2. Meal Planning
3. Coupon Cutting
So now you have a pile of coupons and nowhere to put them. Well...this is where THE BINDER comes in (did you hear the heavenly music that was just playing?). That's right, it's that fantastic.
If you've seen the Krazy Coupon Lady's website or watched TLC's Extreme Couponing then you see that those hardcore couponers all have big fatty binders they carry around full of their coupons. I will admit, when I first saw them I thought that this was crazy. But I quickly learned that it is something of a necessity. Now...that being said, I don't have binders as big as theirs and I do my system a little bit differently (let's remember - I'm a lazy couponer).
On our first couponing trip I tried to just put my coupons in an envelope, sorted by department. This was a disaster. I still found everything, but it took WAY too long. If I hadn't changed things after that trip I don't think we would still be doing this. I'm pretty sure my family would've either mutinied or had to commit me.
Most binders shown are just full of coupons sorted into baseball card holders. While this is a good idea, it's just not OCD enough for me I guess.
Creating my binder gave me the chance to BE CRAFTY! Yay! Get out the scrapbook supplies baby!
I have built my coupon binder so that I have things divided by department and/or aisle (based on my store). Each section has a space for coupons as well as the list for that department.
I went through a couple of versions before I got the list to be fully functional. I will admit, it's still not perfect, but I know where things are now so it totally works. I've cut a lot of time off of the envelope trials.
I busted out my handy dandy Stampin' Up tag punch (it's one of my favorites) and created some label tabs on my printer. I adhered them to clear sheet protectors using my Xyron. These tabs used to be in a nice even order down the side of the binder, but after a few revisions, they're now a little off-kilter. I tried to move them, but that Xyron adhesive is not kidding around when it says permanent.
Then I took the poly pockets that got ordered in the wrong size at my office and adhered two of them to the back of every section's page protector. These would hold my coupons. I love them.
In designing my binder, I didn't just want a pile of coupons in each section. Sure, I'd be able to find my coupons easier, but what's the point of buying something with a coupon if it's at a higher than average price? I'm out to save as much as possible without making it difficult on myself. So I created a set of spreadsheets that allow me to track the best prices. I don't use a coupon unless the product is priced at, below or very near my lowest recorded price.
You probably already know this, but let me clue you in...the stores lie to you. Their ad may say that this week's price on hamburger is the lowest of the season, but that's not necessarily true. For example, a couple of weeks ago my store was having their annual anniversary sale. Everything was supposed to be at it's lowest price. Bologna (or is it boloney? I admit I always hear the Oscar Meyer song in my head. But I digress). I am currently in need of restocking my ground beef so I thought this would be the perfect time. Ha! The current price on ground beef (80% lean for those curious) was at $3.97/lb. WHAT?!?! In January I purchased the same beef for $1.89/lb. No way I'm spending more that $2/lb more. Don't trust the store. Watch for yourself.
Each item list page is in alphabetical order and has three separate sections for listing my coupons. This lets me use each sheet of paper for 3 trips. It saves me time (I just transfer over the unused coupons) and it saves paper. Look at that, useful and green.
The column next to each item shows the best price I've purchased that item at. For some items I have also included the lowest price after coupon. (e.g. $1.99/$1.49 - This would mean that $1.99 was the lowest shelf price and $1.49 was the price I paid after the coupon.)
The two columns are used to track how many of an item I need to buy (based on the meal planning and inventory I completed earlier) and what coupons I have available.
I sort each section's coupons by item and write them down in my little code. It's really not that fancy. $0.50 means I have a $0.50 off coupon. BYG1 means buy one get one free. $0.50(2) means get $0.50 off when you buy 2 and $0.50x3 means that I have three of the same coupon for $0.50 off that particular item.
One last step and the binder is ready for the store. Highlighting. Yay for adult coloring!
The yellow highlight is something that I need to buy for the next couple of weeks' planned meals. If the price of that item is close to lowest then I'll buy it. If it's crazy out of whack then I'll wait and readjust my meal plan when I get home.
The pink highlight tells me that the coupon is going to expire before my next planned trip. So again, if the price of that item isn't necessarily at it's lowest, but close enough...I get it. That is, unless I have a pile of coupons for the same thing that will still be good next time.
I move through each category and get things assembled. If it's the first run on that sheet then everything gets typed into the spreadsheet and printed. If it's the second or third run then I just write it in with a pen.
After that, I'm ready to hit the aisles!