Monday, August 18, 2008
Money Monday: Coupons
Ahhhh, coupons. If you are like most people, you are either fanatical about them or you never use them. For me, I have gone through periods of having a very organized coupon system and I have gone through periods of only using the occasional coupon that I found attached to a product I was buying. I recently returned to having an organized couponing system and I am applying lessons I have learned from previous attempts and from my couponing down times.
First, coupons can save a LOT of money, especially on new products. Often manufacturer's print high value coupons when they are releasing a new product or version of a product. It is also not uncommon for the new items to initially be sold at a reduced price. It is even possible to get some of these items for free when you combine the sale price with the coupon. Add in rebates, and you can actually make money. Click here for an example of how I bought $97.55+ worth of products for only $3.13 a few weeks ago by combining sales, coupons and rebates. I find drug stores are the best places to find these deals, but grocery stores and other stores (like K-Mart, Target, Wal-Mart) also offer great, even free, deals. A great place to learn exaclty how to make the most of your coupons, sales, and rebates is Money Saving Mom. She has several sections to check out, but I recommend starting with CVS 101 and Walgreens 101. Each week she posts the best deals based on that week's ads and coupons, so be sure to check her site regularly.
Now, coupons can also be dangerous and can actually cause a person to spend more money than they would have otherwise. Do not allow yourself to get caught in the trap of needing to use EVERY coupon you have. You will end up buying stuff you don't really need with money you could have used elsewhere. Having a coupon and getting a sale are great, but if it does not come out to being free, you should avoid getting those items you cannot or will not use.
As for keeping your coupons organized, this is an area that is best accomplished when you keep up with it weekly. I have a plastic shoe box with several envelopes in it. Each envelope has a different type of item written on it (cereal, dish soap, hair care, etc) and those are the types of coupons you will find inside the envelope. The envelopes are then arranged alphabetically. I also have several envelopes in the front that have store names that I go to frequently (Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, etc). Every Sunday I make out my shopping list and gather the coupons I know I will need and put them in the respective store envelopes. Then I cut out the remainder of the coupons from the coupon packets and file them into their proper product category envelope. If I come across coupons online or in other ways, I am sure to file them right away. This is one of those areas that if you procrastinate, it becomes too much to handle. As for cleaning out expired coupons, I just look for them as I file new ones or when looking for a certain coupon. When I find myself with nothing to do, I may grab an envelope or two and go throught them just looking for expired coupons, and many people will go therough their entire coupon system on a regualr basis, but do what works for you.
Coupons may not seem like they are a huge savings, especially when they are only for $0.25 off, but they add up quickly. I challenge you to actively seek out good sales and combine them with coupons for a few weeks and see just how much you can save. It only takes a handful of coupons to save enough money for a small treat to reward yourself with;)