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Holidays mean it's time to get organized

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I can’t believe we will be celebrating Christmas in just a little over seven weeks. If you are trying to save up for Christmas, this is a great time to start collecting coupons. Over the next few weeks, the number of food coupons will increase as baking season begins. So, let’s go over the basics of starting a coupon book.

First of all, you need to figure out how many inserts you need for stockpiling. Savvy or extreme couponing requires more than one newspaper to work. It is impossible to get the big discounts without access to multiple coupons. I suggest at least one insert per household member. You can either get a Sunday-only multiple copy subscription or purchase copies each Sunday in stores.

You can also collect coupons from magazines, product Web sites, Internet coupon sites such as Coupons.com, and Facebook.

There are many coupons and free items to be found on Facebook. A couponer can score free samples, giveaways and coupons by checking out both product Facebook pages and manufacturer Web sites. Finding access to these exclusive, high-value coupons provides an even better chance of scoring the steepest discounts during sales.

Once you have coupons gathered, you need to build and organize a coupon book. The binder method requires a binder, baseball card pages and dividers. I divide my coupons into categories, such as Beverages and Canned Goods, but you can organize it in any method that seems logical to you. The goal is to find what you need quickly. Each week, I clip coupons for items I use and put them into their proper categories.

Once your binder is ready, you are ready to shop. I usually pick one grocery store and one drugstore to get deals each week. At a minimum, you need your coupons and your store’s advertising circular (sales ad). There are coupon match-up sites to help you find the deals, but I prefer to take the sales ad and circle the best deals when I find a coupon I can match with it.

Recently, several stores have changed their coupon polices. Publix and Bi-Lo double coupon values to 50 and 60 cents, respectively, and both take competitor store coupons. Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger and Food Lion take coupons at face value only. Aldi’s, Sam’s and Costco do not accept manufacturer’s coupons.

If you can get a copy of your store’s coupon policy, print it out and put it in your binder or filing method. Most stores’ coupon policies are available online. In the rare case of a dispute, having a coupon policy on hand can ensure the manager and you are on the same page. It has helped me to clear up confusion on coupon limits and the type of coupons that a store will accept. If you find a store not complying with the coupon policy, then call its consumer affairs hotline. You can request the number at the store or find it on the Web site.

Have everything ready to go to make your checkout process go as fast as possible. Remember, scanning those coupons does take time, so try to check out when there aren’t a lot of people in the line. To keep up with what coupons I need for checkout, I put the ones I am using into a pencil pouch as I put each item into my cart, keeping everything together and ready to hand to the cashier.

I hope this helps you shop smarter!


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