Q I want to save with coupons. I read your column and know that those who coupon are saving a great deal of money. But I can’t shake the idea of how much time it would take me to cut and carry all those coupons around.
The idea of it just makes me cringe. I don’t have any time to do that, but I also am not a coupon app person, as I don’t use my phone for that. If I’m going to do this it will be with paper coupons. Help convince me this is something I can do without becoming one of those coupon people who everyone rolls their eyes at in the checkout.
A: It’s kind of funny to me how many people equate coupon clipping with carrying around every coupon that they own. Nothing could be further from the truth. While I love coupons and fully embrace their savings potential, I try to spend as little time as possible preparing for a shopping trip, and I definitely do not take every coupon I own to the store with me.
For close to eight years now, I’ve embraced the “clipless” method. I believe it’s the fastest, easiest way to spend as little time as possible preparing for a shopping trip. I love this terminology, because it’s a bit of a play on words: You really do clip less.
So, how do you go “clipless?”
With this system, you’ll keep your newspaper coupon inserts intact every week – no wasting time cutting or carrying coupons you won’t use. When I’m ready to plan a shopping trip, I cut only the coupons I need from my inserts, and then add them to my coupon wallet to take to the store.
This method is a breeze to use when paired with an online component, a grocery match-up site, coupon blog or coupon database. All of these tools will provide you with the reference to a coupon and where to find it. For example, if you were looking for a sale on a particular brand of grape juice, the coupon site might reference a $1-off-2 coupon in the “7/14 RP.” This reference tells you the date the coupon was in your inserts (July 14th) and the name of the insert it can be found in, RedPlum. As you begin to save your inserts each week, you’ll quickly build a library of RedPlum, SmartSource and Procter & Gamble inserts from which to choose coupons.
I have two easy options for organizing whole coupon inserts. If you get one or two newspapers each week, an accordion file is an inexpensive and convenient way to organize. Use one pocket of the accordion for each month’s inserts. When your coupon inserts arrive, write the date on the front of the insert (example: 10/7/13.) Then, keep each month’s inserts together in the same pocket. If you receive many papers each week, using a plastic file crate is a great option too. Use a hanging file folder to contain each month’s inserts, and then hang the file in the crate.
When I’m ready to plan a shopping trip, I will look at my site of choice to start planning my list. If you’re new to couponing, you’ll probably like grocery list match-up sites like SavingsAngel.com or GroceryGame.com.
Coupon enthusiasts around the country also write free blogs focusing on specific stores or market areas. (I blog supermarket and drugstore sales each week too at jillcataldo.com.)
Coupon databases like CouponTom.com make it fast and easy to enter in the brand or item you’re looking for. The database will immediately return a list of current coupons, with their date references. These tools also will let you know if there are printable or electronic coupons available too.
Next week, I’ll have some advice on organizing a coupon wallet.
Smart Living Tip: Use a search engine to find a coupon blog that’s local to your area. Coupon bloggers are often passionate about sharing savings with others, and blogs can be a great way to find out what’s happening sale-wise at the local level.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn at www.jillcataldo.com.