Things you should always have in your coupon binder!

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Highlighter

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.

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Different types of coupons

There are quite a few different types of coupons out there for food products and these are the ones that you’ll find when you go grocery shopping!

  1. Instore coupons & Catalina’s

Instore coupons are often sent to you via mail and looks like regular coupons from a manufacturer and some are printed in the shop and comes from their Catalina printer. An instore coupon can only be spent at the shop that you’ve done that purchase in or in any of the chain’s shop across the country. Some chains, like Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, have machines at the register which prints coupons at the end of your transaction – these are called Catalinas and are money off a certain type of product, a money off your next purchase, a points coupon on a product or a coupon that says two, triple or quadruple the amount of points you earn at your next purchase. The Catalina machine and the shop’s system will save what you buy via your loyalty card and can therefore print coupons based on that. I often get coupons for money off cat food because I have a cat, you might get money off laundry detergent if you often purchase laundry detergent.

  1. Manufacturer coupon

This is one of the most common coupon out there and they are produced by the company that make the particular product that the coupon is for, for example Coca-Cola and Santa Maria. They give you money off if you buy their product and the amount off is usually somewhere between 50p and 2£. There are many type of manufacturers’ coupons, as you will see in the upcoming examples.

  1. Tear pads

These are found in the aisles of the grocery store, next to the products that it gives discounts on. Tear pads are not always valid only on the product that they’re next to, so be sure to read the coupon through thoroughly as you might not be limited to a certain size or product from the company that the voucher is for. These are manufacturers’ coupons as they are made by the manufacturer of that product.

  1. App coupons

In-app coupons can be either manufacturer’s coupons or bound to a certain chain of shops, like Sainsbury’s or Tesco. Some coupons are available in the shop’s app and can be loaded onto your loyalty card, some are codes that you can use online and some are a barcode or a QR box that you present to the cashier and they’ll scan it. These can often be points coupons that can only be redeemed instore.

 

  1. Point coupon

I get these all the time when I do my weekly shopping and they’re quite common, most people have seen them – but not used them. This type of coupon gives you points on your loyalty card or it can give you a fixed amount of points for buying a specific product of a specific size – for example, get 200 points for buying Catty’s dry cat food (700gr) at your next check-out. The points will be added to your card the same day or within a few days after using the voucher and have a monetary value set by the store chain. Point coupons are a type of retroactive coupons, since you don’t get money off your bill but you can spend the point at your next purchase. A lot of point coupons gives you double, triple or quadruple the amount of loyalty points when scanned at the till, this is a very common coupon to get at Sainsbury’s. Every week it seems like I get one that I can use next week and I can earn a couple of extra pounds from just one of the triple point coupons alone.

  1. Digital and printable coupons

Printable coupons are distributed by manufacturers’ on different websites, including their own and can be printed at home on your printer. Usually they have a limit of two per printer or one per email address.

  1. Peelies and Hangtags

These are manufacturers’ coupons that are glued to the product and has to be peeled of the product (peelie) or hung around the neck of a product (hangtag). Peelies and hangtags work exactly like tear pads and usually have an expiration date that are at least 30 days away, sometimes even a few months away.

  1. Free products

If you’ve got a bad product from a company and you’ve made a complaint to the manufacturer of the item, then they can issue coupons for you to get free replacement products at the shop.

  1. Rebate apps

This is a relatively new type of voucher that works retroactive. If you download a cashback app and then buy an item that’s on the list, for example if they have a 1£ cashback on Catty’s dry cat food then you go to the shop and pick up the cat food, scan the receipt in the app and get a 1£ cashback on your account. Once you’ve got a certain amount on your account, you can get it as a payment to your bank account, Paypal account or as a check.

How to write to companies!

People always ask me how I get my coupons and tell me that they can’t find it. I have the same problem, there aren’t that many coupons online, at least not if you live in the U.K. like I do. That’s why you’ve got to be proactive when it comes to couponing and use every strategy possible to get them on a fairly regular basis. One way is to write letters to your favourite, and not so favourite, companies. Which is what I’ll be covering in this blog post.

  1. Pick out your favourite brands that you use on a regular basis and have a look at the back of their pack – there should be an address there where you can send letters and queries. Write down these addresses along with the names of the companies, so you don’t get them mixed up. This is where you’ll be sending your letters.
  2. Make sure that each letter is personalized to each company and don’t clip in sentences from other letters to the current one (if you’re using the computer to write your letters), since this can backfire completely. If you manage to get a comment like “my dog loves it” in a letter to a chocolate company, then that shows that you either abuse your dog by giving it chocolate or that you’re reusing parts of the letter from a previous one to a dogfood manufacturer. This isn’t a problem, really when you write by hand, but make sure that you know who you’re writing to so you don’t write the wrong company name by mistake.
  3. Write your letter by hand, unless your handwriting is very hard to read. If you have severe problems with spelling, for example due to dyslexia, then I recommend that you either have someone help you write out the letter or use a computer with a spell check. Then you can write your letter, print it and then sign your name at the bottom. It should look proper and be easy to read to strangers. Also, if you use a pen – make sure that you don’t have too many crossed over words, rewrite the letter if you need to just to make it look nice and proper.
  4. In your letter, compliment the company in a nice and honest way. Don’t overdo it, lie or use grandeur – they can smell those sorts of things from a mile away and it’s very off putting to try and suck up to them. Be honest and natural in your praise.
  5. Tell them why you like their products and be sure to specify exactly what products it is that you often buy and use. This helps them to know why a certain product sells and can ensure that they keep making it.
  6. If you have any suggestions for improvements on a product you use, tell them in a nice way. Companies also likes it when their customers give them suggestions of new flavour combinations or fragrances that you’d like them to start making, so be sure to suggest it to them.
  7. If you’re writing to a pet food company then include a photo of your pet(s) to them and make sure that it’s a cute photo. Write the name(s) in your letter and on the backside of the photograph and tell them what products that they really like the most. If you can’t get a photo, then have the pet leave an inked paw print at the end of the letter.
  8. Your kids can be a part of writing to a company too, if you have them. Have them write a thank-you card and/or make a drawing to their favourite food or toy brands. Be creative!
  9. Don’t ask for coupons or vouchers, as it can be of putting to most companies. You’re not a beggar, so keep some class when you write the letter. I know that this may seem like a contradiction, but your whole letter might come across as a bit fake if at first you compliment them and in the end you ask for/demand coupons – see what I’m getting at?
  10. Don’t forget to put your home address in the letter, just to make sure that they know where to send their reply and always sign with your first and last name in a clear fashion – they should know who sent it and where they can send a reply.
  11. Remember that most companies will just send out a standard thank-you letter, don’t expect everyone to send you a lot of coupons or freebies. Some will, but certainly not every company does this. I’ve had more standardized thank-you letters without anything in them than I’ve had letters containing coupons.
  12. When it comes to complains – don’t complain unless you’ve got a genuine complain. If you have a complaint it’s usually easier to go on to their website and fill in a form. Again, remember to add your home address so that they can send a reimbursement to your home.
  13. Don’t write too often! They’ll start recognizing you and can become less prone to sending you coupons and freebies. But do send them cards for the holidays – Christmas, Channukka, Eid etc.
  14. Finally – always be polite and nice in your letters! This is the most important thing of them all.

Couponing terminology

In the world of couponing and saving money, there are lots and lots of special words that we use, that most people might not recognize.

Peel off coupon “peeile” – is a coupon that are stuck to a product and needs to be peeled off – hence the name “peelie”.

Catalina – Coupons that print at the register and can be for money off your next purchase, triple or double points, extra points or money off of a specific item or something like that.

Bogo – Buy one, get one (free/half price). It means that if you buy one item then you get another for free (or sometimes for half price)

Sale cycle – the cycle that shops use when they decide what items should go on sale and when. Different items have different sale cycles.

Stockpile (noun) – you pantry that’s full of items that you’ve bought for next to nothing to keep you until the next time you find coupons and/or the shop has it on sale.

Stockpile (verb – to stockpile is to buy a lot of things with coupons when the item is at its lowest sale price to make it last until the next time the price is good.

 

These are just a few words, but they are amongst the most important ones and I’ll update this as often as possible.

Couponing – a VERY quick and general guide!

Coupons are not new, but can be difficult to understand to a lot of people.

  • In the US of A a lot of coupons double, they don’t do that in the U.K at all.
  • You can use as many coupons as you like in a single transaction, however you can’t use more than one coupon for every item you purchase. Check the coupons, most of them say “limit of 1 coupon per purchase” or something similar.
  • You can buy as many items as you have coupons for. For example, I have two Fairy coupons for 1£ their washing up liquid. I can buy two and use one coupon for each bottle, since they’re two purchases.
    • However, you can combine the coupons with rewards from a chain. I have an offer from Sainsbury’s that says: Buy catfood X and get 200 nectar points. I also have a 2£ coupon for said catfood that I can use with that, since it’s NOT a coupon.
  • Make sure that you use the coupons within their dates. Use it before it expires.
  • Most coupons don’t exclude travel sizes or specify a certain size that you need to buy, for example: “This coupon is only valid on Fairy 750ml”.
    • If there are no size restrictions on the coupons, buy a smaller size to maximize your savings. I have a 75p of Head and Shoulders coupon that is valid on any size bottles. I’m going to use it at my local Sainsbury’s, since they have a 300ml bottle for 1£. After the coupon I’m going to pay 25p for a bottle of shampoo and I’ve got 2 coupons!
  • Read the coupon policies of your favourite shops and if you can’t find it – ask them via their website or on social media.
  • Also, make sure to check magazines, inserts and your Sunday newspaper for coupons – even free magazines and the back of your bus tickets can have sweet deals and coupons in them!
  • Buy the chain’s own magazine, they can often have coupons. Have a look through them first, just to be sure.
  • Join baby clubs if you’re expecting or have a child who wears diapers. The diaper companies often have clubs that lets you earn points, rewards and coupons on your diaper purchases. Check out Pampers website!

How to read a coupon:

A coupon/voucher will contain:

  1. X£ or Xp off
  2. What it’s valid on and/or what it excludes
  3. Valid for – an expiration date
  4. How many coupons you can use per purchase/transaction/household
  5. Your name
  6. Information to the shop on how they can redeem the coupon

If a coupon says:

  • 1 per purchase = you can use one coupon per item purchsed, so if you buy two of product X that means that you can use two coupons – one for each item.
  • 1 per transaction = You can only use one like coupon per transaction, but there’s nothing that stops you from buying three of the same thing, with coupons, in three seperate transactions
  • 1 per household = You may only use one coupon per household (you and your closest family – you, your partner and your children)

 

How to get coupons:

Be advised that you need to double check Extreme couponing and Money Saving Expert, since sometimes their coupons are invalid.

 

  • Check out the websites of your favourite brands and sign up for their newsletters. They can contain a lot of coupons!
  • Sign up to all the shops loyalty programs (Nectar, Tesco Clubcard, Morrisons…), that’s an awesome and free way of getting coupons.
  • Google is your friend. Google your favourite brands + vouchers and see what comes up.
  • Write letters to the brands you like and write REAL letters with pens and papers. Include what you like about them, why you buy them and maybe a suggestion of what you’d like them to make, improvements of their products or a new flavour. If you have children – have them draw pictures and send off to their favourites too. Companies likes that! If you have pets – send cute photos of your animals to the companies that makes the food they like. Be creative! A lot will send out a standard “thank you” letter, but some will send free stuff and/or coupons.
  • Join or create a coupon swapping group and swap coupons.

 

 

Have a look at YouTube for different people who coupon and explain it. Here are some great couponing people:

  1. Holly Vlogs (UK based)
  2. Hip2Save (USA)
  3. Southern Savers (USA)
  4. Krazy Coupon Ladies (USA)

 

I hope that this helps somewhat and please, ask if you have any questions.

What are coupons & why should you use them?

Coupons have been around for decades now, but few of us actually know how to use them, think that they’re something for old people or poor people. BUT! While it may be true that old people and people with limited means use them, middle class people use them too to help them save money and spend it on other things. Or, they’ve been inspired by a certain TV-show on TLC.

Have you watched Extreme Couponing on TLC or on the internet and now you want to do that for yourself, but don’t know where to begin? Well, look no further – this is The Poor Man’s Guide to the Galaxy’s very own “Couponing 101” crash course, which will teach you the foundations of couponing. Not extreme couponing like you see on the telly, but everyday couponing that will reduce your grocery bill by at least 40% every week – reasonable and responsible couponing! If you want to use these skills like the ladies (and gentlemen) of the TV show, go for it – just remember to not clear the shelves while you’re at it.

A coupon is a piece of paper (or a piece of data on you mobile) that has a specific value of a certain product or a range of products from a manufacturer, all specified on the coupon itself. Let’s say that you have a coupon worth 1£ off Pixie washing up liquid Platinum and the bottle costs 2.50£. That means that you get a 1£ rebate if you have the coupon scanned by the cashier at the checkout. The bottle will, after the coupon is applied, cost you £1.50 instead. However: you can’t cash in the coupon all by itself without purchasing the product that it’s valid on, as it holds no value without the product. It’s like a gift card, you can use it in the shop, but not exchange it for hard cash. Every coupon has a different value and ranges anywhere from 20p and up to about 1£. Those are the regular coupons and anything beyond that is called “high value coupons” because of their higher value. The high value ones are rarer and don’t get distributed as often as the lower valued ones. Coupons are also often called vouchers in the U.K.

These days you can find coupons of off anything, basically, from milk to microwaves and the sky’s the limit on the types of coupons that are out there. But why should you be using them on your groceries? Most people I meet say that it just doesn’t pay to clip, look for, print and use the coupons – they don’t save anything, or a minimal amount! Well, then you’re using them wrong. It’s like with anything, you need to educate yourself on how to use this to your advantage, which the vast majority don’t do. But, with the easy steps that I’m going to show you in this educational series you can save at least 40-50% on your grocery bill, without even feeling like it’s a lot of work. Honestly, who wouldn’t like to spend less for more? This doesn’t even mean that you have to compromise on what you normally eat, it just means a bit more planning but other than that – nothing changes. You can even use vouchers to save on other things that groceries; travel, holiday, everyday things like coffee (or covfefe…), going to the cinema, fast food etc. You can live a full life, with more savings to spend on other things; paying of your mortgage at a higher rate, pay your debts faster, student loans can be memory much faster and you can start building a savings account for your retirement or unexpected costs.

 

According to my calculations I’ve saved about 1200£ since I started using coupons 3 years ago; that’s 400£/year! And you could do even better!

 

 

Presenting: The Poor Man’s guide to Coupons – season 1!

It is done! I can now proudly present season 1 of my upcoming blog series: The Poor Man’s Guide to Coupons – season 1 

It will be a beginners guide to using coupons as a person with limited means and not like all the middle class people you see on YouTube! The first season will be dedicated to the basic principals of couponing. I can also announce that there WILL a second season with even more basics and busting a couple of the most common myths about Couponing and extreme Couponing.

I can also give you an “Episode Guide” or a “Chapter List” of this season.

Episode Guide / Chapter List

  1. What are coupons (and rebates) and why should you be using them?
  2. Different types of rebates, coupons and deductions and how to combine them
  3. The store’s own rebate-, loyalty-, and club card. Why you SHOULD use them!
  4. Where do I get coupons?
  5. How to read coupons to avoid doing it wrong
  6. The shops’ sell cycles and own rebates in combination with your coupons.
  7. Different store chains = different coupon policies. Learn to read them and memorize the most important parts.
  8. Store your coupons correctly and keep them up to date
  9. Couponers Anonymous 
  10. Practical tips before, during and after a haul!

The first episode will be out in March!