Now that I had my seemingly endless supply of inserts, it was time to sort, clip and organize the coupons. This is no easy task and while the end result can be very rewarding, this part of the prep is why many people don’t take couponing to such an extreme level.
There are 3 main inserts, Smartsource, which comes in the Saturday or Sunday paper. Redplum, which as I mentioned before, comes once a week in the mail. Then there is the P&G Brandsaver, which only comes once a month in the mail, for that reason, it, while hardest to find, can have some of the best deals on health and beauty products.
I start sorting by putting all Smartsources together, then Redplums, then P&G. I then organize inserts from each type in order of date. Once all inserts are together by type and date, I can start putting all like pages together, SS is the easiest, while RP and P&G have many 2-page coupons that need to be torn down the middle and takes more time. Once all like pages are together, the clipping can begin.
I started out using a pair of scissors, then upgraded to one of B’s scrapbooking cutters, however once I tried to cut more than 10 pages at a time, I knew I needed some heavy machinery. I did some research and the cheapest guillotine cutter I found initially was $35-40. Then I remembered that my brother-in-law told me that the store Harbor Freight had cheap ones, and since he helped me do a little coupon hunting, he’d found a 20% off coupon. I checked their website and they had a big industrial cutter for $25. After my coupon, I got it for $20, half of what much smaller, dinkier cutters would have cost me!
Once I got the new cutter, clipping was a breeze. I only cut about 15 of each coupon in order to prevent a bloated binder, the rest of the insert pages stay together in case they are needed. A label tab is put on the front card protector with the date and type of insert, then coupons are placed in the protector by expiration date. When coupons expire, they are removed and put in envelopes to send to the military, as they may still be used on base after expiration. All excess insert paper is recycled when I return to find the next batch.
At the moment, all the sorting and clipping is being done at our kitchen table and admittedly causes quite a messy cluster. B is mildly(hah!) OCD and is constantly annoyed at how unorganized my organizing process becomes and it has therefore spawned many an argument. The stress from the mess, coupled with the amount of time I end up devoting to sorting and clipping and the amount of gas being used on our couponing trips all builds up and boils over from time to time.
These are the downfalls to couponing, along with driving all the way to a store to find the sale item completely gone which is especially frustrating when the store just opened and the sale just started that day. We have overheard employees asking their coworkers to hide items for them on more than one occasion. To be honest, that infuriates me, I know that we are trying to get cheap or free items and I shouldn’t complain, however the store should order extra stock for employees wishing to take part in the sales. Moreover, the employees actually have control over the product placement and whether or not items are made accessible to customers. They know when the trucks come in and are responsible for the inventory, JUST ORDER MORE! If couponing were a sport, the store employees would have an unfair advantage.
The last bit of bad news about the coupon game is the checkout. Once you have all your items and are ready to checkout, it is wise to size up your cashier. Is she a middle aged single mom who looks like she’s having a bad decade? An overcompensating over-the-hill guy who thinks he has to exert every last ounce of authority to prove that his job doesn’t suck? Maybe it’s the teenager doing the after school gig? I’ll take “has never heard of the Brat Pack” for 1000 Alex! Now this isn’t always true but many younger cashiers (especially teenage guys) tend to be less jaded and therefore don’t care as much or overanalyze. They take your coupons and do their job, not fighting you over ever penny saved. B recently had a manager at our local Rite-Aid store get into a shouting match with her simply because he doesn’t know his own policies and takes his job far too seriously. He was lucky I was in the car with the kids and B wouldn’t let me go in to have a word with him. Needless to say, someone’s corporate office is getting an angry phone call.
I cannot stress enough the importance of being prepared, knowing store coupon policies and paying close attention at checkout. Many times a deal will hinge on every item and coupon being scanned and coming up correctly in the register so watch the cashier to be sure that nothing is missed or you could end up paying retail!