Sunday, February 13, 2011

Frugal CAN BE Fun (FCBF) -- The prep work

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If you've been following along with my FCBF posts, you'll know that in my last post, I mentioned that I thought I could be better prepared when shopping with coupons.

So, I'll tell you how I do it.
Keep in mind that each person has a method that works best for them. 
Also keep in mind that I'm a Type A personality who LOVES organization.  So this?  This is right up my alley.  I might even go so far as to say I'm enjoying myself loving every minute of the preparation! (maniacal giggle here...)

I receive our local paper, delivered to our house, twice a week.  On both Wednesday and Sunday there are the store flyers, and Sunday has the coupon inserts.  You'll need those!!!  

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I sit down once a week (usually Sunday afternoon) and look through all the store ads/flyers.  Take note that some store ads run from Wednesday through Tuesday, and others from Sunday through Saturday.  Hence the paper on Wednesday AND Sunday.

So, I sit down and look at the ads, watching for things that we use regularly and that are on sale.  Using a piece of notebook paper, I write down the store name, the item, its price, the rewards (i.e. EBs, or BOGO*).

I do this for each store I regularly shop:  WalMart, CVS, Publix.  

Side note necessary here:  When you first begin, choose a store or two.  Get familiar with that store's sales, and coupon policies.  Then, expand your comfort zone to include more stores, more sales, and more saving opportunities.  You DO not want to try to tackle every store, every deal when you first begin.  You'll get overwhelmed, overstretched, and overspent.  Choose a couple stores, shop them well, and then add on.

After I've formed my store lists, I go to several websites that list the sales at each store with any recent coupons.  A few of my favorites:

Not only do these sites do a lot of the research for you, they also have a lot of great tips about how to learn to coupon, couponing abbreviations*, and many other tips. 

So, when looking at the stores' ads, I can see the items I want to buy and if there are any coupons that go with it.  For example:

(From Southern Savers' Walmart ad)
  • Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies, 14 oz. $2.50
    Manufacturer Coupon -$1/2 Hillshire Farm smoked sausage, RP 1/23
    Manufacturer Coupon -.75/2 Hillshire Farm smoked sausage, RP 1/23
If I have that coupon, or I can print it, then I gather the coupon, and write down a little "Q" or "C" next to the item on my list to remind myself that I have a coupon for it.  That also helps when at the store, so I can make sure I'm buying the right sizes and quantities that are specified on the coupon.  And then I put the coupon in a pile according to which store I'll use it in.  And because I'm type A, I make a little sticky note that has the store name on it.  Paperclipped together, labeled, and attached to the paper with the store list on it, and I feel prepared.  Prepared to save, baby.  Prepared to save! 

I also look through the website lists so that I can see if there are any items that can be had really, really cheaply that we can stock up on.   Many times the sites will tell you what the final price per item will be with the advertised price and coupons.  And, my friends, there are lots of things to be had very, very inexpensively, and even more items to be had for FREE!  I'll add those items to my list and stock up, buying as many as the sale and my coupons will allow.

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So that's how I get prepared.  You might try it.  Let me know how it works.  Or, if you have another way to prepare yourself for super saving, let us all know by leaving me a comment!

In my next FCBF post, I'll tell you about my second trip of savings.
See you then, my friends!
*What do all those abbreviations mean?  I could explain it all, or instead of reinventing the wheel, I could direct you Hip2Save's Coupon Newbie page.

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