Some of today’s couponing tactics cost money. There are ways to work around that detail, or at least minimize the impact.

I will tell you that I was inspired to write this post after seeing a similar headline elsewhere. Unfortunately, I don’t recommend some of the tactics that were encouraged on the other site and that is why I won’t give it any link love.

Instead, I’ll write my own piece and I’ll discuss some details that weren’t in the other article anyway.

Internet access

An underlying assumption on the way couponing is taught these days is that you have a computer, tablet or smartphone with Internet access. Reason: you’d look up the coupon blogs or forums on a weekly basis, follow your favorite stores on Facebook, sign up for the daily deal emails, and print off coupons.

None of that is really necessary. You can coupon the way I teach couponing without a computer. I don’t tell people to look up the sales of the week on the Internet. I teach them how to find the deals themselves. I have posted the scripts for many of my coupon classes so you can see my method.

But if you want a workaround to the Internet situation, you can use the computer labs or wireless connection at the library. Just don’t count on printing off Internet coupons at the library. Someone else may have already hit the maximum printout on that IP address for the coupon you wanted.

In regards to printing the coupons, there is a cost involved with the paper and ink on those things anyway.

I’ve discussed pros and cons coupon printables, and my archives include a list of legitimate sites to find them. But it’s just one potential source of coupons. There are other ways to get coupons that don’t include the printing limits that annoy the heck out of people who try to treat printables as the main (or only) source of their savings.

Newspaper subscription

You all know that I’m a newspaper reporter. My paycheck actually comes from The Monroe Evening News. Reason: The blog does not earn much money on its own.

Because of that, there’s a bit of skepticism involved when I give a coupon class. Oh, right, she’s going to tell us to buy the paper because she wants a paycheck.

But I would also say as a couponer you want a newspaper subscription, so hear me out:

  • Home delivery customers get priority over single copy customers if the coupon book runs are shorted. It’s not just my newspaper that does that. This is part of the coupon book distribution process. I have articles in my archives that explain what’s going on with coupons in Sunday papers.
  • Newspaper theft and coupon theft has been a problem on the single copy racks. I’ve even heard reports that the clerks at one area supermarket are weighing the paper to make sure no one tampered with it. I understand what the clerks are trying to do, but I don’t think the weight of the coupon books can be detected to that degree.
  • A subscription also provides you with all the grocery ads that are scheduled for that week in that newspaper, not just the ones that are in the Sunday edition. There is a Meijer grocery ad in today’s paper, for example. But today is Friday.

So how do you deal with the cost of a subscription, or, the cost of multiples if you follow the “one newspaper per household member” coupon ratio?

One way to look at it is that it’s an investment that pays you back with coupons. That is the typical sales pitch for a new subscription. Don’t laugh. It works. I’d rather people buy newspapers to see the photographs, news and features that my colleagues and I in the newsroom provide. But I have seen coupon pitches sell subscriptions when I’m standing by at our promotional booths. So be it.

Another thing you can do is make friends with someone who gets the newspaper but doesn’t coupon. You can ask for his or her coupons.

I also teach coupon swapping, and you can look up in my archives the explanation of how this works and some of the ways it is done in the area. This is a great source for free coupons. Tip of the day: Most of the library branches in Monroe County, Mich., have coupon swap boxes.

I do NOT teach digging through the recycling bins for coupons, nor do I teach using coupon clipping services. If you are one of my local readers, you have a better option with the library coupon swap boxes. Use them. There also are more complications to using coupon clipping services than rookies expect. I suggest people learn the basics of couponing first.

Driving all over town to get the deals

This is the detail that really annoyed me when I read the other article. To get around the problem of gas prices on a shopping trip, the author recommended asking the clerk to run multiple transactions during one visit, or going back to the car with the purchases from one shopping trip and then come back inside to run another transaction.

I won’t teach that. I won’t encourage it. I blasted it in my 10 Rules to Playing Fair When Shopping with Coupons. And when people ask me about it in coupon classes (someone usually does), I tell them to follow the transaction limits for the day and go back another day in the week if they want to. In addition, some drugstore promotions are limited per week or per month. Regardless of the details, when you have hit the limit, you are done with that deal.

Those rules are in effect to help prevent a run on a sale that the store can’t handle. Nobody likes a cleared-out shelf.

Here’s what I teach instead:

If you are one of my local readers, and I suspect this carries over to many of my national readers, the chances are pretty good you are driving all over town anyway.

You’re taking the kids to school, dance or sports practice. You’ll drive to church once a week, or maybe twice, depending on Sunday School and youth group schedules. You need to get to a doctor in one neighborhood, a dentist in another, a bank branch in yet another, or you have to pick up a package at the post office. You may have to work in another city (the out-of-county commute rate in Monroe County is pretty high). You may have family who lives in the next city, or two, over. Your clients may be across town.

Do you know what stores are along those commutes or near those destinations?

Now you have more places where you can shop without going out of your way. You are already in those neighborhoods.

For example, I do shop at Giant Eagle in Toledo or the Kroger in Perrysburg once every two months or so because those stores have better coupon specials than are seen here in Monroe. But I won’t make a special run to Toledo for grocery shopping. I add that errand when I am already in Toledo. It’s not worth my gas money for 99 cent doubles when several of the Monroe stores are doubling up to 50 cents anyway.

I also love the bakery outlet stores such as Aunt Millie’s in Temperance and Wonder Bread in Northwood. But I only shop at those stores when I’m already in the area.

The coupon box or binder setup

Many coupon classes these days teach the coupon binder method. If it works for you, I can’t argue with it.

But I will tell you that a binder system that is used for couponing will cost $15 to $30 in office supplies just to get started. The binder I created as a sample to show in my coupon classes was made with hand-me-down office supplies because I was not going to spend that much money on such a thing.

I won’t even get into the file cabinet or storage bin requirements for those who keep and file whole inserts. That system does not work well in the Monroe area because it expects you to look up on an Internet database to find out what coupons were in which week’s books. I cannot imagine how my local readers could use such a system when there are noticeable variances in the coupon inserts among the regional newspapers. I’ve done some show and tell on that detail.

But there is a cheaper alternative for coupon organization that works just fine.

I use a coupon box method. It’s basically the way that couponing was typically done 20 to 30 years ago. My organizer with index card box and index cards will cost only $2 to set up. I’ve also seen a variety of plastic pouches that will serve the purpose ranging in cost from $1 to $10.

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