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Coupon Lady: How much time does it take to coupon?

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Whether I’m giving a coupon class or someone approaches me at the grocery store, the one question I get asked most often is how much time does it take to coupon like I do.

The most honest answer I can give is that it varies from week to week. The time it takes for me to set up my coupon binder for my weekly shopping trips depends on how many inserts we received in the Sunday edition of The Augusta Chronicle and how many Internet coupons I printed during the week.

New Internet coupons are often released by the main coupon Web sites, such as coupons.com, redplum.com and smartsource.com, at the first of the month. Because each coupon has a limit on total printings, it is wise to get the rare and high-value coupons as soon as possible.

It’s also smart to check online coupon sites and product Web sites during the last week of the month, because most companies release a second round of coupons or reset restrictions on coupon printing. Once the Web site is reset, it will allow previous coupon recipients to print two more coupons per computer.

During the first and last weeks of the month, a couponer can have about 30 to 40 pages of coupons to cut out.

I know that seems like a lot, but if you consider that you can get two of each coupon, that usually means only around 30 or 40 different products. I do not advocate printing coupons that you don’t use or need. No one wants to waste paper or printing ink. I tend to concentrate on coupons for food, cat food, dog food, a few medicines and our favorite brands of personal care items.

Two weeks ago, we got three coupon inserts in the mail. It was the first of the month, so I also had about 100 Internet coupons printed. It took almost four hours to finish my couponing. The next week, we got two inserts and I had about 40 printed coupons from Web sites and we finished in just 2½ hours. If I have just one insert and no Internet coupons, it takes about 30 minutes. If I get behind a week in clipping, or if the newspaper has four or five inserts in a single week, then it can take up to five or more hours.

My average is about 2½ hours a week.

If you find yourself with a large number of coupons to cut, it’s not a bad idea to ask for help. When we get swamped with coupons, I ask my husband to help me. He cuts, and I sort and organize. We usually watch TV together while we work.

Once my coupons are cut, I pick at least two ads to match my coupons to, usually one grocery store and one drugstore advertisement. I circle any items that I want to pick up. That usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes per advertisement. I add produce, meat and any other needed items to the list and I’m ready to shop.

If you are just getting started or have already begun couponing, here are the projected newspaper insert schedules for the next several weeks. In the next two Sundays, we should receive two inserts: a Smart Source and a Red Plum.

On Labor Day weekend, there are no regional inserts planned. On Sept. 9, we should receive three inserts: a Red Plum and two Smart Sources.

This list does not include bonus inserts from companies such as General Mills or from PepsiCo.

I know most of us lead hectic and busy lives and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. But no matter how much you have going on, you have to decide whether saving money should be a priority for you and your family. Once you make it a priority, you will find a way to make the time for it.

At Kroger’s recent three-day sale, I used several coupons to get cereal for as low as 67 cents a box and Quaker Lower Sugar Granola Bars for as low as $1.17 a box. It really is worth the time and effort!

Learn the tricks of the trade

Carol Gunter will hold a free Couponing for Beginners class at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at the Kroc Center, 1833 Broad St., Augusta. Sign up for the class at the Kroc Center’s front desk or by calling The Augusta Chronicle at (706) 823-3318.


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