My husband and I recently attended the Relish Magazine Cooking Show at the Kroc Center, and he joined me as I participated in the Expo before the show. We had a great time and met a lot of nice people. Attending the event was a new experience for my husband, who normally stays with our children during my Coupon Lady events.
As we drove home from the event, he said, “I was really shocked at how many people said that they just don’t have time to coupon. Our lives are really hectic; if we can do it, anybody can.”
I think most people who want to coupon but do not take the plunge feel that it must take many hours of planning. If that were true, I would not be able to coupon. I spend one to two hours a week getting my binder ready, and then I shop at one grocery store for about an hour to an hour and a half each week. I might go to one drugstore if I really see a deal that I want and spend less than 30 minutes shopping.
Now, if I wanted to invest more time, I could hop around to more than one grocery store and/or drugstore and get my totals even lower, but my schedule doesn’t allow for that. My savings averages are a little lower than someone who does hop around from store to store, but I still save at least 50 percent to 65 percent off full retail prices each week.
How do I coupon without spending a lot of time? My first secret is in the way I organize my coupon binder. My system was created to help me spend the minimum amount of time getting coupons ready to go shopping. I know that most people will think carrying a three-ring binder in a store is a little strange, but using a two- or three-inch binder filled with plastic sheets made for collecting baseball cards allows me to quickly find the coupon I need.
My next time-saving secret is that I organize my coupons into sections by using subject dividers. I divide coupons into 16 categories, such as beverages, meat and dairy, canned goods, etc. I have couponing friends who organize theirs by alphabetical order or by aisle of their favorite store. Creating a binder allows you to customize it.
I spent about $40 to build my binder three years ago. Only the binder has changed in those three years; I still have the same baseball cards sheets and dividers.
My next-time saving tip is how I cut the coupons. Don’t cut one page at a time – that would take forever. Cut them all at once: I get four newspapers each week, so I pull out each weekly insert. Then I match each page so I have four of the same page and cut all four at once. I try to cut a little bigger than the coupon, because sometimes the pages don’t line up perfectly.
After I cut the coupons, I immediately put them on a coupon mat to sort. My mat is a Microsoft Publishing document that I created, but one can be handmade in minutes: Divide a piece of paper into fourths with a marker and write each section of your binder (in order) on the paper. Since I divide my binder into 16 sections, I have four pages of coupon mats. When I have finished cutting all of my coupons, I sort them into 16 piles on my table.
Now that the coupons are cut and sorted, I can begin adding them to my binder. As I add new coupons into each section, I look for coupons that might have expired and remove them. Once I am done, I am almost ready to shop. After I complete my binder, I check two or three coupon blogs for weekly matchups and print a copy of those. I will also grab the store ad (and any competitors’ ads if they price-match).
I also bring a list of any groceries or supplies I need for the week. Now I am ready to go shopping. Meet me at the grocery store and let’s get saving!