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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Where to Get Your Coupons

(NOTE: I'll be adding to this post as I discover more sources)

Okay, so you want to give this crazy couponing thing a try? The first thing you'll need to do is start accumulating a stockpile of coupons. Where to even BEGIN?

1. Your Local METRO Sunday Newspaper. This will probably be the easiest and most accessible way for you to start collecting coupons on a regular basis. Notice that I recommend getting your nearest METROPOLITAN newspaper; that means buy the "biggest" paper you can for your area. The sad truth is that the larger cities get the best coupon inserts and usually the most "regional" versions of coupons as well. So, where Atlanta's major paper will get a coupon for an item that's $2 off 1, we "small-townfolk" here in Knoxville will only get the $1 off version for that same item. Or no coupon at all (there's an Angel Soft coupon I'm STILL peeved about missing). It may not sound like a lot, but it can mean the difference between FREE or not free items.

  • You can go buy it every week. But once you really get into this, you'll find that that gets pricey. And if you're busy like me you may miss an opportunity to snag a paper.
  • You can have it delivered. This is the option I finally chose. Jennifer @ CouponMommie had actually posted about a great website for discounted newspapers right about when I was hunting for a deal on a new subscriber package, so it worked out PERFECTLY. I'm currently subscribed to the Knoxville News Sentinal's weekend package for $1.40/week (that alone is worth the $2 Sunday paper). After my 6 month term is up, it will increase to $2.80/week but that still saves me time and gas.

Each Sunday paper will contain anywhere from 1-5 coupon inserts, depending on the schedule, and will come from SmartSource, RedPlum, or P&G (Proctor and Gamble). On holiday weekends, there may be NO inserts. Go here to see the most current schedule of inserts (thanks Jenny @ SouthernSavers!); this can change according to what the companies feel like doing but it has seemed pretty accurate to me.

Many coupon queens out there recommend subscribing to 5-10 different newspapers to get the maximum amount of multiples. I'm personally not there yet, nor am I sure if I ever will be. Plus I just prefer more local options like...

2. Your friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else you're willing to grovel to for extra coupon inserts. Just kidding about the grovelling (well, depending on who you're asking)! But, seriously, consider that there are probably tons of people you know who get the paper and just toss it away, coupons and all. Go ahead and ask if they'll save the inserts for you. My mom is a pretty reliable source and she also does a bit of collecting on my behalf.

Remember, I said ASK. Do not just casually snag the paper out of your neighbor's driveway just because it's 1pm on Sunday and they haven't retrieved it yet. People (me) are entitled to sleep late one day on the weekends and that's the whole point of having the paper delivered: knowing it'll be there whenever you choose to get up and get it. :-)

3. Extra EXTRA inserts. I haven't tried any of these methods but I have HEARD of...

  • Checking your local breakfast haunts like McDonalds or coffee shops. They often keep a couple of complimentary papers on hand OR customers bring theirs to read, then leave it for others. (Okay, this I have done before, but mostly just by happy accident)
  • Striking up a deal with your local newspaper seller. If you've got a good relationship with the gas station on the corner, ask if you can have the coupon inserts from the papers they don't sell.
  • "Dumpster Diving" at the recycling center. I'm not too sure about this one, but if you have a local recycling center, you COULD see if they'd let you go through the bins of papers that get dropped off and snag coupon inserts. Honestly, this seems to be for the truly "committed"... and I mean that in every sense of the word!

4. Buying/Trading coupons. In the case that you know a REALLY good deal is coming up that you'd like to stock up on OR if you miss out on a coupon that your local paper didn't have, there are plenty of people happy to get you what you need.

  • The Coupon Clippers seems like a great website run by some great people that do ALL the work of clipping for you. You can search their extensive database by keyword or alphabetically, buy the coupons you want in the quantity you need and they'll send them to your doorstep, often that same week if you order by their indicated deadlines. They charge a very small administrative/handling fee for each coupon and there is a $3.00 minimum.
  • Coupons & Things by Dede is a site I've actually used and I was really happy with their service. They sell clipped coupons but also have WHOLE inserts for those back-weeks you want to purchase if you're just getting started, or if you need extras... or for when you're still buying the paper and miss a week (hence my deciding to just flipping subscribe already). Their handling fees for the whole inserts are VERY reasonable. I think I ordered 5 of them and paid $6 including postage.
  • ThriftyFun.com is a site I signed up for when I was in desperate need of coupons for food for a Petros-style buffet that I was helping to put together for a local benefit event. I didn't expect much from it but was surprised! It's basically a standard message board forum but they have a section where you can post requests for coupon trades. I'm guessing that the more flexible you can be in what you have to trade (or are looking for), the more luck you'll have. I ended up getting a reply in just 1 day from a nice woman who traded me coups for sour cream and salsa in exchange for Betty Crocker Box Top cutouts (which I don't use). We just swapped addresses and paid for a stamp apiece. Easy!

5. All You Magazine. This is a GREAT magazine available only at Walmart and containing upwards of $75 in coupons each month (sometimes less, but often MORE). The new issue is available at the beginning of the month, but if you're a subscriber you'll get it early as with other magazines. See my post here for details. You can also get a great subscription rate for TWO years through Jenny at Southern Savers HERE.

6. Local home mailers/Junk mail. This is a new discovery for me: don't just TOSS those packets of local restaurant and service ads that come every week or so! I used to throw them out before I even walked into the house (except the Papa Johns flyer on the front). Not anymore! They've been an increasingly good source of high-$ coupons for all kinds of items, from toothpaste to groceries. Sometimes there's 6, sometimes 1, or none, but keep your eyes peeled anyway.

7. The stuff you already buy! You probably know this already but save the coupons from the things you buy. Many products will have a coupon included in whatever "Tips" or "Recipe" booklet that's buried at the bottom of the box. Sometimes products will advertise a coupon or other type of rebate inside, others won't. Keep an eye out for those little surprises.

Other products will come with what are known as "Peelies" on the box. These are coupons that are meant to be used for that product right then and there, but you don't have to. I've bought groceries that came with a peelie but I had a better coupon in hand already; so I just "peeled" it off and pocketed it for next time. It's still good to use so long as it has a valid bar code and expiration date. NOTE: I do not recommend just grabbing peelies off of products if you don't intend to buy them. In my book that's "stealing" at worst, and just plain dishonest and shady at best.

8. INTERNET coupons. I didn't leave this for last because it's the least method... there are just SOOO many sources for IPs (Internet Printables)! A few of my favorites with the least amount of spammage/annoying flashing ads...

You'll find that the first 4 links will often have similar coupons available, which is actually great because you can then print multiple sets of your favorites. Oftentimes any given IP will limit you to a maximum of 2-3 prints from any one computer. This is to try to have SOME kind of reasonable limit on the amount of coupons that a manufacturer will have to reimburse the stores for. However, you can go to the various websites and print them like you're printing for the first time.

GrocerySmarts.com is a pretty NEAT website because it not only links you to coupon-collecting sites like the ones above, but it ALSO gathers all the web addresses of individual manufacturer sites. This can be time-consuming b/c you'll have to visit each product site, check for promotions, and often register to access the coupon(s). But it's worth it to get coupons that aren't always readily available!

NOTE: If you see coupons for items you regularly buy or MIGHT consider buying on the right sale, print them right away. Try not to wait until that week's sale ad is posted, b/c although sites like Southern Savers do their best to only post up-to-date and available coupon links... when EVERYone knows that item is a steal that week... EVERYone will try to print those coupons... when the print limit is reached (yep, there's also an overALL maximum limit) they're gone.

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