24/7 MOMS Frugal Living Editor
Angela, (http://www.thecouponproject.com/), had so many great ideas for us on Tuesday night’s 24/7 Moms webcast. Here are some of the tips she shared with us, plus a few other notes of wisdom to inspire new and experienced couponers.
1. Shop with a List, save 30%. Those who shop with a list, on average, spend less time and money at the grocery store. Planning and of course, discipline to stick to that list will keep you moving right along towards your time and money budgets.
Freebie Tool To Create Your List – and Great Meals: DinnerTool.com
Awesome, Quick, Easy and Free! Plan your meals by ingredient (that would be what you have on hand or what’s on sale), cuisine, dietary restrictions—and a selection of other variables. Whether you’re looking for “healthy”, “budget”, “quick”, or “Fast”, you’ll find an array of recipes. Once you’ve chosen the recipe and added it to your menu planner, you can then export your plan to a printable shopping list. The ingredients are listed by grocery store category. You can delete from the list what you have already, and add items as you like. You’ll end your visit to DinnerTool.com with a menu and a shopping list – voila!
Bonus Features: Videos and a blog with yummy meal ideas. You can also store your own favorite recipes on this site. Menu plans can be saved, giving you the tools to alternate your favorite meal plans and incorporate new meals from suggested recipes.
2. Have Plan, Have List – Now Save Money!
Planning meals from what you have and/or what is on sale is a fairly easy way to eat well and save money. Where’s the quick version of “What’s On Sale, This Week?” – these are the blogs which will do the “stacking” of sales and coupons for you. Subscribe to these blogs and you’ll get a weekly list of your best deals, just for the reading. (Tip: Find a money-saving blog in your city here:
Some Favorite Blogs/$-Saving Websites: These sites offer savings at a number of stores, listed by store name. Weekly (or daily, depending of the blog) email updates will list overviews as well, from where you can choose the deals you want to pursue.
3. Find the Coupons: The “Where-To’s”
Coupons are most commonly found in inserts distributed with weekend papers. Local and metropolitan newspapers will include inserts nearly every weekend, with the exception of holiday weekends. Get multiple of inserts from sources such as friends, coupon share boxes at church or daycare, “Frugal Friends” get-together (start one in your area!), recycling centers (depends on your local centers), mail order (http://www.couponsandforms.com/), etc.
Where to find the best coupons: from the manufactures’ themselves (join email/mailing lists, call or write to them, etc.) and IP (Internet Printable) coupons.
Money-saving websites such as http://www.couponmom.com/ feature links to printable coupons from their site, and specifically from their “Grocery Coupon Databases” when you’re searching for savings on a particular product.
Three IP Coupon Sources: (Tip: Visit the product website first, as many offer IP coupons!)
4. Have Plan, Have List, Have Coupons – How Do I Put it All Together?
Coupon organization styles vary as personalities and preferences do. Beginners usually start with a simple dollar-store coupon file. Once you’ve gotten into the coupon habit (profitable hobby, I say), you can expand your organization into a binder (plastic pages in a 3-ring notebook) or box that suits your money saving routine. Right now, I’m trying out the “Couponizer”, which is a very visual, simple way to plan your shopping and coupon use. The “Couponizer “is a quick way to transport coupons you’re going to use to the grocery store. I have a binder system as well, and find that to be very ergonomic – finding coupons is as easy as turning pages. Look around the grocery store, YouTube.com (search “Coupon” for many how-to videos), and ask friends. Then, create the system which works most efficiently for you. Realize that it’s a work in progress as you learn and grow your new habit. Give yourself at least the 21 days it takes to make lasting change (and look forward to all that extra “change” in your pocket!
5. Coupon Etiquette – Mind Your Manners, and Make Friends!
No matter where you do your coupon shopping, you are an advocate for all couponers, everywhere. In smaller communities especially, it’s easy to gain a “reputation”, whether positive or negative – and the cashiers will treat you accordingly. Realize that pushing your luck on one deemed “questionable” savings attempt determines how you will be viewed the next time you visit. It may sound harsh, but I cannot say it strongly enough – mind your manners! Don’t assume (or appear) as though you are “right”, speak in a cooperative tone.
Approach each cashier and transaction with polite perseverance, kindly asking for a supervisor when there is a difference of opinion. Shop in the “off-hours”, when possible. Ask clerks how they prefer to have you hand them coupons, and make them aware of any more complicated coupons such as the “price matching” or rain checks you plan to use. Make friends not only with the clerk but with the people in line behind you. Have at the ready, cards you can hand out to quickly “meet” those interested in your great savings tools, and always carry a few RAOK coupons with you for moms with diapers or cereal. MOPS and other playgroups can advertise their group with a business card attached to baby care coupons. You’ll be remembered, revered, and recognized – positively, for your personable approach to others.
“Is that All?”
Oh yes, there’s more to couponing (look forward to future 247Mom Frugal Living Posts). However, if you’re new to this “profitable hobby”, start with one coupon or sale. Grow your confidence, tools, and routine as success inspires – and as your schedule allows. Networking with money-saving blogs, friends, and authors (Ellie Kay of EllieKay.com and Stephanie Nelson, of the CouponMom.com). Don’t try to save it all, on everything today. Avoid burnout and frustration by trying new savings tools slowly, with patience.
Saving money with coupons is like any other new hobby or skill. Give yourself the same leeway as you would if you were going to set a marathon goal – one day at a time. Plan, attempt, and keep a positive attitude. Make a small goal, achieve it, celebrate (reasonably) – and inspire others along the way.