Saturday, February 19, 2011

Couponing 101

How to save the most money overall with couponing? People will often say they can save more by just buying generic or that they end up buying more expensive stuff just to use the coupon. The key to really saving the most is:

  • Know the general prices of the things you buy the most and always buy at the lowest price. Prices cycle throughout the year and, depending on the item, sometimes they can vary from one week to another by as much as 50% or more. Take Special K Cereal for example. One week it's $3.99 a box and the next week it's Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) making it only $2 a box. If you only bought Special K when it was $2 a box and you went through a box a week, you would save over $100 over the course of a year on that one item alone.
  • Stockpile your frequently used and long shelf-life items when they are at their lowest price. Obviously you cannot expect all of your items to be at their lowest price every week. However, if you stockpile when they are at their lowest price, you can avoid having to buy them at regular price. For example, chicken broth is usually about $2.50 a box. If I see it BOGO plus coupons making it only $1 a box, I will buy four to six weeks’ worth during the sale. By the time I've run out, it's usually on sale again and I've avoided paying $2.50 a box over that period of time.
How do I know if an item is a good price?
  • Start a price book: Determine what your 10-20 most common items are that you purchase and record their price over several weeks. Start with your most expensive and most frequently used items.

    My Common Items:
    Week 1
    Week 2
    Week 3
    Week 4
    Chicken, per pound$2.99$3.49$3.49$1.99
    Chicken Broth$1.25$2.50$2.50$2.50
    Shredded Cheese, 8 oz$2.50$1.25$2.50$1.67
    Green Peppers, per pound$2.49$2.09$1.99$2.49
    Whole Wheat Flour$3.50$3.50$3.50$2.67
    Total Cost Per Week$12.73$12.83$13.98$11.32

    Highest week’s price: $13.98 (buying one of each item Week 3)
    Lowest week’s price: $11.32 (buying one of each item Week 2)
    Couponer’s Price: $9.15 (buying each item only at its lowest price)
Use coupons wisely
  • Combine a rock bottom price with a coupon to increase savings (there are websites now that match store sales with available coupons to make this easier to do. My favorite is
  • Stacking – use a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on the same item
  • Publix accepts competitors' coupons (check w/ customer service at each store for who they consider competitors) and you can stack one Publix Q or Competitor Q AND one Manufacturer’s q on any item.
  • When an item is Buy One Get One Free (BOGO) you can use a coupon on the item you are buying and on the item you are getting for free which essentially doubles your coupon.
Where do you get your coupons?
Know when to pass on a deal
  • Don’t deviate from your shopping list unless it’s a rock bottom price on an item you use often anyway (ex: your favorite shampoo is in the clearance section for a ridiculously low price)
  • Always check to see if the generic price is less than the brand name with coupons
Get Organized
  • File whole newspaper inserts by date in an accordion file
  • Use a specific folder/binder to keep store coupon fliers
  • Use a small coupon clutch for loose coupons (blinkies, peelies) and to organize your coupons for your shop
Plan Your Shop
  • Browse your favorite coupon matchup site to get a general idea of what’s on sale that week.,, and are good and very user friendly.
  • Plan out your meals for the week, check over your stockpile, and compile your grocery list.
  • Use the coupon matchup site to make a list of what coupons you need to collect and to make note of any super deals to take advantage of.
  • Search the coupon databases for any coupons available for other items you are purchasing that might not be specifically listed on the matchup sites.
  • Collect/print/clip all of your coupons and organize them (envelope, coupon clutch, etc)
The most effective way to get started with couponing is to just pick one store and get familiar with their coupon policy. Start slowly and, as you get more experienced, you will be able to score better deals as well as learn what deals to pass on. Also almost every large couponing site has a tab that covers the basics of couponing and how to get started. Spend some time reading and researching on the sites to see what methods other people use.

Here are some good how-to sites:
Deal Write-up Explained. This is how the coupon deals are written up on
Silk Soymilk or Almond Milk, half gallon, 2/$5
-$1/1 Silk Soymilk Rolling
-$0.55/1 Silk Soymilk Rolling
-$0.75/1 Silk Soymilk Rolling

-$1/1 Silk Pure Almond Almondmilk 1/16/2011 SS Insert
-$1/1 Silk Pure Almond or Soymilk 64 oz carton Publix coupon Family Style Home Mailed VersionAs low as 50¢ per half gallon!
  • The first line is the sale item.
  • The lines indented with dashes are every applicable coupon that currently exists for that item. Note: you can’t use all these different coupons at once; we’re just trying to give you options if you don’t have one particular coupon.
  • Anything underlined is a link that will take you to a printable coupon. (“Rolling” means that the expiration of the coupon will ‘roll’ depending on when you print it.)
  • Anything without underlining is a paper coupon; the text at the end of that line will tell you where the coupon can be found. (Common Sunday Paper coupon insert abbreviations: GM = General Mills, PG = Proctor & Gamble, RP = RedPlum, SS = SmartSource)
  • Red lines are manufacturer’s coupons, green lines are store coupons (Publix stores will let you use 1 store coupon and 1 manufacturer’s coupon per item).
  • Finally, the italicized text will tell you the lowest price you can expect to pay if you have the appropriate coupons for that item.
On this blog, if a coupon is printable, it will have the word printable in parentheses next to it and if you click on the coupon description, it will be a link to where the coupon can be printed from, like this: -$1/1 Bag of Rice (printable)
Coupon Lingo
  • $1/2 (and the like) One dollar off two items. The first number represents the discount and the second number indicates the quantity required to obtain that discount.
  • BOGO (or B1G1) = Buy One Get One Free
  • B2G1 = Buy Two Get One Free
  • Blinkie = Coupon that you find on shelves in the SmartSource machine-usually has a blinking light.
  • Cat or Catalina. The coupons that print off with your receipt (usually from a machine directly beside the cash register)
  • CRT = Cash Register Tape (your receipt)
  • DND = Do Not Double (followed by the number 5 indicates that the coupon will auto double at the register or 9 means the coupon will have to be manually doubled)
  • ECB = Extra Care Buck-(CVS cash)This coupon prints at the end of your receipts and can be used to pay like cash at CVS stores. Earned via a rewards card for specific purchases. Watch the expiration dates on these!
  • ES = Easy Saver. Monthly rebate and coupon book at Walgreens
  • FAR = Free After Rebate
  • FLIP-Food Lion Internet Printable. Food Lion has weekly coupons that can be printed and can be used at Publix as a competitor coupon (if your store considers Food Lion a competitor)
  • Hangtag-coupon that is hanging from a tag around a bottle or jar.
  • IP = Internet Printable Coupon
  • IVC = Instant Value Coupon at Walgreens. Found in either the ES book and/or in the weekly ad.
  • MFR or MQ= manufacturer coupon
  • MIR = Mail In Rebate
  • MM-money maker…deal where you will make money after coupons are used
  • NWPN-No wine purchase necessary (applies to wine tag coupons) meaning you do not have to buy the wine to use the coupon
  • ONYO = On Your Next Order
  • OOP = Out of Pocket. The amount you actually spend.
  • Overage-This is money you earn when a coupon amount exceeded the purchase price of an item. EX-a product is $0.75 and you have a $1 coupon…you now have $0.25 in overage. Most stores will not give you this money in cash -but it can be absorbed to reduce the cost of other items you are purchasing.
  • Peelie = Coupon found on the package of a product that can be peeled.
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble another insert that comes in your local paper.
  • Q = Coupon
  • (RC) Rain Check = When a store is out of a sale item, many stores offer a rain check that allows you to get the sale price whenever the item comes back in stock and at your convenience. Each store has different policies on expiration date-this will usually be listed ON the rain check!
  • RP = Redplum. Coupon insert that comes in your local paper.
  • RR = Register Rewards. Catalina from Walgreens. Watch the expiration dates-these often expire quickly!
  • SS = SmartSource. Coupon insert that comes in your local paper.
  • Tearpad -these are coupons that are on a tearpad usually located on a display or shelf near the item.
  • TMF-Try Me Free. Form that usually require you to mail in proof of purchase for a full refund.
  • UPC= The bar code that is scanned to determine pricing. Often needed to fulfill MIR’s.
  • WAGS = Walgreens
  • WT = Wine Tag. Coupon found around the neck of a wine bottle.
  • YMMV = Your Market May Vary-this means that it may or may not be the case in all instances.

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