I’ve got a stack of coupon inserts from the past two weeks that I haven’t really looked at yet. My favorite coupon sources also have new coupons for me to print. It sounds like a lot of work to clip and organize my coupons – but really it isn’t. I’ve figured out a system for clipping and it only takes me an hour or so in front of the TV to get the task done and plan my shopping list.
I currently use a combination of methods to clip and organize my coupons. I print coupons I believe I will use and cut them out and file them in my small accordion coupon file. I also file coupons I find on products, in magazines, or ones that I get with free samples in my little accordion file. When it comes to the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper, I clip the ones I’m most likely to use, and file the rest of the inserts in a large file holder by date. If a really great deal pops up, I can use the coupon database to find the coupons in the inserts I’ve filed.
I’ve grown comfortable with my system, and it seems to work well as long as I purge the expired coupons regularly. I’ve also grown comfortable with determining which coupons to clip and which to file.
How to decide if a coupon is worth clipping
Coupon clipping doesn’t have to take much time if you know what you’re looking for. I clip or print according to the following criteria:
The coupon is for a product you are likely to purchase. My family loves cold cereal. I clip just about every cereal coupon I find except for cereals that are one giant sugar bomb or the consistency of hamster pellets (as my husband describes them). I clip coupons for products we use regularly – like shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper, and coffee. And I clip coupons for the very select items for which we still have brand loyalty.
The coupon is for a product that rarely has coupons. It can be a challenge to find coupons for some items like fruit, vegetables or organic products, so if I see a coupon them, I will be sure to print or clip it. Even if you don’t use the particular product, it can be good to have a rare coupon on hand if you swap coupons with friends.
The coupon doesn’t specify a size. Coupons that don’t exclude trial sizes or specify a particular size or variety of product (i.e. “save $.50 on any xyz product”) are especially useful when shopping. You can often use these coupons to pick up free products or get smaller-sized packages for nearly free.
The coupon is a high value coupon. I almost always clip coupons with high values. These high value coupons can really trim your household budget, especially if the coupon doesn’t specify a size.
The coupon is a store coupon. Store coupons are great because they can be stacked with manufacturer coupons for even greater savings. And sometimes stores offer coupons for items that you wouldn’t normally find manufacturer coupons for, such as fresh produce, clothing or toys.
The coupon has an expiration date that is far into the future. I almost always clip a coupon if the expiration date is a long way out. Why? Because the likelihood that there will be a great sale on the product before the coupon expires is high. Sometimes the product has just come on the market and isn’t available locally just yet. By exercising a little bit of patience, I can usually use that coupon to get a good deal when it is available in my area.
The coupon is a legitimate coupon that will be accepted at local stores. A coupon that seems too good to be true, probably is. Legitimate coupons should always have an expiration date, a bar code or digital code of some kind. Many printable coupons have watermarks on them as well. Be wary of coupon sites that allow you to print as many copies of a single coupon as you want, as it may not be a valid coupon. Most coupon sites allow you to print one or two copies of a single coupon. You can check the Coupon Information Corporation for more information on how to determine if a coupon is real. You can also check their list of counterfeit coupons to determine if your coupon is legit.
I’ve also become familiar with the types of coupons my local stores will accept, and so I no longer bother clipping ones I know store clerks will give me a hard time for using.
Once you figure out a system that works for you, coupon clipping is easy.
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Now it’s your turn: How do you decide what coupons to clip?