If you are a new reader, be sure to read though our “Basics” section to learn all about the art and challenge of couponing. If you have been with us for a while, enjoy the long awaited next segment of the “Ten Commandments of Couponing.”
Thou Shalt Not Be A Hoarder!
I recently mentioned the importance of “stocking up” on various items when they are cheap so you don’t have to pay more when you need them but I have had several readers want to know how to draw the line between stocking up and “hoarding.” Here are some of my thoughts and we would love to hear yours as well!
1. Don’t go the store with the intention of buying the rest of the stock of whatever is the great deal. Now, if they only have a few left, that is one thing but if there are 25 (of Spongebob tooth paste os Skittles for example), don’t take all 25. It is easy to get carried away but remember that there are others who will be wanting to cash in on those deals as well. My personal rule of thumb is to generally not buy more than 6 of an item. I will then wait and go back a few days later and buy 6 more if I need to but this allows other people time to cash in as well and also for the store to restock their shelves. Remember to be courteous to the other couponers out there!
2. If you won’t use it for your family or as a gift or donation item in the foreseable future, don’t buy it. I don’t care how cheap that item is. If it is going to cost you money and then sit in your house for years, it is not a good deal. Simple enough? It is also good to stock up on next year’s clothing but not to the point where you are spending money that you don’t have or you are buying something in an obscure size with the hope that it will maybe fit you or the child. Just be realistic in size expectations and amounts purchased so it does not become excessive.
3. Once you run out of room for items in your home, you are done stocking up. Again, I 100% believe in having a food storage (and using spaces under the beds and in high up empty shelves to put it in) but when your children can no longer walk around the house without tripping on your cereal supply, it is time to stop buying it. I don’t care if it is $.10 a box. If it doesn’t fit, you don’t need it. This can cause a lot of unnecesary confusion and clutter in our already crazy lives so remember to minimize so we can stay organized.
4. We don’t need to get every good deal out there. When I first started couponing I went a little nuts hitting up varying stores twice a day for a week. It quickly took over my life and ended up costing me more money. Remember to still keep a budget for groceries and when you reach it, stop spending. You will also find that you won’t feel so stressed or anxious by thinking that you have to get every deal, every time. Remember, these sales and promotions come back so don’t stress if it doesn’t fit into your budget or time constraints every time.
Do you have any more thoughts or ideas on the subject? Did I totally forget to mention something? Let us hear it!
Commandment 5: Thou Shalt Plan For the Future
Another key to successful couponing and saving money is to plan for the future. A true Diva never goes to the grocery store to buy something because she needs it right then. She has previously purchased anything that she might need in the future- and she bought it at a very discounted rate. For example, I never go and buy cereal because I am running low, I have already purchased all that I could possible use when I was able to get it for under $1 a box. As you can imagine, this saves me a tremendous amount of money every month. I also stock up on pretty much anything that can be stored for the day when I might need it. During Christmas time I buy my spices and seasonings for the year because they are heavily discounted. At back to school time I stock up on notebooks and crayons and in the off seasons I buy larger sized clearance clothing for my children so they will have what they need when next year rolls around.
Another element of planning for the future is building up a food storage. I believe it is extremely important to have about a three month (and up to a year) supply of food, hygiene and cleaning products available for my family. This not only allows you to have a good stash of items to choose from that were all purchased for good deals, but you then have these things in case of natural disasters, job loss or a sudden tightness of income. My goal is to be well enough stocked that I would be able to live off of what I have and only have to purchase milk and occasional produce if I suddenly had no money to spend.
Commandment 6: Thou Shalt Set Your Price Points
This means that you decide ahead of time what you are willing to pay for an item (at what point it is a “good” price) and then you stick to that decision and only buy it at that price or lower. My personal example is that when I first moved to Alaska, I decided that any cereal under $3 a box was a good enough deal to buy. Over time as I built up my coupon collection and and was able to shop around at different sales and promotions, that price point lowered from $2.50/ box all of the way to where I will no longer pay more than a buck a box. Don’t let this overwhelm or frustrate you when you can’t go out tomorrow and buy cereal for that cheap. This takes time and patience. Start higher and as you get your collection and stockpile growing, become more picky. With the 50+ boxes of cereal I now have, I have no need to go out and buy any unless it is a screaming deal. And this is the point we all want to get to. It will also take a while to figure out what your price points are but we can give you some clues as to what we think are good prices and points where we would stock up. Here are a few examples for me:
BBQ sauce- Free. I never have to pay for this.
Toothpaste- Free again. Buy it before you need it!
Deodorant- Free to $.50
Cereal- Start at $1.75/ box and move down over time
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese- $.50 or less
Hamburger Helper- $.90
Also remember that sales, coupons and promotions go in 3-4 month cycles. Be sure to stock up on items that you will need so it can last you at least this long. Any questions? What are some of your price points? We love comments, lets make this one big conversation!
The Third Commandment: Thou shalt be a courteous and generous couponer
All of us couponers need to be certain to practice coupon etiquette, which means being polite and courteous to other couponers, store employees and other shoppers. Here are some ways to ensure that we are all practicing good etiquette:
1. Shop during slow times of the day. I prefer to go in the mornings or late at night. There aren’t usually as many other shoppers that will end up in line behind me as I do my three transactions with 40 coupons, plus the shelves have often just been restocked in the mornings.
2. Don’t wipe out the shelves. Just because something is a good deal, you shouldn’t take it all for yourself. Remember that there are many others that want and need those items so just take a reasonable amount. You can always go back later in the week if you decide you need more.
3. Don’t ever be rude to store employees. I know it can be frustrating when you get a cashier that doesn’t understand his own store’s policies or promotions but take that opportunity to teach the cashier what it is (in a non condescending tone). If you still have a problem, nicely request a store manager come and help. Usually, they will be able to resolve any issues you may have. However, don’t ever ask an employee to break a rule or a policy. This will give all of us couponers a bad name.
4. Share coupons. Sometimes I end up with coupons that are about to expire that I know I won’t use or I have some for items I never buy (pet supplies). Be generous and give these to friends who could benefit. You could also be the “coupon fairy” and leave them next to its item on the shelf. Should we start up a coupon trading section on this blog? Leave a comment and let me know if you would like that. For instance, I have a $5 off Good Start formula coupon for anyone that could use it. Just leave a comment and let me know a way to get a hold of you.
5. Be generous. One of the things I like most about couponing is that I can afford to be more generous in donating to food banks, canned food drives and with supplies for schools. School supply season should be here next week so while you are picking up a 10 cent pack of crayons, grab a second to donate to your local school.
6. Share what you learn. If you find a great deal somewhere in the state, let us know! Email us at Alaskacoupondivas@gmail.com or go to the “contact us” tab or leave a comment. We would love to share what you discover with everyone else.
The Forth Commandment: Thou Shalt Know Thy Store Policies
It is extremely important for Divas to know the coupon policies of the stores that they choose to shop in. Go here to see Carrs’s coupon policy and Here for Fred Meyer’s and then here for Target’s. We will get Walgreen’s policy up before the Anchorage stores open. I recommend printing these off and keeping them in your binders with you when you shop. I have not yet had any real problems with stores in this area although I have had to educate a few cashiers as to how the coupons work but I have heard of many people struggling at Targets throughout the country. It is good to have these policies on hand in case there are any problems and you need to talk to the manager or call the corporate offices.
Here is a little more help for all of those beginners out there-
The 1st Commandment: Thou Shalt Collect Coupons from Everywhere.
Yes, I mean everywhere. Sign up for every newsletter and email update you can. Click the little box that says you want to be notified of promotions. Yes this means more junk mail for you but you will also score numerous free coupons this way- I was recently mailed a $5 off a bag off pull-ups coupon, definitely worth a little more junk to sort through. Also, collect coupons from blinkies (the little coupon dispensers) in the store. Even if you aren’t going to use them then, be sure to save them for later. This does not mean to take every last one out of the machine- leave plenty for others an only take what you will realistically use.
Have friends and family from other parts of the country send you their Sunday inserts or left over printables if the aren’t going to use them. You can also order a Sunday paper from the ADN although they don’t have nearly the same number of coupons in them as the rest of the country so you could then order your inserts from here to get several full copies.
Print plenty of coupons online. Use the coupon bar on the top of the page to print lots of great coupons for Alaska and you can print all of these twice. They will reset periodically so print all you can every time. Even if its a coupon you don’t think you would typically use, keep it anyway because that item’s price may drop so low that you will try that new box of granola bars for $.50, etc.
Go here and here to see more places to get coupons.
The 2nd Commandment: Thou Shalt Be an Organized Couponer
I can’t stress enough how important organization is to couponing. If you can’t find what you need in your stacks of coupons then you will not be able to use them. Make sense?
One of the first ways to organize is to use a little plastic tackle box like this one to make a coupon caddy. You should be able to get them at Target or Walmart for between $5 and $10. I then take bright colored index cards and make categories for my coupons and then put them in in alphabetical order. Each coupon is filed behind its card so you can easily find and use it. I recommend bright colored cards so they stand out from your coupons so you can easily see the dividers. This is where I put my Internet Pritnables (IP) and other random coupons that I collect.
I also use the binder method. For this I have a big binder full of clear page protectors and paper dividers. This is where I put my multiple copies of my Sunday inserts so I don’t have to clip out each coupon until I need it. I simply tear the pages off and lay the repeats on top of each other so I can see both sides and then I can flip through my binder and see everything I have. I organize by week because most coupon match-ups are labeled with the week the coupon came out. I really like how time saving and simple this one is because it can become a bit overwhelming to have to clip and file every coupon that you get- and you will get thousands.
I then use a little coupon organizer from here to pull my coupons for that day’s shopping trip and I separate them by transaction because I regularly do more than one. You could just take the little organizer but I prefer to take all three with me to the store because I hate to run across an unadvertised deal or a clearance item that I have a coupon for at home. It may seam like a lot to carry around but I just stick my caddy and binder in the cart and then don’t worry about them again until I come across a great random deal that I think I have a coupon for.
You need to use whatever works best for you. Play around with it and try different things because everyone coupons a little differently. Go here or here to see some other ways people organize.