Winn Dixie Bummer

Yesterday was kind of a bummer when I did my shopping at my local Winn Dixie Grocery Store.  This store is absolutely my favorite for getting groceries because of the friendly staff and great sales.  Overall, they have been very accepting of my couponing ways, employees on the floor  always happy to go in the back to check for more stock, & cashiers that are patient with the couponing process, putting up with the occasional multiple transactions, and my stacks of coupons.  I cannot complain about how yesterday went down, I guess I just didn’t see it coming.

Winn Dixie has notoriously great BOGO deals in their weekly flyer.  As I’ve said in the past, one of the best ways to stack coupons can be with a BOGO sale because you can legitimately use two coupons even though you’re only paying for one.  It’s a good rule of thumb to double check your stores coupon policy before trying this stack to make sure it’s allowed.  In last weeks sale flyer there was a BOGO sale on Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, regular priced at $3.49 a piece.  I had 13 $1.50 off a twin pack of Magic Erasers coupons. Using 2 coupons for every BOGO pair I would only pay $0.25 for each box of 2 Magic Erasers, which is a 92% savings.  Holy savings, right?!?

I should probably mention that we are a big Magic Eraser using family.  I use them on dishes, countertops, the stovetop, cleaning the fridge, and a bunch of cleaning in the bathroom but the biggest use I’ve had for them has been cleaning up the artwork my youngest has decided to contribute to our house in the form of crayon and marker on my walls.  It doesn’t matter how much I attempt to control writing instruments in my house, or how much I attempt to supervise my son every second of every day…somehow he figures out a way to express his creativity on my walls.  It totally blows my mind how many times he’s gotten in trouble for this, and it hasn’t made an ounce of difference, so needless to say, Magic Erasers are the best way to remove that stuff from a wall, provided your walls aren’t painted with flat paint.  If they are, the Magic Eraser will just remove the paint with the drawing, but if you have flat paint and children, then you made a bad decision from the get go.  So, anyway, the moral of the story is we go through these alot.

So, I when I saw this sale I immediately went onto Ebay and ordered 40 more of those $1.50 off coupons for about $6.  Even if you figure in the cost of the purchased coupons, I’m still saving 88%.  So it was definitely a good deal, either way.  My next stop was to Winn Dixie to buy 13 erasers with the coupons I already had.  When I go there I was kind of disappointed with the number that they had on the shelf.  Usually Winn Dixie is fantastic at ordering enough of their sale items to meet demand.  Although its not good couponing etiquette to “clear a shelf”  there was only a handful to begin with so, special ordering more seemed like a good plan.

I found the grocery manager and special ordered 40 Magic Erasers.  That was at the beginning of the sale.  Well, when I went back to buy them, the manager had ordered the kind that wasn’t on sale, so I was out of luck.  So, I tracked down the store manager to ask them to order them for me again and headed to the front of the store to get a raincheck for the 40.  Surprise!  I was turned down!  I guess there’s a policy that they only write a raincheck for up to 10 items. The manager that just placed the order for me was called to the front and  I was able to explain more about the mistake with the order. I was able to negotiate with him a little and got him to write me 2 rainchecks for 10 each, although he really didn’t want to bend on it.  So I walked away disappointed about missing out on the remaining items, but thankful that the manager was willing to bend a little.

Something that has surprised me about couponing is the disappointment I feel when I miss out on a deal, or when I have to throw out an expired coupon that I never got to use.  I know how silly it sounds, but there is such a rush you get after spending the time to find the coupons, clip and sort them, plan the shopping trip down to the penny, then go to the register to wait in heart pounding anticipation as they ring up your order….and BINGO!  You saved $X!  It reminds me of when someone plays slot machines, they put in their quarter and pull the handle, then wait in anticipation to see if they will win.  Well, as a couponer, I stand at the checkout waiting to see if my calculations were right.  There is also a fear of embarrassment that you made a huge mistake in figuring out the numbers and the total will be more money than you have to spend.  So, like anything else that involves a little risk, coming out on the other end still in one piece has a way of giving you a high.  So, when you see that you’re going to miss out on that, it can be a little disappointing.  The good thing is, all sales will come back around and you’ll get another chance to save a ton of money.

So…with all that said…I missed out on buying 20 Magic Erasers, but it’s ok.  I talked to the manager about a way to prevent this from happening in the future, so now I know a better way to plan ahead.  Ok…enough blogging…I have a wall to scrub!

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Free Couponing EBook

There is a fantastic ebook that you can turn to for a quick, how to advice about couponing that was created by Mercedes from the Common Sense With Money blog.  I wish I found this resource in the beginning, it would’ve saved me a bunch of time in research.  You want to know the best thing about this ebook??  It’s free! Just go to the following link to download:

Free Extreme Couponing 101 EBook

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Field trip to the recycle center, aka dumpster diving

Just the words “Dumpster Diving” cause me to cringe.  When I think of jumping in a dumpster I think of being homeless or crazy freegans who eat bagels out of the panera dumpster.  That kind of dumpster diving is not what I’m talking about.  Actually, I’m not even referring to your average trash holding, stink infested dumpster.  I am talking about newspaper recycling bins.  I call them recycle bins just to make myself feel better, but the truth is, they really are huge dumpsters. The difference is, they only hold newspapers, and are generally very clean.

I started visiting my local recycling center on a weekly basis after seeing Joanie (aka The Krazy Coupon Lady, one of my favorite blogs) from TLC’s Extreme Couponing  getting in a dumpster to collect coupon inserts from discarded newspapers, with her kids no less.  You can check it out on YouTube if you missed her segment on the show.

If you want to try this extreme way to get some more coupons, there’s a few things to remember:

  • Do not get inside the dumpster.  Although Joanie in the video above got inside the dumpster, this is against the law in many cases, it is dangerous, and you’ll probably ruin it for the rest of us.  So don’t do it.  Joanie only did this because the show’s producers asked her to, to make the segment more dramatic and “extreme”.
  • Ask, then bribe.  Yes, I said bribe!  lol!  There’s almost always someone who is responsible for supervising the bins at the recycle center.  It’s a really good idea to ask this person if it’s ok that you reach in the bin to get inserts.  Its also a really good idea to sweeten the deal so they start to see you as a friendly face instead of someone who is disrupting the flow of things.  Here’s a great example, the other day it was 95 degrees here in Florida, so when I went to the center to pull some inserts, I brought the grizzly, old recycling center guy a big, ice cold bottle of water.  Now I have a friend for life.  I have to give my dad credit for teaching me this trick.
  • Leave the kids at home.  They get antsy, irritated and will probably drive you crazy.  If you must take the kids, it helps to give them a job so they stay occupied while you’re digging.
  • Lay low.  My goal when I’m at the center is to not disrupt the recycle guy in any way, because I don’t want him to get irritated and change his mind about allowing me to pick. I also don’t want to make it difficult for people to dump their newspapers in the bin.  They should not be interrupted by anyone digging for coupons.  The newspaper bin at my center is one of those huge, 20 foot trailers that is about 10 feet high.  It has multiple “windows” in the sides that can be opened or closed.  My center keeps a few open to allow for the coupon ladies to dig, and residents to still be able to dump their newspapers.  If your center had a trailer like mine, and they only have one window open, now might be a good time to make your case to the recycling attendant about opening 2 windows instead, to allow for dumping, and picking.
  • If you don’t recycle already, this is a great time to start.  Bring your recyclables already separated, including all your used newspapers from the previous week with you when you come to pick.  I have reduced my household trash by about half since I started dumpster diving.  That means I’m paying for half as many trash bags!  Cha-ching!
  • After you’ve thoroughly bribed your recycle guy, ask him when the newspaper bin gets emptied.  This will let you know when you should come to dig.  You want to make sure you give people a change to get their papers to the center & so the level of papers in the bin will be high enough that you can reach them.  At my center, the bin gets dumped on Sunday, so I usually find that picking for inserts on Wednesday or Friday tends to work out best for me.
  • Bring something to put the inserts in as you find them.  I made the mistake the first time I went to just stack the inserts on the ground next to me as I pulled them out of the bin.  That was a great idea until the wind picked up and took the inserts with it.  That wasn’t the best example of laying low.

I never thought in a million years I’d be digging through a dumpster.  But when I’m able to walk away from a 10 minute trip to the recycle center with $100 plus worth of coupons, it’s worth it.  It’s those multiples of the same coupon that allows me to purchase a larger amount of a product that is on sale.

I do have to put this in there as a disclaimer.  It is a good idea to double check on your state and local laws about dumpster diving before you start.  If you choose to pick, you do so at your own risk.  So be smart and use common sense.  This is another reason its a good idea to ask the recycle guy before you start, even if you have seen other couponers doing it at your center.  If you haven’t personally asked, then you don’t personally have permission.

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How many papers to buy?

I’ve been a little M.I.A. lately because we have been preparing to move into a new house and it took me alot of time and energy to find a place.  It seemed like every house that we looked at, whether online or in person, had something that took it out of the running.  Truth be told, hubby is a little more picky when it comes to choosing a rental, so I do alot of looking, he does alot of saying no.  Nothing makes us argue like trying to find a place to live…well maybe money.  So, although I took a short hiatus from blogging, I haven’t taken a break from couponing.  I decided to mix a little “How to” into my blog posts, so anyone who is hoping to learn couponing the way I have, will have an idea how I did it!

So…I’ve been at it for a little over a month now, and I am really getting this thing down!  I have definitely learned some things by making mistakes, things that the blogs I’ve read never told me.  One of those things has to do with the number of newspapers I bought to get my supply of inserts.  Purchasing newspapers is just one of the many ways you can get your hands on inserts every week, but I’ll focus on just this one for now.

How Many Papers Should I Buy?

I had mentioned in a previous post that you should buy one paper per person in your family.  Well, I’ve now learned from experience that maybe that’s not the best rule of thumb.

The grocery stores I shop, Publix and Winn Dixie, have great Buy One Get One sales every week, and alot of my savings comes from matching those sales with coupons.  Alot of people don’t know that you can use a coupon for each item in the BOGO deal, even though one of the items is technically free.  What they do is take the amount of both coupons off the one item that you’re paying for.  What I discovered by buying 5 papers, is that having an odd number of each coupon means that I’ll miss out on one BOGO deal, and I end up with one extra coupon left over.

So, If you have an odd number in your family, add one extra paper to your weekly buy, that way you can take advantage of every BOGO sale to your fullest potential!

Sunday Papers, Cheap!

I had seen on TLC’s “Extreme Couponing”, one of the ladies gets inserts from the newspaper manager every week.  After all the newspapers are stuffed with inserts every week, there are usually left overs that the office just recycles.  So, I went on the newspaper website for  Ocala Star Banner and looked for their contact info.  Some newspapers will list the email addresses for each of the departments, others like the Ocala paper only had the one subscription inquiry email address listed.  So I sent an email through that one email address asking what happens with the inserts and if I could have them, even if its for a small fee.  The next day I got a personal email from the circulation manager:

Ms Boys,

Per the advertising agreement/contract with our coupon booklet providers we must destroy all unused coupon booklets and do so each week.

If you are interested in obtaining multiple copies the best we could do is sell you multiple Sunday only home delivery subscriptions at half price. Your cost would be sixty cents per issue.

Bill Hayter
Circulation Manager
Ocala Star Banner

So, although I wasn’t able to just go and get a stack of inserts, all I had to do was ask and now I am able to get a subscription discounted by $0.90 each paper!  The moral of the story is, you’d be amazed what you can get if you just ask!

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Bring on the newspapers!

Filling my binder with coupons took some work.  The first thing I had to figure out was how I was going to get the coupons.  The average person has a newspaper subscription or goes to the store & buys a newspaper, maybe clips 1/4 of the coupons, then recycles it.  Me?  I’m not very average and if I was going to prove to hubby that I can do this I needed to step it up and get a better plan.  You should’ve seen the looks I was getting as I walked to the register with a stack of newspapers up to my chin.  It was kind of funny actually.

I walked into my house with all these newspapers and again hubby gave me the eye because I’m spending more money…and I had yet to save a dime!  Ya know that saying, you have to spend money to make money…yeah, he didn’t want to hear it.  So I shook off all his negative vibes and got started with sorting the stack of papers.

I layed out each paper on my kitchen table and pulled out the entire stack of glossies that are in the center of the paper.  I call the bunch of sales fliers that comes in the paper, glossies because they’re made of that nice, slick paper.  I pulled all the glossies instead of just the coupons because I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any of the sales fliers.  Plus, it’s easier to sort when they’re separated from the rest of the paper, which I quickly threw in the recycle bin.  So, once all the glossies were separated from the newsprint I was able to pull the sales fliers that I wanted to focus on, and the coupon inserts.  The fliers that are keepers are:

  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Dollar General

Then put the different inserts into piles according to type. You should have any combo of the following three:

  • Redplum
  • Smartsource
  • P&G (or other promotional insert)

I only needed one of each of the store sale fliers, so I throw the rest in the recycle bin, and I got to organizing the coupon inserts.  What I found out from The Sunday Coupon Preview website is that not every insert is in the paper each week.  This site has a schedule for the entire year to let you know what inserts will be in the paper every Sunday.  It’s also a good source of what coupons will be in each insert.  What I learned pretty quick after taking a look at the coupon matchups online is that the coupons in the inserts can vary by state or region, so sometimes you can’t get a certain coupon by buying the paper, and the prices  for products varies by region as well.

The papers that I bought had a Smartsource and Redplum insert.  So I made a stack of each, then grabbed the Smartsource inserts and started to break them down into stacks of like coupons.  So, for example I stacked all the page 1’s from all 5 Smartsource inserts, then page 2’s, and so on.   Stacking them together allowed me to clip a number of coupons at once and this little trick ultimately saved me a bunch of time.  I got so frustrated pretty quick because when I started clipping, somehow just the mechanics of the scissors caused the pages on the bottom to shift and I ended up cutting part of the bottom coupons off.  Grrrrr!  But I learned a little trick from one of my fav blogs (I can’t remember which one it was, but I owe her a HUGE thanks).  First, rip (or cut) down the center of the sheets that have a spread layout (two pages together) then, if you staple the like insert pages with a few staples, it keeps them from shifting while you clip.  So, by the time I got to the RedPlum inserts, I was clipping like a pro.  Ok, so maybe I wasn’t clipping like a pro, but I was faking it pretty good.  The kids were all kinds of impressed!  lol!

So by the time I had clipped 5 papers and 2 inserts worth of coupons I had a stack of coupons that was about 3 inches high!  It was like I had a stack of money sitting in front of me!  These little pieces of paper represented money that I didn’t have to spend on groceries.  At this point I was already over an hour into the process and I was sick of seeing coupons, so I left the stack and planned to separate and file them all later.

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Getting Organized

Getting myself organized was definitely a priority because if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.  I have always been kind of an all or nothing girl, so yea, I needed a plan.  Now, how to do it right varies depending on which source you talk to.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess.  So, there are a few different methods for organizing your coupons.  Here are some of the most popular:

This is probably the cheapest method out there, aside from using plain paper envelopes, and it’s the one my mom used to use when we’d go grocery shopping.  She was a phenomenal saver, and although this method worked for her, I think if she knew of a better way to do it, she would’ve jumped on it.  This method may be good for the beginner couponer, but I’m thinking much bigger.  From what I’ve read, it seems that most women that get serious about couponing grow out of their little organizer pretty quickly.  So, I think it’s better to spend a little more up front to get a more substantial organizing method than to have to replace your method a few weeks in.  So, I’m going to pass on my mom’s organizer (although this one pictured is super cute).

This method can be equally inexpensive to start, and is kind of the next step up from the organizer.  This method allows you to have many more coupons in your arsenal, and also allows you to get more specific about your categories.  You can also personalize your categories how ever you want, including categories for store coupons and restaurants.  The thing about this option is if you wanted to bring the box with you to the store, it can be kind of bulky and awkward.  Most ladies that use this method pull the coupons they need before they go shopping and keep the box at home.  However, it can be helpful to bring all your coupons to the store because many retailers will have clearance and unadvertised sales that you may have a coupon for.  If you left your stash at home, you’ll be kicking yourself.

Since I plan on making this couponing thing a way of life, I wanted to pick a method that would not need to be upgraded over time, and would sustain a large amount of coupons, so the binder method seemed like the one for me!

The binder should have a zipper that closes the entire way around the outside to prevent all your coupons from falling out if you dropped it, and be thick enough to hold a bunch of inserts, dividers, and any other couponing stuff you want to have on hand.

I bought this Five Star XPANZ 2 inch binder at Walmart for around $20.  In hindsight I totally overpaid, but I wanted to just get what I needed, and I didn’t want to wait. There’s that impulsive shopper coming through.  But, it is what it is.  After I did a little research online, it looks like I could’ve gotten one of these same binders on ebay for about $5.  Oh well, lesson learned.  While I was at WalMart I also picked up clear plastic baseball card organizer sheets that had 9 little pockets, 2 packages of 30.  They were a few bucks a piece, and are located on the other side of the register where they sell cigarettes, usually in the middle of the line of registers.  Oh, and I got 2 packages of 9 tabbed dividers that have a pocket in each of them.   I figured the pocket could come in handy for miscellaneous coupons, or if I don’t have time to put each coupon in it’s place, I can still put them with the category they belong in.  I went with the more expensive plastic ones over the cardstock ones for a buck because I wanted these things to last.  So my attempt to save money with couponing started with a $35 investment.  Hubby just looooved that.

One of the problems I have with spending too much money comes from my love of all things pretty.  I know how stupid that sounds, but I am such a sucker for a beautifully designed bottle of shampoo, a bottle of disinfectant that happens to be purple, etc.  Lets just say that walking into Target gets me giddy just because its all organized according to pretty colors and trendy patterns… oooh…Target really does it for me.  lol.  no really.

So when I saw this coupon  binder/bag I almost lost my mind, especially because I found this binder AFTER I bought all my (not as pretty) binder stuff.  The photo is of a coupon binder sold by Coupon Clutch and retails on their website for $29.95.  They sell the binders all set with everything you need in them.  All your dividers, inserts, everything.  They also sell all the components on their own so you can do it yourself, if you are so inclined.  When I was looking around their site I saw that they also sell the plastic inserts, like the baseball card holders, but they have several different configurations of the slots, which I would imagine would be really helpful for all the different sizes of coupons that are out there.  Especially the online printable coupons that are really long.  Their inserts are $3.95 for a package of 10.

So, I have what I need to get started. So now I just need coupons…

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I have to learn a whole new language!

I had no idea that couponing would mean that I’d have to learn a whole new language, but it took me visiting one couponing blog just one time to realize that I better learn the lingo or I’m never going to figure this stuff out.

The language I’m talking about is the commonly accepted abbreviations for all things coupon.  Throughout my blog I’ll be using these abbreviations here and there, so here is the list.

ECB = Extra Care Buck.

RR = Walgreens Register Rewards

WYB = When you Buy

BOGO = Buy one Get one free

BOG50% = Buy one Get one 50% off

FAR = Free After Rebate

IP = Internet Printable Coupon

IVC = Instant Value Coupon at Walgreens. Walgreens store coupon.

MIR = Mail In Rebate

SCR: Single Check Rebate

OYNO = On Your Next Order

OOP = Out of Pocket.

RP = Red Plum insert

SS = Smartsource insert

P&G = Procter and Gamble insert

Peelie= Coupon that is attached to the product itself.  May be used right away, or saved for a future shop.

Blinkie= These are the small machines that are sticking out from grocery shelves at random locations throughout most grocery stores that dispense coupons one at a time.  They sometimes have a little red light that blinks, hence the name blinkie.

CAT = A  cat is a catalina coupon that prints at check out.  It can be for $$ off a certain product or for $$ off your next order.

Matchups or Stacking= When an item is on sale, and you use a coupon for that item which results in even more savings.

Stockpile= Where you store your stocked up products until the next time those products go one sale at their rock bottom price

You can find this list in my FAQ’s for future reference.

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