Simplify Couponing

It seems like a lot of people would love to try to save a bunch of money with coupons, but they just can't get the grasp of it. Of course the simplest thing to do, is nothing. The next simplest thing is to read the early version of the store ad that you get in the mail or in your email, and plan your shopping list around the ad. If your store is Publix and you get the Buy One, Get One (BOGO) items, you'll save 50% right there.
However, this won't give you the greatest savings. Its not that hard to put a little more effort into your planning and get greater savings. Here are some simple things I'd recommend to keep your expenses down and get the products you want and need for less money.
1. Know your favorite stores coupon policy. They all have them online on their websites, just google it and tons of blogs have it referenced too. You need to know if you can stack a manufacturer (MQ) coupon with a store coupon on one item, can you use a MQ on a free item when there is a BOGO sale, can you use competitor coupons or price match competitor ads? There are definitely some stores that give you more coupon savings options and I would recommend you shop there. I prefer shopping at Publix because they accept stacking coupons, competitor coupons and they have BOGO sales each week. Sweetbay is almost the same policy but they lack the BOGO sale items each week. Winn Dixie won't accept competitor coupons but they allow stacking of their WD & MQ coupons, plus they have BOGO sales each week.
2. Once you know the policy, you need to get your coupons. I would recommend buying a Sunday paper for each person in your household to get the coupon inserts. If you can't afford a paper, sign up for the free newspaper in your city that has coupon inserts (in Tampa its the Centro). Or you can go "recycling" in your neighborhood and pull out the coupon inserts from your neighbors recycle bins on the curb the night before recycle day. I used to do this for a year when I first started couponing and would regularly get a dozen copies of inserts in 30 minutes while I walked my dog. Its pretty easy and its free. Once you start saving your grocery money, you may want to give it up and just buy your papers. There is another local blogger that can sign you up for a fifty cent subscription to the Tampa Tribune Sunday paper if you're interested let me know. I would not recommend buying coupons from clipping services, its not necessary unless you live in the boonies and your local paper sucks.
Also follow some blogs with coupon links where you can print coupons. Many of these are the same as you'll find in the paper, so if you get the paper you don't need many of these. Sign up for facebook and you can print coupons from manufacturers there. Pick up the coupon booklets at the store when you shop which will have store coupons.Get blinkie coupons from the red light flashing boxes on the store shelves. Get coupons even if you don't know for sure you'll get the item. It might go on sale and you'll be glad you have the matching coupon.
3. Organize your coupons. This step is where people get frustrated and waste a lot of time. The simple way is to just write the date on the top of the insert and file it in a box in chronological order. Keep peelies and blinkies and printed coupons in an envelope. You probably won't have too many of these to worry about organization, just keep all like coupons together. Only carry coupons in your clutch that you need for your shopping list, and possibly for overage items.
4. Preview the Ad - find out how you can see the ad early, usually several days before it starts. There are many blogs that post the early Publix ad, and walmart, Sweetbay and Winn Dixie. It is also available on the forum which is one of my favorite resources for coupon deals. By previewing the ad, you can make up your list of what you need, see what coupons match up, and pull your coupons from your box. Or print the ones you need from the links in the preview. If you have to buy coupons from a clipper service this preview will give you a few days to order and have the coupons you want shipped to you in time for the sale.
5. Make Your List - I make my list using Excel so it is actually a spreadsheet that shows the count of coupons, count of items, cost of items, BOGO discounts, coupon discounts, tax and my total. I also use my smartphone free app Grocery Tracker that is essentially the same spreadsheet but on my phone. It allows me to make changes to my list in the store and still keep track of my total.
6. Shop. I recommend shopping on the first day of the sale if you can. If you can't, find out when the trucks restock your favorite store and shop that day. If its Monday, go shopping Monday. Get in the habit of bringing your own reusable bags with your coupon clutch, and you'll never forget your coupons. If they are out of an item, make sure you get a raincheck from customer service. Try to shop with out distractions, leave the kids at home if you can. If you can shop with a partner, it is much more fun and lots of times it helps to have a "runner" get some forgotten item, or pick up a raincheck too.
These simple steps take less time per week than you spend doing your hair. I'm serious, you can spend about an hour a week and cut your grocery bill in half, or more. The important thing is to just stay organized, file those coupons and monitor the ad.
Your pocket book will thank you.
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