Several weeks ago I discovered that the coupon inserts were missing from my favorite metro-area Sunday paper.
Since our local newspapers only carry a very stripped down version of the coupon inserts (and usually it is only one insert), this was a big deal in my world.
Several phone calls to the newspaper confirmed that my area was no longer scheduled to receive these particular coupon inserts. They told me the decision was at the advertisers’ discretion, and apparently they decided to exclude my rural region.
Even though I was devastated by this, I decided to continue subscribing to the paper. After all, there was news in there. Sometimes.
But then one Sunday, I didn’t get my paper. And I was just so frustrated with the lousy customer service and the lack of coupons, that I cancelled the subscription. Three days after I cancelled my subscription, I got a bill to renew my subscription (which I promptly ripped up). Two days after that I got a form letter saying that the newspaper would no longer have a motor delivery route in my area. That’s right – we went from no coupon inserts to no metro newspaper delivery at all!
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “What’s the big deal? Just go buy the paper at the store!”
Well, the closest store that carries the metro Sunday paper is an 8-mile round-trip. And there is a definite risk that the paper will be sold out when you get there, since they don’t stock many copies. A trip to “town” is 28 miles – which means about $12 in gas round-trip.
So, I am having to make some serious changes to the way I clip coupons. I’m still working the kinks out of my process, and I definitely miss the convenience of getting the coupons delivered to my home in the Sunday paper, but I am here to tell you that I am surviving.
Here’s how I’ve been dealing:
Each week I check out Sunday Coupon Preview. Sunday Coupon Preview tells you what coupon inserts are expected in the Sunday paper along with what coupons are in there. There have been some weeks where I know I won’t really be missing any of the coupons if I don’t get the paper. On weeks where there are a lot of inserts with great coupons, I’ll figure out a way to pick up a copy of the Sunday paper.
I’m printing a lot more coupons. I’m finding that many of these printable coupons are higher value than what I would have found in the Sunday paper anyway. My region has been slow to accept online coupons, but it is improving, and I figure if I just keep gently nudging the stores, they’ll understand I’m using legitimate coupons and that I’m not trying to steal from them.
I’m keeping a watchful eye for coupons in other places. I make sure to clip coupons from magazines. I find coupons tucked in with free samples I’ve received and I check my grocery receipts and product packaging for special offers.
I’m watching the deals on Amazon and Alice.com more closely. Some grocery and household items can be found for better prices at Amazon and Alice than the stores when you factor in the cost of gas. I have to be very careful when ordering from Amazon though… if the package won’t fit in my mailbox, I have to drive 14 miles one way to get my package at the post office. I suppose a subscription to Amazon Prime would eliminate that problem, but I’d have to do the math on that to see if it makes sense. Alice usually uses UPS, so delivery is not a problem to my house.
I’m buying more generic products. I have purchased generic products (especially over-the-counter medications) for years, but now that I have a lot fewer coupons in my stash to work with, it is a simple way for me save money on the things I buy. I still get the store coupons for my local grocery stores in my local newspapers, so I am still clipping those coupons.
The lack of coupons from the Sunday newspaper hasn’t been as much of a tragedy as I had feared. I can tell I’m not all that into extreme couponing, because I haven’t begged any in-town friends to buy the paper for me or gone dumpster diving in town for the inserts.
I also haven’t bought any coupons yet through places like The Coupon Clippers or The Coupon Master. While I would be willing to do that for the right deal, I have so little brand loyalty that it hasn’t been worth the minimum $5 order required.
I’ll still buy a Sunday newspaper at the store if I happen to be in town and there are coupon inserts worth grabbing. But I’m a lot more selective about the purchase than I used to be.
And I still wouldn’t change where I live for a second. Living in a rural area has some positives that far outweigh my ability to get little scraps of paper delivered to my house.
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