Collecting Coupons: Newspaper Inserts

Since it’s always easier to save and stock up when you have a variety of savings to choose from, you’ll want to put some effort into building up your coupon stash!

 

Most of the coupons in existence arrive each week in the Sunday newspaper. While it can be more convenient to have your paper delivered as part of a subscription, it’s not necessary. Here are some answers to questions you may have:  

WHICH NEWSPAPER SHOULD I BUY?

Newspapers in large cities (like the Detroit News/Free Press, Chicago Tribune, etc) generally offer more coupons with better values than smaller papers. In the Macomb area, the Detroit News/Free Press is usually your best bet. To be sure this is the case in your area, it’s a good idea to buy a copy of each local paper and compare the inserts.

HOW MANY PAPERS DO I NEED?

A good rule of thumb is to purchase 1 copy for each person in your household. I purchase additional copies if the coupons are especially good that week (i.e. savings on items I know we’ll use) and fewer copies if there aren’t many inserts. If you’re just starting out, 1 or 2 newspaper copies will still help your budget. Many deal matchups may require you to use 2 or 4 coupons in one transaction in order to save – and you’ll want a few to be able to stock up on items when prices are at their lowest.

WHAT CAN I DO WITH ALL THAT PAPER?

Before you think about moving newspapers out of your house, you’ll want to be sure you’ve grabbed every coupon in the paper. Some coupons will hide in the Parade or USA Weekend inserts and others have been found in the pages of the newspaper itself. Then you can find a creative way to recycle it! You can wash your windows, line your bird cage, wrap a gift or donate copies to a classroom if you’d rather not take it to the recycling center!   

ISN’T IT EXPENSIVE TO PURCHASE EXTRA PAPERS?

Since the cost of a newspaper copy has risen recently (in our area to $1.50), you will want to make sure you’re serious about using your coupons if you’re thinking about purchasing extras. You can quickly earn back the money you spent on a paper in one well-planned shopping trip.  

  • Many dollar stores (including Dollar Tree and Dollar Castle) offer the Sunday paper for $1.00 – and often you can still find remaining copies available on Monday and Tuesday.
  • Ask your friends, coworkers and neighbors for extra coupon inserts. Those who don’t use coupons have no use for them! If you’re able to pick up items for cheap or free with those coupons, you might consider bringing them a little treat every once in a while to show your appreciation or letting them know what you were able to donate with their help.
  • If you’re a regular drugstore shopper, buying papers is an easy way to use up your CVS Extra Care Bucks, Rite Aid UP+ Rewards or Walgreens Register Rewards before they expire.

DO I REALLY NEED TO CUT and SORT ALL THOSE COUPONS?

NO. (That’s the easiest answer).  :)

And if you’re short on time (like I am), I don’t recommend it. I like the whole insert method Coupon Mom endorses. Keep your coupon inserts uncut and group your together each week (use a paperclip, binder clip, staple, rubberband, file folder, etc.) then write the date on the front. (If you receive inserts from a friend, you’ll find the date in microscopic print on the edge of the insert).

Use the free Grocery Coupon Database she provides to search for existing coupons and clip only those you’ll use as you prepare your shopping list each week. (You’ll be asked to register, but there’s no cost). At the end of each month, you can purge expired coupons and inserts.

If you like having your coupons with you in the store, you’ll want to clip a couple copies’ worth. Organize them in a way that works for you (coupon box, file, binder, etc.) and you’re ready to shop!

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Do you buy extra papers each week? Do you have any questions about collecting coupons from newspapers? Share your best tips!

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Reader Q & A: How can I purge expired coupons (whole insert method)?

QUESTION:
How do I check a whole insert to see if any coupons are still valid or if all are expired? I need to purge!! Thanks!

ANSWER:

Since we just reached the end of the month, many of you are probably looking to purge your coupon stash of any expired coupons and inserts. There are a number of ways to organize coupons, and keeping your coupon inserts intact according to date is just one of them (those of you who clip all of your coupons will just need to seek out and eliminate the expired coupons). If you’re a clip-only-as-you-need-them kind of shopper (like me) and you’re working with whole inserts, here’s how to find valid coupons with the help of technology:

  1. Start with a good COUPON DATABASE.
    Coupon Mom’s Coupon Database is my favorite, since all coupons are regionally-specific and they’re organized neatly according to state/region. You may need to register first to access the database, but there’s no cost. I begin by checking the Coupon Mom coupon listing for my state (Michigan).

    Coupon Mom's Searchable Database - look for the PUBLISHED heading to sort current coupons according to date

  2. SORT the coupon list according to DATE PUBLISHED.
    • Don’t type anything into the database search box.
    • You’ll notice that EVERY existing non-expired coupon is listed – printables first followed by newspaper insert coupons.
    • Find the “PUBLISHED” column heading at the top of the page.
    • Click the triangle arrow pointing UP to sort coupons with the oldest inserts listed at the top.

      An example of valid coupons remaining in past inserts

  3. WORK through the listing date-by-date.
    • If an insert has no coupon listings, the entire insert for that date has expired and you can recycle it.
    • If the remaining valid coupons in the insert are not coupons you would use, recycle the whole insert.
    • If there are only a few valid coupons remaining, you’ll need to decide whether to clip those few and recycle the rest, or simply wait until those coupons are expired (sometimes I find it easier to write the remaining brands and expiration date on the front page so that I can purge it easily once the date has passed).
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Reader Q & A: How Can I Organize My Coupons?

Reader Question:
I need help! How can I organize my coupons? Do you cut them all when you get them? How do you store them? Any tips or advice is greatly appreciated. I feel like I am drowning in coupons. Thank you!

Answer:
There is no simple answer. :)

More than anything else, it’s all about finding a method that WORKS FOR YOU. Not what works for your friend, or for me, or for anyone else you’ll encounter. You’re the one who will need to be able to locate any of the coupons you’ll need for a sale. You’re the one who will need to maintain an organized system on a regular basis.

Is it easy to choose a coupon organization method? Not really. Many coupon-users work their way through a number of methods as they go. Some ideas are discarded because they’re outgrown; others don’t make the cut because they simply aren’t a good personal fit from the start. You’ll want to consider your abilities, preferences, available time and shopping needs. Here are some of the basic methods many smart shoppers use:

COUPON ORGANIZATION OPTIONS

A Filing System

An Index Card Box, Accordion File or Envelope system all fit into this category. Begin with a box of some sort (an index card box, photo box, plastic shoe box, an empty baby wipes tub, etc.) and use index tab dividers or envelopes to sort your coupons by category (or alphabetically by brand, if you prefer). Along the same lines, an accordion file has dividers already attached and arranged (you’ll be limited in the number of categories you can create). Label them with categories, then clip and sort your coupons.

Pros: All of your coupons are clipped and organized, ready for a trip to the store. You’ll have a place for every kind of coupon, from printables to store coupons. Good for beginners, you can start small as your coupon stash grows.

Cons: If you have a large number of coupons, this method can require a lot of shuffling through coupons to find exactly the one you want. Time is required to keep up with clipping, sorting and later removing expired coupons. If your coupon box tips over, your coupons could easily scatter.

Examples:
Money Saving Mom’s Coupon Box (with envelopes)
Saving Dollars and Sense’s Coupon Box (with envelopes)

The Coupon Binder

The coupon binder idea takes coupon organization to another level – one of organizational commitment. Beginning with a 2″ or 3″ zippered 3-ring binder, you add plastic divided pages (baseball card or photo pages). Page tabs can divide your pages into categories (many binder-users like to organize their categories according to the aisles of their favorite store). Coupons are cut, folded and sorted into the corresponding plastic pockets so that you can flip through your entire coupon collection at a glance. Page protectors can hold printed store policies for reference. Add a 3-ring pocket for a calculator, shopper’s card, scissors, etc. and you’re ready to roll.

Pros: You’ll benefit most from in-store discounts because all of your coupons are with you, organized and able to find at a page’s turn. You will know which coupons you have at a quick glance. Many people who prefer structure enjoy this form of organization.

Cons: Time. Clipping, folding, sorting on a regular basis requires a routine. Don’t forget the time required to purge expired coupons from your binder. The binder can get fairly bulky, so it won’t fit in a purse (though a larger tote will work).

Example:
Utah Deal Diva’s Coupon Binder


Whole Uncut Coupon Inserts

The idea of NOT clipping coupons until you need them became far more possible with the help of technology (and especially searchable online coupon databases). Each week, as you receive your new coupon inserts, they are grouped together in an organized fashion and labeled with the date (in a filing box or cabinet, bankers box or bin, accordion file, binder clips, page protectors, etc) then stored until they are needed. When it’s time to prepare a store shopping trip, you can use prepared matchups (like those from Bargains to Bounty) or an online coupon database to search for the coupons you need. The database or matchups will provide you with the insert name by publisher (SmartSource, RedPlum, Procter & Gamble) and the date, allowing you to reach into your organized stacks and locate what you need for clipping. Some shoppers like to collate their inserts for ease in clipping (for example, stack all covers together, all page 3s, etc., then clip a number of coupons at once – carefully). Helpful hint: If you receive uncut inserts from a friend, you’ll find the date in microscopic print along the spine.

Pros: A no frills time-saver for busy couponers. Clip only what you need when you need it. No clipping and sorting coupons into categories each week, then removing expired coupons regularly. When coupon inserts become expired, remove any remaining valid coupons, then recycle.

Cons: You’ll miss out on in-store deals and unadvertised clearance items because your coupon stash won’t travel with you. Your shopping list and coupons will need to be prepared before you leave for the store. You’ll still need to find a way to organize printable coupons and other coupons you receive (in the mail, etc).

Example:
“Cents”able Momma’s Coupon Organization

A Combination Approach

Sometimes a single coupon organization method isn’t enough. Some shoppers like having their coupons for favorite items and brands with them while they shop, but don’t have time to clip them all. In addition, free or cheap matchup deals may often use brands or items you didn’t anticipate purchasing (but you’re willing to try at such a reasonable price!). Keeping the remainder of your inserts intact guarantees that you still have coupons for unpredicted purchases while keeping your coupon workload smaller.

Pros: You get the best of both organization worlds – coupons conveniently with you while shopping and the rest of your stash organized and uncut at home (at the waiting should a deal occur).

Cons: While not nearly as much work as a coupon filing system or binder on its own, the combination method still requires a moderate amount of time. Clipping, sorting and purging coupons is a necessity, but only for those coupons you choose.

Examples:
Laura’s (of Sharpen Your Scissors) Coupon Organization Strategy
Meghan’s (of Savvy Spending) Coupon Approach

What’s YOUR organizational coupon strategy?

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Collecting Coupons: Swapping Coupons

Part of being a savvy coupon shopper is having a great coupon stash to work from. If you’re just starting out, building an adequate stash can take some time. Even if you have a few coupons to work with, you might have trouble collecting coupons for the products your family purchases regularly. A fun way to accumulate the coupons you need is to start a coupon swap group with other shoppers in your area!

What’s a COUPON SWAP?

A coupon swap is an organized way for a group of money savers to meet on a regular basis to share or swap coupons. Simply bring the coupons that you know you won’t be using and take home the coupons others have offered that you can use.

I’m proud to be part of a fun coupon swap group in my area! Not only do we benefit from adding a few extra coupons to our stash once a month, but the ladies have become frugal friends. Along with coupons, we share the latest deal sightings, trade store experiences, encourage and empathize with each other. It’s a true couponer’s support group!

You can set up your group and agree on guidelines that work for you! We’ve added a few guidelines for our group to make things more interesting:

Coupon Swap Example Guidelines

  • WISHLIST REQUESTS
    One week before the swap, we each submit a few “wishlist” coupons to the organizer. A group email is then sent; if you can spare coupons on the list that others really need, simply bring them to the swap and gift them accordingly!
  • SHARE TEARPADS
    When we find a great tearpad or non-insert coupon in the store, we try to collect enough (while still leaving plenty for other shoppers!) to bring and share with everyone in the group. Some of our members have found amazing coupons!
  • BRING DONATIONS
    The church where we meet also collects items for area food banks and homeless shelters. It’s a great chance to share from the surplus of our stockpiled items!

Looking for other great ideas for sharing your coupons?

  • HELP the MILITARY
    Some groups also bring their expired coupons to the swap, package them and send them to military groups overseas (where they can be used at military bases up to 6 months past the expiration date). Operation Coupon Project is one organization that will accept your expired coupons and distribute them to military families.
  • START a SWAPBOX
    If meeting in person isn’t ideal, you can always organize a coupon swapbox at your daycare, church, library, school, or work. You can learn more about how to organize a swapbox (including rules and sample interest letter) here.
  • FIND a FRIEND
    Maybe you can’t organize a group, but have you met a fellow couponer that might be interested in swapping? It’s even better if you can find a friend with opposite shopping needs. For example, if you have a baby and no pets, you could really benefit from finding a friend who has pets but no babies in the house!
  • RIDE a COUPON TRAIN
    While there are a few different varieties of coupon trains, the most useful type is one that “leaves the station” every week. Train riders share their coupon wishlists and addresses with each other, then get matched up with a partner each week. As a rider, you send one envelope according to the train rules (25-40 coupons per envelope is common, with mailings usually early in the week). If you have coupons to share and can commit to participating each week, this may be a good fit for you!Interested in being part of a coupon train? Join A Full Cup (it’s a FREE coupon-user’s online forum) and set up an account, post a wishlist, then visit the Coupon Train forum for more information. If there’s enough interest, we could always start a Bargains to Bounty Train! :)
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Collecting Coupons: Manufacturer Coupons by Mail

It’s always easier to save and stock up when you have a variety of savings to choose from! You don’t always have to buy a paper or print savings from your computer – you can also request coupons directly from the manufacturer of your favorite products!

Start by thinking about your favorite items – the products you use every day. Rummage through your pantry or refrigerator if necessary! Every product has a website or phone number listed somewhere on the packaging. Call or email, letting them know how much you like the product and request coupons. They’ll usually send great coupons that can’t be found anywhere else! This is a great trick if you like specialty items that aren’t usually featured on coupons.

All the same, don’t hesitate to contact the company if you find the quality of an item to be less than what you expected; they like to keep customers happy and will often send a coupon for a free item to replace what you purchased. For example, I recently opened a package of long grain and wild rice that had puffed beyond recognition (though it was well within the expiration date). Since I was in the middle of making dinner, I called the contact line and asked if this was normal. They assured me it was not, and sent a coupon or two for a free product to replace what I’d lost.

You can find a great listing of manufacturer email contacts, thanks to Penny Pinchin’ Mom.

Some people like to work through the list alphabetically and contact every company they’re interested in – if you have the time, it can be worth the effort. Or simply pick and choose from the companies that catch your interest. As a habit, Tracie at Penny Pinchin’ Mom contacts one company each day as part of her Apple a Day series (she also has some great tips for getting results, including example email comments!). Aim to write a quick note to one of your favorite manufacturers each day and you’ll soon have a mailbox filled with savings as well!

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