Saturday, 10 December 2011

Coupon Booklets and Savings Cards

Saving Centsably: Coupon booklets and savings cards

From time to time you may be asked to make a purchase of a coupon book or booklet from an organization that is selling them to make money. While many people purchase these coupon books simply to help the organization, they overlook the true value these coupon books can really have.

Enjoy The City is a type of large coupon book available from organizations seeking to raise money. These books full of coupons are produced nationwide and typically focus on metropolitan areas. Each year the coupon book that handles the middle Georgia area focuses on coupons for Macon and Warner Robins, although companies in other surrounding counties might be included.
In addition to being available for purchase from fundraising organizations, this coupon book can also be found from time to time on daily deal buying sites. Remember with these daily deal sites that the more of them you register with, the more deals you will know about. While these books typically cost $20 each, I have seen the Enjoy the City books for as little as $25 for three books on a daily deal site.

So, what type of coupons come in this kind of book? All kinds. From savings on fast food, fine dining, museum admission, attraction discounts and more, there are all kinds of places for you to use coupons found in this type of coupon savings book. I bought three of these books in March. I spent $25 and got free shipping for the three books. Since then, we have saved at least $170 on free pizza, free oil changes, free doughnuts, and buy-one-get-one-free admissions to two museums and to an Atlanta Braves game. That savings was well worth the $25 investment.

Another type of large coupon book available nationwide is the “Entertainment Book.” This book, which is published for about 140 localities, is also available as a fundraiser. You’ve probably been asked to buy one by a band member or other teenager looking to help his or her club raise some extra money. These books run about $35 at the maximum. Throughout the year, there are coupons to help you save on that purchase price. And, as the year progresses and the value of the book begins to decrease, the cost begins to lower, too. The Entertainment Books can also be purchased in many drug stores. Visit a store or the Entertainment Book website (www. to look into purchasing one.

Many times I have been approached by a group like the Boy Scouts or a teenager in a band asking me to purchase a discount card that offers me savings throughout our community. Honestly, I would rather buy these than purchase an overpriced bucket of cookie dough or popcorn.

The key to making these types of savings cards work for you is to do two things. First, you must be sure this discount card is with you anytime you are shopping. Keep it with your debit card or in your wallet with your checks. Just be sure that when you want to make a purchase with which you could get a discount using the card, that you actually have the card. Another thought is to keep the card with your coupon box or binder, since I’m sure you never leave home without it, either.

The second piece of advice I can offer you is to keep track of the cost of the card or coupon book and compare that with the amount of money you are able to save. Just like I can tell you that I spent $25 but have saved over six times that amount, you should be able to do the same. When the card or coupon booklet expires or you have used all the coupons, you should know whether buying the book again next year is beneficial to your family.

Some businesses also offer savings cards or coupon booklets that are available for purchase at a reduced price when compared to the value of the coupons themselves. The Chick-fil-A calendars available at their locations (and for sale by some charitable organizations) cost $6 but have more than $30 worth of coupons.

Our family buys one calendar for each person in our family - Chick-fil-A is great about allowing coupon stacking and we are able to have a couple of free meals for the whole family during the course of the year. In addition, Chick-fil-A’s coupons never actually expire, so if you have old Chick-fil-A calendars or coupons, don’t throw them out. Add them to your coupon box and use them. Other businesses offer a similar type of coupon booklet, so be on the lookout.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Know When to Pounce With a Coupon

Jill Cataldo saves hundreds on groceries by making the most of the common coupon. You can, too. Here's how.

Using a coupon at the opportune moment is key to saving big on groceries. If I have a $1 coupon for toothpaste, I don't want to use it when the toothpaste is selling for its full $2.99 price. I'll hold onto it until the price dips to $1. A dollar coupon matched to a dollar sale makes the toothpaste the best price of all: free!

But when you're new to couponing, how do you know what the best prices are? Is this week's sale on cereal a good time to use a coupon for that product, or should I wait for an even deeper discount in the future?

Modern coupon shoppers have many tools that help them plot the best time to buy. But before the advent of online coupon assistance, traditional couponers tracked store sales by creating a price book.

A price book is exactly that: a book of prices on the items you buy most, week by week, noting the highs and lows. In time, a cycle of pricing, low to high, will emerge for every product.

It's a lot of work to maintain a price book. To begin, write "Week One" on the first page of a notebook, take it to your local store and walk around with it, writing down the prices of everything you plan to buy on this trip and any trip in the next three months. Make note of the brand, size and price of a product, such as "Raisin Bran, 14 ounces, $1.99."

Next week, turn the page and copy the same list of products. Note the changes in sale prices from the previous week - "Raisin Bran, 14 ounces, $2.49." Most supermarkets operate on a 12-week cycle, during which time prices on all products in the store will hit both a high and low. After maintaining the book for three months, go back and create a master page, such as "Raisin Bran, 14 ounces - High: $3.79, Low: $1.69."

Now that you've got a physical guide, you can use it to recognize when the price of an item falls into the buy now range. Each cycle may vary, but you will develop a sense of the lowest price for the items you most frequently buy. Then you can match your coupons to those low-priced sales, and reduce the prices even more.

But that's a lot of work! Most of us don't have the time or patience to maintain a price book. The good news? We don't have to. There are many websites that track sales cycles, match coupons for items you want and show the total percent of savings. When you see a savings of 50 percent or more on an item, it's time to buy! These match-up sites also tell you exactly which coupon to use to cut the price even more and where it may be found, either by showing the week the coupon ran in the newspaper insert or by providing a link to an online coupon.

Here are some popular grocery list match-up sites:


This site has match-up lists for major supermarkets, drugstores and general merchandise stores around the country. It even assigns you an "angel," or mentor, who can help you use the site.


Free match-up lists for stores in all 50 states, using coupons from newspapers or the Internet.

• Other match-up sites include, and

Knowing the best week to buy doesn't get much easier than this! If you can save half or more when purchasing an item you need, it's the right time to buy. These sites are match coupons to sales for you, saving time. Simply click the items you wish to buy this week and print a shopping list. Gather the appropriate coupons that the list calls for, and head to the store!

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, Email your couponing victories and questions to


Thursday, 8 December 2011

10 Tips To Help Save Time And Money

1. Use coupons when items are on sale and/or buy-one-get-one-free. Use one coupon per item and stack coupons if possible (which means use a store coupon and manufacturer coupon on each item purchased).

2. Shop every week. A sales cycle is around every six to 12 weeks. Go to the store even if it's just for a few sale items.

3. Keep inserts whole and date them. Don't throw them away. Keep coupons even if you don't use that product. You never know when you will be able to get that item for free.

4. Avoid going overboard when organizing coupons.

5. Get the Sunday paper.

6. Always look for coupons. When in a store, be aware of coupons in the store as well.

7. Know the store's corporate coupon policy. Each store manager is responsible for coupon management in that particular store.

8. Be friendly and courteous. Be patient with cashiers when using a lot of coupons at once.

9. Don't try to pass off an expired or copied coupon or try to use a coupon on a product you didn't buy.

10. Use rebates. They often are overlooked.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Question & Answer With "Coupon Professor"

As coupons find new favor among consumers who, in some cases, have drastically cut grocery bills by aggressively working the system, the Extreme Coupon Professors have been finding a wider and wider audience.

The "professors" are Kim Bergeron and Alice Morette, two moms from Weare who have become known for their classes, which teach what they've been doing for years: saving a lot of money and, in many cases, even getting their groceries for free. They've also found a way to share some of their excess products with community food banks. NHBR spoke with Bergeron recently.

Q. Your coupon efforts go beyond grocery shopping, right?

A. We don't just focus on getting food deals. Our deals spill over into our lives. Clothes for the kids, their school supplies. With four kids, that's a lot of shoes. When it comes to doing fun things with the kids, we always make sure we have a deal. We always go where the deal is.

Q. Your website ( shows pictures of a $250 shopping spree at Old Navy. You paid $160, but then you got $70 worth of "super cash" from Old Navy, which means by time you're finished, you will have only spent $90.

A. We found the deal and posted it. Pretty much everything we do we put on the blog. We put it on to show everyone else it can be done.

Q. How did you get started with extreme couponing?

A. I've been doing shopping like this for eight years. I have four kids -- the youngest is eight. So pretty much this is how we shop. Our grocery bill would have been astronomical, and with doing the coupons, we were able to get it down to $50 or $60 a week.

What happened was all my friends were seeing all my groceries and how I paid hardly anything and their grocery bills were $300 or more and they'd ask, "How did you do this?" I was showing them all how to do it, even to the point where if they still didn't get it they'd say, "I want to follow you shopping." So, they'd actually follow me while I was grocery shopping.

Finally, when all the kids were in school, I thought, "I think I want to do this." I pretty much just popped it on my Facebook page saying, "This is what I'm going to do," and I had a whole long line of, "It's about time. I've been telling you to do this for four or five years."

Then Alice Morette, who was more of an acquaintance at the time and had couponed the way I did said, "Are you doing classes on this?" And I said, "Yes, do you want to join me?" And that's basically how it happened.

Q. Do you realize immediate savings or do you have to let it build over time?

A. Certainly the first time after you take a (public or home) class, we will teach you how to shop and you will have savings right away. Our class is $20, and the first time you'll pretty much save $20 on your first shopping.

To be able to shop the way that we do takes a whole year because of the store cycles. For instance, ketchup is going to be the cheapest you can get it in June, which is barbecue season. You won't get cheap ketchup in January, so we teach people how to shop with the cycles of the store, and you're able to get your prices down a lot lower just following that.

Q. You and your partner Alice each buy 20 copies of the Sunday paper. Do you recommend that for the average person?

A. We do ours as a business, so let's say you were to host a class at your house, the person who hosts the class and has 10 people come to their home, gets $50 or $60 in free items.

We've been doing four or five classes a week, so it's a lot more we have to give away as well. Typically I tell people starting out for their family to have at least four Sunday newspapers for the coupons. In our class, we teach you to get your coupons out of the paper. We also do some clipping services as well. It's about 50/50. Four is a nice number if you want to stock up on something. You want to have those coupons handy.

Q. You say this kind of couponing can be done in 15 minutes a week, which doesn't seem possible.

A. Before the business, with four little kids, I had 15 minutes I'd set aside to get my grocery list ready and my coupons ready and then I was done until I was ready to go shopping. And then when I went shopping, I went shopping with four little kids. They were all babies, very close in age, and I was in and out of that store because there's no way I wanted to be in the store for hours, and I didn't have time to be on the computer and figuring out the grocery list.

Indeed, 15 minutes a week was all I put into it for years. And my house was stocked most of the time for free. The other thing I tell people is that I hate shopping. People think it's funny that we do the coupon classes and we do all the shopping. I can't stand going to the grocery store so I want everything to be done very quickly, very efficiently and I'm out of there.

Q. What classes do you offer beyond grocery shopping?

A. We offer specialty classes, like the one we (had) for getting ready for school, helping with clothes shopping, all the school supplies, the snacks and breakfasts. We also had another specialty class around Thanksgiving called "The giving back," because as you know with the extreme coupon TV show, you see people going crazy buying all this stuff.

We teach to provide for your family and then be able to give some back. And this is especially the time we like to help people and give things back around the holidays, with Thanksgiving baskets for people who are losing their jobs.

It's a great feeling to be able to help a lot of people too.

Q. Extreme coupon reality shows are getting some bad press because some coupon users are hoarding products, making them scarce for other shoppers.

A. It's true. We don't hoard, I mean in my class people will ask, "Where do you put the stuff?" We pretty much buy what we have room for. I have a couple closets. I have a small kitchen with a few cabinets. Indeed, my kids would love it if I took their clothes out and put them in Ziploc bags and then put cookies in their drawers instead (laughs). We have things where they belong and we shop for our family and we shop to give back a little bit. By any means, we don't waste.


Monday, 5 December 2011

When is The Best Time to Release Digital Coupons

When it comes to digital coupons, timing is everything. No surprise, really. There is a reason more coupons are released for the ingredients for pumpkin pie during the holidays for offline shoppers - because they're in-market for those items. A new study finds the best time for digital coupon release is Wednesday morning.
According to RevTrax, releasing digital coupons at 8AM Wednesday's results in a nearly 20% increase in that coupon being printed. RevTrax also found that most coupons, generally, are printed on Wednesdays and Thursdays, Monday and Tuesday coupon releases are the least likely to be printed.

Other interesting findings include:

• Digital coupon conversion rates are highest for those viewed and printed 8AM-5PM
• Monday-Friday, coupons are most likely to be printed between 8AM-10AM and 12PM-4PM
• Consumers are most likely to print coupons at work

"Digital coupons are known to boost in-store sales, but measuring the impact of any online promotion on offline sales has long been an inexact science," said Jonathan Treiber, co-founder and CEO, RevTrax. "The RevTrax day and time study is a big step in helping advertisers learn how to optimize the impact of digital media to drive more coupon prints. This insight is critical for advertisers aiming to drive promotion ROI and increase in-store sales."

According to Coupon Craze 94% of online shoppers will look for coupons/discounts before shopping on Cyber Monday; most of these will be looking for deals on electronics, apparel or health/beauty items.

Mobile devices are making it simpler for shoppers to find coupons - either for online or offline purchases. For example, iBuildApp's recent release gives businesses the ability to create and manage mobile coupons as well as social networking integrations.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Saving Big Not as Difficult as It May Seem

It's Wednesday and Leigh Ann Garrett of West Ashley begins her day driving to a Mount Pleasant convenience store to purchase a newspaper. She is in search of the highly coveted Harris Teeter coupon that gives $10 off a purchase of $40 or more.

"If you go too late in the mornings, places will be sold out. No doubt about it," she said, adding that papers are usually sold out by 10 a.m. The coupons are inserted into newspapers only in the Mount Pleasant area.

Leigh Ann Garrett of West Ashley drives to Mount Pleasant on Wednesday to buy a Post and Courier newspaper that has a coupon only available in particular areas.

Unlike many customers, Garrett said she purchases only one paper because she wants others to be able to get them as well.

"I'm an ethical couponer," she said. "I don't want someone going in at 7 a.m. and buying all 20 newspapers that a store has -- that is not fair."

Using coupons, Garrett is able to keep her weekly grocery budget to less than $50 for herself, her 16-month-old daughter, Mollie, and husband Matt.

The couponing craze has taken off in recent years, no doubt fueled by a weak economy and efforts by businesses to provide incentives to pull customers into stores. In the first six months of 2011, consumers saved $2 billion using coupons, according to the U.S. Mid-year 2011 Consumer Packaged Goods

Coupon Facts Report, released by NCH Marketing Services Inc.

This statistic doesn't surprise Jill Cataldo, a national couponing expert whose weekly column appears in The Post and Courier and other publications. Even though more coupons are being printed than ever before, she said, as much as 98 percent of them go unredeemed.

"It seems like everyone is using coupons right now, but the reality of it is, unfortunately, not everyone is doing it," she said.

Why? Mostly due to misconceptions, Cataldo said. To some, couponing seems like a waste of time. Others find the process of searching out and clipping coupons an intimidating chore. Many feel they'll end up with unnecessary items, and yet others worry about needing a lot of storage space.

All untrue, said Cataldo, adding that couponing is all about saving money:

"It's free money. It's tax-free, you're cutting your bill down on things that you would buy anyway and you're getting better prices."

Believe it -- it works

Cataldo, whose "Super-Couponing Tips" column runs in 130 newspapers each week, said her couponing goal is to cut her grocery bill in half or better each shopping trip.

The Chicago mother of three said she spends about 30 to 60 minutes a week planning her shopping trips.

"Nothing makes me cringe more than when I see the show ("Extreme Couponing") and people say, 'I spend 40 hours a week couponing,' " she said.

Teri Bennett of Johns Island agrees. After couponing for a few months, she perfected a system that helps her save 70 percent to 80 percent -- sometimes as much as 100 percent -- on everything she buys for her household.

"Once you get a system down, it's a lot less time consuming," Bennett said. "Now that I'm in the swing of things, I don't have to spend near the amount of time I used to."

Bennett's average weekly grocery bill is $50 to $60 for her family of four. Most of the time is spent organizing her trip, and it doesn't take her very long to shop.

How it works

To save big, Bennett said people must forget about brand loyalty. Buy the store brands when possible.

Her family has tried a lot of new and different products. "Things I never would've spent money on before. When they're on sale or I'm paying a quarter for it, I'm more likely to try it out."

However, when a brand-name product goes on sale, stock up. "A name-brand item on sale with a coupon will beat a store brand price every day."

Being successful at couponing also requires knowing where to find, and how to organize, coupons.

"Your main source of coupons is going to be the Sunday (newspaper) circular," Bennett said. "You have to spend the $2 on the paper, but it's going to save you sometimes over $100."

She also finds electronic coupons online and is always on the lookout in stores for tear pads, coupon booklets and "blinkies," which are machines that distribute coupons. Bennett also interacts with manufacturers directly by phone or via the Internet. They often send her coupons just for getting in touch with them.

Bennett, a home-schooling mother of two and blogger for Charleston Savvy Shopper, never throws away coupons, even for products she doesn't use because they might come in handy later on when that item is on sale.

Bennett's schedule affords her the flexibility and time to shop. She uses coupons and shops sales at a variety of stores, including drugstores and discount department stores. Many personal-care and cleaning products cost less at drugstores.

For those new to couponing, Cataldo recommends focusing on one drugstore and one grocery store.

"Most people don't chase store to store," she said, "although some people love that chase. But you have to factor the price of gas into it as well."

Another tip to remember, said Cataldo, is that a store sales cycle is in six- to 12-week increments. During that time, a product will hit a high-end price and a low-end price. For example, a jar of pasta sauce might hit a high of $2.99 and a sale price low of 99 cents.

"Logic would dictate I should only buy it when it is 99 cents, regardless of whether I have a coupon or not because it's a third of the (regular) price," she said. "I'm also going to buy a little bit in quantity.

"I don't have any rooms in my house filled with groceries, but I know my store is on a 12-week cycle, so I'm going to buy 12 jars of (on sale) pasta sauce if we want to eat it once a week. But I'm also not buying it again for the next three months."

There are a number of websites that provide consumers with easy access to information about sales cycles, and they match sales to available coupons., for example, is a Columbia-based website that rapidly has become a go-to place for couponers in the Southeast.

Jenny Martin, the website's founder, said finding coupons isn't difficult. Digging out deals is even easier, once you are wired.

A Google search will reveal hordes of couponing sites. Two that are good for anyone starting out are and

Organizing and storing

Once you find the coupons, organizing them is a matter of personal preference, said Martin. People shouldn't feel obligated to be super-organized with coupon binders and the like, she said. Do what works best.

Cataldo agreed. Experienced couponers usually just keep coupon inserts whole, only clipping what's needed for that week's shopping trip.

"I detest the binder," she said. "That's kind of the old way of doing things. Most of us are using a clip-less method. We try to cut the planning time down as much as possible."

The best way to keep your coupon- fueled purchasing under control is to watch for sales, said Cataldo. Estimate how much you will use during the store's sale cycle and purchase accordingly.

"You don't have to go overboard," she said. "Just buy a little bit more than your needs -- anticipating what you will need. The exception to that is if something is a really good deal and is completely nonperishable, like toilet paper, detergent or paper towels, and you have the space. Stock up on that item because you don't have to worry about expiration dates."

Bennett also uses the "smart stockpile" technique, taking advantage of buy-one-get-one-free sales.

"Some places will tell you a 12-week supply, but I find it hard to stock that much stuff. In a normal house, I don't know where you're going to store that much supply. You'd have to get really crafty."

Reach Shannon Brigham at 958-7393. Visit her on Facebook.

Know each store’s coupon policy

Individual stores handle coupons differently. It can also be helpful to take a copy of the policy with you to the store. Johns Island mom and couponer Terri Bennett said she’s noticed store policies have changed a lot over the past several years. It’s important to know the store’s policy

“Sometimes it’s a benefit to couponers, and sometimes it’s not,” she said.

Click the links below to find out each store's coupon policy:




Harris Teeter



Rite Aid

Family Dollar

By the numbers

Some quick statistics on coupon clippers:

96% still would use coupons even if they won the lottery.

92% indicate they are using coupons for groceries.

81% are using more coupons.

73% are planning more prior to shopping.

60% spend up to two hours looking for coupons, deals and savings from print sources.

31%spend three or more hours each week online looking for deals, up 265% from 2010. Mobile couponing is gaining popularity with the under-50 set.

2011 RedPlum Purse String Study of more than 23,000 respondents


Take Advantage of Store Coupons

Take advantage of store coupons at Michaels, Office Depot, Sears, Hancock and Kohl's

This week in the Journal-World ads, I noticed some store coupons.

Michaels has a 20 percent off entire purchase on Sunday only between the hours of 4 and 9 p.m. Also at Michaels, 40 percent off one regular priced item through Dec. 10. These are great if you are doing any holiday crafting.

Hancock fabrics is offering a 10 percent coupon on your entire purchase. This is good Sunday (Dec. 4) only. There are also two 40 percent coupons. One for any fabric item at regular price and 40 percent off any one sewing or quilting notion ( up to $55.99). These are good through Dec. 7.

Office Depot has 20 percent off shipping and packing services ($20 or more) coupon through Jan. 7, 2012.

At Sears, clip your coupon for an extra 20 percent off regular, sale and clearance items (clothing, intimate apparel, accessories, fragrance and cosmetics). Extra 10 percent off fine jewelry, watches, housewares, bed and bath, window fashions, mattresses, recliners, Shaw rugs, and luggage (regular, sale and clearance). Coupon good through Dec. 6.

And, at Kohl's you can get an extra 20 percent off everything when you spend $100 or more. Or take an extra 15 percent off everything. This offer is good through Dec. 5.


Save On Organic Grocery Coupons

Here's a list of organic manufacturers who offer coupons and instructions on how to get them.


Sign up for the online store newsletter to receive special offers and discounts. You'll also find printable coupons on the website.

Brown Cow Farm

Print a coupon from the website.

Cascadian Farm

Get a $1 Cascadian Farm coupon when you sign up for their newsletter, plus more coupons in each issue.

Dreamfields Pasta

Sign up for the newsletter to get $1 off any box of Dreamfields pasta, plus get even more coupons in the newsletter.

Earthbound Farm

Take a quiz about organic farming, and get a coupon for $1 off when you answer all of the questions correctly.

Earth's Best

Choose from several printable coupons.


Check the "Special Offers" page regularly for the latest offers from Hain.

Horizon Organic

Click on the "coupons" link at the top of the screen, and enter your name and e-mail address to access several printable coupons.

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