Let me start off by saying that I am far from a Coupon Expert or an “Extreme Couponer”. I have taken a class taught by a local frugal blogger, which I mostly learned about how to organize my coupons, but was very beneficial to me! When I got pregnant with my third baby, I stopped couponing because it was an effort to get out of bed and keep up with my two other kids, let alone spend precious non-nauseous hours searching online for deals, clipping coupons, matching sales in my newspaper circulars to Manufacturer Coupons, and actually *going* to the stores! We noticed a marked increase in our budget, not only because I was craving foods that didn’t fit into our normal budget, but because I was paying sale price only for a tube of toothpaste. Since I picked up couponing again (less than a month), I have four tubes of toothpaste in my stockpile, none of which did I have to pay for!

Here is one of my notorious lists: How I Coupon

  • I only buy what we’ll use in a reasonable amount of time. You won’t find 700 rolls of TP in my garage, nor will you find 60 bottles of yellow mustard.
  • I only get one newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle. If the inserts are REALLY great, I either buy another copy (it’s ~$3, so as long as I know I can use more than $3 in coupons immediately, it’s worth it), or I ask my mom to hang on to her inserts.
  • Many couponing sites do previews of what sales will be in the upcoming Sunday Paper, so I let them do the heavy lifting. I have most of the sites on FaceBook and they post a link on Thursday or Friday, and I simply add a link of the page on my iphone homepage and when Sunday rolls around, I sit with my new inserts from that week and my file of previous weeks inserts and get to clipping!
  • If there is something that I know we’ll use that turns out to be free, I can almost always convince myself it’s worth the trip, even if it’s only for the one thing. I like the high I get from being paid to take things out of the store.
  • I typically check CVS, Target, and Safeway deals. I like deals at CVS the best because the staff is very coupon friendly and their ECB program is super easy to navigate.
  • Sometimes the order that you buy things, and the number of transactions can alter your Out of Pocket (OOP) expense. When I post of a killer deal on here, I’ll be sure to write up how my transactions went down.
  • I count the Rewards I receive, that I have to spend on my next trip, as money in my pocket. If I spend $6.19 at CVS but I get back a $5 ECB, I’ve only spent $1.19. Keep that in mind when you see my final price.
  • CVS has Extra Care Bucks (ECB). Walgreens has Rapid Rewards (RR). Rite-Aid has +Up Rewards (+UR). They all work in the same fashion; a coupon good towards another purchase, same as cash. Just a heads up, you will not get money back if you use one of your Rewards coupons. For example, if I spend $2.75 at Walgreens and I have a $3 RR and a $2 RR coupon from previous trips, you would pay $.75 OOP if you used the $2 RR Coupon, but you would LOSE $.25 if you used the $3 RR. Those $.25 add up!
  • Be ready before you walk up to the cashier! Nobody likes to be stuck behind the person writing a check, fumbling with their phone while they try to pay, or a disorganized couponer. If you are doing multiple transactions, notify the cashier as they start ringing up the first transaction and know which coupons go with which transaction. It sounds scary, and in fact, it was a little intimidating for me the first few times, but I’ve gotten better with practice, AND it helps to be organized before you even walk into the store!
  • Get the Bag Tag at CVS. It’s $.99 and every 4th transaction (one daily per Extra Care Card), you get a $1 ECB on your receipt. That’s 4 visits, and it’s paid for itself! Then it’s basically knocking $.25 off each transaction thereafter.
As I said before, the Coupon Class I took showed me how to organize my coupons. Gone are the Sundays of clipping coupons and having to put them in categories that don’t really fit into realistic area in your life. Now, I only clip what I need, and when I go to a store, I know what I’m buying, and how much it’s going to cost me because I’ve done the research. Behold, my Coupon Files:
My Coupon Files
 Inside each of those files is a weeks worth of inserts. When a specific deal calls for a specific coupon, the site will tell when which insert it’s found in (SS=SmartSource, RP= Red Plum, or P&G) and which week to look in. Some coupons are regional, so I don’t have the coupon, or the value is different. I keep roughly 3 months of inserts in my trusty file cabinet, and when I run out of empty hanging folders, I know, most likely, the coupons in the oldest inserts have expired. I just scratch out a new date slip (I use folded post-it notes), put it in the back, and put in my newest inserts!

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