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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Frugal Friday: Tips for New Couponers

I've been getting some messages from newer couponers lately, so I thought I'd use this week's Frugal Friday post to offer a little bit of advice from my own experience. Here are a few things I wish I would have known when I started out.

  • Skip the small-town paper. Buy at least 2 copies of the Sunday paper from a bigger city. I always buy 2 copies of the Columbus Dispatch. The bigger-city papers always have more - and often higher-value - coupons in them. You can read the comparison I did between our local paper and the Columbus paper HERE. The extra $1 I have to spend is completely worthwhile!

  • Print... now. If you find a printable coupon that you're pretty sure you'll use, print it right then. Don't wait a week until you're actually read to go shopping. Print limits can be reached fairly quickly, and you never know when a print campaign will end. So grab your copies when you find coupons. My favorite place for printables?, of course!

  • Organize... organize... organize. Yes, I know this takes time. However, the time spent getting your menu planned, grocery list organized, and coupons organized will pay off when you do your shopping. Disorganized shopping is incredibly frustrating and very avoidable. To see how I organize my coupons, head over HERE.

  • Know thy coupon policies. I've run into cashiers who have contradicted what I know to be store coupon policies. I learned - the hard way, of course - to keep a printed copy of each store's coupon policy in my coupon binder. To get your own copies (personalized with your name), just send an email to your store's corporate office. I usually go the store's website and click the link (usually at the bottom of the page) that says Contact Us. Not only does it make you more confident to know exactly what each store allows, having the hard copy usually ends differences of opinion in your favor. Knowledge is power!

  • Know when to hold 'em. You may find a super high-value coupon today and be tempted to rush out and use it. Wouldn't it be good to save $2.00 off your favorite shampoo? Maybe... maybe not. If you hold onto that coupon and watch the sale flyers, you might find that your favorite shampoo goes on sale for 1/2 price, making your $2.00 off coupon much more valuable. Or maybe CVS will run an Extra Care Bucks deal on your shampoo, making it free after your coupon. Or maybe Kmart will offer super double coupons, making your $2.00 coupon worth $4.00. There's no need to rush out and use your high-value coupons right away. Seasoned couponers know that holding coupons until a sale comes along means free or almost-free products!

  • You don't have to use every coupon. I know... If you clip your coupons (like I do), you have a sense of ownership. You spent 10 seconds clipping the coupon. It owes you. It MUST save you some money, or your time will have been wasted, right? Wrong. You only want to use the coupons that will truly save you money, not ones that make you go out and buy a project just because you had a coupon. I send my expired coupons to a military family overseas. Every month I clean out my expired coupons, pack them up, and send them off. This alleviates the feeling that I've wasted time clipping coupons. They are neatly clipped and ready to be sent to someone else who can put them to good use. If you're interested in donating your coupons, visit the Happy Housewife's Coupons for Troops. She'll pair you with a family who wants your expired coupons.

  • Persistence pays great dividends. As a new couponer, it's easy to read the deals posted by other frugal bloggers, seeing their pictures of kitchen tables overflowing with food and personal care items. And they only paid $.99 for everything, right? Instead of getting frustrated, try to learn from these people. Then choose deals that work for your family. You may never get yourself down to a $30 weekly grocery budget. But we can all trim our current budgets. Shopping trips and financial goals aren't the same for every family. Just stick with the couponing and bargain shopping, and you'll be amazed at how much you can save!

Couponing and bargain shopping can be quite an adventure! Who would have ever thought that we'd be getting excited about free dishwasher soap? But by pressing on and working to lower our out-of-pocket expenses for food, household items, and personal care items, we can all free up a little more cash to spend on things that are a lot more fun or important than dishwasher soap!

Are you a new couponer? Do you have questions? Feel free to leave a comment asking your question. Just click the Comments link below this post to ask your question. I would be happy to answer them using what I've learned along the way. And there are some other great shoppers reading this blog who probably have some excellent advice to share with you!

For more frugal tips, stop by Frugal Friday hosted by Life As Mom.


The Prudent Homemaker said...

I have a multi-part question:

WHERE do you get free toothpaste?

I am always reading about people buying toothpaste for nothing. A woman sent me an email this week and told me that she had toothpaste on sale for $1 where she lives, and then used the .50 Crest coupon, and it was doubled, so hers was free.

Stores do NOT double coupons here. Occasionally, I might see a sale on toothpaste at Target, but, Walmart is usually cheaper than the sale price at Target. Toohpaste is $2.50 here.

So, how do people do it? Do they get it at the grocery store (where it is normally much, much higher than Target or Walmart). Do they get it at CVS or Walgreens?

Are they always buying the smaller sizes to get it free?

Are they only getting it free because of double coupons?

I might come back and ask you some more questions, but this is the one that I am really wanting to figure out first.


I don't expect my budget to be $30 a week; I have 5 children. I can feed my family most meals for an average of $3-$4 per meal for all 7 of us. Some meals cost me less than $2 for all of us!

That adds up to more than $30 a week; I can't expect to do that with the number of people at my house, so that doesn't bother me.

And I have a coupon for the Oral B toothpaste for children. If anyone knows where I can get that for less than Walmart, just using the coupon, I would like to know. I need a non-flouride toothpaste for the children and Tom's of Maine isn't to their liking (though it's much cheaper!)

Jennifer said...

Great question, Prudent Homemaker! I admit that toothpaste is something that I'm picky about but that I don't usually have to pay much for. I get 99% of our toothpaste at CVS. It's usually Colgate, because that's who has the best Extra Care Bucks deals. That works for me, because Colgate is my brand of choice.

To get free or almost-free toothpaste, I wait for an Extra Care Bucks deal. They come around fairly often. Here's how it usually works: Colgate toothpaste (usually the 4-ish ouce ones) go on sale for $2.99. Now, that seems like a lot for toothpaste to me! But Colgate often has a $.50-$1.00 coupon out there. The ones I have right now are $.75 off, so let's go with that example. I would pay $2.24 ($2.99 - $.75) for my toothpaste. Then I would get back $2.00 in Extra Care Bucks. (That's usually the amount offered for Colgate.)

I would only have to do this the first time I bought toothpaste. The next time, I would do the same thing, but I would also turn over my $2.00 Extra Care Bucks from my previous purchase, making my toothpaste $.24. That's more like it!

I've also noticed Rite Aid running Single Check Rebate offers on Colgate and Crest lately. So that might be something to investigate too.

As for the toddler toothpaste, that's a hard one. My daughter just bumped up to flouride toothpaste, and I was SO relieved! The deals on the non-flouride stuff seem pretty rare. I used to work it into my Rite Aid scenarios, allowing me to use my $5 off $25 purchase coupons to cover the cost of the toothpaste. Or I would use CVS Extra Care Bucks to pay for it. If you have a Kmart in your area, you might also check there when they have super double coupons. But I do feel for you with this one. I always had a hard time bringing down the cost of this particular item!

Thanks for your great questions! If you have any others, feel free to send them along!

The Prudent Homemaker said...

Thank you!

Our CVS stores bought out all the Rite aid stores here; I thought it was nationwide, but I guess not!

There is a grocery store here that has Colgate 10 for $10 right now. I don't have a coupon for it, but if I did that would be a great deal.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

oh oh oh
this is how i get free toothpaste... i love the freebie tubes from and I also get dirt cheap toothpaste about twice a year with rite aid..i save up my crest coupons wait a couple months and i usually get it for less than a buck or less...i love those deals..i stock up when i can...
jennifer is s wonderful about helping everyone find stuff and i just love reading my emails from her..
you know i love your page jennifer and maybe ill get lucky with the kroger card...
I dont get to kroger much, but i love the produce there..always seems really fresh..and i can get nice bananas for almost nuttin to make banana puddin and got me a bread maker so watch out bread!!
good luck with finding great will saveyou a ton of money...just don't think you have to use it cause you got it..share with family and friends..I do!!!

Jennifer said...

Awww... You're too sweet, Rose! Thanks for always being so supportive, ready with a pat on the back and a kind word. I know what you mean about the bananas too. I just got a huge bag full of them for $2.23 today. Some of them still had some green on them too! I'm thinking banana bread!

Mom2fur said...

You give some great advice here! I've been couponing for years. It helped me keep my head above water during some hard times, and now that things are looking up for me and mine, it's just too much fun to get a deal to stop. I don't care how rich anyone is, we can all save a little here and there--especially in this rocky economy!
BTW, I don't clip coupons. I keep the circulars in a binder, in plastic page protectors with dates. Then I keep a data base on my computer. Once I got it going, it's easy to add to it each week.

I like your suggestion to be persistent. New couponers really can get frustrated. Just remember: We 'veterans' have been building up our stockpiles, getting things when they are at their cheapest (like your toothpaste example) and not waiting until we need something and have to pay full price!