Couponing: Savings are Created Before You Shop

Couponing’s benefits, beyond money saved, are the importantvirtues and skills you’ll learn (or refine) to become a successful couponer.   Contrary to spectacular savingsseen on TV in the space of 15 minutes of super shopping, these skills arerequired before you enter the store. Simply couponing to get a “good deal” can lead to overspending and apantry full of ingredients – but no meals. 
Patience is needed both in the store and with yourcoupons.  Marketers want you toclip the Sunday coupons – and use them sooner than is most valuable to you.  Experience will show you that couponsheld until the corresponding sale occurs will save you more money.  You may score further savings with a“Catalina” instant rebate or free item. That’s patience at work; creating opportunity with your preparation – soyou score the best deal.
Proper Organization – Clip your coupons and organize them ina manner which is ready to go with you – where you’ll find them when you needthem.  Maintained organization meansless work and more value from the time you’ve spent on preparation.  Most couponers do not remain with theirinitial organization methods, so choose one and be ready to revise as your couponingincreases. 
 Organization Possibilities:
 Individualenvelopes for each store (with your meal plan and/or shopping list written onthe outside)
An index/recipe/shoe box containing separated coupons (inenvelopes or other sorts of dividers)
Purse-size coupon file; for longevity, choose plasticfiles.  File coupons by commongrocery categories, alphabetically by brand name, or in order of your mostshopped grocery store – it’s your choice. 
Coupon Binder; transform a zipper-closure, 3-ring binderinto an ergonomic couponing tool. Utilize 3-ring folders and page protector sleeves to hold couponpolicies, weekly ads, etc.  Pocketsare handy for calculators, scissors, pens, envelopes, etc.  Many money-saving couponer websiteshave photos and narrative instructions on how they organize coupons.
“The Couponizer”; A ready-to-use tool that is also designed with some customfeatures.  This visual organizerincludes pockets for receipts, grocery list, and savings tracker.  Its design is a combination between acoupon file and a coupon binder. You can use the included categories or using mailing labels, change thegroupings for what you buy most often. 
As space allows, add files, pages or pockets for “RAOCK’s”(Random Acts of Coupon Kindesses), coupons you’ve found along the way but haveyet to file, “CheckOut Goodies”, and “Checkout Stack” – and, perhaps a file orpocket for each individual store on your route.
Coupon Insert Files: As you spread the word you’re couponing, you’ll collect more insertsthan you may clip from.  To utilizeonline coupon databases, you’ll want to organize your insertschronologically.  An accordionfile, filing cabinet drawer or large shoebox works well.  Write the distribution date of theinsert in permanent marker on the front cover – as covers can be similar withina month’s time.  The date is foundon the spine of the insert.  Wherethe coupon insert came from is also on the spine, and helpful information ifyou want to seek out more of that particular insert.
Other Useful Tools:
From the same websites which you printed shopping lists, youcan also find “pantry” or “freezer” inventories.  At-a-glance you can see what you have to plan meals with,and what perhaps needs to be added to your shopping list.   Once you find an inventory sheetthat you like, expand your forms to include gift-closet lists and other placesin your life where important items come and go from.  Use of what you have on hand, (that you already spent your money on) saves you time, money and energy over buyingit again at a higher price. “One-item” trips to the store or last minute holiday buying blitzes weknow, can be very damaging to our savings goals.
“Good Meals, Better Deals” is our next discussion, as wetalk about how to make great meals out of our shopping trips.  Please share your organization ideas –and stay tuned for July’s series as we continue to share money-saving skills.

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