*Sorry this took me so long to get to you guys. It has taken me forever to compile this!
Okay… All of you have been asking, so I’m going to do the best I can to explain in through a blog. A class is potentially being put together through a church in Rockmart, GA for those who live around there. For those friends of mine who are out-of-state or not around this area here it goes! A great place to get an overview is to read this page then come back to my blog.
Step 1: Sign up for a new email address. (I used firstname.lastname@example.org)
You will be giving it out a lot if you want to be OH SO SERIOUS about this, lol. I didn’t want my main email address being filled up with crap I might only look at every blue moon.
Optional: I’m an organized person and like to be able to find things when I want them. I went into the settings of Gmail and created filters for each company I signed up for such as “Kellogg’s” “Foldgers” “Red Plum” “Southern Savers” etc etc. and set up matching labels so it automatically filters as they come in to the appropriate places. I’m anal though! lol
Step 2: Every Sunday morning get your papers.
The AJC puts out a double paper with coupons in it. It is wrapped with a band on it that normally says “Double your savings”. I of these papers actually contains 2 papers. Buy 2 papers (you will actually end up with 4 papers). They are $3 each… total $6.
Shane and I have actually bought as many as 4 bundles (which means 8 papers) if we like the coupons. Even $12 is a drop in the bucket compared to what we save! – The catch on getting these papers is they go fast! Get up on Sunday morning and get out there! We get ours at Wal-Mart but in Rockmart it’s about the only place that sells them. If someone knows of another place in Rockmart please share with us that location! Other friends have told me they get them at Quik Trip. Feel free to add your locations as comments at the bottom of this blog.
Step 3: Decide on your sorting method.
There are many ways to sort your coupons. I’m sharing what has worked for me. You can also go to Southern Savers and read her options of doing it. I use accordion file method. Below is a picture of the type of accordion carrier I use. I bought mine at Wal-Mart for around $10. Get one with at least 13 files in it. You will be keeping your coupons for quite a while more than likely. (It’s March 11th and this week they pulled a coupon from Oct 2010!)
Step 4: Get yourself associated with the types of coupon booklets
This was sort of awkward for me in the beginning because I didn’t know what I was looking for. So far in my 5 weeks of couponing I have seen the following booklets come in the Sunday papers… SmartSource, Red Plum, Publix, Proctor & Gamble (also known as PG), a General Mills booklet called “Pit Savings”. When you get your papers you want to pull out all the middle section (where the coupons are) and set aside the rest of the paper. I don’t read it so it gets trashed at my house. Important! — DO NOT SORT THROUGH THE COUPONS & THROW OUT THINGS YOU SAY YOU WON’T EVER USE!
I keep the following:
– Smart Source – Red Plum
– Specialty Coupon Booklets (such as Proctor & Gamble, General Mills, etc)
– One weekly ad of Kroger, Publix, Ingles, Walmart (your local stores might be different)
I keep the ads because the blog I use to track coupons doesn’t always list every deal. An example is I almost missed a fantastic deal on Pedigree dog food. When I matched coupons for it I paid $0.99 for a 5 lb bag! I caught it because I looked at the ads too. We will get to this later. The coupon booklets (whether Smart Source, Red Plum or specialty you will recognize after your first week. They are the booklets that are LITERALLY nothing but coupons. No ads exist like in Target’s booklet or Wal-Mart’s booklet.)
Step 5: Setting up your accordion file
Each week, I create a new tab for the accordion file which in turn holds my coupons. This is super easy and is the easiest method to use if you decide to do things the way I do.*The date is the date of the Sunday you got the paper.
Week 1: my paper had Smart Source and Red Plum coupon booklets. One tab was created with “SS 1/30” and one with “RP 1/30”.
Week 2: my paper had Smart Source, Red Plum and Proctor & Gamble booklets. One tab was created with “SS 2/6”, one with “RP 2/6” and one with “PG 2/6”.
Week 3: my paper had Smart Source and Red Plum coupon booklets. One tab was created with “SS 2/13” , one with “RP 2/13” and “Pit Savings 2/13”. (Note: The website I followed considered this to be part of the Smart Source ad. In my paper though, it was separate, which is why I had it separate. This would be up to you really 🙂 “Pit Savings” was a General Mills Products only booklet which was a huge special in Publix that week!)
Week 4: my paper had Red Plum only. “RP 2/20”
… you get the point.
Step 6: Understanding the term “couponing”
Alright, so you have bought your papers Sunday morning, Sunday evening you have situated your tabs in your accordion file (or whenever you choose to do them – I do mine Sunday night after church) and placed the corresponding ad in its file, now it’s time to figure out where you are going and what you are getting!
I use www.southernsavers.com – it’s easy to follow and understand. Here is a screen shot of a Publix breakdown. (Click here to see it in its entirety.) It also allows you to check a box next to the items you are planning on getting and print a grocery list at the end of it. Very handy 🙂
Understanding the lingo and abbreviations here. Also, some neat tidbit info like how stores don’t lose money with coupons!
When you look at the screen shot (click to make it larger) S = Store, M = Manufacturer, The little acorn = Stock up! Great deal! Some are printable meaning you can print them from your home computer if they haven’t expired. Some have SS 2/20 or RP 1/15. Look familiar? This is why I do my accordion file like I do. I can reference the coupons super easy this way!
Key things to understand: SS = Smart Source, RP = Red Plum, PG = Proctor & Gamble, Printable = a link to print a coupon (sometimes these are expired if you can’t find it on the page). Remember this woman is human and will make mistakes on math, listings, etc. 🙂
EXAMPLE USING SARGENTO CHEESE UP ABOVE:
It’s on sale at Publix for $2.00 a bag. This cheese is normally almost $4 a bag. It is showing you there are 2 STORE coupons and 1 MANUFACTURER coupon that Southern Savers is aware of. Both store coupons show a printable link. Click on it and it will take you to another website. At this point – you are sort of on your own figuring out if you have to sign up for the website first, or if it will just let you print it. Sometimes it will just automatically prompt you to be able to click “print”. Just depends on the site. By using the STORE coupon for $1.50/1 (which means $1.50 off of one bag) this brings the price down to $.50 a bag. The MANUFACTURER coupon is $1/2 (which means $1 off of two bags). So… if we purchase two bags of cheese ($2 + $2 = $4) and use a STORE coupon on each item (because the store coupon is off of one item, so we can use one per item ($2 – $1.50) + ($2 – $1.50) = ($.50 + $.50) = $1 for two bags) Now apply the MANUFACTURER coupon which is $1/2… $1 for two bags – $1/2 manufacturer coupon = FREE!!!)
I could give a million examples of this but hopefully you understand 🙂 When looking at something that is “buy 1 get 1 free” – don’t think of it as how it’s termed, but instead that you are getting two items at half price. When you begin to apply coupons and do the math it’s easier to figure out 🙂
Step 7: Decide where you are shopping
I always shop at Publix first. Publix has the best deals of everyone because they have over 40 B1G1 free options to choose from. Publix has been the easiest for me to sit down and make my grocery list and I have never had issues with the employees at check out. Kroger has been a little more complicated because they have so many “purchase 10 participating items for $10” – and then Wal-Mart has not been a pleasant experience with coupons because their employees don’t seem to know the coupon policy, lol. Granted – this has been the Wal-Mart in Rockmart, I haven’t tried other ones. Ingles has been a decent experience for me.
Remember, to get the biggest bang for your buck, numerous stores will end up being involved. To start couponing – my suggestion is to pick one store for a few weeks then slowly add others in. It will take you a while to get used to doing this. Don’t get frustrated if it takes an hour or two initially. You will get it down to a science where you can do it in about 30 minutes 🙂
Feel free to share your grocery lists with each other here in the comment section to people can copy each other until they get it down. Also, you will not have many of the coupons listed because you don’t have papers from previous weeks. As you gain papers to your collection you will see your grocery list gets bigger and bigger but your actual spending amount does not increase that much. I’m addicted to seeing how LOW I can get the spent number and how HIGH I can get the savings number. It’s almost a game to me now!!!
Lastly – I have a general rule that I don’t purchase anything if it’s over a $1 after coupons unless it’s an item like laundry detergent. Ultimately, you have to decide what is a “good deal” and what isn’t for your family. My rule of thumb works great for us. This past week my Publix “spent” bill was higher than usual but I had 6 bottles of laundry detergent in it that were bought for $1.50 each! The last thing to realize by couponing is you can’t be picky on what’s for dinner or for lunch at work. What you eat is dictated by the sales of the week. You also won’t be able to eat super super healthy this way unless you catch some steal deals 🙂 But in the end it’s worth it. I have saved over $400 in 5 weeks of couponing if I had actually bought all those items. I have only spent about $120 in 5 weeks on groceries 🙂
Hope this helps you guys. Again, if you have questions post them as comments and we can help each other out!!! If you see a great deal – link it – type it – do whatever to share it with everyone!!