By Sarah (Read yesterday’s post where Katy introduced the lovely Sarah.)
After I accumulate a pile of coupons, I sort them out in product categories so that I can file them. Everyone’s organization system is different and my roommate says that mine is like an alien language (which says a lot because she can read four different languages). For example: Coupons for baked goods and ingredients for baking are filed under “B,” whether it’s bread, brownie mix or flour. However, sugar coupons are filed under “S,” because who would look for a sugar coupon under “B?” And coupons for butter and margarine are under “D” for dairy, since that’s where the cheese and milk coupons are and those items are usually near each other in the store’s refrigerated section. In my mind it makes perfect sense… You just create a system of organization that works for you and stick with it!
Whenever I can, before I go shopping, I look through the shopping list and pull out the coupons that I think we may use on that trip. I put them in the front of my organizer and make a mark next to the item on the list, to remind myself that I have a coupon. It makes a big difference, instead of standing in the aisle, trying to find that frozen vegetable coupon that you thought might be in there. When I have plenty of time, I’ll even rewrite the list so that the items are organized according to the layout of the store – it makes a shopping trip quicker and easier. As you shop, pull out a coupon as you put the corresponding product into your cart. The last thing you want is to be that woman who gets up to the check out and pulls out her fistful of coupons to figure out which coupons she’s using. That’s frustrating to everyone involved, from the staff to the other shoppers.
I usually shop at the same Ralph’s store location, because it’s close to home, they have pretty aggressive pricing, a relatively diverse selection and they double the value of my coupons! They no longer double any coupons over a dollar, but every little bit counts. Since I’m a regular shopper and have a Ralphs Rewards card, I also receive coupons at checkout, for products that I’ve bought previously or for related and/or competitor’s products. Those go into my purse, to be either filed away or tossed, depending on whether they’re useful. Bringing my own reusable bags to the store helps to get more coupons as well, since I receive Rewards points for each one. Those points are later returned to me via mailed coupons for dollars off my next grocery purchases. As they say, it’s not just good for the earth; it’s good for your pocketbook.
Sometimes, when clipping, I set coupons aside for friends that I know would use them, such as diaper coupons for my newly frugal twin-bearing friends. I don’t offer coupons to people who don’t already use them, because I don’t want to intimate that they need to save money or to blatantly announce my spendthrift ways. (I suppose that these posts are tantamount to that – oh well!)
Maybe it’s not for everyone, but I get a tremendous satisfaction when I look at my receipt and see how much money I saved with the coupons I brought to the store. There are plenty of people who save MORE money with coupons than I do, to a nigh professional level. Actually, there is an Association of Professional Couponers, of which I am not a member. (Yet…) This woman saved 97% on a recent trip to the grocery store! My coupons save me between $5 and $50 at the grocery store, a bit less at Target or a location that doesn’t double coupons. I definitely feel that the time I invest in clipping and organizing coupons is well spent, beyond just the dollars that remain in my pocket. It keeps me aware of new products, marketing, food trends and helps me keep track of exactly what kind of food and household products I’m eating / using. It may take me a little longer to shop than some people, but that’s OK with me. I’ll even stop and offer them a spare coupon so they can save on that box of pasta they just picked up!