Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Quick and Easy Guide to being a Coupon Queen Step #5

The Quick and Easy Guide to being a Coupon Queen in 5 basic steps.

Step #5. How to do this and still stay sane. This last step in the process is not something I've read on other sites. This is just me. But I think maybe this can be of help to those just starting out. Because at some point you'll start to be very successful at this. You'll start walking out of stores with a hundred dollars worth of stuff that you only paid a few dollars for. And then one day some cashier or some person in line will basically accuse you of running the store out of business or ruining the economy or stealing or cheating or something like that. And you might be ticked off at first, or not even think about it. But if you do think about it, you might wonder if there's any truth to it. What's fair to the store, the manufacturer, the other shoppers, and your family? Who's really paying for that stuff you're taking home, and what do they get out of it? So here's how it works and what rules you have to play by.

  • Nobody thinks twice if you use a $1 off coupon on a $5 product. And nobody thinks twice if the product is on sale for $4 and you still use your coupon. People combine coupons and sales all the time and no one worries about it. That's because the sale is coming from the store (they're taking a dollar loss from their regular profit) and the coupon is coming from the manufacturer (they are also taking a dollar loss from their regular profit). No one is taking a big loss. But what if the sale is a Buy One Get One Free sale and the coupon is a Buy One Get One Free coupon? You walk out with two free products and suddenly the store manager is pissed at you. But the same rules apply. The store is being paid for one product by the manufacturer. They ARE being paid, just not by you. And what does the store get out of this? Well, they get you. They get you in there buying free shampoo but also picking up milk because you're out and you need milk and also some crackers to keep your kid quiet while you shop and don't forget that set of wrenches your husband needs... Yes, you could go in and just buy the sale stuff. But this is reality. You end up buying other stuff (even if it's more expensive at this store) because it's cheaper than paying the gas to drive across town to the store with the good prices. And what does the manufacturer get? He also gets you. He gets you to try that new eyeshaddow that you would never have paid full price for. But now that you have tried it, you switch and will always buy it (which is what happened when I tried Revlon's Illuminance Creme Eyeshaddow). And let's not forget that people who love a new product tell their friends. I just told you about my favorite eyeshadow. Word of mouth is good advertising.
  • So here are your obligations to the stores and the manufacturers: Don't print fake coupons. Don't buy things for the rebate and then return them just to make a profit. Follow the fine print on the coupons and sales flyers. Those are the terms of the deal, folks. Don't pretend your house is an apartment complex to get 47 extra rebates. If you aren't sure of the rules ask about them on a coupon website. Ask me. But try not to cheat. Why? Because even though giving away some free products helps them, giving away an unlimited supply of free products hurts them. And we don't want to go and kill the goose that laid the golden egg now, do we?
  • And here are your obligations to the other shoppers: Don't steal every peelie or tearpad coupon in the store. Take what you'll use and maybe a few extra to share with a friend or to trade, but don't take them all. And don't clear the shelves of sale items if you can help it. Sometimes you can't do much about this. Stores don't always stock up on sale items and sometimes the deal only works if you buy in bulk (like the tomato sauce sale I mentioned before). But try. And yes, other customers can ask for rain checks. But it's still better for them if they can just buy what they need when they're already in the store.
  • Finally, here are your obligations to your family. Don't let this take over your life. Don't let it eat up all your time with your family or fill up every space in your house so that no one has room to breathe. This is supposed to make life better, not worse. It's up to you to keep this under control.
  • I also strongly recommend that you use your new couponing skills to help others. Donate free items to people in need, homeless shelters, the dog pound, an afterschool program. And hang on to those expired coupons and mail them to the military. Overseas military can use coupons for up to six months after the expiration date. Also, coupons are a great way to be generous to people at a distance. You can mail coupons for free products to someone in an earthquake or hurricane disaster area much less expensively than you can mail the actual products. Be generous. It's important.
  • There are no drawbacks to this part. Here's why: Playing by the rules will get you the same results as cheating. It just takes longer. You're going to see some awesome deals doing this. And you're going to be tempted to get every single one, even to the point of double-dipping on rebates or using coupons you know aren't legitimate. But the thing to remember is that these deals are cyclical. That shampoo that's free after rebate? If you want more, you don't have to cheat. You just have to wait. And honestly, you don't have to wait long. You'll find far more free shampoo than you have room to store in only a few months. Without cheating, here are the results you can expect: You'll be able to get most of your health and beauty products for free or very close to free. It will take a while, because not everything goes on sale at once. But you'll soon be seeing free shampoo, conditioner, hairspray, mousse, soap, bodywash, deodorant, razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, etc. You may even get overage on those. And you can expect to do very well on medications. Most of the time over the counter medicine won't be free, but it will be a lot, lot cheaper. Maybe 75-90% off retail. Same goes for makeup, tampons, and pads. You can expect to buy most cleaning supplies and baby supplies like diapers, wipes, baby shampoos, diaper creams, etc. at 50-75% off the regular prices. The cleaning supplies vary wildly so you'll do better (and even get things free) for some of those. Food is a different story. First off, we all know that the cheapest (and healthiest) way to eat is to prepare your own food from basic ingredients. A potato you bake in your oven is cheaper than pre-pakaged, pre-cooked french fries. But there aren't going to be many coupons for raw potatoes. And you can't exactly stockpile fresh fruits and salads and bread and milk. So there are limits on how you'll be able to stretch your food budget. Expect to save about 30% of what you're currently spending on groceries. You could save more... but you'd be eating sodium, artificial sweeteners, and corn syrup at pretty much every meal. Look for your bigger savings to be on cereal, frozen foods, peanut butter, pasta sauce... things that you can stockpile. (Plus junk food. There are lots of coupons for junk food.) On those items, you should be able to do better than 30% off. But the fresh milk, meats, fruits, and veggies are going to be full price with only the occasional rebate. If you have a freezer, buy extra meats to freeze when they're on sale or marked down on clearance. And look for stores that give $$ off your next purchase coupons or % off your total purchase coupons and use those when you buy fresh foods. Plus, pay attention to what's already in your fridge and use things before they spoil. (I was always bad about that but I'm getting better now that I think of it as money I'm throwing away.) But I digress. The point is that you're going to get a lot of really, really great deals and there will be no need to break the rules or even bend them. And there's no need to let this take over your life. It's OK to miss a bargain because you were playing with your kids. Another bargain will come along. They always do.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions, and please share the links to these posts with your friends. And let me know how it's going, too. I love to hear when someone scores a great deal. I'll try to fill in some of the missing details every few weeks. I know it's a lot to get all at once, but it gets easier as it goes. And believe it or not this was the edited down version of all the tips I read on coupons sites. I hope it wasn't too much. But you can print it out and read it over a few times and you should be able to do really, really well. I hope you have fun.

1 comment:

She said...

Karen, thank you so much for all of the tips. To tell you the truth, the best thing I got out of it was the motivation to really delve into the process, do some research, and use my coupons in different ways. (I may even ask my friends if they'll save their Sunday coupons for me to go through. ;)