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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jenny's Homefront Strategy: Feeding the Family for Free

What do all these things have in common?

Coupons allow you to get name band products at a considerable
savings. Maybe even free!

All of them were totally free. Free, name brand products that my family will use and I didn't spend a dime on. What is better than free? Free name brand products.

Before you get the wrong I idea, I assure you there is no five finger discount going on here. How do I get free products? I coupon. Couponing allows me to take the money we've budgeted for food and personal needs and stretch it to the nth degree. Couponing has allowed me to purchase more expensive name brands that I may have otherwise walked past.

Couponing is a big part of Jenny's Homefront Strategy.

If you asked me four years ago if I couponed I would have told you I don't have time for it. I'll admit, couponing sometimes feels like a second job. But with the prices in the stores being what they were and the economy being what is is, you can hardly afford not to. "Coupon shopping: is a bit different than your more common "needs based" shopping. With "coupon shopping" your goal is purely an economical one. Buy as much of a product that you will use and the rock bottom price. When you coupon, you anticipate future needs. This requires  you to store your additional products. This is referred to as your "stockpile". A stockpile is a good thing, please do not confuse it with hording. A stockpile is composed of items that will be consumed in a reasonable time frame whereas hording behavior generally is for items that have no real intrinstic value and or are not consumed. A stockpile will disappear as items are eaten or  used. Hording does not.

1. Keep a binder and buy multiple papers. Or if you are lucky enough have friends who don't coupon save you their coupons. There are many ways to set up a binder. Personally for mine, I keep it very simple. I personally see no reason to clip coupons that I may not use. It takes way too much time and time is one commodity I don't have much of. For my binder, the most recent coupons go in the front, with all the multiple pages grouped together. So if I have page one of an insert and I've bought three papers, each page 1 of that insert is grouped together and put in a clear sleeve in my binder. All the old inserts are in the back and as they expire and I remove them, I put the empty sleeve in the front so I've always got a supply of clear sleeves and the old coupons are removed. If I need a coupon, I remove those out of the sleeve, cut them out with one motion and if I've got them stacked right, I get three or more coupons cut out at one time.

Personal care items too! All free or nearly so!
2. Find websites that have already done the coupon matchups for you. Sites like or have already done the matchups for me so I can cruise through what is on sale in local and national stores. In the Rochester area the only national store we have is Aldi's or Walmart, everything else is regional grocery stores. One of those regional stores has an add where about 95 percent of the ad is their store brand merchandise. The other regional store has higher prices than both Aldi's, it's regional competitor and Walmart. So it makes very difficult to coupon match. Like everyone else, I'm incredibly busy and have no time to go through several store's advertisements to see who has the best price. These websites are a Godsend. The women and men that go through the work of price matching truly help more families than they know. They list the item, size, what coupons are available and if there are any printables. I often use that as my grocery list so I can go in, get just those items and get out before I'm tempted by more than my pocketbook can handle.

3. Learn your terms and how to read coupons. Trust me, the clerk ringing you up doesn't necessarily understand couponing. A "transaction" is different than a "purchase". If a coupon reads "Only one item per purchase", that means you can only use one coupon per one item. If a coupon reads, "Only four like coupons per transaction", however, it means you can only use four coupons in that one transaction. So, say you wanted to purchase five shampoos but the coupons that you had for that particular shampoo limited to four like coupons per transaction",  you could only use four of those coupons for that transaction. (No one is saying you can't ring up the fifth on a different transaction however).

Some manufacturer's are becoming increasingly strict with their coupon verbiage and policy which begs the question, "are they really wanting to alienate their consumer"? The reality is that there are very few of the "extreme couponers" out there as most of us do not have the time to spend 6-8 hours in a store. Most of us are just trying to stretch our budgets. The reality of the situation is that if you make it hard for those to coupon to use your brand, they will use someone else's.

4. Do not have brand loyalty. I don't know about you but Tide doesn't pay my bills. Nor does Crest, Campbells or Jiff. Yet growing up these were some of the frequent products that were always purchased in my mom's home. Many of these products rarely, if ever come to a coupon and even with a coupon are generally so much more than other products. Let couponing open your world to new products. I've tried so many new products that my family has enjoyed simply because I had a coupon.

5. Stack your coupons. You'll hear this term often when you begin couponing. What this essentially means is that you can use a store's coupon with a manufacturer's coupon. Create the perfect trifecta with a store sale or a low everyday price and you can walk out with the store with a perfectly free item or in cases with store programs, they giving you money back in the form of "store bucks" or gift cards. Some even have kiosks right in their store that print their coupons based on your spending habits.

CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens
all have some type of "store rewards".
Keep these in mind when considering
a purchase.
6. Lower value coupons are often your better bet at grocery stores. Most grocery stores double coupons up to a dollar. That means, if you have a coupon worth seventy-five cents and it doubles because it is lower than a dollar, it now has become a dollar fifty coupon. Unless your store is running a special or has a policy of doubling dollar coupons, if you have a choice between a dollar off one item or a coupon worth seventy five cents that will double to a dollar fifty, the lower denominator coupon is your better bet.

7. Don't limit yourself to grocery stores.  When you think "food",  you naturally think grocery stores. Surprisingly, your pharmacy stores like Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS are often excellent places to pick up soup, cereal, or soda/pop. All of them accept coupons. Most of them will price match if you simply ask the manager, and they've been doing that long before Walmart started advertising it. Many will reward you with "store bucks" in the form of register rewards. Keep in mind, you are paying the sale price or full price for that product when you reach the register, but that reward can be used towards your next purchase. Don't overlook store loyalty cards. Believe it or not, even dollar stores take coupons these days.

8. Consider rebate and rebate like programs. Often a product will come with a rebate. If you are interested it that, it generally means sending in your receipt (always make a copy and date when you sent in the original) and sometimes the product's UPC. You will be rewarded with a check coming back to you in the mail. Rite Aid used to have one of these programs, I'm not sure if it still does. Also check out other sites like Checkout 51 which requires you to scan in a register receipt for that week from ANY STORE and when you reach a predestined amount, they send you a check. Not a bad system for the consumer for something you would have purchased anyway.

9. Different regions get different coupons with different values. Sometimes even the same paper has different coupons. Also, coupons repeat typically every six weeks.  I've actually had the experience of buying three papers only to have one that will have a completely different insert. Also different regions may have considerably higher value coupons. It pays to look online to see if there was a higher value coupon somewhere else. In New York, we tend to get either lower value coupons or coupons that often make you buy a ridiculous amount to save very little. "Buy six to save a dollar"... really? But by searching online you may find out that say, California got a higher value coupon or that there is a coupon to "Buy 3, save 40 cents" which, because you are buying fewer and can use more coupons, may be your best option. Also, you will see the same coupon appear typically six weeks, most times with the same ad. Keep this in mind when you need to stock back up.

10. Use clipping services and get rain checks. Reliable clipping services help you to build your stockpile when something goes on sale at a rock bottom price. You pay them for their labor in clipping and compiling coupons. (Legally you cannot "sell" coupons). Make sure the coupon has a long expiration date or will not expire before  you receive them. This also relates to rain checks. If you go into a store only to find that they are sold out of a product, make sure to get a raincheck and check back often.

These strategies help me to, "Pinch that penny until Lincoln cries". Because of my couponing, I have actually not had to buy shampoo or deodorant for  over three years because I "purchased" these items with coupons which made them free or almost free. Couponing takes time but it is an amazing feeling when you lay out all the items you got for free or near free and realize how much money you have saved at the end of the day.

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