How Do I Do It?

A few of you have left comments on facebook or the blog asking how I manage my coupons and saving strategies. The latest success has been taking advantage of the Publix in ad coupon for a free $10 Publix gift card when you buy a $50 Amex gift card. This is a great money maker even though you have to pay a $4.95 activation fee. The reason its so great is that it gives me a balance to deduct coupons from, like the $5 off $50 store coupon, or Walgreens register rewards. I don't have to actually buy products to deduct the coupons, I'm deducting from the value of the gift card.
 
The other nice thing about the gift cards, is after the initial out of pocket (OOP) you can just roll the card to purchase another one, then get the free $10 Publix Gift Card. So everytime I buy one I get $10 free, plus I have store coupons for $5 off, or a $10 register reward., so I make about $20 each time I do the transaction. So far I have $100 in gift cards from my initial OOP of $39, plus all the groceries in the past few days have been free. It has decreased my OOP for the year to only $87 for $1253 worth of product (93% savings).
 
I know this sounds confusing and it is. I'm not trying to make it seem simple, but it can be managed. First of all, I've been doing this for almost a year now and finally have progressed the point where I can get paid to shop. If I were really extreme, I could make hundreds of dollars this week with the Amex deal and buy all the groceries for the rest of the year with my earnings. But I don't have the time or inclination to make 40 transactions at the grocery store this week. Besides I don't really want Publix to realize they are paying me to shop since I prefer their coupon policies just the way they are. There are no other vendors out there as accommodating by accepting competitors, stacking and offering tons of coupons. I don't want to abuse the system.
 
If you are interested in couponing, you have to enjoy it. It takes a couple hours a week, to find and organize coupons, then plan your shop, and clip the coupons you need. I don't clip coupons until I need them. I get two Sunday papers and pull out the Smartsource and Redplum, General Mills or Proctor and Gamble inserts. I write the date on the front, and put them all back in the plastic bag the paper comes in, and I file them in the front of my coupon box. I don't even look at them, just date and file. I do the same with the Publix Green and Yellow advantage buy flyers, and other coupon books - just file them in the coupon box.
 
I subscribe to over 100 RSS feeds and the majority are coupon blogs with all the deals. If you are interested in learning how to set up a RSS feed reader I have created a job aid I could share that shows screen shots and has instructions on how to set it up. My favorite blog is www.iheartpublix.com because she gets the ad posted on her blog with coupon matchups on Monday afternoon, 2 days before it comes out on Wednesday.. This way I can see if there is anything I need, or anything I can get for free, and best of all anything I can make money on. I note the items I want and start my own spreadsheet with item, quantity, price, if its BOGO, coupons, and final price, plus a column for coupon details (value, date and insert type; ie. $1/1 2-14RP means $1 off 1 item found in Feb 14 redplum).
 
Product
qty
price
subtotal
-BOGO
-Q
TOTAL
Q#
Q details
  
One important thing to make couponing extremely successfully, is to occasionally buy stuff you have absolutely no need for. For example, if you get the $4/1 Knox Gelatin coupon from your Jan 17 RP insert, it says "any" size. Knox makes a plain gelatin product that costs $1.39. Well the coupon deducts $4, so it is a $2.61 profit for each one you buy. I have no need for gelatin, so I donate it to someone at work who gives it to the elementary school she tutors at, so they can make fingerpaints.
 
But you might say, how do you know this coupon is out there when you don't even clip until you need it? Well, that's where the blogs come in – they all post this deal over and over since its such a good one.
 
Another important way to make couponing so successful is quantity. Using one gelatin coupon isn't going to save you tons of money, only $2.61. So you need a bunch of them. Sometimes the great coupon is a printable from a companies website or from coupons.com (click the banner on my sidebar), and you'll need more than one computer. I have four, and two old ones are only for coupon printing that I hook up to and print about once a month if needed. If the coupon is in the newspaper, either buy them from a coupon clipping service or ebay, or get your coupons from asking people at work or your neighbors, or collect them from recycle bins on recycle day when people put them out, or on Mondays hit the apartment recycle bins, or newspaper recycle drop off centers at stores like Walmart.
 
I take the dog for a walk on Monday nights when recycle day is Tuesday, and get inserts that way. Pretty soon you get to know which houses always throw out coupons and which don't .I can walk down one block and get 5 inserts, and another block to get my count up to 8 or 10. It takes about 20 minutes and I'm well stocked. It helps to go to the nicer part of the neighborhood where people are less likely to use coupons. If its raining, it's a little tougher since people won't bother putting out recycling bins, so I'm out of luck. If it's a great coupon weekend with like 4 inserts, I'll usually buy some extra papers if it might rain on Monday.
 
So now I've got my coupons, and I've got my Publix Sneak Peek and started my plan for the next week. The great thing about the sneak peek is that you can see if an item will be on sale next week, or should you use your coupon now. Sometimes when coupons expire at the end of the month, its better to just use it now rather than wait for a BOGO to stack it with. I have some coupons I got from home mailers that will stack with BOGO, like Zatarains rice mix. It is $2.29 and BOGO, and I have 15 $0.50 coupons. So it makes each box 2.29/2=1.15-0.50=0.65 each. It would be great if Publix doubled coupons but they don't so this is the best deal I can expect to get, 0.65 each. So here's the entry on my spreadsheet.
 
When I have everything on my list I check the coupon to item ratio to make sure there are more items than coupons or equal items as coupons. Below you can see I have 28 coupons, and 41 items so its okay. Otherwise the register won't accept the excess coupons and requires manager override from a store supervisor.
 
Here's my plan for Thursday shop:
18-Feb
41
 
86.18
27.39
39.41
19.38
28
-77.51%
Product
qty
price
subtotal
-BOGO
-Q
TOTAL
Q#
Q details
carrots
1
1.99
1.99
 
 
1.99
 
 
lettuce
1
1.89
1.89
 
 
1.89
 
 
cucumber
1
0.75
0.75
 
 
0.75
 
 
romaine
1
1.99
1.99
 
 
1.99
 
 
onions
1
1.00
1.00
 
 
1.00
 
 
bananas
1
1.49
1.49
 
 
1.49
 
 
mushrooms portabella
1
1.69
1.69
 
 
1.69
 
 
GG froz veg BOGO
4
1.00
4.00
2.00
1.00
1.00
2
0.50/2 1-03gm or 2/07ss or print
Zhills water 2.5 gal
1
2.50
2.50
 
1.00
1.50
1
$1/1 blinkie
Eat Smart stir fry veg
1
1.00
1.00
 
0.00
1.00
 
 
Zatarains mix 5.2-8oz
10
2.29
22.90
11.45
5.00
6.45
10
0.50/1 party or $1/2 1-24rp
Cofeemate crmr 32oz
2
2.19
4.38
2.19
1.50
0.69
2
0.75/1 2-7rp
Knox Gelatin
2
1.39
2.78
 
8.00
-5.22
2
$4/1 MQ 1-17RP
Seapak flounder 8-28oz
2
7.59
15.18
7.59
2.00
5.59
 
$1/1 2-7ss
Dial soap 3ct BOGO
2
1.87
3.74
1.87
1.00
0.87
1
$1/1 TQ flip clip savd bklt
Kraft grated parmesan
1
3.00
3.00
 
0.00
3.00
 
 
Progresso Soup BOGO
2
2.29
4.58
2.29
0.50
1.79
2
0.25/1 2-7ss or 2-7gm or 1-17ss
Organic Valley milk ½ gal
1
3.50
3.50
 
2.75
0.75
1
$2/1 +0.75 Dec Greenwise PQ
puffs, 60ct tissue
2
1.33
2.66
 
3.66
-1.00
2
$1/1 mailer+ 2-07rp B2vicksG1freepuffs
vicks nyquil dayquil, trial
4
1.29
5.16
 
8.00
-2.84
4
$2/1 vicks nyqil or Dayquil 1-17pg
coupon
 
0.00
0.00
 
5.00
-5.00
1
$5 off $50 PQ
 
I mostly only buy the items on my list, no impulse shopping. If I need it I'll write it down and come back another time to get it when I have a coupon. If it's something like bananas with no coupon, and I forgot to write it on the list but we normally get them, then I'll get it.