One area of frustration for couponers, especially people new to couponing, is how to handle all their coupons when shopping. I remember when I first started couponing, I would spend time looking for coupons I would use, cut them out, sort them, but once in the store I became overwhelmed trying to match up the right coupon with the right product. More than once, I left without redeeming any of my great coupons. Sound familiar?
Get Organized Before You Go
The trick to not letting this happen is to get yourself organized before you go shopping. To do this, you will want to make a list of the items you plan on buying. If there is a coupon that you can apply to an item on your list, mark it on your list as such and pull the coupon to the side. Once you have completed your list, you can organize the coupons that you are planning on redeeming.
How you decide on organizing the coupons is up to you. I like to organize them by category. You use the broad categories listed on the Category Labeling List.
Some people prefer to do it alphabetically or by aisles (frozen aisle, dairy aisle). I always suggest for people to try different ways until they find the one that works best.
You will want an additional empty envelope to put the coupons that you found the qualifying products for as you shop.
If you like to bring all of your coupons with you in case you see a good deal, it is still a good idea to separate out the coupons that you know you want to use as mentioned above. You can either file them in the front of your coupon binder of file box, or keep them in an envelope.
You can also leave the bulk of your coupons in your car when you shop. If you see something that you think you have a coupon for you can always go and get it from the car. It is far easier to fetch a few coupons from the car, than try to filter through all of them and physically deal with the box or binder while shopping.
Shopping at Multiple Stores
If you plan to go to more than one store, make a list for each store and separate out your coupons by store. This is particularly helpful to do when shopping at drugstores because most couponers know exactly what products they will be hunting for before they get to the store.
If the stores have reward cards, make certain that you have the cards with you and in an easy place to get to. It will just be one last thing to fumble around to find if you put them in a designated place.
It is a good idea when trying to master the balancing act of shopping with coupons, to try to do it with as few distractions as possible. This includes leaving the kids at home or shopping while they are in school. In addition, shopping at "off" hours may increase your ability to concentrate on the task.
There are times when you may need to make a note to remind yourself of a potential savings as you shop. For example, you see where you could earn a $10 store credit if you buy "X" amount of products by a specific manufacturer. If the products that qualify for the offer are spread around the store, you might forget exactly which items that you need. It also helps in case the promotion does not ring up properly. If you have a note of what the promotion stated it could save you time at when checking out.
It is important to pull the expired coupons
out of your file on a regular basis. If you do it regularly, it is a much easier task than if you do it haphazardly.
Trial and Error
All couponers have their favorite system and none of us does it the same way. There is not a right or wrong way to get set to go shopping with coupons, but there are shortcuts. By trying some of the tips outlined above you may find using coupons is a lot less frustrating, and you will save more money.