Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Coupon Without The Crazy: It's All About The Paper

How did grocery shopping go for everyone this past week?  Were you able to save a bit just by looking for online coupons?  If you missed last weeks post on downloading coupons you can find that information here.  This week I want to focus on paper coupons.  This can easily be the part of couponing people find overwhelming, time consuming, and generally hate inducing.  Just like last week my only goal is to walk you through my own process and give you one example of how to do it.  Shall we begin?
Where do you find paper coupons?

Obviously there are the circulars that you get in the mail each week.  These are generally put out by two companies - Smart Source and Red Plum.  If you're not receiving these already you can go to their websites and enter your address, this should get them to start sending you their circulars.  Honestly, some weeks I only end up clipping one or two coupons from these and other weeks it's more like 10 to 15.  It all varies.

Aside from circulars there's the ability to print coupons from the internet.  This was far and away the most overwhelming part for me when I started off.  It seemed as though every site I looked at listed 4 or 5 different places to print coupons from.  Over time I've narrowed it down to just a couple that I check each week.

This is by far my favorite!  If you decide that you only want to print from one place this is the one I would suggest.  The site always has a large variety of coupons available and I frequently find ones here that I also find elsewhere making it a great one stop shop.  The easiest way I've found to navigate the site is rather than scroll through everything select the categories of coupons you're looking for and scroll through those.

This one only updates their available coupons on a monthly basis but is a great resource for toiletry coupons.

Sometimes I find a lot available here and other weeks I don't but I continue to check because frequently enough I find good coupons that didn't pop up elsewhere.  They are frequently the same as the coupons sent out in their circulars but that simply means that you have more coupons available at your disposal!

Like Red Plum, you may find many duplicate coupons but frequently I find more useful coupons online than I do in their circulars.  *A note for mac users, there's currently a compatibility issue between Smart Source, Java (needed to print them), and Chrome so you do need to use a different browser.  I'm still getting used to having to open this in a different browser each week.

What if you find you really like downloading coupons and you're ok with printing off some, but maybe you have an inkjet printer and don't want to print sheets and sheets of paper each week, or it's just too much to keep track of and you only want to have the coupons on hand that you will use that week.  Is there a way to do that?  Yes!

Check out couponconnections.com.  If you're feeling super overwhelmed by the prospect of compiling a grocery list and remembering what you have coupons for take a look at this site.  You can select from a number of different grocery stores and find a list of items on sale as well as which items are good deals when paired with coupons.  You'll even find links to the applicable printable coupons!  You can even use this site to create a grocery list to print out so you remember exactly what you're looking for and which coupons to use.  If the store that you frequent isn't listed I've found a number of other websites that do the same thing, some are free but most have you pay some form of membership fee after a free trial.

I don't use this very often as I've built up a really good database of what constitutes a good price on items I buy using my all time favorite app which I'll be discussing next week.  For many people though this could easily be an invaluable service and huge time saver!

Those are the only places I look to print coupons from every week.  Most of the sites either require you to create an account or at least put in your zip code as different coupons are available depending on where you live.  If you go the route of creating an account with each one it's very easy to go and alter settings so that you don't receive any unwanted e-mails from them.  Thus far I've had no issues with spam.

You've printed coupons, now what?

Now it's time to organize them!  Here's a short breakdown of what my week looks like as far as preparing for grocery shopping looks like:
  • Wednesday - Download all coupons I want, visit the sites listed above and print all coupons that may prove useful.
  • Thursday - Cut out the already printed coupons and create my grocery list.
  • Friday - Grocery shop.
By splitting it up over the course of the week no one step feels overwhelming.  Occasionally I'm lazy and print my coupons and create my list on the same day and it always seems to take a lot longer and I feel like I miss some of the really good deals.  The same goes for creating my list on the same day that I go shopping.

When it's time to cut and organize my coupons before creating my list this is the process I've found to work the best.

Any coupons I've printed get cut out en masse to make the process as quick as possible.  When I receive circulars in the mail I always flip through them that day, cut out any coupons I might want, and put them away then and there.  

I then sort each of the coupons by category.

This is what I use to keep them all organized.  Each spot is labeled with a different category and the new coupons go into the back of the applicable pocket.  For the record my categories are as follows:
  • Beverages
  • Breakfast
  • Cans & Condiments
  • Bake & Spices
  • Dairy, Deli, & Meat
  • Fruits & Veggies
  • Grains & Sides
  • Frozen Foods
  • Home (this primarily consists of cleaning supplies)
  • Personal Care (this primarily consists of toiletries
  • Baby (this is a new category and I'm still deciding if it will be it's own or mixed in with Personal Care and Home)
  • Safeway (I'll talk more about this pocket next week but essentially any coupons I plan to use that week get stored here.)
There are so many different ways to organize coupons.  This is just what works best for me.  I like that it's small, fits in my purse, and all of my coupons are in one place.  I just have to remember not to leave it behind! :)

So there you have it!  If you're still here and managed to make it through that long post with hardly any pictures I applaud you!  Your challenge this week is to continue to download coupons if you've found that works for you and begin to try your hand at printing them out.  Don't worry about actually using them this week, just start printing what you think you will use.

Good luck and happy couponing!

***This post is linked up at Living Well, Spending Less***

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