Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guest Post - For Beginning Couponers

If you're anything like me, when I was first exposed to the world of budget saving couponing, I was so overwhelmed that I didn't know where to begin. I started once, thought it was too difficult and quit. I didn't think you could truly save the money people said they could, and it definitely didn't seem to be worth my time. However, I have now discovered that it does work and I can save more money than people said you could save.

Some basic budget saving principles to follow are using coupons when items are on sale, stocking up on items that you frequently use and going to more than one store for your purchases. Often I buy the smallest rice, diaper package possible because I am more likely to get that item free. Most stores allow you to stack coupons. That means that you can use a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on an item that is on sale and often get that item for pennies or even better for free. When I first began couponing, I learned how to coupon at one store at a time. Some stores can be confusing at first, but I have posted the basics for each of the stores that I have learned to coupon at. Coupons really can help you save much money and live within your budget.

To help those of you who are new with this, I've come up with a Weekly Plan to ease you into couponing and explain some things along the way. I hope you enjoy and start saving money.

Week 1 - Getting Organized
* Buy a Sunday paper. Cut out ALL of the coupons. This may seem overwhelming, and you may think - why do I need all of these? Start by clipping all of them because you'll be surprised at the coupons you can use and then get paid for buying an item that you had already gotten for free. Since you don't know which ones of these there are yet, clip all of them.
* Print all coupons from bar in the left column. (You can click "See all Coupons," then select to print all.) (You can also print coupons from SmartSource.com and Redplum.com)
* Buy a 3 ring binder, baseball card holders, and dividers. Click here and here to see how to organize this notebook.
* Unless you're Superman or Wonder Woman - don't try and shop this week.

Week 2 - Get Started (Rite Aid and 1 Grocery Store)
* Buy a Sunday paper. Cut out ALL of the coupons. For reasons why see week 1.
* Print all coupons from bar in the left column. (You can click "See all Coupons," then select to print all.) Check back at Smartsource.com and redplum.com to see if there are any new coupons to print.
* Using Budget Saving Mom's deal finders (the drugstores should be published Sunday/Monday, and the grocery store deals will come out Monday/Wednesday/Thursday), pick a drug store and one grocery store to go to. I would suggest starting with Rite Aid because they are the easiest to follow. To see Rite Aid's policy click here. For a list of all store policies and budget saving tips, click here. REMEMBER YOU HAVEN'T STOCKPILED VERY MANY COUPONS YET, SO YOU MAY NOT BE ABLE TO GET ALL THE DEALS THAT ARE LISTED. BE PATIENT, WITHIN 3-4 MONTHS, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO GET THE ENTIRE LIST OF DEALS.
* BEFORE going to the stores, get two envelopes and label them with the names of the stores. Print the deals from Budget Saving Mom's site that you plan on buying. Pull the coupons that correspond to the deals that you will be getting and put them in the envelope. You can still bring in your notebook and search for additional deals after you have gotten the items from your list in your cart (or stroller if you are like me.)
* Since you're new at this and until you have a good idea of how much you should pay, limit yourself to buying only items that are free, less than a dollar after coupons, and things that you are pretty sure you will use. Remember, when you're buying an item that you can get multiple sizes of, get the smallest size you can to maximize the amount of money you will save. (For example if you have a $1 off coupon for a body wash, buy the 4 oz. one that costs $1.25 as opposed to the $3.50 8 oz. one).

Week 3 - Rite Aid and another grocery store
* Buy a Sunday paper. Cut out ALL of the coupons.
* Print all the printable coupons on the sidebars.
* Go to your drug store from last week. And using Budget Saving Mom's deals that are listed, pick the best money saving grocery store for this week to go to.
* Do the same as last week. Print your list, highlight which items you're getting, and put your coupons in an envelope and bring your list. Also, bring along your notebook for any extra time you may have to find other deals.

Week 4 - CVS and a grocery store
* Buy a Sunday paper. Cut out ALL of the coupons.
* Print all the printable coupons on the sidebars.
* Try out CVS. When you get into the store, don't forget to get a CVS card BEFORE you make your purchases. To see how CVS works, click here. Limit yourself to only purchasing those things that you can get Extra Care Bucks back and that will then turn out to be free or moneymakers.
* Also, pick the grocery store with the best deals for this week, print your list, pull your coupons and envelopes and hit the road. Print your list, highlight which items you're getting, and put your coupons in an envelope. Also, bring along your notebook for any extra time you may have to find other deals.

Week 5 - CVS again with extra care bucks and a grocery store
* Buy a Sunday paper. Cut out ALL of the coupons.
* Print all the printable coupons on the sidebars.
* Do CVS again, this time you can spend some of those Extra Care Bucks, but make sure that you are also purchasing something that will replenish your Extra Care Bucks stash.
* Pick your grocery store to shop at. Print your list, highlight which items you're getting, and put your coupons in an envelope and bring these items with you. Also, bring along your notebook for any extra time you may have to find other deals.

Week 6 - Walgreens
* Buy a Sunday paper. Cut out ALL of the coupons.
* Print all the printable coupons on the sidebars.
* If you're feeling bold, you can try out Walgreens. Click here for instructions on how to save at Walgreens.
* Pick your grocery store. Print your list, highlight which items you're getting, and put your coupons in an envelope and bring these items with you. Also, bring along your notebook for any extra time you may have to find other deals.

So, there you go - you're 6 weeks into this, your stash of coupons should be building, and you should be saving money!

For additional information:

1. Stocking Up (buying more than you need right now to save later)- a new way of shopping.
2. Balancing Coupons with Life: part 1, part 2, part 3
3. A Newbie Success Story
4. Store Policies
5. Additional ways to get coupons
6. Budget Saving Tips when shopping
7. Budget Saving Freebie Tips

For even more tips including how to organize coupons, click on basics for beginners on the right side of the site.

Rene and Karen
Budget Saving Mom
http://www.budgetsavingmom.com/

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