Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Extreme(ly Annoying) Couponing

I've watched maybe one full episode of Extreme Couponing, and caught snippets of various episodes. One of the many things that stuck with me is how very stressed the couponers are when they get to the checkout line, because transactions have to happen in just the right order and amount and coupons have to be perfectly organized, in order for them to meet their spending needs/goals. They get stressed, nervous, cranky... it's not pretty.

Irrational Ranting

I used to get stressed out if I had five coupons when I got to the register. So. Very. Stressed.

I also didn't know how in the life of me to keep my dang coupons organized. I tried putting them in baseball card holders which was incredibly annoying. Then I had them in categorized paper envelopes in a small Rubbermaid container.

And then there are the digital coupons... so many web sites where you can scroll through pages and pages and... then more pages of coupons. And Target.com has coupons, many companies' web sites have places where you can download coupons, and........ there is just not enough time for all the flipping coupons.

Time to Get Rational

So what's a girl to do, in order to stay sane in the face of all this coupon pressure? Well, here's what's keeping me mildly sane:

1 - Treat coupons like a bonus, and not as a crutch
I focus on weekly sales, then if I happen to have a coupon that stacks on top of a sale item, then woohoo: bonus! More money is freed up for other purposes. If I don't have a coupon for an item I need/want to buy, I try not to kick myself. As long as the sum total of all purchases meets my budgeted amount for groceries, then no biggie. This helps lower the stress of coupons a bit.

I know this isn't possible for everyone, as some families rely on coupons to make ends meet.

2 - Find useful online sources that direct you to good coupons based on weekly deals
I kept getting sick of looking through weekly ads and then trolling through all my coupons to see if there were matches. Turns out, there are many hard-working folks out there already doing this for us, and providing the info in easy-to-digest formats!! Get excited. And stop trying to do all the work yourself! It's amazing how much time you'll save.

Ok, I know this sounds weird. But hear me out: the aforementioned web sites tell you where to get a physical coupon from. So on Sunday when you get your weekly booklets of coupons with your newspaper, write the date on each coupon booklet. If you get a Smart Source ad booklet on November 11, then write 11/11 at the top. Put it in a folder. Repeat for remaining coupon booklets. THEN, refer to the web sites I shall send you to. They will say: "hey, if you want this deal, then go get the Smart Source from 11/11 and cut out X coupon." Or something along those lines. That's it! No more clipping hundreds of coupons and sorting them in ways that will force you to hang onto expired coupons and make you so mad that you give up on coupons. This was a big change for me since I used to clip out coupons and sort them into envelopes... this new method was a change for the better.

And then you say: "But what if I want to look through all the coupons to find one that I need? I don't want to rely only on these supposed useful web sites' lists of weekly deals. Gr." Point noted. And so I respond: "Well these useful websites ALSO allow you to search a big database for a product and then it will tell you if a coupon is available for that product and from where! So nyah." More details in #2 below.

My Favorite Online Sources for Help

These sites have made it fun for me to look through and take advantage of sale+coupon combos at MANY stores: Target, Walmart, Walgreens, etc. Even better, #2 & #3 are based in the Midwest (where I live) and also provide deal info for my local grocery stores!

1 - Money Saving Mom
This is a site I often reference, and the first one to introduce me to the amazing concept of telling ME what great deals you can get each week! She posts weekly deals for most major stores like Target, and she links you directly to relevant printable coupons, and/or guides you to a physical coupon based on the method I described above (coupon booklet name + date). Only downside here is that she lives in the South, so her grocery store deals are for Kroger and other stores that I don't have near me.

2 - Pocket Your Dollars
So far, this is my most favoritest site for coupon help. She lists deals per store in a way that allows you to check a checkbox for a specific deal, and then (once you've checked all the checkboxes you want) print out a list of every deal that you checked! Including the relevant coupon info! For a nerd who likes to check stuff off a checklist, this is heaven. Even better, the woman who runs this site lives in the Twin Cities and lists deals for grocery stores in our area (Cub, Menards, Rainbow, etc). Such a time saver!!

ALSO - Pocket Your Dollars has a Coupon Database (go to use the Toolbox > Grocery coupon database). So as for the previous question about how to find a coupon in your huge folder-o-coupon booklets, use this database!! Search for a keyword (like Hormel) and it will list all Hormel coupons, both physical and digital.

3 - Creative Couponing
A friend just told me about this one, so I'm still feeling it out. It is very similar to Pocket Your Dollars, so PYD is my go-to, with Creative Couponing as a backup if I have time to use it. But maybe you'll like it better, so check it out!