Monday, November 16, 2009

Handing Over the Coupon Queen Crown To My Daughter

    My advice to you when you start to become a Coupon Queen is to come up with a couple of organizational tools that will be beneficial to you:

  1. Get a large enough box (think shoe box size) to accommodate your coupons.
  2. Separate your coupons into categories based on types of items that you routinely buy and use little dividers to keep everything in the right me, this will keep you from having to flip endlessly through your coupons to find the one you want. If you want to get obsessive about it, you can arrange them within the category by expiration date (this did not work for me) or by level of interest in the item (this is how I organized mine).
  3. If you NEVER buy a product, don't save the generally will not try something new just because you have the coupon. The exception would be a type of product to which you do not have a "must have this brand only" affinity. Example: Facial tissue or hand soap -- because I would always buy the cheapest. If I know I would most likely not buy the featured items, I put these in a share with others category.
  4. Use dividers and labels and change them as needed. You will definitely need a Baby Supply label and category, but obviously that won't really work for me.
  5. I always had an "About to Expire" category in the front of my box.
      Set aside one hour of the week to do your couponing. I always did this on Sunday afternoon (because the Sunday paper was my primary source for coupons), but now the internet will likely be your primary source of coupons. The nice thing about Sunday is that it was a time that your dad would be willing to help me (while we watched football games). At one point, he really got into this with me! If you do not set up a regular time to do this, you will find that this process can clutter your mind and take over your life!

In addition to my larger shoe box, I had a smaller wallet size holder with a few dividers in it. I think I bought mine years ago at the dollar store. On grocery day, I would make sure that I had pulled the appropriate coupons out of my larger box and transferred them to the smaller holder which I kept in my purse or the door of my car. I also tried (not always successfully) to read each coupon carefully before I got to the store. Reading them in the store never works (especially if you have a baby with you or are pressed for time). It gets tricky sometimes when there are combinations of different items or specific sizes that must be purchased. There were times when it was simply not cost efficient for me to buy three boxes of a certain cereal to get one free!

Realize that the picture on the coupon does not always tell the story. Sometimes the coupon can be used for several different products, not just the item pictured. That's why reading the coupon is important!

If a store has sold out of an item, ask for a raincheck at customer service. If it is a product I always used (like detergent or dishsoap) then it is worth the time that this process takes.

Find out if your church or community group has a coupon swap. It only takes 15 minutes to set up and complete a coupon swap before a regularly scheduled meeting. Also, we always used to give coupons with baby and shower gifts...especially for the formula, diapers, or baby products our kids did not use.

Last but not least, and probably the most important money saving step for me was to arrange my grocery list and meals for the week around my best coupons (I put stars or used a highlighter on grocery items I knew I had a coupon for). It sounds a little strange to build your menus and meal shopping around your coupons, but it really works. For example, if you have great coupons for Ragu or Hunt's tomato sauce, then definitely make spaghetti that week or a tomato based vegetable soup!

Have fun and enjoy being a good steward of the brains, the savvy and the ability to save that the Lord gave you!

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