"Where do you get your coupons?"
A woman at Target asked me that today as she watched me check out. I had the handful of coupons in the photo above, minus the ones for Boost Nutritional Drinks, since they were out of stock. Before I handed over the coupons, my total was $98.80. After coupons, I paid $67.08 and got a $10 gift card to use later.
I gave her the answer I usually give, which is that I get them from a lot of places, and then I gave her the names of a few blogs. In truth, I find coupons four ways: through blogs, given at the register, in the newspaper, and in the mail. It's very easy to get consumed by couponing, spending hours per week scouring the Internet for deals. It's also very easy to spend more than you intended because "it's a deal."
For me, the keys are simple:
- Don't buy something you won't use, even if it's free. Others will disagree, but this works for my family.
- Know the best prices. I keep a simple price book in Google Documents, noting the best sales and where I found them. This is very handy for staples such as milk, eggs, and meat.
- Stay out of the shops. Shopping more than a few times a week (and without a list!) will drive up your spending.
How do you get started? First things first. Create a junk email account. Use this for all your deals and sign-ups. This will allow you to read your deals without cluttering up your personal account. It will also keep the spam down on your personal account. When you start signing up with various rewards programs, use this email address. Do not give your full name. Use a nickname or your first initial. Then you'll easily spot mail which came from your deals.
Which blogs should you read? That depends on where you live and where you shop. I've shared a good starting list through Google Reader and will add to it as I find new resources.
Personally, I only look at a few deal/coupon blogs two or three times a day. I also only buy one newspaper. I don't have time to clip more coupons than that. If you need more copies of something, you can use a site like Coupon Clippers. I also trade coupons with friends. And when I end up with extras or I clip something I don't end up using, I sometimes hand these over to other shoppers in stores.