There's a HUGE sale on the item that will make your OOP (out-of-pocket) cost ridiculously low (or free) if you use the coupon on the sale price.
  3. There is a MIR (mail-in-rebate) for the item. Most rebates will give you the sale price of the item, so you get it for free and you "make" however much your coupon was for.
Remember that the point is to save money, not to get rid of your coupons the fastest. It's okay to have a huge stash of coupons, and it's also okay to be left with a bunch of expired coupons at the end of the month. Coupons will be issued again - they are RARELY a one-time deal. I used to feel compelled to use every coupon that I had because it was like wasting money in my mind, and I was so afraid that I would never see the coupon again. Then I started sending my expired coupons to troops overseas with the Coupons for Troops program, and I got EXCITED at the amount of coupons that I can send to them!

Back to the questions!

How can I get a coupon for [insert brand/product here]?
If you really really want a coupon for a certain product or brand, you can always write an letter or email to the manufacturer asking for a coupon. There's no harm in asking - the worst they can do is say no! Just do a google search for the product or manufacturer's name, and follow the contact directions on their site. Write a short email or letter letting them how much you love their product, and request a few coupons for your own use and to share with family and friends. You never know...you must just get a stash of coupons! Can't hurt to try!

Back to the questions!

Is it worth it to buy coupons online or trade them?
Personally, I do not buy or trade coupons online, but there are plenty of sites for this. There are coupon trains where members just throw a bunch of coupons in the envelope and take out the ones they want, and then they send it off to the next person in the train. Then there are coupon trading message boards where you can post what you have and what you would like.

It really depends on whether or not you would use the coupons. I definately wouldn't go out trying to get 5 copies of every coupon. The only time that I bought a coupon was when I need to purchase a travel system, so I bought a 20% coupon for $1 and ended up saving over $20. I personally just don't have the time or energy to spend hunting coupons down. I'm comfortable with the coupons that I have, and I've learned that if I don't have a coupon for a sale...it's not the end of the world. The coupon will be back. The sale will be back.

Back to the questions!

What can I do with all of my unused coupons?
Send them to military families overseas with the Coupons for Troops program! Military commissaries (grocery store) overseas take expired coupons, but since the families there don't exactly get the Sunday paper. Their only source of coupons are from generous folks who are willing to send them. There are certain bases that do NOT have a commissary and only have an Exchange - which is a really high priced convenience store. The Exchange does NOT take expired coupons, so please send any of your unused unexpired coupons to them. For more information, check out the Coupons for Troops FAQ! Thanks so much for helping our military families!

Back to the questions!

Your question here!
Do you have a question about coupons that was not answered here? Contact me and I'd be more than happy to answer it personally, and maybe even include it in this FAQ.

Back to the questions!

Reader question: Is it worth the hassle?
Amber asked the question: "I have heard of stores accepting competitors' coupons, but have never
tried it. Which stores do this, and would it be worth the extra hassle?". I do not know of any stores that accepts competitors coupons except for Lowes and Home Depot, but sometimes the store will advertise it in their local ad. You can always check out the store's website, and send them an email. If anyone knows of stores that will accept competitors' coupons, please leave a comment!

As for whether or not it's worth the extra hassle, I'm going to answer this question broadly so that it encompasses everything coupon-related. Your time and sanity is more valuable than money. I'm the mother of an infant. I don't have much sanity left and I treasure every single one of my few workable brain cells. If the whole "hassle" is to go a mile down the road to a different store, then by all means it's worth it. If the "hassle" is to go 10 miles out of your way and then have to sit at customer service for 30 minutes, then it's not. Think of your coupon savings as wage. Is your saving/earnings per hour WORTH the work and trouble you're putting forth? Sometimes it's worth it...sometimes it's not - that's a daily judgment call that couponers have to make.

Back to the questions!

Reader question: How do you keep your coupons organized?
I use a customized shoe-box with envelopes, but you can read about the different systems that I've tried in the past here. I don't use expanding files because there's simply not enough room. I also didn't like being confined to a certain number of files - with my current system I can add as many categories as I want, and it's as simple as tossing another envelope in.

I organize my coupons as I clip. Cut them out, and then place them in their category envelope. Categories range from broad descriptions ("dishwasher" or "laundry") to brand specific ("Huggies") or item specific ("razors"). I made the system, so I know exactly where each category is. I've also used it for a while now.

This is related to the "Should I clip the coupons?" question, but I tried the clipless way for a week or two. It drove me crazy because I had absolutely NO idea what coupon was in where. And even when I knew what insert to look at, I couldn't stand flipping through the thing repeatedly.

Expiration dates don't matter much to me. Just because you have a coupon does not mean you're HAVE to use it. Let it expire if you don't need the item, and then donate it to Coupons for Troops.

To be completely honest, you just have to find the system(s) that work for you. Keep an eye out for the "Coupon System" lesson in an upcoming Coupon Counselor!

Back to the questions!

Reader question: Where do you find mail-in rebates?
Unfortunately, there is not a "go-to" spot for mail-in rebates. I try to share whatever rebates that I come across, but they can be found just about everywhere. Some rebates require an original form, which can be found in your Sunday coupon insert, on a tear-pad in the store, or as a peelie on the actual product. Then there are some rebates that can be found online at the manufacturer's website. I've even seen a company use SmartSource to print the rebate. And then were are what I call "word-of-mouth" rebates - they are rebates that require you send in nothing more than a proof of purchase and an index card with your information.

Rebates are generally issued for new products as a "try me free" marketing campaign. When in doubt, check the manufacturer's website. Some rebates are a money-back guarantee and requires you to be dissatisfied with the product in order to submit for the rebate. Most companies offer some type of money-back or satisfaction guarantee, so if you are disappointed with the product, contact the manufacturer by email or phone and inquire about a guarantee.

In the future, I will be doing a whole lesson on rebates - where to find them, how to request them, and the tips and tricks to earning money from rebates!

Back to the questions!

Reader question: How often do you organize your coupons, take out expired, and put in [them] their places?
I clip/organize coupons every Sunday morning when I get the inserts from the paper. If I get coupons during the week, they go into a "drop box" (old coffee can) - I'll organize those on Sunday with the rest of my coupons. I organize as I clip - I made my system and I have it memorized by now, so after I cut them out they go directly into the corresponding envelope. My policy is that I will handle a coupon once - I'm not for cutting everything out, setting it in a pile, and then organizing. That takes way too long in my opinion.

If I come across a coupon that I KNOW I won't use, I set them aside for Coupons for Troops (or to give away). Those don't even make it into my coupon box. At the end of every month I go through each envelope and yank out the entire stack of coupons - I'll go through them and weed out the ones that are expired and send them to Coupons for Troops.

During the week as I pull together my deals and my coupon match-ups, if I notice any expired coupons I'll put them in another old coffee can for Coupons for Troops. I normally only send out coupons once a month, so it's important for me to have a "drop box".

Back to the questions!

Reader question: Do you print your coupons in color? I've read conflicting opinions on if color printing is more likely to be accepted by the stores. What do I do if the store says they have to be in color even though it's stated on the coupon that it can appear in black and white?
I print my coupons in black and white on my printer's lowest quality setting. Some coupons will actually say "can appear in black & white". Very few coupons require color printing - the only one that comes to mind is the McDonald's sandwich coupon from a while ago. I recommend that you print SmartSource's letter and keep it with you - it states that "SmartSource coupons are printed on copier paper and may appear in color or black and white".

If your black and white coupon gets denied at a store, I encourage you to contact corporate customer service and inquire about their policy regarding internet printables. If you get a response that black and white is alright, print that email with you and take it with you to the store next time. If the reply is that managers are free to set their own rules, there's really nothing else you can do except to perhaps find another store to take your business to. For you brave ones out there, you can try emailing corporate and complaining - if you have to adhere to the rules of the coupon (i.e. one coupon per purchase), then the store should have to adhere to the rules of the coupon as well (i.e. black & white is acceptable). Of course, do at your own risk, and I can't guarantee what type of response you'll receive.

Back to the questions!

Reader question: How long does it take you to figure out what you will buy where, each week? Do you just get faster as you go?
It's hard to say how long it takes me to make my plans, but I would say probably an hour. It does get faster as you go, because your eyes get used to looking for specific things, and you tend to develop an informal system of how to go abouts it. At first it took me over 3 hours to get my CVS deals together, just because I was SO overwhelmed with the coupons and ECBs - I literally had to take a break and come back to it. However, it now takes me no more than 30 minutes...it's become second nature to me. It helps if you clip your coupons on a weekly basis - then you'll have a good idea of what you have and how much of it you have.

Back to the questions!

Reader question: Do you ever have weeks when you just don't clip coupons, or shop with them? I think sometimes I need a break!
Yup, there's definitely weeks that I skip couponing. I try not to skip clipping just because it piles up and you never want to sit there having to clip 3 weeks of coupons (like I did for hours after I gave the clipless system a try). This past week I didn't use ANY coupons at the commissary, and last week I skipping WAGing (Walgreens). It's important not to feel burned out when you're doing this - while you ARE saving money, I'm assuming it's a hobby for most of us and should never seem like a chore.

Back to the questions!

Reader question: Is it okay to use different coupons on the same item? For instance, using a newspaper coupon with a printable coupon, e-coupon, or catalina coupon?
The general rule of thumb is one coupon TYPE per item. If you get a Target store coupon, feel free to use that with a manufacturer's printable coupon because Target accepts a store coupon along with a manufacturer's coupon. You can view the email that I received from corporate here.

As far as catalina and e-coupons, it depends on how your store views them. If they view them as store coupons and it is their policy to take a store coupon along with a manufacturer's coupon, then you should be fine. However, some stores will only take one coupon PERIOD. My advice is to email the store's cooporate office and ask them, and then print out the response email to carry with you.

Back to the questions!

Reader question: I've read that some people buy their Sunday newspaper at the dollar store. Do you know which chain of dollar stores carries it and when is the best time to go purchase it?
I purchase my additional Sunday paper from the Dollar Tree on Saturday. However, not ALL Dollar Trees carry the Sunday paper - it just so happens the one near Gymboree does, so after we go for our Gymboree class on Saturday afternoon I swing by to pick up a paper.

When you purchase it is really up to you - I've never really heard of a store sold out of papers. That being said, I also wouldn't recommend going out at 10pm to buy one either. If you are unsure about whether your local dollar store carries the Sunday paper, call the store and ask them. A phone call is cheaper than gas (and your time spent running to the store).

Back to the questions!

Reader question: How do you keep track of which ad the coupons came from?
I don't. I get the paper delivered every week, so if I'm reading a coupon match-up on a site or something, the ad date doesn't really help me find it because I know I have it and it's been clipped. I just look in my coupon box for that item category or brand. I tried a clipless system for a while, but it was so hard because I had no idea where the one coupon was in the entire insert and ended up flipping through it about 30 times.

Back to the questions!

Reader question: Do you print coupons and clip? Do you just print as you need them?
I print as I need them. Printables are useful, but for the most part I haven't found a printable that just fell off the face of the earth when I needed it. Printables generally have a rolling expiration date, so if you sit down and print out the entire listing at one go, you run the risk of that coupon expiring before you use it, and then being unable to print more since you reached your print limit.

Back to the questions!

Reader Question: I have the hardest time sitting down with the sales ads and my coupons and deciding what to get where. How do you make that work for you? How do you decide which coupons to use where? How do you make that time for it?
I limit myself to a just three stores for sale/coupon match-ups - those being the commissary, CVS, and Walgreens. I do go to other stores, but I'm just not going to pour over the ads. When I'm looking at the ads, I look for things that would be close to free, free, or money-makers. When I'm looking at the commissary sale list on-line, I tend to look for things that we use and are on sale. When I look over the other ads it's mainly a hobby/game to me - thanks to my extensive stockpile we have very few actual "needs" (with the exception of food, of course).

I'm not going to lie to you - it's very time consuming and overwhelming at first. Eventually it gets easier once you get into the groove of things, but it still takes time. I do it whenever I can, but what I've learned is to complete it in one sitting. If you leave it and come back, you have completely lost your train of thought and you might as well start from scratch. When you're first starting out, pick a store to "specialize" in. When I first started, I only did CVS. Then I branched out to the commissary, and now I play at Walgreens as well. Forget what everyone else is doing and know your own limits. I promise, you won't be doomed to an eternity in hell if you don't take advantage of every deal that ever comes along.

As far as what coupons to use where, I don't have a guideline for that. I use whatever coupon at whatever store that will get me the most savings. Sometimes a better sale/coupon match-up comes along, but it's not the end of the world that I didn't save that extra $0.50.

Back to the questions!

Reader Question: How [do you] "grow" your coupon pile without spending money to buy them?
My recommendation for growing your coupon pile without spending money to buy them is to get a coupon buddy. Find a local friend that also likes to coupon, and get together once a week or so to exchange coupons. Your friend doesn't have pets, and thus have no use for pet coupons - but you do. Or you don't like yogurt, but your friend likes yogurt. Find out each other's needs, and do a a simple exchange of coupons.

There are also online coupon trading groups and coupon trains that you can become a part of, but I personally do not participate in any of those programs. It just takes too much time and effort. With a local friend, it's easy enough to meet up and exchange coupons. Or if there's a sale and I don't have the coupon to match it with, I can always give my friend a call. But with online ways, by the time my coupon is ordered and mailed to me, chances are the sale is over already.

Another way to increase your coupon stash without spending money is to get your friends, neighbors, and family members to give you their coupon inserts if they don't clip coupons. You can also enter giveaways around the blogosphere to try your luck at winning some!

Back to the questions!

Reader Question: Why do some coupons say on them "do not double"?
The company reimburses the store for the value of the coupon, plus a processing fee. When stores double (or even triple) coupons, the store is responsible for the difference. Honestly, this makes no sense to me because the manufacturer doesn't care if the store doubles coupons or not - their expense is the same. The only reasoning that I can come up with is that manufacturers don't like people being able to get items for free with coupons, OR they do not want complaints from the stores about people getting stuff for free. Anyone more knowledgeable in this field care to tackle the question?

Back to the questions!

Reader Question: Do you dumpster dive and if so, is it worth the time?
No, I don't dumpster dive, but from my conversations with people that do, whether or not it's worth your time is a matter of personal opinion. I certainly wouldn't depend on the dumpster for my weekly supply of coupons - you never know what you could find. You should also be aware that you could find many weeks of expired coupons before you find a set of useful ones, but you can always donate those to Coupons for Troops.

It's rather hard to say whether dumpster diving is worth it, just because the experience can vary drastically based on location. You may have a very neat and orderly area where it's a simple matter of sorting through papers, or your dumpster dive experience might be just that - going through trash and kitchen leftovers for a paper. Obviously the first scenario is preferable to the second, so whether or not you decide to dumpster dive depends greatly on your situation and the amount of effort you would be willing to invest.

Back to the questions!

Reader Question: What do you actually bring with you to the store to organize your coupons?
I bring a small accordion folder with me to the store. Each store that I frequent has an individual slot, and in that slot I keep index cards as separators. In front of the index card are my "register" coupons (i.e. coupons for items that are in my cart), and behind the index card are my "list" coupons (i.e. coupons for items that are still on my list, or I couldn't find).

When I'm going to CVS or Walgreens, I bring a transaction plan with me. Basically I paper-clip together everything that I need for each individual transaction together. For CVS, this includes all of my coupons, any store coupons that I have, and the ECBs that I plan to use. For a store (like the commissary) where I just have a rough shopping list versus a solid transaction plan, I just throw all the coupons in there and shift them in front of the index card as I shop. When I'm ready to check-out, I can just grab the entire pile of coupons in that section.

I do not bring my entire stash of coupons with me into the store. Whenever I'm shopping I have the baby with me, and I simply do not have the time to be standing there in an aisle trying to make a coupon match-up. No deal is worth a melt-down. If something just seems like it would be awesome after a coupon, I note down the price and check it against my coupons when I get home. Since I started doing this about 2 months ago, I've only made ONE repeat trip out to the store with my newly found coupon. And that was just for Glade Plugins - something that was not a necessity and I could have lived without. I made the "repeat" trip just because it happened to be on my way - I wouldn't have done it if it required that I go out of my way or make a special trip.

Back to the questions!

Reader Question: Is [getting things for free or even getting money back] typical or is this something that happens every once in a while?
Getting things for free is something that happens at least once a week. Between all of the different stores out there, you can count on at least one freebie a week by matching sales with coupons. However, please consider the fact that the term "freebie" is used loosely here. When something is "free", often it is free after things like RR (Register Rewards from Walgreens) or ECBs (ExtraCare Bucks from CVS). With the exception of rebates, you will never get money back by buying something. It is possible to have overage, or have something be a money-maker (i.e. pay $4 and get $5 in RRs or ECBs), but again, money-maker is a loose term because the cashier's not going to hand you money along with your receipt.

That being said, it is definitely still worth your time to take advantage of those "free after [blank]" deals. Not only are you getting something for "free", you can use the RRs or ECBs to buy something else. A lot of times I will buy something that I don't need/use just for the ECBs. I end up donating the item, and using the ECBs to buy something that I do need (like diapers). By taking advantage of free item deals, our family is able to give back to the community, because otherwise we would not be able to give to charity with our extremely limited income situation.

Back to the questions!

Reader Question: Is there a time that you actually go through all of your coupons to make sure you are not missing anything?
Nope. If I miss a deal, I miss a deal. It's not the end of the world. Deals will come around again, and coupons will be issued again. Most of the time the items that I buy with coupons are things are not necessities. I might be buying toothpaste this week, but it's not as if we're running out of toothpaste...I'm just buying it to add to my stockpile (or to donate) and because it's free or a money-maker. If something happens and I miss the coupon or I can't get to the store, I missed out on some free toothpaste but it's not like we won't have anything to brush our teeth with tonight. I'll just get it the next time a toothpaste deal comes around, because it will. I have a USPS box FULL of toothpaste, and I'm constantly giving them away to the USO...and I have never spent a penny on any of them. Trust me, deals will come again.

Back to the questions!

Reader Question: Are you to the point where you only buy things on sale?
To a degree, yes. We are fortunate enough to really want for nothing in our lives. As far as basic toiletries, I have an entire closet of stockpiled items. I will NOT buy anything like toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, air fresheners...etc. unless I can turn a profit from them somehow. Food/menu items are the one thing that I will make an exception for - I do not menu plan around an ad, I menu plan around our lives. But since I do take advantage of sales and stockpile during those weeks, I can feed the family with healthy nutritrious meaty meals for under well under $50/week. And as far as non-coupon items (like toys or clothing), I weigh the current price with the liklihood of it going on sale and our current need.

Back to the questions!

Can B1G1 coupons be used on B1G1 [sale] items [so] you get them for free?
Yes, you can use B1G1 coupons in conjunction with B1G1 store sales to get the item for free. One thing to look out for is whether or not your B1G1 coupon has a dollar limit. Some coupons say "not to exceed the amount of $" - in that case, make sure you grab an item that's under the amount. Personally, I have gotten "free" items from CVS, Walgreens, and Kmart by combining B1G1 coupons with B1G1 sales. Thanks to the B1G1 magic, I basically never pay for cosmetics anymore.

Back to the questions!

I hope that you will be able to benefit from these basic couponing guidelines - check back soon for the next installation of Coupon Counselor for a dictionary of acronyms and abbreviations!

29 comments:

Amber R said...

Great idea! I can't wait to read each post. I have a question. I have heard of stores accepting competetors coupons, but have never tried it. Which stores do this, and would it be worth the extra hassle?

My Precious Pennies said...

Hi Amber! Glad you could join us!

I personally do not know which stores accepts competitors coupons - I do know that Home Depot and Lowe's does it sometimes. Sometimes stores will also advertise it in their weekly ad.

Maybe someone else can help Amber out with this question?

As to your hassle question, I added a generic answer to the question list.

Thanks for participating!

The Lady Riposter said...

My question is "how do you keep your coupons organized"? I've tried an expanding file, I've tried keeping the inserts whole and marked with the date but neither has really worked for me yet. I won a coupon binder I'm looking forward to receiving so hopefully that will work for me.

I love the great deals I can get using coupons (especially combining coupons and clearance sales!) but I don't have much time to spend to organize my coupons. I've gotten some great deals in the past, including lots of free toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc. to donate to my preferred charity. I'd love to hear your advice on sorting and organizing your coupons.

Alexandra Hancock said...

MPP: Publix and CVS are stores where I have successfully used competitor's coupons. CVS will accept Walgreens coupons and Publix accepts Target and Food Lion Coupons.

Of course, your store's manager decides if they will so just give them a quick call and find out.

I actually found out about Publix's policy from the flyers they had taped to each register.

You will need to decide for yourself if a 5 minute call is worth saving more money. It was definetely worth it to me!

Jackie B. said...

I think I am gonna like this new venue for your blog. I am not real excited that you are changing your freebie routine but I will give it a chance. I did like the old system though.
My question is about mail in rebates. Where do you find them? I hardly ever see them anymore.

Julie said...

Thank you for offering this service in your blog as well. You really have everything here. I love it!

I have a coupon quandary that I just blogged about today, but it doesn't have to do with groceries. Read it here: http://hessesmadhouse.blogspot.com/2008/11/am-i-totally-out-to-lunch.html and then will you let me know what you think? Thanks!

silverhartgirl said...

How often do you organize your coupons. take out expired, and put in their places.

smdrm said...

Do you print your coupons in color? I've read conflicting opinions on if color printing is more likely to be accepted by the stores.

Dina said...

I've read that some people buy their Sunday newspaper at the dollar store. Do you know which chain of dollar stores carries it and when is the best time to go purchase it? Thanks.

Robin said...

Is it okay to use different coupons on the same item? For instance, using a newspaper coupon with a printable coupon, e-coupon, or catalina coupon?

erica m said...

How long does it take you to figure out what you will buy where, each week? If it weren't for all these wonderful blogs I'd surely go insane, but even so, I feel like it takes me half a day to go through blogs/ads/coupons matching them all up for the best deals. Do you just get faster as you go? (I'm rather new)

Also, do you ever have weeks when you just don't clip coupons, or shop with them? I think sometimes I need a break!

Love this new feature for your blog!

Bryce & Cortney Alvord said...

How do you keep track of which ad the coupons came from?

Also, you print coupons and clip? Do you just print as you need them? I'm having a hard time deciding whether the hassle I get from the checker and managers is worth the printed coupons. They save so much, but I was told the last time that they had to be in color and said even though it says right here can be black and white. Any suggestions??

Shaybplus3 said...

My couponing question would be... I have the hardest time sitting down with the sales ads and my coupons and deciding what to get where. How do you make that work for you? How do you decide which coupons to use where? How do you make that time for it? Okay so that was like three questions...

I am new to the couponing world. So this giveaway would be a huge blessing to stock up!
Thanks
Shay B
Tigger2sch(at)aol(dot)com

Mrs. Querido said...

Hi Ms. Coupon Counselor :)

I found your blog via Moneysavingmomma.com...

I don't have a coupon question, but I do have an answer...

You asked what other stores besides Lowe's and Home Depot accept competitor's coupons. Albertsons accepts all coupons that are from other grocery stores. They do not accept coupons from pharmacies such as Rite Aid or Walgreens. I was told there was a ten competitor coupon limit in one transaction, but I have not tested that out yet. My Albertsons has never given me any problems with the coupons I have brought in. You do want to be sure to get the exact item listed on the comp. coupon. If it is an in house (or store specific generic) brand rather than a name brand, just use Albertson's brand.

Hope this helps you!

Looking forward to learning more from your blog :)

Blessings!

Mikelle said...

Do you recommend buying coupons from a coupon clipping site? My local newspaper doesn't carry the coupon inserts, so I'm always looking for cheap ways to get my hands onto some coupons!

Thanks for the giveaway! Mikelle

kell22 @ cox.net

Jo Ann said...

I have the same question that smdrm had...do you have to print an online coupon in color? Also, do you have any ideas on how to "grow" your coupon pile without spending money to buy them? I just started couponing. Thanks for the giveaway!

Shadows of the goddess designs said...

Why do some coupons say on them--not to double ? When they have double coupon days at the grocery here --they double them anyway and ignore what they say ?

Shadows of the goddess designs said...

Staples will match ads for all other business supply stores--dont knopw if that includes coupons. And wal mart will match a competitors ad also.

Christy said...

Hi! I was wondering if you dumpster dive and if so, is it worth the time (do you get a lot of ads, does it take a long time)? Thanks for your time! I will be following your blog! I am new to this whole couponing thing and not very good at it yet, so i really think your blog is going to help a lot! Thanks!! :o)
lovemycoach1377@yahoo.com

Kelly said...

What is the best way to organize your coupons, I always seem to have the scattered and when I get to the store I cant find what I need.

loves2shop712@earthlink.net

Kerrie said...

I love all of these questions...I was wondering about a lot of these things, so now I know. =)

Now onto my question...

What do you actually bring with you to the store to hold onto your coupons? I've tried some different things, but I easily get frustrated because I can't find the coupons that I want fast enough (hahah yes, I was born with almost no patience!). I've heard of people using coupon binders, etc., but I also don't want something that's too bulky. What do you suggest?

The Perry Family said...

Wow. Thanks for this amazing post. I am new to using coupons, but our first baby is on the way and I'm learning how to save, save, save. One of the many questions I have is: I have read a lot of people end up getting things for free or even get money back simply from using coupons. Is this typical or is this something that happens every once in a while, but is posted about most often cuz it's a really big deal when it does happen? Thanks again! my email is: lucindamperry@aol.com

Lee said...

Great give away, especially for the newer couponer. How do you organize your coupons?

Lee
mycouonacct@yahoo.com

The Masseys said...

Thanks for the post! My question is - I use some grocery and couponing websites and it does take me a good bit of time each week. But is there a time that you actually go through all of your coupons to make sure you are not missing anything? And are you to the point where you only buy things on sale? I'd like to get to that point but just don't know how yet. I've been couponing for a couple of months now.

Thanks!!

Kathryn said...

Thanks for all your tips and help. I could sooo use those coupons!
Do you have an easy way you organize your coupons for while in the store? I seem to get confused while in the store.. even thought I thought I had a plan before I got in there.. and then often can't find the right coupons.. etc.

Amanda Mae said...

Awesome site! So much information, I love it! I'm new at couponing, so this is wonderful. My question is, and I apologize if you've already answered this, but can BOGO q's be used on BOGO items and you get them for free? Thanks!

jones41704@bellsouth.net

clgraves said...

Do you buy multiple newspapers and have friends save coupons for you? Do you have friends print coupons for you also? I love this site and can't wait to have more time to read.

Barbara said...

I think this post is the most detailed couponing guide ever.
barbara_powella@yahoo.com

SammyJ said...

How do you get sooo many coupons? thanks.

 
Custom Blog Design: Blogger Boutique