Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My "Dear Abby" Blog

I received this question from my lovely Sister-in-law, Jodi, today.

"What do you use to organize your coupons? I have tried to do coupons, but have trouble staying organized and then am not as diligent about it."

She suggested that it would be a good blog for other people who are interested in saving money and becoming better couponers. I couldn't agree more. Reading a friend's blog who coupons faithfully is how I got started doing all of this.

First off, let me just tell you that before Matthew and I had children- we both had full time jobs and we never really thought about money. We had enough, and pretty much bought what we wanted, when we wanted it. It was nothing for us to go grocery shopping and spend $200+ every couple of weeks--- For just the two of us! CRAZINESS!

Anyway, when I started couponing back in January/February- I had to figure out the best way to organize my coupons. Organization is the number one most important factor in being a successful couponer. If you can't find your coupons, chances are good that you won't use them.

My first coupon organization strategy was a photo album. It was great starter strategy and worked pretty well for breaking down my coupons into more manageable categories. The worst thing about this strategy was that I would have some categories that were always stuffed to the gills, and I ended up just having too many coupons to comfortably fit into the album.

My second strategy was a three-ring binder and sports cards holders. With this strategy, I could see every coupon, when they expired, and they were organized into categories. It was super to use while I was shopping- I could always see exactly what I had, but the bad thing about it was that it was painfully difficult to get all of the coupons cut out, sorted, and wrestled into those little slots! I just don't have enough "kid-free" time in my life to be able to accomplish all of that.

My third strategy, the one that I am currently using, is called "clip-free" couponing. With this method, I just put the entire week's inserts into a file folder, and file them by date in my bag. As I prepare my shopping list, I use this website, to search for each of the items that I am going to purchase. The website is compilation of all coupon sources, including Sunday inserts, All You magazine, and coupon websites. You type in, "Betty Crocker", or "cheese", or whatever you're shopping for- and a list will pop up telling you exactly where the coupons for that item can be located. They will usually be listed by date and location, RP (Red Plum), SS (Smart Source), PG, (Proctor and Gamble), GM, (General Mills), AY (All You). So then, all that I have to do is go that folder, pull out the correct insert, and find the coupon.
This method would be especially great if you have a Blackberry, iPhone, or netbook. If you have one of these, you can use CouponTom Mobile, to check for deals on the go!

The other thing that I ALWAYS do before shopping is check, Every week she lists the best deals available at CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, and Target. These often include several freebies that are available at each store. I look through these lists, and decide which stores I will shop at. (Don't forget that most of these stores will match the others' deals!) My favorite place to shop for the majority of my groceries is Super Target. I've always preferred Target, but I used to not shop there as much because I felt like a lot of the prices were higher. Since then, I've found the best, most wonderful, Target secret. On this website, you can print Target store coupons. Target coupons can be combined with manufacturer's coupons to score AMAZING deals! Money Saving Mom will always list the items that you can get for free at Target each week.

The bottom line is that you have to find a strategy that will work for you. If I had the time, and fewer grabby little fingers in my life- I think that I would really like having my coupons all clipped and organized. At this season in my life though, it's just not the best option for me. Someone once told me that you need to give any strategy about 3 months before you're really going to know if it will work for you.

Couponing is not my favorite thing to do. It would be incredibly easy for me to claim that I just don't have time, but now that I have seen how much money our family can really save, I can't *not* coupon!

Remember that couple that I mentioned back in the beginning of this blog? The ones that spent over $400 a month on groceries?? Well we've doubled our family size, and halved our grocery budget. We now spend less than $200/ month on our groceries (including all of our household supplies!). That's an accomplishment that we're pretty proud of!

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