Aug 29, 2014

So you hate couponing… here’s how to still save BIG on groceries!


So you hate couponing... here is what you can do to still save BIG!!

I remember the first time I got over $100 worth of groceries for less than $5. It was an incredible rush and quickly became addictive. No, it wasn’t that huge of a discount every time, but even seeing your bill go down by 30 or 40% with coupons is an exciting thing.

But then life happens.

For me, it was getting pregnant with my 4th kid. Have I mentioned before that I’m a pretty miserable pregnant lady?

I can’t even walk through a grocery store during my first trimester without getting sick, much less consider doing any serious couponing.

I have several friends who tell me that they want to save money at the grocery store but that they hate (H.A.T.E.) coupons. So they think that they can’t really save.

Whether you are going through a season where couponing doesn’t work for you, or you just absolutely abhor the idea of using coupons, your options for saving money are still plentiful!

In fact, couponing is just the icing on the cake for grocery savings. It’s not the foundation at all.

The foundation is menu planning

Even hard-core couponers can waste tons of money if they don’t have a plan for how they are going to feed their families. A pantry and freezer full of food does you no good if you don’t have a plan for how to use those items.

I say this in my couponing classes all the time… menu planning alone can save you 40% or more each month if you don’t currently have weekly meal plans.

What do you buy at the store if you aren’t shopping with specific meals in mind? Whatever looks good? The things that they have in nice, pretty displays?

Here are two posts on how to menu plan that should really help if this is something new for you. I think you’ll be surprised at how much you can save!

Basic Menu Planning Strategies
How To Menu Plan Off Of What’s On Sale

Shop the sales cycles

A “Sales Cycle” in grocery shopping refers to when a particular product goes on sale at its “rock bottom price” (which just means that it’s at it’s lowest price that it will go).

Most everyday products have a sales cycle of about 3 months (some shorter, some longer). That means that if cereal is on sale this week at the lowest it will go, then it likely will be at that price again in another 3 months or so.

Three months isn’t ALWAYS the case, but it’s a good rule-of-thumb.

So when you’re deciding how many boxes of cereal to buy during a great sale, remember that they will go on sale again in another 3 months.  So get enough to last you for about 3 months until the next sale.

We talk a lot about this concept in my couponing classes but you can shop the sales cycles whether you are couponing or not!

When your favorite cereal is on sale for $1.99, allocate enough in your grocery budget that week to get enough boxes to last you for a few months. You’ll be thankful that you did when it’s at $3.49 for that same box the next month.

Yes, this part does take some research. You’ll probably want to have a small notebook that you bring to the store with you to keep track of prices. It doesn’t have to be big, just a small notebook to keep track of the price fluctuations on the items that you like to buy regularly.

I have a whole post about sales cycles if you want to read more about how they work!

Also consider buying from the bulk foods section if your store has one. My local Sprouts store runs some great specials on the bulk foods (you just scoop the rice or dried beans, or oatmeal, or whatever product into a plastic bag) – and many times it ends up being MUCH less than the prepackaged foods.

Shop with cash

While I love the Dave Ramsey system, I’m not a cash-only person. I don’t like the idea of having lots of cash with me everywhere I go.

But, for grocery shopping, the only way that I have found to really stick to a set-in-stone budget when grocery shopping is to use cash only… and leave any debit/credit cards at home.

If you have a grocery budget for the week of $100 and your bill comes out to $110, what are you going to do if you have a debit/credit card? More than likely (although I can’t speak for everyone) you would just put all $110 on the card. But if you have $100 cash and that’s it, what do you do? You figure out which items need to be put back (and more than likely, you walk around the store with a calculator so that you don’t go over at the register!)

That extra $10 a week adds up to $520 a year!

Don’t be afraid of stockpiling

Stockpiling does *not* have to be extreme. Just set aside a certain portion of your grocery budget towards building up your stockpile and watch it slowly grow.

I recommend a 20/50/30 model in my couponing classes.

Let 20% of your weekly grocery budget be for the staple products that you buy every week no matter what. These are the items that are harder to stock up on (like milk, eggs, yogurt, bread) since they have a very limited shelf-life. This amount will always be in your weekly budget.

Let 50% of your grocery budget go towards food that you are going to buy to eat that next week. These are the things that you have planned out on your menu plan and are on sale. Don’t use this 50% for anything other than what you are going to eat this next week (all meals + snacks).

Then, save that final 30% of your weekly budget for building up your stockpile. This amount is going to be used to buy extra of the items that are at their lowest prices. You will want to keep these products in a separate section of your pantry/garage/freezer/fridge so that you aren’t tempted to use them that week. I had one person at a couponing class tell me that she had to hide her stockpile items from her husband and teenage son or they would eat them all as soon as she got home!

So let’s take a $100 weekly grocery budget. $20 of that would go towards your weekly staples, $50 of that would go towards what you would eat that week, and the other $30 would go towards building up your stockpile.

Within a few weeks, you’ll find that you don’t need that full $50 for what you are going to be eating that next week since you can start using what’s in your stockpile to menu plan that second week of doing this system.

Maybe now you only need $40 for what you’ll be eating that week and you can use $40 for stockpile items!

Then in another few weeks? Maybe you can use $50 or $60 for your stockpile.

Eventually, you can use that full $80 on your stockpile… or you can go ahead and lower your weekly grocery budget since we likely don’t have unlimited room in our garage and freezer.

Once you’re only buying your staple items and your stockpile items each week, then put that extra money directly into a savings account.

For example, if you had a $100 weekly grocery budget but went down to $70 after you had built up your stockpile, then you would put that extra $30 per week in some type of savings account.

After just 1 year you would have an extra $1,560!!

Coupons *can* be involved in this whole process, but they don’t have to be. I know plenty of non-couponers who are great at stockpiling.

Make more from scratch

Yes, making things from scratch takes longer, but it is typically *much* less expensive.

Plus, you get the added benefit of knowing every ingredient that’s in there. :)

I shared my experience of knowing nothing about cooking to cooking full home-cooked meals – and I promise that if I can do it, anyone can!

Shop at Aldi

If you have an Aldi near you and haven’t visited it yet, you are missing out!

When I have people tell me that they never want to touch a coupon in their life, but they still want to save money, I tell them to shop at Aldi.

Their every day prices are excellent and I’ve consistently been impressed with the quality of the products that I buy there.

Aldi does not accept coupons (most of their items are private labeled with their own brand names), but the prices of almost identical items is much less than their counterparts at other grocery stores (even lower than when those name-brand products go on sale).

Take baby steps when you try again

If you know that you want to get back into couponing, or you want to give it a try in the future, be sure to take baby steps. Don’t try to jump in to couponing at multiple stores with a massive coupon binder right off the bat.

Pick one store to start couponing at. Then add another, then another.

Start off organizing your coupons with the filing method (even if you’ve done the big binder before!) and then move on to the more complicated methods if you want to.

Getting “couponing burnout” is easy to do, and many get it after a couple of years of hard-care couponing. Just take it slow, and don’t feel guilty about taking breaks when you need to.

And don’t feel guilty about not wanting to use coupons at all. They are a tool in your belt of grocery savings, but you have many other great tools as well.

So you hate couponing... here is what you can do to still save BIG!!

More articles you might like:

How to start couponing

How to save on organic food

Top Couponing Tips

Print this post This post may contain affiliate links. Click to view full disclosure policy.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Apr 21, 2012

SIGN UP For Savings Nation Dallas/Fort Worth Classes In Arlington, Fort Worth, Grapevine, & Garland + $5 Off Coupon Code!!


Woohoo!!!!  As many of you know, we are starting COUPONING & SAVINGS classes in the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston areas!!!

Ryan and I have lined up FOUR different classes for May in the Dallas/Fort Worth area so that you guys won’t have to drive too far to get to one.  :)

The classes for May will be in Arlington, Fort Worth, Garland, and Grapevine!  We tried to spread them out as much as possible across the Metroplex so hopefully there will be one near YOU!

So… what will you learn in these classes?  Everything that I wish I would’ve known when I started on my journey to “survive the stores” 4 years ago!

Shopping Psychology – including how to avoid common traps at the supermarket and the things that stores and product marketers DON’T want you to know!

Strategic Couponing – learn how to coupon in a REALISTIC (vs. Extreme) way to save at least 50% on your grocery bill each month! Learn the strategies to keep YOUR money in YOUR wallet, even with limited time!

Meal Planning With A Busy Schedule – learn how to plan out your menu to save the MOST money, in the LEAST amount of time, while still providing healthy meals for your family!

Sound fun?  It will be!!!  This will also be the perfect class to bring your friends to who don’t understand what you do or think that you are crazy for bringing your coupon binder to the store. AND, be sure to bring your husband along to get him on board too! :)

Keep an eye out on the site because we will be having some giveaways on Surviving The Stores for FREE TICKETS!! (And if you win and have already bought a ticket then you’ll get a refund!)

PLUS, use the coupon code “SHOPSMARTER” to get $5 off the cost of the class bringing it down to $15 instead of $20!

** Space is limited for each class, so sign up soon to reserve your spot! **

Here are the links for the sign up pages for each of the four classes in May:

:: ARLINGTON Grocery Savings Workshop ::
Thursday, May 17, 2012 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (Facebook event link)

:: FORT WORTH Grocery Savings Workshop ::
Saturday, May 19, 2012 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM (Facebook event link)

:: GARLAND/DALLAS Grocery Savings Workshop ::
Thursday, May 24, 2012 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (Facebook event link)

:: GRAPEVINE Grocery Savings Workshop ::
Thursday, May 31, 2012 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (Facebook event link)

We will also be having tons of door prizes at each event… and of course lots of COUPONS!! :)

We can’t wait to meet you all!!

And don’t forget to “Like” our Surviving The Stores in DFW page on Facebook too!

Print this post This post may contain affiliate links. Click to view full disclosure policy.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Jan 19, 2012

Tip #11: Learn The Couponing Lingo {Surviving The Stores Through Couponing}


Tip #11: Learn The Couponing Lingo

With just about any skill-set out there, there are specific terms, or “lingo” that go along with that skill-set.

I know next to nothing about sewing.  Sure, I can sew on a button, sew back together a seam, and MAYBE put in a hem.  Maybe.

But if I wanted to start sewing items to sell and help bring in money for our family, then I would need to learn A LOT more about sewing and one of the first things I would need to study & learn is the sewing LINGO.

The people who put together the patterns aren’t going to explain exactly what every word means every time.  They are going to tell me that I need to do a backstitch and assume that since I am sewing that I know what that means.

So what does that have to do with couponing?

Well, I’m assuming that you are couponing to help bring in more money for your family.  And, like sewing, couponing is a skill-set that has its own LINGO!

Couponing lingo can be a little overwhelming at first, so I wanted to create a guide to help you understand some of the different terms that I (and most other couponers) use.

When a date is listed next to a coupon, the date is the date of the paper that that coupon was in. For example, if I put “2/8 RP” after a coupon, then that means that it came from the Red Plum coupon insert that came out on February 8th.

Here is the couponing lingo that you will find here at Surviving The Stores:

$/x: A certain dollar amount off of a certain number of items. For example, $1/1 is one dollar off one item and $1/2 is one dollar off two items.

x/$: How many items you can get for a certain dollar amount. For example, if I put 5/$10 then that means that five items will cost ten dollars total.

Blinkies: Coupons near the product, usually from a box that has a red blinking light on the top. When you take one coupon out the machine will spit out another one.

BOGO or B1G1: Buy One Get One Free

CAT or Catalina: Coupon that prints out at the register after your purchase (sometimes it is attached to your receipt and sometimes it comes from a separate machine)

CRT: Cash register tape/ticket – these print out in the store and are generally store coupons that can be used with a mfg coupon. The $5/$25 ($5 off a $25 purchase) CVS coupons are considered CRTs.

ECB: CVS Extra Care Bucks are store coupons that print at the bottom of your receipt and can be spent like cash on anything at CVS except prescriptions, alcohol, tobacco, gift cards or lottery tickets. ECBs generally expire one month from when they are issued.

EXP: Expiration Date

FAR: Free After Rebate

GC: Gift Card

GM: General Mills coupon insert in the Sunday paper

IVC: Walgreen’s Instant Value Coupon – these are in their monthly catalogue

IP: Internet Printable Coupon

Mailer: Coupons that you receive in the mail

MFG: Manufacturer’s Coupon

MIR: Mail In Rebate

OOP: Out of Pocket

OYNO: On your next order

P&G: Proctor & Gamble coupon insert in the Sunday paper

Peelie: Coupon that is stuck to the package and you have to peel it off.  You don’t have to use the peelie on that product (you can save it for later), but you must buy the product that the peelie is on (you can’t just take the peelies off without buying the product).

PSA: Prices Starting At

RP: Red Plum coupon insert in the Sunday paper

RR: Register Rewards from Walgreens, which are store coupons that print from the Catalina machine next tot he register. They can be spent like cash in Walgreens on anything except prescriptions, alcohol, tobacco, gift cards or lottery tickets. They generally expire two weeks from when they print.

SCR: Single Check Rebate from Rite Aid – you fill this out online to get money back on certain purchases

SS: Smart Source coupon insert in the Sunday paper

Stacking: Using a store coupon with a MFG coupon (for example, using a $1 Target coupon and a $1 MFG coupon on one item)

Tearpad: A pad with several coupons (sometimes refund forms) hanging from a store shelf or display

UPR: +UP Rewards – Rite Aid rewards that you get back at the register – you can use these rewards like cash on future Rite Aid purchases

VV: Video Values – you watch these videos on the Rite Aid website to get coupons for certain products (coupons only valid at Rite Aid)

WAGS: Walgreens

Winetag or WT: A coupon found in the wine section or hanging on wine bottles

WYB: When You Buy

YMMV: Your Mileage May Vary (the deal might be good in one place, or one manager may allow it, but it might not work somewhere else)

I hope that helps to clear up any confusion about couponing lingo here on Surviving The Stores!  Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or if you think there’s another term that should be added.  :)

<< Tip #10: Learn To Use Store & Manufacturer Coupons Together
Print this post This post may contain affiliate links. Click to view full disclosure policy.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Nov 9, 2011

Tip #10: Learn How to Use Store Coupons and Manufacturer Coupons Together for BIG savings!


Tip #10: Learn How to Use Store Coupons and Manufacturer Coupons Together for BIG savings!

How many of you guys have ever been treated like a criminal in the store when you tried to use your coupons?

I get letters all the time from those who have been treated terribly at their local stores when trying to coupon, and sadly, it’s one of the reasons why many have given up on couponing altogether.

So how do we fight this?

With knowledge. Let’s talk about the coupon process, store coupons, and manufacturer coupons and how it all works.

Hopefully we can be armed with the knowledge that will help us to be confident in our coupon usage!

What are manufacturer coupons?

Customarily, [manufacturer] coupons are issued by manufacturers of consumer packaged goods or by retailers, to be used in retail stores as a part of sales promotions. They are often widely distributed through mail, magazines, newspapers, the Internet, directly from the retailer, and mobile devices such as cell phones. – Wikipedia

So, the product manufacturer (like P&G or ConAgra) wants to promote a specific product of theirs (like Tide or Hormel). They pay a company to design the coupon layout and then they pay again for it to be distributed either in traditional print venues (magazines, newspapers, etc.) or online (through printable coupons).

You buy the magazine or newspapers and can take these coupons to the store and use them just like cash… because they ARE cash to the store. The store treats those coupons as carefully as they would cash because they will get reimbursed for those coupons from the manufacturers who created them.

How does a store get reimbursed for manufacturer coupons?

The store then takes all of the coupons that they received (typically for that week) and sends them to their corporate headquarters. An employee at corporate then takes those coupons and sends them to a clearinghouse. The clearinghouse has to separate the coupons into ones that can be scanned and ones that are damaged (and many times they send this work to another country like Mexico).

The coupons are then scanned en masse on a conveyor belt and a computer adds up the amount for each manufacturer coupon that a particular store submitted. WHEW! That’s a lot, huh? We’re not done.

Then the clearinghouse will send the coupons back to the manufacturer along with an invoice for the value of the coupons (plus their processing fee). The manufacturer can then pay the clearinghouse for the invoice and the clearinghouse pay the stores for their coupons, OR the manufacturer can reimburse the stores directly, and then pay the clearinghouse their fee. (source: How Stuff Works)

Sure seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Just for that 30¢ off!

I think the thing to take from this is that when you use a lot of coupons at the store, the store WILL get reimbursed! Even if you got the items for FREE! So don’t feel bad the next time you pair a Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupon with a B1G1 Free sale… the store is getting their money back on that!

What are store coupons?

Store coupons are coupons that are to be used ONLY at that store (except for the rare exceptions like Publix that will take competitor’s store coupons). These coupons put out directly by the store and, the majority of the time, they are not sent to a separate clearinghouse.

Does this come out of the store’s pocket?

For the most part “store coupons” are really just the store’s way of passing a discount of theirs onto us! Let’s say (completely hypothetically!) that Target has Tide regularly priced at $13.95, but they were able to cut a great deal with P&G one month and get it for much lower. So, they put out a $2 off Target coupon so that they can pass their great deal onto some of their customers, who will be able to get it for $11.95 with the coupon. They still have PLENTY of customers who will pay the full price, but they also are able to attract more people into the store with the extra $2 off coupon (and they are hoping that you will be spending even more money when you get there.)

How can I tell the difference between a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon?

Manufacturer coupons typically begin with either a 5 or a 9, so that’s the quickest way to spot if your coupon is a coupon directly from the manufacturer or if it is a store coupon.

Also, most store coupons will have the store’s logo on them, and many times will be found IN the store, or on the particular store’s website.

Keep in mind that sometimes the store will actually pay the manufacturer to have their store logo on the manufacturer coupon. (Like those coupons that say, “Available At Walmart”). You can still use these coupons anywhere since they are from the manufacturer and not from the store!

How many coupons can I use on one product?

Ahh, now we get to the big question!

Can you use these two types of coupons TOGETHER?


You can use ONE manufacturer’s coupon AND one store coupon per item.

You see how this could add up to big savings, right? If something is on sale for $2.50, and there was a $1 off coupon in the newspaper AND a $1 off store coupon in their weekly flyer… that means you get that item for only 50¢!

When you see the term “stacking coupons” it is usually referring to using a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon. Please keep in mind that you can never ever ever use more than one manufacturer coupons on the same item.

Hmm, how can I reiterate this?

CAN do:

Buy Tide Laundry Detergent – $13.95
Use $3/1 Tide manufacturer’s coupon
AND use $2/1 store coupon for Tide

Pay $8.95 each after coupons

Can NOT do:

Buy Tide Laundry Detergent – $13.95
Use $3/1 Tide manufacturer’s coupon from the paper
and use $4/1 Tide manufacturer’s printable coupon
and use $2/1 Tide manufacturer’s coupon that you received in the mail

Pay $4.95 each after coupons

And, just one more time… just to make sure we all get it.  :)

  • Store coupon + manufacturer coupon on the same product = GOOD
  • Manufacturer coupon + manufacturer coupon on the same product = BAD
  • Store coupon + store coupon on the same product = BAD

Hopefully that helps to clear up some of the confusion on how to “stack coupons” without getting into trouble.

Stacking manufacturer coupons with store coupons is one of the biggest ways to save a TON at both the grocery and drug stores!

<< Tip #9: Keep Your Coupons Organized Tip #11: Learn The Couponing Lingo >>
Print this post This post may contain affiliate links. Click to view full disclosure policy.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Oct 5, 2011

Tip #9: Keep Your Coupons Organized {Surviving The Stores Through Couponing}


Couponing Tip - learn how to organize your coupons!  Easy explanations of all of the ways you can organize.  Just do what works best for you!

We have our coupons, we know NOT to make Extreme Couponing our goal, we are getting successful at menu planning (and menu planning off the store sales flyers), starting to watch the sales cycles, and now we even are ready to start on our stockpile!

I’m sure you’ve been getting the coupon inserts from the paper (definitely a good thing!) and wondering “what in the world do I do with them now?”

Do they just end up in a pile next to your computer?

Or maybe STILL in the newspaper and piled in a dark corner of the house somewhere (yes, I admit it, this one has been me before!)

There are lots of different options for keeping your coupons organized and there are couponers who will swear by each of them.

So I encourage you to try out what you think will work best for you and what seems least overwhelming.  Don’t worry that your friend (or even another couponing blogger) does it differently.   Do what works for YOU!

My favorite system of organizing coupons alphabetically doesn’t work for many of my friends.  And their system of organizing things by category DOES NOT work for my brain.  And that’s okay.

So here are a few of the most popular ways to organize your coupons along with the pros and cons (in my opinion) of each:

The “Whole Insert Filing” Method

The Method

Instead of clipping out coupons all at once, you file the coupon inserts WHOLE, by date.

So, for example, I would take the coupons that I got this past Sunday (10/2) and put them in either a) an accordion-style folder or b) a file folder that is labeled with 10/2/2011.

I would not cut ANYTHING out, just put the insert in its spot as soon as I get it.

When I’m ready to go shopping and I have my coupon match-ups in hand, I look through those match-ups to see which newspaper insert I need coupons from.

If I’m going to be buying Kashi Cereal, for example, and I see on my coupon match-ups that there’s a $1.50 off coupon in the 10/2 SS, then I would just go to that folder, pull out the Smart Source insert and cut the Kashi coupon.  And then I would put the WHOLE insert (minus the Kashi coupon) back into its folder.

The Pros

  • Super easy.  You really can’t get much easier than just sticking the whole insert into a folder.
  • Coupons are filed in a manner that goes along with our coupon match-ups and the coupon database (which all tell you which insert the coupon was in and the date… ex: 10/2 Smart Source insert)
  • Only bring the coupons you need to the store!  If you’re worried about toting a huge binder or plastic bin around the store, then this method steers clear of that.  Those who use this method typically just put the coupons they will be using in a small envelope or small accordion-style binder (the ones that are the size of an envelope) and only take those with them to the store.

The Cons

  • You will usually miss unadvertised sales & clearance deals.  One of the downsides of not having every coupon with you, is that, well, you don’t have every coupon with you!  So you end up missing out on some great unadvertised and clearance deals that could be free or super cheap with your coupons.
  • Hard to find a specific coupon.  Thankfully, we have the STS Coupon Database to help with this!  But if you are wanting to find a coupon for a specific item and don’t have access to the internet to look it up on the coupon database, it can be a real pain to go through EVERYTHING.

The “BIG Coupon Binder” Method

The Method

This one is probably the most common method among seasoned couponers.  You get a large (3″ or greater) binder, fill it with plastic baseball card holders, and put your coupons in it.  With this method, you typically cut out every coupon that you think you might possibly use and file it in your binder.  If you use this method, I HIGHLY recommend getting a large binder with a ZIPPER closure (thousands of coupons on the floor in the middle of a grocery store is NOT fun… ask me how I know!)

Also, with this method, you bring your WHOLE binder to the store instead of just a few coupons.

Option 1:  File Alphabetically

This is the method that makes the most sense to my brain, but I’m in the minority here from what I’ve read from others.  You can read all about my coupon organization method here, but basically you would just file your coupons alphabetically by brand name.  So the “Covergirl” coupons go under “C” and the “Kashi” coupons go under “K”, etc.  It has really worked well for me, and honestly I think I would go a little loopy if I had to organize by category, so really, it’s just whatever works best for YOU!

Option 2:  File By Category

This is definitely the most common way of organizing your coupons in a binder system.  Instead of labeling your tabs on your coupon binder with letters, you label them with categories.  You can be as general, or as specific, as you would like to be with this.  Some couponers like to have it more general like “Personal Care Items” and “Groceries”, others like to have it separated out into MANY categories like “Makeup”, “Shampoo/Conditioner”, “Hair Styling”, “Frozen Foods”, etc.  It’s just a personal preference, and also likely depends on how much of a couponer you are (LOTS of couponing = LOTS of categories needed!)

The Pros

  • You always have all of your coupons.  If there’s an unadvertised sale, you’re prepared!!
  • It’s easy to flip through your binder and see which coupons have expired and take them out.  Usually the best time to do this is at the end of the month.
  • The binder is easy to store at home, and carry around the store.  ESPECIALLY if you have a zippered one.  I would still recommend storing it up high away from the kids, though.  :)

The Cons

  • You have to cut out and file your coupons each week when you get the paper.  And it takes a while to do it if you get several inserts.
  • It’s harder to use the coupon database to search for a specific coupon since your coupons are no longer sorted by insert date.
  • Sometimes the coupons don’t fit.  Those baseball card holders are fairly small at 9 to a page, and you have to fold some of the coupons just right for you to be able to see the expiration date, coupon amount, AND the brand name.  So not only does cutting out every coupon take up time, but you have to get them to lay just right in the binder.

The “Plastic Box With Envelopes” Method

The Method

This method is actually very similar to the “big binder” method, except instead of keeping everything in a binder with tabs, you keep it all in envelopes in a plastic box!  As with the coupon binder method, you can label your envelopes alphabetically or by category.  All you need is a plastic shoebox, some envelopes, sticky tab dividers, and your coupons.

There’s a example of this type of filing system over here.  This one (also pictured above) is for sale for $45, which, in my opinion, is an insane price.  But at least you can see what it looks like you can get what you need if you think this system is for you.

The Pros

  • You don’t have to worry about the coupons fitting in little plastic sections of a page like the binder method.  You can cut your coupon out and put it right in the envelope.
  • It’s easy to change up the categories or rearrange things.  All you have to do is move the envelopes around!
  • The box fits easily in the front of your shopping basket to make finding coupons while shopping much easier.
  • Like with the coupon binder, you have all of your coupons with you so you can easily take advantage of unadvertised sales and clearance!

The Cons

  • A big box with thousands of coupons is bound to get knocked over and dumped all over the floor at some point.  And I imagine it would be a nightmare to re-sort everything!
  • You still have to clip every single coupon you think you may want to use.
  • And again, this method is also harder for finding coupon match-ups and the coupon database to do your shopping, since all coupons are listed by insert date.
  • Harder to get rid of expired coupons.  Since they are all hidden away in envelopes, you can’t just get rid of the expired coupons at a glance like you can with the binder method.

The Verdict

Don’t be afraid to mix methods too!

I like to do a mix of the “insert filing” method and the “coupon binder” method. I cut out all of the coupons for products that I’m likely to buy and put them in my binder. But then I keep the uncut inserts and file them by date. I’ve found that every so often there will be a great money-maker at a store with one of the coupons that I didn’t cut out, so I like to keep them just in case!

So the final verdict really is in YOUR hands. Which coupon organization method has worked for you? Or if you are new to couponing, which one sounds like something that would fit YOU?

If you are a new couponer, I would recommend starting with the insert filing method while you get used to couponing and then moving on to one of the others (or a mix) as you get the hang of it!

<< Tip #8: Start On Your Stockpile Tip #10: Use Store Coupons & Manufacturer Coupons Together For BIG Savings >>
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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Sep 28, 2011

EXTREME COUPONING – Season 2 {The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly}


Extreme Couponing
Extreme Couponing.

Did you shudder when you read that?

I did.

Are you curious why?

I mean, the title of this site is “Surviving The Stores”. Why in the world would I not like Extreme Couponing?

I know lots of you guys are wondering what my thoughts are on the show, so I wanted to write a post to share (in my opinion) the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY about the show.

If you’re finding this site because of a search related to Extreme Couponing, be sure to read my series on Surviving The Stores Through Couponing! Tip #1 is that you DON’T have to be an “Extreme Couponer” to save a TON of money at the grocery stores!

Extreme Couponing – The Good

Yes, there are actually a few good things that have come about as a result of Extreme Couponing. It’s a short list, but I felt like these should at least be mentioned.

INTEREST – The interest in couponing in general has gone up! People are realizing that couponing really can save them a ton of money each month on their grocery shopping bill.  They are doing searches online and finding blogs that (hopefully) are helping them learn how to save money the RIGHT way!

GIVING – People are using couponing to give more to their local food banks. There were a couple of EC shows last seasons that encouraged couponers across the country to use their stockpiles to donate to food banks and churches to distribute to those in need. If Extreme Couponing must be on for another season (or even more), I’m hoping they really spend more time focusing on those who are using their couponing skills to help others. (PLEASE note that those who do large couponing purchases to donate order a certain amount of product in advance!)

COUPON TERMS – They are a-changin’!  I know lots of couponers are upset about this (and I included it in the “Ugly” section below for other reasons), but overall manufacturers are making coupon terms clearer and less confusing.  They are also coding the coupons now so that you CANNOT use them past the expiration dates.  This helps to prevent fraudulent coupon use and, in my opinion, has been needed for a while.

Extreme Couponing – The Bad

Yes, there’s lots of bad. These are the things that just make me cringe. There are lots, but here are a few of my top ones:

STEREOTYPES – Have you gotten more than the usual dirty looks when carrying your coupon binder through the grocery store? I know lots of us have, and I believe that is due in part to Extreme Couponing. I’d love a shirt to wear to the grocery store that says “Don’t worry, I’m not an “extreme couponer” and I will leave plenty on the shelves for everyone else!” While lots of people have started looking into couponing to save money (a positive), there are others who are so afraid of being labeled “one of those people” that they have given up couponing altogether.

COUPON POLICY CHANGES – From Kroger no longer doubling or tripling coupons in Texas, to revised coupon policies from other grocery stores, I really think we’ve just seen the tip of the iceburg in regards to coupon policy revisions due to Extreme Couponing. :(

HOARDING – 40 years worth of toilet paper? 500 bottles of salad dressing? Reasonable stockpiling is a GOOD thing, but there’s definitely a line where it gets into the hoarding category that, in my opinion, is unhealthy. Hopefully no one is encouraged toward hoarding through Extreme Couponing, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t some who were.

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS – Who has 40 hours a week to devote to couponing? No one? Will anyone’s local stores let you double or triple 100 of the same coupon in one transaction? Nope, didn’t think so. Many of the stores featured on the show DROP their regular coupon policies just for the show to get the publicity. So most of the transactions shown, we can’t even do unless we have a TV Network’s video camera behind us.

Extreme Couponing – The Ugly

Oh yes, it gets worse. “The Bad” were only some of the things that are annoyances due to the show. But here’s the UGLY… those things that make me not want to set eyes upon the show ever again.

THEFT – People are STEALING coupons. I posted a story on the Surviving The Stores Facebook page the other week about the rise in coupon insert theft since Extreme Couponing aired and SO MANY of you guys said that you’ve bought papers at the store only to realize that the inserts had been taken from them. Definitely ugly.

SHELF CLEARING – I would venture to say that most seasoned couponers don’t do this at all. We all hate going to the store and finding a completely cleared shelf, so we don’t do it to others. But from what I’ve seen of Extreme Couponing, they make it out to be a POSITIVE thing (and I just got word that tonight’s episode has an “unapologetic shelf clearer” on it.  UGH!) “Who cares if we need 200 boxes of pasta! It’s free so let’s take them all!” Certainly not an attitude that is helpful to anyone (not even the person who is clearing the shelves).

COUPON CHANGES Because Of FRAUD– The outright coupon fraud on the show has been so bad, that companies have had to completely redo the way that they code coupons. Don’t get me wrong, companies NEEDED to make these changes, but the coupon fraud that caused them to do it was yucky. And I’m sure there was a lot of product theft (that’s what it is when you use a coupon for a product that it was not intended for) between the show’s airing and when companies started changing the wording on their coupons.

So what do you think? Anything you would add to these lists?

My goal here at Surviving The Stores is to help you “bring more of your money home” in a way that LEGAL, CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS, and EASY TO DO!

Be sure to sign up for the Surviving The Stores Newsletter to stay updated on the latest & best coupons, deals, freebies, store coupon match-ups & more!

Print this post This post may contain affiliate links. Click to view full disclosure policy.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."