I don't subscribe to the paper, so I get the coupon inserts about a week late from my parents' subscription. I dutifully clip everything but the items I'm absolutely sure I'd never buy or want on hand(hair coloring, diapers, cat food, etc). I file it away in a coupon binder I was given- a small, wallet-sized plastic folder. I split the coupons into categories:
Refrigerated/Frozen foodThe categories are totally arbitrary, but they keep the number of coupons in any given category down to a manageable number. If the pile in any category gets to be too much, I make another arbitrary category to split it - for example, once-upon-a-time, "Toiletries" encompassed the Hygiene, Medicine, Make-up & Teeth categories. The group was unwieldy to sift through, so I split it up. Recently, I've considered pulling the ridiculous number of Pillsbury coupons out into their own category.
Cleaning & Paper products
Make-up and Oral products
Everything else (dog food/treats, light bulbs, batteries, etc)
Couponing, for me right now, is interesting but not essential. I know that I could get 80-85% of my groceries at Aldi and pay about the price I'm getting at Kroger with a coupon. Why bother, then?
- Drugstore deals - Thanks to CVS' ECB program, using coupons at their store in conjunction with sales results in medicine and toiletries that are free or almost free, which I can't find anywhere else. I'm not a CVS addict, and I don't buy what we won't use, unless I can donate it to the local food pantry and it's free.
- Proximity - There are 2 Krogers within 2 miles of my house (and 3 CVS's) The only Aldis are 20 minutes away, at least. If I don't have a major shopping trip to make, but do need a few things, coupons sweeten the deal at the typical supermarket.
- One-stop shopping - I love Aldi, I do, but, like I said, I can just get 80-85% of my shopping done there, which means I need to stop somewhere else, or possibly a couple other places. Kroger and/or Meijer will have everything on my list, almost certainly - AND they'll double my coupons.
The last bullet brings up a good point- coupon policies. Every store (And sometimes even different branches of the same chain!) has a different policy. One CVS in the area will accept expired coupons up to one week late. Meijers and Krogers and Marshes will double the value of the coupon up to a 50 cent value. Most places, you can use 1 coupon from the manufacturer and 1 coupon issued by the store per item. Admittedly, I don't know all the rules- I get murky about, when a coupon says "$1 off 3 items" can I use 2 more coupons for those 3 items? Like I said, I'm an amateur.
Does this have anything to do with justice?
Only sort-of. Thanks to the time I've spent clipping coupons, I've filled bags and bags and bags for food pantries out of my household grocery budget, that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. I haven't tried it yet, but expired coupons can be mailed to help out families who shop on military bases overseas, where the commissaries accept coupons expired up to 6 months. Using coupons for organic foods makes these products more affordable, so we can include these products that are healthier for the Earth and healthier for us into our grocery budget.
Dabbling in coupons works for me!
How do you use coupons? What tips would you give this amateur?