Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back to Basics--Couponing 101--Where I Get My Coupons, Part 2

  • Who can find a virtuous woman? her price is far above rubies
  • She looketh well to the ways of her household

Once I started reading money-saving blogs, and saving a little money using my internet printed coupons, I started paying attention to other coupon sources.

Newspaper Inserts

My next step in my couponing journey was beginning to buy the Sunday newspaper for the coupon inserts.

There are usually two weekly inserts, one from RedPlum, and one from Smart Source, on occasion one from Vlassis. In addition to these, Procter and Gamble has an insert every 4-6 weeks for their products. Sites that do coupon match-ups for sales list these as SS, RP, V, and P&G.

There are websites you can visit which will tell you which inserts are coming out which weeks, and even what coupons are possibly included in the inserts. One of these is Taylortown Preview.

Why do I say "possibly included"? It didn't take long for me to figure out that not all newspaper inserts are created equally. Smart Source, RedPlum, Vlassis and even P&G inserts are completely different in major metropolitan markets than in smaller cities. So you may read in a preview that there's a high dollar coupon coming for a product you like, only to open your paper and find either a) no coupon at all for that product, or b) a smaller dollar value. Or not.

That's one of the reasons I seldom buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper as some couponers do. Occasionally I buy 2, usually the weeks that there's a P&G insert so that I'll have two coupons for products that may come up often on B1G1 sales, or items that I buy frequently.

Do I miss some deals at times, because I don't have multiples of the "good" coupons, or because I had 1 or 2 and I've already used them? You bet. But even yet, I manage to do quite well and have quite a stockpile built up of the things we use regularly. Could that change at some point? Sure, if I had access to a newspaper from a major metropolitan area, I might totally rethink my position.

But that brings me to another point. Many of the coupons in the inserts are for products that I don't buy, ever, at any cost. I don't mean just different brand of something I use, because if I can get something for free, I'm willing to at least try it. But there are some products that we just don't use in our household, and I don't want to have to handle multiples of those coupons, not to mention the trash it would generate.

So what to do if you want the "good" coupons (which means good for you and your household) but don't want to have to chase down a big city newspaper that may or may not have the coupon you want?

That brings me to another source of coupons for me.

Coupon Clipping Services

There are several different coupon clipping services out there--the one I've use with great success is the Coupon Clippers. You can click the link or the button on my right hand sidebar to go there from here. Once you're there, you'll need to register. Then you can search for coupons alphabetically, by what's "hot", what's new, etc. They list the product, the face value of the coupon, the cost to you for the coupon, when it expires (important!) and if there is a minimum number required for purchase. You fill in the quantity next to the coupons you want--be sure to click on the "add to cart" button before you go the next page. You'll also see a box on the left that shows the next ship date and what the order deadline is to make that ship date. Coupons are mailed out by 5:00 pm on the ship date, and I've always had mine in my mailbox by two days later. (e.g., ship Wednesday, I have them by Friday). I've been very happy with the coupons and the service I've received from there.

There are other services available around the web, including e-Bay. Many of the bloggers I follow have had success with getting coupons from e-Bay, but it's not something that I have personally done.

You may be asking how it's a savings to pay to get coupons? The service I use charges a very small percentage of the face value of the coupon, and a small handling charge. The amount of savings I get more than makes up for the amount I spend to get these clipped for me. The same thing seems to apply to other clipping services.

Note on paying for coupons: Whether through "coupon clippers" or e-Bay, you are not buying coupons, which is illegal. You are paying someone for their services to clip coupons that they obtain legally from acquiring multiple copies of the inserts. That's why I made sure I use only a legitimate service that I've seen recommended by bloggers I trust.

Mail Freebies and Samples

In Part 1 of this series I mentioned going directly to manufacturer's and brand websites to look for printable coupons. Another thing that you can find at many sites are offers for free samples. I've gotten all kinds of freebies in the mail, from cereal to snack bars to shampoo and even free full size, non-disposable razors. My favorites are the ones that come with coupons--and many of them do.

So where do you find these free samples? Again--evvvverywhere!

Wal-mart has a Free Sample page that updates regularly with new offers. You sign up and request each sample individually.

Other sites you register and provide your information once, and they will send you an email when they have something available to request. Some send newsletters.

Right at Home for SCJohnson

P&G Brand Sampler can be requested seasonally

Vocalpoint sign up and visit this site regularly--the more active you are, the better samples and coupons you'll get. I've received multiples of coupons from them--usually one for a free product, then several others that are $ off to use or share with others.

Start Sampling is another site that offers multiple samples and coupons

Home Made Simple register and sign up for their newsletter, they mail out coupon booklets periodically.

Frugal Shopping and Deals Blogs

I get alerted to lots of these good sources for freebies, samples, and coupons by following several frugal shopping/deals/couponing blogs. There are lots of them out there--click on the links on my lefthand sidebar under the heading "Frugal Living, Couponing, Shopping".

And that brings me to the final (I think!) source for coupons:

In Stores and on Products

I'm not sure if it's just because I coupon that I notice these now, but there seems to be a lot more in-store and on-product coupons than I ever seem to remember. I see these everywhere these days!

  • Tearpads are pads of coupons, usually attached to the shelf at eye-level right in front of the product or a related product. Recently there were a lot of internet coupons for Kraft products--bbq sauce, mayo, Miracle Whip, etc. On the shelf in front of the Kraft bbq sauce was a tearpad of coupons for $2 off any fresh meat product when you bought two Kraft products. I used my IP Qs (internet printed coupons) to get two free bottles of bbq sauce, then used the tearpad Q (coupon) to get a package of chicken thighs for next to nothing.

  • Blinkies are similar to tearpads--on the shelf at eye-level, except the are in little black coupon dispensers, usually with a little red light that blinks--hence the name!

  • Peelies are coupons found on the product itself, usually stating "save $ now" and have to be peeled off to be used. The very first completely free thing I bought when I started couponing and watching sales were four tins of Altoids mints that were on sale $1.99, B1G1, and had peelies on them for $1 off--I used the four peelies and paid nothing but the tax OOP (out of pocket)--I was so excited, you'd have thought I'd saved $100! Just a few weeks ago, granulated Splenda was on sale at Publix B1G1, at $5.99, and I found bags that had $2.00 off each bag---meaning that I got two big bags of Splenda for $1.99 for two with the sale and two coupons.
Internet printable coupons, newspaper inserts, coupon clipping services, free samples, and tearpads, blinkies, and peelies--I told you that I get my coupons everywhere!

Do you have other sources of coupons that I've missed? If you do, be sure to leave a comment and let me know!

Did you miss the other posts in this series? Click the links to see:

Back to Basics--How I Organize My Coupons

Back to Basics--Where I Get My Coupons, Part 1

Until next time...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back to Basics--Couponing 101--Where I Get My Coupons, Part 1

  • Who can find a virtuous woman? her price is far above rubies
  • She looketh well to the ways of her household

When I first started blogging, I shared a bit about how I got into frugal shopping, drugstore wheeling and dealing, and couponing. I thought I'd share just a bit about how I coupon and where I get my coupons.

The short answer is: from everywhere!

And the long answer is: from evvvvverywhere!!

I know, it's a pitiful joke, right? Sorry.

I do get coupons from everywhere. From places I never knew you could get coupons, and from places I never noticed coupons before. Once you start, you'll start to notice and find them in places you've never even thought of!

On-line IP (Internet Printable) Coupons

The first place I started getting coupons was various on-line sources, some of which are listed below.

Things you need to know before you start printing internet coupons:
  • Some of the internet printable coupons require that you sign up, giving your name, email, etc. Whatever you do, don't give them your personal email! This bears repeating. Don't give them your personal email! Set up a separate account, you'll start getting tons of emails from all of these sites.

  • Besides name and email, some request an address, and many also ask for a birthdate--some say it's be sure you're over their minimum age, some will send you extra coupons during your birthday month, etc, but in these days of identity theft, I would never use my real birthdate. I use the same wrong date for everything I sign up for, that way I don't forget what date I've used at what site! Don't be scared, just be careful.!

  • Online coupons come in a couple of different formats. While there are still a few companies that use a static pdf. format, most use a coupon generator and will require a download and install of software the first time you print coupons. There are two or three different coupon generators that various companies use, the most common of which are Bricks and Smart Source, so you may be asked to download software more than once, depending on which coupon generator a site uses.

  • Most coupon generators will allow you to print a particular coupon twice per computer. If you have access to multiple computers, you can print additional copies if you choose to, and these are still legitimate coupons. It is NOT legitimate to make copies, even high definition color copies, of an internet coupon. Remember those coupon generator/printers you downloaded? Every coupon printed legitimately will have a unique barcode on it. Don't try to cheat the system--it's not only illegal, it's unbecoming to a woman of virtue.

  • Some stores do not take internet coupons--because of the fraudulent activity I mentioned above. Many are just now becoming educated about the unique bar codes--know your store's corporate coupon policy. You can read about experiences with Walmart here and here. I've never had a problem since that time, but I carry a printed copy of the Walmart corporate coupon policy in my coupon binder at all times.
And now, on to the good part:
  1. can be accessed from the blue widget on my right sidebar. These are updated regularly, at least monthly, sometimes more often. Generally these are good for 30 days after the date you print, and can usually be printed twice per computer. Some manufacturer's limit the number that can be printed daily, weekly, or monthly, so if you read about a coupon that isn't there when you look for it, it may have reached it's print limit. There are also coupons that are only available in certain locations, so it also makes a difference which zip code you use. You can sign up or "join" the site, but it isn't necessary in order to print the coupons. (If you print my widget, or go the site from my widget, and use those coupons, I will eventually get a few cents commission from them. So be sure to click and print and redeem those coupons!)

  2. You do have to sign up or "join" cool savings in order to access the coupons. The first time you go to the cool savings site, you will see page after page of free offers and things you can sign up for. If you aren't interested, just make sure you click "no" or "skip" on each page or offer. These will seem to be never ending, but persevere, it's a one time thing you have to go through. Once you get to the end, from then on when you go to the site, you can just click a tab marked "printable coupons".

  3. and If both of these names seem familiar, it's because both of these companies put out regular newspaper inserts with advertisements and coupons--the coupons on line at their sites are usually different from those printed in the inserts--neither require sign up to use.

  4. Individual product/Manufacturer's website--If there are products you use that you like, enter the product name in a search engine and find their website. Many manufacturer's have newsletters that you can sign up for, and offer coupons that are updated and reset regularly--meaning that if you printed it twice you may get a "print limit reached" message, but they may reset monthly or quarterly. Some will send you extra coupons during your birthday month, and some will notify you when they run contests, sweepstakes, and other promotions. Watch the sign up form, too--you can often print the coupon and still opt out of getting on the mailing list if you "uncheck" the boxes asking for email updates. And if not, you can always unsubscribe later if you want to.
Some of my favorites in this category are:
  • Betty Crocker & Pillsbury They have always have coupons available, and which reset and/or change out every month.

  • Right at Home for SC Johnson products (Zip-lock, Spray& Wash, Pledge, and more)

  • Colgate-Palmolive for Colgate, Softsoap, Irish Spring, Mennen

  • Eat Better America for mostly grocery items, these are usually different from the coupons available at most other internet coupon sites.
Ann at Coupons Deals and More keeps an excellent list of links to manufacturer's coupons, as well as printable rebate forms--look at the subtitles on the navigation bar at her blog. Bookmark her site, you'll want to come back to it often!

There are other coupon sites out there, most of which are legitimate, these are just the ones I use the most.

Be sure to see Back to Basics--How I Organize My Coupons, and coming tomorrow--Where I Get My Coupons, Part 2

Until next time...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Back to Basics--Couponing 101--How I Organize My Coupons

  • She is like merchant's ships, she bringeth her food (and other things!) from afar

  • She looketh well to the ways of her family

(coming up this week--reposts of where I get my coupons, part 1 & 2)

I admitted it, I haven't been couponing much lately. Last week I bought some groceries and used one measly little $.50 coupon--and it wasn't even doubled!

Why have I been so lax? Since I moved back to our small, rural hometown, the opportunties for savings are definitely lessened.
  • Fewer stores, and with less competition, so prices are higher.
  • None of the stores doubles coupons
  • Since I'm home alone much of the time, I haven't been cooking much, and I'm using less of the things that generally have coupons.
  • I've been using out of my stockpile of some items--which was plentiful when I lived in Georgia, most of which I brought with me.
  • Better stores with more savings opportunities are in a city at least 50 miles away, and increasing gas prices make shopping there a less attractive option.
  • Coupons have been fewer with much smaller denominations--and with no doubling, sometimes it hardly seems worth the trouble.
BUT---Sunday afternoon after a nice family dinner at my mother's house, all of us girls-my mom, my sister, my niece, and I--were sitting around the table looking at the sale papers. My niece was excited about a buy-one-get-one-50%-off sale on a make-up product she likes, and mentioned that she had a $2 coupon she could use. So when I told her that since she was buying two products she could use two coupons if she had them, and save even more---she was really excited! I ran home and grabbed my *envelope stuffed with coupons so she could look for the make-up coupon she needed, and it turned into a quick coupon lesson/intervention as we proceeded to go through the circulars, showing her how and when she could combine coupons with sales, stack store coupons with manufacturer's coupons, and use register rewards and extra care bucks to help even more. She was so excited, she compared me to one of the folks on the Exteme Couponing show--though I am far from that dedicated and/or obsessed!

*Yes, I admit it, my binder sits, empty and forlorn. Even my wallet sized coupon organizer is mostly empty, with only a few long term coupons left in it. I recently gave myself an intervention, throwing away expired coupons, and having a marathon clipping session to work through the stack of coupon inserts that I had left--unclipped and unused. However, I have a big stack of unsorted coupons, stuffed in a large envelope, because that's as far as I got.

And so, one of my tasks for this week, as a virtuous woman, is to re-organize my coupons.

  1. Step one--Clip. Whether they're printed from the internet, in a newspaper insert, or received in the mail, they have to be clipped to be used.

  2. Step two--Divide. Ideally, I stack as I clip, loosely into little piles all around me on the table, food categories on one side, non-food on the other. This can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. Food, non-food is obvious, but you still want like things together--cereal, frozen foods, etc.

  3. Step three--Conquer. Even when all I had was an envelope, I had a little filing system to help me find the coupons I needed. If you have wallet style organizer, pull one section at a time, discarding expired coupons, adding in your new ones. With my binder, I take one page at a time, pulling the expired coupons (oh the shame of it--so many coupons that I let slip away until it was too late!) and filing the new ones.
And then--look out stores, here we come!

Meanwhile, here is my previous post about how I organize my coupons. (later this week I'll repost where I get my coupons, part 1 and 2, with some updates.)

When I first started couponing, I eased into it gradually. I started off printing a few internet coupons and sticking them in my wallet or checkbook; then I started using an envelope sorted loosely by category. I thought I had graduated to the big time when I got a real coupon organizer...

I paid $5.00 for it, it had about 12 little dividers that I used for my different categories. I really liked the convenience of this one because it fit in my purse; and because I always had it with me, it was easy to pull out when I found unexpected bargains and clearanced items. Unfortunately, it was just a little too small when I got into full swing couponing mode--it was hard to find coupons as I needed them, it was just stuffed too full and the elastic thingy it closed with kept breaking and stretching out.

So I finally broke down and and bought some baseball card collectors sheets and some photo sheets. I picked out my binder on Amazon (Case-it Large Capacity Blue Zipper Binder (D-145))and then I did what I do best--procrastinated about switching over until I just couldn't stand it any more--then I bit the bullet and drug everything out and worked on it off and on for two days straight!

I started off with some flexible plastic dividers, but I didn't like the way they stuck out, so right now I have no dividers, but I do still group everything by pages and general sections.

I have a couple of photo pages in the front for what I call "unusual" coupons--restaurants, or combination coupons--get $2 off produce if you also buy these two products, that kind of thing. Then I move to fresh foods--meat, produce, and bread--I don't usually have a lot of coupons for these products, so they're usually grouped together. I have a page for canned fruits and vegetables and related products; one for sauces, dressings, and condiments; packaged foods--rice mixes, hamburger helper, etc; cereal; baking goods; snacks; dairy; cold non-dairy --like rolls and biscuits; frozen. Within some sections I also group like products together--frozen foods may have meat and dinners, frozen breads, vegetables, and ice cream, for instance. Maybe not a separate page, but at least grouped together on the page. For non-foods, I have pages for shampoo, deodorant, lotion, bodywash, dental, etc, as well as paper products, cleaning, and laundry.

There are two main drawbacks to the binder system for me:

First, you do have to trim the coupons very closely, and some just will not fit without being folded. The photo pages are good for some larger coupons, I just don't have a lot of those, so I try to fold so that I can see the product and the expiration date.

And second is the bulk--right at first I was very self-conscious walking into a store with this huge binder--I usually have a large purse, too, so sometimes I wondered if it looked like I was moving in! I tried pulling out only the ones I knew I was going to use and leaving the binder at home or in my truck, but I constantly saw things that I thought "Oh, I have a coupon for that--out in the truck" And it's just too hot where I live and I am too old (!) to make multiple trips in and out just to retrieve coupons. I even tried leaving my purse in the truck and just taking in the binder and my debit card, thinking it looked less obtrusive to be carrying only one big old thing on my shoulder. That doesn't work, though, because I need that purse in the buggy to prop my binder on!

So I finally decided to just get over it and lug them both in.

And you know what? No one notices but me.

And the people who do, do a double take when they see me walking calmly down the aisle with my binder propped open on top of my purse.

Then they comment---"Where did you get that? I need one of those!" One older gentlemen even comment "You're one of those money-saving women, aren't you? I wish I had time for that!"

I have given many a quick lesson in baseball card sheets and zipper binders, standing in the aisle of the grocery store or drugstore.

Is it still a bit bulky? Yes. And sometimes when I'm making a quick trip, I do pull my coupons and leave it in the truck. But most of the time I take it with me. I put my purse in the buggy, open my binder and prop it on top, get my list in my hand, and away I go. I pull the coupons as I go, so I can make sure I'm getting the right product or whatever, and I slip them into a little pocket on the inside of the front cover of my binder. Sometimes I slip them into the fold on my list. When I'm ready to check out, I pull out my coupons and go ahead and zip up my binder and turn it with the strap up, ready to grab with my purse when I leave the store.

The good points for me far outweigh the bad--my coupons are organized, I can see at a glance what I have and what I may be short of, and it's ready at a moment's notice to zip up, sling over my shoulder, and go!

Be sure to check the next two posts in this series:

Back to Basics--Where I Get My Coupons, Part 1

Back to Basics--Where I Get My Coupons, Part 2

Until next time...

This post is linked to:
Show Me How at It's a Blog Party

Homemaking Party at Don't Waste Your Homemaking

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

21 Reasons I Haven't Been Blogging Lately

  • Who can find a virtuous woman, her price is far above rubies

I really think that should read "Who CAN find a virtuous woman?", 'cause this Virtuous Woman has been A.W.O.L. I've had blogger's block.

Here are my reasons excuses:

  1. I haven't been couponing

  2. I haven't been thrifting

  3. I haven't been crafting

  4. I haven't been decorating

  5. I haven't been cooking

  6. I haven't been cleaning

  7. I've been busy

  8. I've been bored

  9. I've been tired

  10. I've been lazy

  11. I don't have high speed internet any more

  12. I've been procrastinating

  13. I've been disorganized

  14. I've gained weight

  15. I'm home alone most of the time, so who wants to read about that?

  16. My house is too messy to take pictures

  17. Even when I take pictures, it takes too long to download, edit, and upload them to the blog

  18. I need to get my act together before I can blog

  19. I've been overwhelmed/underwhelmed/just plain "whelmed"

  20. No one reads this blog anyway.

  21. etc--I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture!

Not to seem to angst-y, but I do think we worry too much about trying to craft the "perfect" post, with the perfect pictures, on the perfect subject.

Several bloggers that I followed have quit blogging completely, and I wondered for a while if that was what I should do, but after much thought, I don't think I'm to that place right now.

I just need to get over myself and jump right back in, so that's exactly what I'm doing!

Are you ready? Here we go!

Until next time...


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