I attended a couponing workshop last night in Trumbull, CT, given by Gina Juliano (of Gina’s Kokopelli website). It was a joy to sit in the audience for once so I could relax, concentrate and take notes on what others were asking Gina. It is amazing how much there is to learn about couponing! Here’s what the audience had to say, and here are some answers to the top 10 questions that I also typically get when I give a workshop. I have to say that Gina and I would agree on just about every answer! (By the way, Gina’s website is fun and informative to visit, and it’s sort of like the New England version of Couponmom.com.)
1. “I don’t have the money to stockpile.”
Answer: If you have a budget of $100 a week for groceries, find the best stockpiling deal and use $5 out of your budget for that. For example, if you have four coupons that will get you four boxes of pasta for .50 cents each, by all means, stock up on that item. Don’t just get one of a good deal, get at least four of an item that you know you’ll use. It takes a month or two to get a good stockpile going. It doesn’t happen overnight. And just remember, no hoarding, please ;–)
It may not be pretty or exciting, but here’s our informal coupon exchange table at the Fairfield Woods Branch Library. Everyone is welcome to take what they need or want and they can drop off coupons for anyone else to use, too.
2. “How can I stockpile if I only have a couple of coupons?”
Answer: I am a big believer in easily accessible local coupon exchanges. We have one very informal one at the Fairfield Woods Branch Library for our community. I only buy one paper a week for coupons. I supply loads of free circulars to this exchange that are used by people I don’t know. I refuse to buy more papers and I refuse to buy coupons online, so there you go, that’s how I get my coupons: a coupon exchange.
3. “Is it worth it to drive all over the place to get a few cents off?”
Marilyn’s answer: Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. I take advantage of shopping in Trumbull on Bridgeport Avenue where ShopRite and Stop & Shop are right across the street from one another. And couponing should net you more than just a few cents off one grocery bill! But that’s why you stockpile–and if the stockpiling deal is fantastic, yes, it’s okay to drive a couple of miles out of the way.
4. “Where do I get free coupons to print out online?”
Marilyn’s answer: The very, very short answer is this: for most grocery coupons, go to Coupons.com, and you can visit various manufacturers to print out coupons (like Earthbound Farms, for example). And of course visit Target.com, WholeFoods.com, etc. for their own set of coupons. If you rely only on printouts, you’ll spend a fortune in ink, so make sure to print out black and white and set your printer for draft print/low quality printing. You don’t need pretty color coupons to present at the store! Gina bought herself a $200 monochrome laser printer because in the long run, it’s cheaper to do b&w printouts.
5. “What’s an Extra Buck and where do you find them?”
Marilyn’s answer: Extra Bucks are the “free” money that CVS gives you when you use their loyalty card on purchases, or, buy stuff that gets you Extra Bucks. Extra Bucks is like money and you can find them at the bottom of your CVS receipts. Most people throw them away. Or, they throw them on the ground in the parking lot (I have seen MANY crumpled up Extra Bucks in parking lots. So sad!). For great tutorials on CVS, take a look at I Heart CVS.com. (There’s also a similar website for Walgreen’s and Rite Aid.)
6. “How do I get free stuff?”
Marilyn’s answer: The extremely short answer is this: we work CVS Extra Bucks, we work the online surveys to get Amazon gift cards here and there. It’s an art in itself! There are also loads of other ways to do it (freebie sites) but I don’t use them because it takes too much time to fill out the forms–others love those sites (like Freefly’s.com)
Here’s a new envelope–I fill it with the coupons I clip for that particular store and plop it into my purse. Typically my envelopes are not this pristine! But, it was taken for a PowerPoint slide!
7. “I lose my coupons, I never bring them to the store.”
Marilyn’s answer: If you don’t find a way to organize your coupons, couponing won’t work for you. (And by the way, I lost a valuable coupon in ShopRite in Trumbull just today!!! So upset! So even the pros lose coupons every so often!)
8. “What do you put your coupons in when you bring them to the store–a big book?”
Marilyn’s answer: Gina does the same thing I do: we edit our lists and coupons and bring them to the store in an envelope or small coupon folder. No big, bulky binders for us!
9. “Where do you keep your coupons at home?”
Marilyn’s Answer: Again, Gina and I do pretty much the same thing. I have circulars sitting in my garage organized by date on a shelf. She keeps dated circulars in folders that she also places in hanging files. (I also have a small lunch bag that has some cut coupons organized in small envelopes. I keep that in the car most of the time in case I dip into a store at the spur of the moment.)
10. “Why is “Extreme Couponers”a bad show?”
Marilyn’s Answer: As Gina said, “It’s a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad show!” Yup! Totally agree. I’m stunned it’s still even on the air (but I don’t know if it is cause we reduced cable and no longer get TLC). It’s a scam, unrealistic, makes normal couponers look like leeches. Blech.
Now, no excuses–go get your coupons :–)