Monday, May 23, 2011

Reader Question: Man Couponing 101

YAY! Reader Question #2... and this time, from a man!

I don't know about others, but I know I'm overrun with paperwork in my life; despite being a computer geek, I still amass stacks of bills (paid/unpaid), coupons (to be used and those forgotten), and other paperwork to retain (bank statements, insurance documents, etc etc).

How do you manage it all without misplacing it or forgetting about items?

If I knew the secret to this problem, I'd probably be a billionaire charging a hefty sum for my services! Just joking! Here are a few suggestions:

Go Paperless

Seriously... it's 2011, it's time to go paperless!

Take your current stack of bills, go through one by one & check to see which you can update online to paperless statements. The company will email you each monthly statement rather than mailing the paper copy. Most online bill companies (credit cards, banks, etc.) keep a sufficient backlog of statements, meaning you can go back at any time and check whichever statements you need to refer to. If you ever do need a paper copy, for example, to dispute a fraudulent charge on your credit card, you can request a copy of just the necessary statements online.

This is definitely the "green" way to go, but I honestly do it to save my own sanity. Saving trees is a total bonus! One of my least favorite chores is filing bills and my husband hate, hate, hates to shred. (Probably because he lets the shredding pile stack up for years at a time!) Some companies offer incentives for switching to paperless statements. Discover Card offered a promotion at one time where you earned an entry into a giveaway for going paperless. (I didn't win.)


Have a Paper System

I suggest developing a system. It will help if it actually works. (I'm being cheeky.)

Everyone has to find a system that works for them. Our system is pretty simple. I have a bin near by desk where everything that needs filed gets thrown into; bills, receipts, warranty information for home appliances or repairs, etc. This is under my desk and out of the way, so I don't have to look at it often. The downside to this is that I sometimes forget it's there until all of a sudden it's full. If you follow my model, I'd suggest getting a very small bin.

Since I don't like to file it's just not realistic for me to file each item away as it comes in. I'd rather not do it for a couple months and bite the bullet one Sunday afternoon for a few hours. When it does come time to file away, I pull a rolling filing cabinet out of the closet and file items into labeled hanging folders. The cabinet has two drawers: the top is for items I'll only want to keep for a year or two (credit card statements, minor receipts, copies of mail-in-rebate paperwork, etc.) and the bottom is for long term paperwork (receipts related to our vehicles or home, tax documents, etc.).

I have a portfolio that I carry around with me pretty much everywhere that I go. It has a legal pad for my to-do lists, blog ideas, and other notes to self. It also has a pocket for storing items that need attention: bills, notices, magazine subscription renewals, things I pull from magazines that I want to look into, etc. Chances are, you don't carry a handbag... not that I'm judging if you do! But I'm guessing this isn't realistic for you. I'd suggest one file folder somewhere important. I'd also suggest remembering where that important place is.

Set a time each week to go through this file folder. Being a tech guy, I'd suggest going as far as to schedule it on a calender system that will email or text you when it's time for your file folder "appointment," so you don't forget to take care of it. I get paid once a month so I sit down the morning my paycheck hits the bank and send all my dollars away via online payments. This is such an "adult" thing to do... but sooner or later we will have to grow up!

Couponing For Men

Let me first say that I LOVE that you use coupons! Go you! I just stumbled across a photo that might also convince my husband to start couponing and build his own stockpile:



ValuesCoupons.com
A beer stockpile- I love it! But alas, I've yet to see a coupon for beer in the state of Pennsylvania.

Seriously, though... I've saved over $2000 couponing thus far in 2011, and that's nothing compared to serious coupon shoppers! It's totally worth it. Now, let's figure out a way to make couponing easier for the average man.

I clip just about every coupon that comes in my Sunday newspaper and file them all away in my coupon binder. I find coupon clipping relaxing and enjoy couponing as a hobby. I'm guessing you have other hobbies and just want to coupon to save some money.

Here's the biggest tip about using coupons to save money: A coupon doesn't save you money if it's not an item you want or need to buy! I've said time and again that I buy items we don't need or use but only if I can get it for free and only if it can be donated or used by a friend or family member. Your best strategy is to a) get a Sunday newspaper each week and then b) only clip the coupons for items you use.

Now, what to do with those coupons? There are a number of systems people use:


The Coupon Binder, Courtesy Niftymom.com

The Coupon Tote, Courtesy BargainBriana.com
The Coupon Mini-Accordian, Courtesy Mommysideabook.com

But I think this idea might work best for you, a low-quantity-coupon-shopper:

A Plastic Zipper Coupon Pouch, Courtesy BargainBriana.com
You can pick up a medium-sized plastic zipper pouch anywhere, like Walmart or Staples. It's doesn't have to be clear if you want to keep your thriftiness incognito. Inside the pouch put all the coupons you clip. Then, get one small mailing envelope for each store you shop at (your grocery store, CVS, etc.) and write the name of each store on an envelope.

Here's your system:

Before each shopping trip, make a list of what you need or want to get. If you aren't already doing this than I guarantee you are either frequently forgetting items or overspending on impulse purchases... or both. Stop that and start making a list!

Once you have your list, flip through all your coupons and pull out the ones that match the items on the list. Put those into the envelope for whichever store you are going to that day. You can then put the envelope back into the pouch or just take that envelope to the store. If you take the whole pouch you'll have all your coupons on hand in case you find a great deal on an item not on your list but that you remember having a coupon for. By making your list right before your shopping trip, and flipping through all the coupons you have, you are more likely to remember having a coupon for that item when you see something on clearance or marked down to a great price that you don't want to pass up.

Other tips:

Blinkies

Since you probably won't be caught dumpster diving for extra coupon inserts anytime soon, (oh yes, we they do that!) you'll want to be on the look out for blinkie coupons.

Courtesy Grocerycouponguide.com
Blinkies are the machines that pop out coupons in grocery stores, usually near the item that the coupon is for. I think some of them blink, hence the name. I'm surprise by how easy it is to overlook these little machines, even when it's right in front of your face. However, blinkies are a great way to increase your coupon savings without requiring you to hoard coupons. BUT, once again, don't buy an item you don't want or need just because there is a blinkie for it (unless of course the blinkie makes it free).

Double Coupons

Did you know that many grocery stores double the value of coupons? Yep, they sure do! My store will double a coupon up to a $1 value, so a $.35 coupon becomes $.70 and a $.55 becomes $1 off. You'll want to check your grocery store's website to see if they have a coupon policy. If so, this should tell you what the doubling policy is. (You might be able to find this information on the website's homepage or under a tab called "Savings" or something similar.) My store also has huge banners on the windows of the store that advertise their double coupon program. (I bet you $1 your store does too and you've just never noticed!)

Weekly Ads

Did you also know that your store puts out a weekly ad of all their current sales? (Sarcastic? No... not me!!)Definitely check out the sale ad when making your shopping list. This will help you maximize savings and make sale + coupon match-ups before even getting to the store.

Store Value Cards

If you don't already have a savings or value card for your store, get one! Many times sale prices are only available to card holders, so find the customer service desk and ask for a store card on your next shopping trip. This applies to grocery stores and drug stores, like CVS. Be sure to give the cashier your card to scan before ringing up any groceries and follow the prices on the register monitor as he/she rings everything up. Check, check, double check to make sure everything rang up the correct price! You can save money by not accidentally over spending on register errors.

Ebates

Ebates is a way to save money by making money. Men shop online... a lot. My husband does most of his shopping online. (There is a standing rule in the month of December that I cannot look at any packages that come in the mail.) It's free to set-up an account and then all you need to do is log into Ebates before shopping online and click through to the store you want from their site. By doing that you will automatically get a rebate up to 25% of your purchase total. The rebate amount varies depending on the store. A check is mailed to you every 3 months if you earned $5.01 or more during that quarter. If not, your earnings will roll over into the next period.

Expired Coupons

You'll want to sort through all your coupons regularly and toss any expired ones. Or, better yet, put all expired coupons aside in an envelope and mail them at the end of each month to a military family! Commissaries overseas, where military families do their grocery shopping, accept expired coupons. For more information, check out The Krazy Coupon Lady.


I hope I answered your questions and that these tips help simplify your life a bit! Does anyone else have a suggestion for our reader?

If you have a question about couponing, saving money, or the meaning of life, feel free to email me at 2010housewife@gmail.com!

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