BY JACLYN ROSE –
The holidays are finally here, and with them, come lots of delicious meals, beautiful decorations, thoughtful gifts and often extra and unplanned expenses. It’s not always easy, in today’s economy, to save the amount needed throughout the year to accomplish what you want for the holidays. One of the most exciting ways to save money this time of year is by couponing. It’s hard to imagine how a little piece of paper with a mere fifty cents off can really save you money, but used strategically with the right sales and it can not only save you money, it can make you money! Couponing is a concept that is not always easy to understand, but once it is grasped, if one is willing to spend the time to hunt for deals, it is definitely worth the challenge.
The first step to successful couponing is to understand a little of the coupon lingo. Yes, the coupon world has its own language. While a serious couponer can find extensive lists online, here are a few important coupon words to know:
An insert is the most common type of coupon, it is usually found in a Sunday issue of the newspaper. It is what most people think of when they think coupon. The most common inserts are RP or Red Plum, SS or Smart Source and PG or Procter and Gamble.
There are many other ways to get coupons, however, peelies are coupons or rebates that are found on packages in the store, blinkies are coupons that you get from machines in the aisle of the store, catalinas are coupons that print for a small box next to the register, tear pads are coupons that are found in the store on a shelf or a display. Many stores also have coupons specific to that store that can be found in their weekly ad or at the front of the store on the display.
You can also print coupons from many websites, such as coupons.com, or social media sites, such as facebook. These printed coupons are called, IP’s or internet printables. Coupons that are issued by the manufacturer and can be used in any store are called MQ or MFCs. Other important words in the couponing language are: out of pocket, or OOP, this is the amount that you pay at the end of your transaction, after all sales and coupons.
A moneymaker or MM is a deal in which the coupon is greater than the cost of the item and depending on the store’s coupon policy could produce an overage, when you receive money back, or use the extra to pay for other items. Stacking is when you can use a store coupon, as well as a manufacturer’s coupon to maximize your savings. Once the language is understood, communicating and reading about coupon deals is much easier.
After you know where to find your coupons and what they mean, the next step is to gather them up and get them organized. The key is to get your hands on as many as possible, without spending too much money. Buy a few Sunday papers, ask friends and family for their unused coupons, print some online, check all your products at the store, many have coupons inside them. Also, subscribe to your favorite products mailing lists, many times they send coupons in their newsletters. Once you have your coupons, organization is important. There are many methods to organizing and what you choose will depend on what works best for you. One method is to cut coupons and organize them in a big binder by product, so the deodorants go together, and the frozen foods go together, etc. Whatever system is used it is important to know where your coupons are so they can be easily found.
Once you have all your coupons cut and organized then its time to research and find the deals. This is the best part, the thrill of the hunt. Most stores have what are called, loss leaders, these deeply discounted items are what they use to draw the shopper in to the store, hoping that they will continue shopping once they are there. It is a great tactic. The key to couponing is to take those loss leaders and stack them to a coupon to maximize savings. Anytime you can find a sale and a coupon that go together you are looking at a good deal.
Researching weekly and even daily deals can be a time consuming process. This is a great time to make friends who also coupon so that you can share deals back and forth, there are also many sources online and in social media. Many blogs are dedicated just to posting couponing deals, some favorites are The Krazy Coupon Lady, Common Sense with Money and Free Stuff Finder. Instagram and Facebook are two other great resources for locating good deals from other couponers.
The coupon community stretches from coast to coast and is growing daily. An example of a coupon scenario found on a website looks like this: Buy 2 Axe Body wash for $6 use (2) $2/1 MQ (SS 11/17 exp 11/30)= OOP $2, or $1 each. Looks like a scary Algebra problem but says, Axe Body wash are on sale for three dollars each and you have two dollar off manufacturer coupons found in the November 17 Smart Source newspaper insert and it expires on November 30. When the deal is done it will cost two dollars out of pocket. In couponing, it’s important to change your thinking on how you buy stuff. Instead of buying just what you need when you need it, you buy what is on sale for free or very cheap at that time. After you have couponed for a while your stockpile will contain what you need when you need it and, in theory, you will never have to pay full price for an item.
Once you have your deals found write them down, organize your coupons that match your deals and hit the store to find your sales. Some additional tips are to always to cut every coupon, even if it’s not something you will use if a good enough deal comes up then you can always donate the item to someone who needs it. This time of year, so many organizations are looking for donations to help the people or animals they support. Even if you do not have a dog but find a great deal on dog food, or treats, buy it and either donate to a family member or a local shelter.
Always carry the coupon and ad matching policy (if the store allows ad matching) for the store you are shopping in. This makes any confusion by you or the cashier easy to clear up. Always shop the clearance aisle; you never know what may be marked down in your individual store that you happen to have a coupon to stack. Always be kind to the cashier, it can get stressful at check out but try hard to stay sweet, this is not always easy on them. Find a place to organize your stockpile but do not hoard. There are always new deals so don’t feel like you have to buy and save fifty toothbrushes because they were free or very cheap this week. A good rule of thumb is to keep a six month to one year supply of each item, donate the rest to the needy or give to family and friends. Also, do not go crazy thinking you must get every deal this week, there will be more next week, and they will probably be better. Lastly, have fun. Couponing is a great way to make friends, save money and shop without spending a lot of money. Money saved is money earned.