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Low Maintenance Couponing


I'm at it again. I tend to go through phases where I latch onto something and get really into it, and then I get bored with it and find something new to consume my nonexistent free time. I have done this with couponing time and time again. I can think of at least three distinct times when I've been super into it. We would have a very well stocked pantry and a supply space full that was like a mini grocery store and our grocery budget would be amazing. I was couponing before couponing was cool. Back before anyone really understood it and before there was such a thing as "extreme couponing". I've always gotten a thrill from saving money. I kick myself now for not starting a couponing blog back when I first got started, now they are a dime a dozen. So while this is not a blog devoted to couponing and matching sales with q's (as the really cool kids call coupons), I will periodically share my strategies and maybe even deals that I think are so awesome I can't keep them to myself. 
You see, I love a good deal. Frugal is a nice word for this. I get so pumped up by saving money that I almost always have to call someone to share my excitement after scoring a sweet price on something. And putting that in print makes me feel so lame I just want to hit delete, but I think it's an important piece of who I am so there it is. Out there for the world to read. Just don't call me "cheap", that's not nice. I am happy to spend more for a better product. I just need to feel that I'm getting the best deal possible. I do my research and I know what people typically pay for comparable items and I strive to pay a little (or a lot) less. 
Couponing is so perfect for me. I get to over analyze numbers and tweak my list to my heart’s content and then I end up with a well-stocked pantry for my family and our expenses go down. That's a win all around. 
Before you take the time to learn how I coupon you should know a couple basics. I shop at Publix in Florida. If you are in a different state or at a different store things could be different for you. For example, we don’t have double coupons or penny items and we must buy both items for a BOGO (buy one get one free) deal. You can use one coupon for each item which means for BOGOs you can use 2 coupons (because you are buying 2 items). There are different types of coupons, manufacturers and store. You can use one of each on a single item, meaning you can combine them to extra savings. Each store has its own coupon policy. My Publix accepts Target as a competitor and will honor their store qs as their own. This means I can use one manufacturer q and one store q (be it Pubix, or Target, or WinnDixie) on any given item. Confused yet? It took a lot of practice for me to get this down. I’m not even going to go into the other cash back (Ibotta, Checkout51) type apps; I don’t fully understand that yet. When I do, I will share. Let’s get down to business. Here is how I do my couponing. I’ve tried to make it as low stress as possible. I devote about 3 hours per week to this process.

To make my list I go to I Heart Publix on Monday night. The timing of each step is important so pay attention. I make my list based on product usage, price, and coupon availability. There's not much that's more frustrating to me than making the perfect list only to realize I can't get my hands on the coupons to make it work. And don't even get me started on the stores running out of the products and messing the whole thing up. Make sure you put everything you need on your list. You’ll need to manually add items that aren’t on the weekly ad.
When it comes to procuring coupons, I've done this several ways. I've bought papers (messy with newspapers to be organize or thrown out and pricey for not all the coupons I need and ones I may or may not use that I then have to organize), I've paid to order just the coupon inserts from a bigger city with better coupons (overpriced and still messy to organize), and I've finally settled on what I think is the perfect method. Enter the coupon clipping service. You see, you can't sell coupons. That's illegal. But you can charge a fee to clip and send coupons for someone. Whoever thought of this is a genius! I personally have used several sites. I almost don't want to share the sites with you. Like a child who clings to a favorite toy. Sigh. Ok. Here are my top two: Klip 2 Save and Coupon DeDe (by the way, I'm not sponsored or paid to tell you about any of this. I'm just being nice and sharing my favorite toy.) They both have their pros and cons. Some weeks I order from both, others just one. This week I ordered just from Coupon DeDe because they had everything I wanted in stock. A perk to making your list on Monday when the weekly ad is released is that the other couponers haven't ordered all of the best q's yet.
When I have my coupons ordered I begin the process of printing my IPs (internet printables.) (This couponing thing has its own language. I'm trying to mix it in slowly. Let me know in the comments if I confuse you!) This is the most frustrating part of the process. It seems like I will inevitably have computer issues or the link will not work or I’ll have to sign up for something or a million other things could go wrong. Go into it expecting issues. Trust me, you'll be a much happier couponer if you expect issues and rejoice if there aren't any. I don't say that to discourage you. Quite the opposite, I want to encourage you that you're not alone if you have problems with IPs. Every once in a while I have a wonderful week where everything printed just right. But those were rare. Just keep in mind the value of the coupon and consider how much time and energy it's really worth. Some are worth fighting for; I'm not wasting time to save 25 cents. Last quick tip on IPs, print in draft mode. That will save you tons in ink over the long term. They may not scan well but the cashiers should handle that with kindness and just key them in.
After I have all of my coupons gathered, I like revisit my list and update it to reflect the coupons I’m actually taking to the store so that I will know what my total should be before I even get there. Oh, I’m sorry, is my OCD showing? 
Now for the fun part. Go shopping! Remember, a list is only as good as your willpower. Stick to the list. 
I feel compelled to tell you that as I sit here on Tuesday night typing this, not one but BOTH of my printers are out of ink. Sigh. The coupons I ordered will be here tomorrow (I hope) so I will have to buy ink on the way home so I can get these others printed and head to my beloved “Plubix” (as AG calls it) on Thursday after work.
Every couponer has their own system that works for them. I don’t believe there’s any “right” way. I do believe that this is the right way for me right now. If my way doesn’t work for you then the best advice I can give you is to learn the basics and tweak it until you find what works for you at your current stage of life. 
Do you coupon? What have you found that works for you? Did I leave out any important tips that you think could help someone else? I would love to see your thoughts in the comments! Let’s be money saving friends!


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