No matter what method you choose to use when it comes to storing coupons, there are some essentials which you’ll always need to bring with you when you do your shopping, besides the wallet, your coupons and your shopping list. Bringing these items listed below will help you to get all the deals right, calculate if a sale is a good one or a bad one and show the cashier at the register what the store chain has to say about coupons. Being in control, prepared and, above all, organized are the things which leads to success in most cases. What you need can vary a bit, but if you have all these things you’ll be ready if your phone should expectantly give up midway through your trip. If you don’t have a binder with a large pocket inside it to store these items, then having a large pencil case or small homemade bag made out of fabric, with a zipper on it, is the best thing to keep all your things in the same place. Place the bag in your purse or backpack and then make sure that it’s always there when you need it and always fully stocked. It may seem just a bit extreme to bring all these little things with you when you go shopping, but not bringing them will come back and bite you in the butt in the end. Nine out of ten times you might not even need to use most of the things in it anyway, so keep it tucked away until you actually need something from it, otherwise it’s just going to take up space in your hands or your cart. Nothing on this list have to be the most expensive thing either, buy simpler things from discount shops instead, unless you can get a good deal on a brand calculator or have a child who doesn’t need his or hers anymore – then use that one instead of buying a new one.
Good things to always keep in your binder
- A small pair of scissors
If you’re one of those people who doesn’t cut coupons before you’re in the shop, then you’re going to need to bring a small pair of scissors with you in your coupon bag and take the time to cut the coupons that requires cutting, before you hit the register. Cashiers have the right to refuse uncut, printed coupons. Remember to cut along fairly straight around the lines and do not clip the barcode. Damaging the barcode automatically makes the coupon invalid and it can’t be used at all if it is. There’s no point in bring a pair of large kitchen scissors, a small one designed for children is good enough and can be found for a pound at Poundland.
- Calculator + spare batteries
In this day and age most people have a smartphone with a calculator on it, but in my experience you will need to have a back-up ready, or have a calculator that you can easily whip out to do a fast calculation. Bringing a calculator is important just because you might find a deal that you’re not sure if is a good deal, that’s where the calculator comes in handy. You can quickly see if it’s good or bad. It can also calculate what your out of pocket expense will be after you’ve applied coupons and in store sales. Plus, a couple of batteries in a calculator lasts for weeks and weeks, if not months on end – unlike your typical smartphone which can hardly even play a five minute YouTube video without getting low on battery. With a dead phone you’re left to do sums in your head or on your calculator. Which one do you prefer? Be sure to keep a couple of spare batteries with you, just in case the calculator decides to give up in the middle of your shopping trip and double-check that they’re the right size. Don’t get the most expensive one you can find either, it’s not rocket science – a simple one will do just fine.
- A short ruler
Bringing a short ruler with you can help you when you’re going to cut those coupons and makes sure that you’re cutting them in a straight line. I find that they can be used if I need to grab something that’s on a high shelf and that I can’t really reach. Then I can just use the ruler to get it down and in my shopping cart. It’s a lifesaver for short people! Should you for any reason need to highlight something in a coupon policy or on a receipt, a ruler will help you make a nice, straight line.
- Pens and pencils
Having pens and pencils with you is essential. If your calculator and mobile phone fails then you have a method of calculating savings and find out if you’re getting a good deal. If you’re the type of person who likes to have your shopping list on a piece of paper, then having a pen is perfect if you suddenly remember something that you need and isn’t on the list, with a pen you can just add that new item to your list or cross something off that you’ve just put in the cart. Even if you’re not that type of person, see point G as to why you should have a printed list with you anyway. The receipt might contain an error too, with a pen it’s easier to underline what’s wrong or show what part you’ve got a question about. It’s a good idea to bring a couple each, just in case one pen or pencil breaks. You won’t be stranded without any way of communicating if you’ve packed an extra pencil.
- Coupon policies
Having printed coupon policies with you in your coupon binder or bag is pretty obvious and ensures that you’re covered and prepared if something happens at the register. Sometimes the cashier isn’t aware of what their policy says about coupons, or doesn’t understand what it means and if that happens – you’ll be ready to bring out the policy to politely explain what it says and what it means. Bringing a policy shows what the official stance of the company is. Be sure to print off the policy for each and every chain that you usually shop at and all the rest that are in your town and the closest surrounding ones. You never know when or where a good saving is going to appear, that’s why it’s safer to have each and every one printed, stapled and placed in your binder. Preferably in alphabetical order. To ensure that the correct policy is easily found, write the company name on top in a large font, in bold and underlined. Staple each policy together separately and then put them away in your binder.
- Extra plastic pockets
This is applicable only if you’ve chosen to file your coupons in a binder, like the ones you see the women and men on Extreme Couponing use. The shops will sometimes have coupons and if they do, get a few and nothing is more annoying than finding that you don’t have room to put them with the others. Sure, you could put them in your wallet, or worse – your pockets. But, realistically all that happens if you put the voucher in the wallet is that you’ll forget about their existence until the next year, when you decide it’s finally time to clean it out of old receipts, bus tickets and loyalty cards which you no longer use. Putting them in your pocket is even worse because they’re most like going to be torn, bent and washed, so make sure you file them or use them directly after getting them. Otherwise it’s just money down the drain to be honest.
- Pencil sharpener, eraser and extra leads
Should you bring pencils then you’re going to need a few accessories. Eraser, pencil sharpener and extra leads are essentials, if you use pencils with leads then the leads (in the right size!) are extra important. All these basic things are cheap at Poundland and other discount shops, especially during the Back-to-School season in August and September and this is the time to stock up on these items. Should your pencil break – you can sharp them. Did you misspell a word – erase it easily. Your pencil just ran out of leads – good thing you’ve got an extra pack in your binder. Extra ink can also be bought for pens and can be cheaper than buying a new pen, check your shops for different alternatives and what is most cost effective.
- Portable phone battery (charged!)
In this age a lot of people have smartphones and their batteries are, unfortunately, not always the best. In fact, a lot of times their batteries become bad quickly. Powerbanks are something I highly recommend that everyone invests in and they can be purchased for under 30£ per bank. The powerbank allows you to, when it’s fully charged, to charge you phone via USB and they’re well worth the investment. Just remember to keep them charged at all times, it’s just like charging your phone – plug them in a socket and you’re all set.
- A printed version of your shopping list
Should everything fail, your phone is dead and the powerbank isn’t with you and your shopping list is on the phone – then you’re in deep trouble. But, be proactive and have a printed shopping list with you in the coupon binder, tucked away and ready to be used if the occasion should arise. Date the list to keep it from getting mixed up with older lists! The list should, besides all the items you intend to purchase, list the number of each item you need, specified sizes and should be divided by store. Meaning that you should make a heading which says “Sainsbury’s” and under that you list everything you’re going to pick up from that shop and then moving on to the next shop and doing the same thing until you’ve listed all the shops and items on your list. The same should be done on your phone. Should you be one of the people who prefer to have physical list instead of a digital one, make sure it’s printed and not handwritten, handwritings can be difficult to read – even your own.
A highlighter can seem a bit farfetched, but it can be really useful to have one at hand, this is particularly true when you’ve discovered an issue with your receipt or are explaining a part of the coupon policy to an employee. Like I stated in the previous chapter, you should always go through the receipt after you’re finished with your transaction just to make sure everything’s okay and if you find a mistake – use the highlighter to highlight it and then bring it over to customer services. It’s also a good way of highlighting something you’re trying to explain in a policy. Highlighters are always very good to stock up on during the Back-to-School season.