After almost 2 months of couponing, I decided to write down some of my observations, (in no particular order or flow). Here they are for you reading pleasure:
1. Finding a system that works for you is essential.
For me, this means that on Sunday afternoons or evenings, I take out the Red Plum and Smart Source inserts from my Sunday paper which is delivered to my door for the price of $1.25 each week. (This subscription gets me Thursday-Sunday papers.) I don't clip each coupon. I only clip coupons I think I may use. If I'm not sure, I usually clip it just to be safe.
Then, I divide the coupons into the categories labeled in my expandable folder, order them by expiration date, then place them in the correct slot in my coupon holder. Now that it's a routine, it takes about 30 minutes (or less) each week to do all of this. Not bad.
2. Planning a Menu saves you a ton!
Just the other day, I went to do my weekly meal plan and realized I didn't even need to go to the store on my regularly scheduled grocery day. After looking through my fridge, freezer and cabinets, I found enough in there to last a few days. I only need a few days worth because Hy-Vee is having a really great 10 hour sale this Saturday (Aug. 31) I wanted to wait to do the bulk of my weekly shopping until that day. However, I realized that I STILL didn't really need to do a normal grocery day because I had enough meal ideas to last me until my next grocery day next week! Sure, I'm going to need to grab a few things like milk, eggs, cereal and a few other things, but I don't need to buy anything extra for my supper meals this week.
Last week, I didn't see any great deals at Hy-Vee so I bought all of my weekly groceries from Aldi. I only spent $33 dollars for all of the meals for 1 week. I was way under my $50 weekly budget. Planning a menu saves you a ton!
3. There are some items that have coupons available almost every week.
I can almost always depend on having coupons for cereal, yogurt, razors, soaps, cleaning supplies, baby supplies and batteries. There are a few others but these are the ones that come to mind. Now that I'm used to what comes in the inserts each week, I can know when I see a really great coupon and when I have enough Yoplait yogurt coupons.
Some people get frustrated with coupons because they think that the above mentioned items are the only things available to buy with coupons. But the longer you coupon, the greater variety of coupons you acquire. I've been doing it long enough that I can finally read, "Use KC Masterpiece $0.50 off coupon from the 6/03 Red Plum insert and combine it with the in-store coupon of $0.50 off." It takes time to get the most bang for your buck, but it's worth it.
Stay tuned for Lessons in Couponing-Part II.