Saturday, August 13, 2011

Printing Money Legally

    Okay, so it's not actually printing MONEY, but printing coupons off your computer so that you can reduce your grocery bill is the same to me as someone walking up to me and handing me some cash. In these days of drawn-out unemployment at the Quang household, such an ability is invaluable.

    I'm not an extreme couponer, like some of those who dumpster dive to find inserts from the Sunday paper, or those who go up to their neighbors' porches and take the "unwanted" inserts. I get money coupons from two sources:
1. The coupons that come with my two Sunday papers
2. The internet

Should I Use Coupons?
For those who are unsure whether couponing is worth the time, here are some guidelines. You should only use coupons if:

1. You get a sick thrill at the end of your store transaction when you watch the cashier scan your coupons and see your total bill go down, down, down...

2. You are willing to dedicate at least 2-4 hours a week to finding, clipping, and organizing your money coupons.

3. You are willing to put up with the fact that some cashiers think coupons are indicative of your social caste, e.g. You are using coupons, therefore you must need the money, therefore you must be poor, therefore you are a drain on society, therefore you are an untouchable and please go to someone else's lane.

Can Coupons Really Save Me Money?
This last week was a typical week for me at the grocery store. I think you'll be amazed at my savings, but keep this in mind: I'm on a special diet and can't use a lot of the food coupons, I only have access to a Walmart and two small-town grocery stores, our Walmart doesn't carry approximately 1/3 of the items for which I could use coupons, and finally, our Walmart is higher-priced than many other Walmarts. What does this mean? It means that your savings will probably be a lot more than mine, unless you live in the same armpit that I do. Look at the items in the following pictures:

8 packages of instant mashed potatoes, 2 Kotex liners (sorry guys!) 2 packages of 4 count batteries, and 2 rolls of Scotch tape. 

Retail value:  $3.36 Potatoes
                     $2.48 Liners
                     $1.94 Batteries
                     $2.44 Scotch tape

Total Retail Value: $10.22.    My cost after coupons: $2.22.  You got it. My cost after using coupons was a whopping $2.22.  That is less than the price of the retail value of the Scotch tape alone. Most of what you see in that picture was free.

8th Continent Soymilk

Retail cost soymilk: $2.73
My cost after coupon: $.73

Johnson and Johnson mini-first aid kit

I actually bought 4 of these first aid kits.
Retail value: $3.88 or $.97 each
My cost: $.88 or $.22 each   

Total Retail value of all the items above, purchased at Walmart: $14.83
My cost: $3.83

Although the next scenario is not quite as stunning as the ones above, I still got a great deal at our local grocery store last week. My son loves these granola bars:

Normally, our local store has them for $2.98. Last week they ran a special for $2.25 a box. In addition, the store was running a special for $5.00 off  ten boxes with in-store coupon. I also had accrued 5 coupons valued at $.75 off when you buy two. Since I bought ten, I was able to use all five coupons.( Most stores allow you to stack coupons, that is you can combine manufacturer coupons with in-store coupons.) I ended up with $8.75 in combined coupons, so instead of paying retail of $29.80 for ten boxes (which I NEVER would have done, by the way) I paid $13.75.

How Do I Organize My Coupons?
There are several different methods that active couponers use.
1. The envelope method
2. The shoebox (or other small box) method
3. The binder method

The envelope method involves labeling business sized envelopes by category, e.g. Dairy, Produce, Canned Goods, Personal Items, etc.  Most couponers know the layouts of their stores very well, so before the shopping trip, they put their envelopes in the order of the layout of the store. As they pass each aisle, they put that envelope to the back of the pile. Some couponers put all their coupons in these envelopes, while some only put the coupons for the items they intend to buy that day.

The shoebox method is pretty much the same as the envelope method, but involves using dividers between categories.

The binder method involves buying a 3 ring zippered (important!) binder and using page protectors to hold the coupons. I use this method in combination with the envelope method. I organize and store my coupons in the binder, but when I go to the store, I pull out the coupons I intend to use, in order of the layout of the store. However, I still take my binder into the store with me just in case the store has an unadvertised special for which I know I have a coupon. Here's my binder:

I use 3-pocket protectors. Other couponers use 9-pocket baseball card protectors, but I'm kind of obsessive compulsive and don't like bending my coupons. Wah. I bought these protectors from Coupon Clutch. The binder I had leftover from school last year--$9.99 from Walmart. Junk I tell ya. If you can afford something better, I would advise it.

Where Do I Get Coupons?
1. The newspaper. Daughter Em and I share a Sunday subscription. For $17.00 a month, we get 4 of the same Sunday newspaper. We chose the one that carries ALL the inserts--not all papers do. We each get 2 newspapers and we each pay half the cost. For $8.50 a month I get far more in savings. This is why you will see me buying two of the same item frequently. It is usually cheaper to subscribe than to buy from a stand or convenience store. In addition, if the newspaper company is low on inserts, the subscribers always get priority. Our newspaper has a couponing staff that alerts you via email which stores are having deals that match up with your coupons.

2. Online. There are a variety of ways to get coupons online.
    Manufacturer websites. If I know I am going to the store to buy a particular product, I always go to the manufacturer's website. Many times they have printable coupons, either right on their site, or sent to you in an email. I got the $2 off soymilk coupon mentioned above right from the 8th Generation website.

    Coupon websites. The main coupon websites are:
    Coupons dot com
    Red Plum

   Facebook  Most manufacturers also have a Facebook page. Many times if you "Like" their page, they give you a high value coupon. Also a lot of manufacturers run little mini-contests throughout the day, where the first x-many "likers" get a coupon until the x-amount is gone. I once got a coupon for $5.00 any Bounty paper towel package, so I ended up with a package of 6 rolls of Bounty for $.97.

  Independent bloggers  Many bloggers troll the deals for you throughout the day, so if you subscribe to their blogs or opt to receive their daily emails or "Like" them on Facebook, they do a lot of the work of finding coupons for you. I can't stress how valuable this is. Not only do they find hot coupons for you, but many online clearance sales or Amazon specials as well. Here are a just few of my favorites:

Passion for Savings
Frugal Coupon Living
Super Coupon Lady
The Krazy Coupon Lady
Budget Savvy Diva

IMPORTANT NOTE IF YOU ARE GOING TO PRINT COUPONS FROM THE INTERNET:  You are allowed to print most coupons TWICE. The exception may be that manufacturers let you print only one from either their website or Facebook page. Never, never, never, photocopy your coupon so that you can get more than your allotted two. Why? Because each coupon has its own unique barcode and if you photocopy it, the store does not get reimbursed. Because some hooligans did this in our town, our local store will no longer accept coupons printed from the internet. They blew it for everybody. Photocopying online coupons = stealing.

Play by the rules. If your coupon says "Not for use with trial size," don't try to slip the trial size past your cashier. If it says "6 count package or larger" don't try to use the coupon for the 4 count size. Again, this is stealing.  Don't try to pass off an expired coupon, hoping that your cashier won't notice. You got it--STEALING.

If you've been afraid to use coupons because of the effort involved, or because you're not sure what to do, I hope I have eased your concerns. If you have any questions about couponing, please let me know and I will try to get the answer for you. Or, simply click on the links provided for the independent bloggers because those ladies are geniuses. Have fun saving coupons money!


  1. That was absolutely amazing. I never imagined you would save so much. I think I may be at a disadvantage, having not bought a Sunday paper for over 30 years, but I think I'm going to investigate the online option. Well written and with your usual smattering of humour, Randi. Happy hunting.

  2. Ken: Thank you! My husband laughs at me sometimes, because we will leave the store and I will say something like, "It's just like someone handed us $22!" Or we'll have dinner and I will say something like, "Yes, I used our FREE enchilada sauce to make dinner tonight."

  3. What a great post! I used to be an avid couponer, too. Then we moved out here to WA, and they don't double the coupons like they did back home. So there went all of my savings! Plus, the cost of groceries is much higher out here, too. Phooey! Makes it even more challenging trying to save $$! Thanks so much for visiting, Leavenworth is really gorgeous, isn't it?

  4. Donna: I hear ya! When we visited Washington it seemed like grocery prices were a lot higher than here in Utah. Our local stores don't do double coupons here either. I wish they did. Yes, Leavenworth is gorgeous--I always wish I had a whole day to spend there instead of being in a rush to get to Seattle. I did a post back in July that had a couple of pics of Leavenworth, but they weren't as gorgeous as yours! My husband grew up in West Seattle, by the way, and his front yard was the Puget Sound. So beautiful.

  5. You are a super couponer!! I'm impressed, my friend. I need to go grocery shopping with you. I love the idea of organizing the coupons in a binder. Usually mine sit in an envelope in a kitchen drawer and they never make it to my pocketbook. This is a really helpful post. We need to save money these days more than ever. Thanks so much Randi!

  6. septembermom: I tell ya, it's like printing money! :) You are welcome! There are lots of sites out there that tell you which coupons to use at which stores to maximize your savings. There are so many things you can get almost free. At first I felt kind of strange walking into Walmart with my binder but then I saw lots of other women with theirs and I knew I was in the money-saving sisterhood.


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