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COUPONING/REFUNDING 101
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Information and Tips about couponing and refunding!

ORGANIZING YOUR COUPONS
USING THE "BINDER METHOD"
 
There are many ways to organize your coupons. You can always use a filing system-in a box, an accordian file or an envelope. I have tried them all & the very best method that works for me is the "binder method".
 
If you use a box to file them, you will quickly learn that if it falls down or turns over-you have lost hours of work. And you will want to cry.
 
I actually use 2 binders-one if for Food Items the other is for Non-Food Items.  There are several reasons why I use 2 binders and the best reason that I can give you is that one binder fills up incredibly fast and having 2 binders has solved that problem. Plus, after I have shopped for all my non-food items, I can put that binder away and break out my other binder. Its pretty efficient. you may not need 2 different binders-but it has helped me out. Try it with one binder first and see what works best for you.
 
HOW TO MAKE A COUPON BINDER
 
Here's the info:
Most importantly: Put your name, address, and phone number(s) on the inside cover in case it gets lost. (some people are forgetting theirs in the carts when they load their groceries into their car).

I use a 3 ring 3" zipper type notebook that has inside pockets to hold my flyers. I use the 9 pocket baseball card pages for the coupons and one 3 pocket page for my weekly ads or rebates I'll be doing for the month. I also use a zipper pencil pouch to hold my scissors, my pen, notepad, and calculator. I use the self-stick divider tabs to separate my categories. Also, I have found this to be incredibly helpful-right after the tab that has your category written on it, I put a page protector (just one that can hold a 8x11 sheet of paper). I use this for coupons that are way too big for the baseball card holders (that cannot be folded to fit in the baseball card holders).
 
I trim my coupons very closely and there are very few coupons that I have to fold to fit in the pockets. The longer coupons I keep in the bottom row of pockets so the zipper won't catch on them.

I started off using one or two pages per category, but now I have about 5 pages per category it really all depends on how many coupons that you have. I try to keep like coupons together in the pockets.
Here is a list of Categories-you can change this up to what best suits you.
 
Baby Items 

Baking Items 

Beverages 

Canned goods 

Cereals 

Cleaning Supplies 

Condiments 

Dairy 

Deodorants 

Entertainment 

Facial Care, razors, etc. 

Feminine Hygiene 

Frozen Foods 

Laundry needs 

Makeup 

Meats 

Misc. 

Oral care 

Over the Counter Meds 

Paper & Plastic 

Pasta & Rice 

Pets needs 

produce 

Restaurants 

salad dressings 

snacks 

soaps and body washes

If you are incredibly organized, you may want create categories there are subcategories (within a category), for example: Paper/ Plastic is broken down and label on the pockets for toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, napkins, foil, plastic bags, etc.
Just categorize your binder to the best method that suits you and your needs.
 
Since the pages are clear, you can easily see what coupons you have that are for what products and the expiration dates, makes it easier to get them out and it makes it easy to clean out the binder of coupons that have expired.
 
The following are ideas that people have submitted on a message board somewhere:

1. Use a small phone/address book as a price book and keep it in the binder.


2. Use colored paper to color code your pages.

3. Put dark paper in the pockets to enable the use of both sides of the pages or a blank piece of paper between each page.

Binder Supply List
 
Notebooks/Binder:  Look for a 3" 3-ring notebook that zips, or a notebook/holder of your choice   be sure to check after school sales & clearance bins for the best deals.
 
Some people will put a strap on their binder-they will add an old luggage strap sometimes. I prefer to put them in a backpack. Then, if I pick up any related coupon stuff-it goes into my backpack (it works best for me).

Pencil Pouches:  These you can acquire at the dollar stores (stores in which everything in the store is $1), Wal-Mart, etc.  or you can find them on clearance after the school year starts.

also:
scissors, rotary cutter, or some type of sharp instrument you want to use to cut your coupons with.

pen, notepad, calculator, and I always try to have a sharpie marker around (you never know when you need one of these).

This list should give you a start of what you might need.  Just add to it anything else you would want to have in your binder.

Also be sure to put your name, address and phone number in the front of the binder in case it gets lost.        
Have fun getting your binder together-you will see that being organized makes it so much easier to shop.

COUPONING TIPS
 
The trick in being able to stockpile (if you can) - you may already know - is to get multiple coupons of the items you use.  Most of us try to get extra inserts without having to pay for them.  From recycling bins, friends that don't use coupons, and visiting places on Sundays where people eat/drink/wait/read the paper and leave the newspaper.  Or trading with friends - like the coupon club.
 
Get yourself organized. You can't save MONEY if you can't find the coupon or rebate form, etc. Many people organize their coupons differently, so use what works best for you. There are different methods. Whether it be an old diaper wipe box with dividers, a shoe box with dividers, a coupon wallet, or a coupon binder. Just get organized-a little time organizing will save you LOTS of time and money in the end..
 
Get multiple coupons.
There are several ways to accumulate multiples of coupons. Some ways are:
** ask friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. to save them for you.
** go to recycling centers and get them (be sure to ask the attendant if this is allowed before you start "dumpster diving")
** get to know the newspaper carriers, they may be willing to give you inserts from papers that they don't sell, also ask the convenience store clerks and other store clerks too....the store only has to turn in the top portion of the first page of the paper for credit
** watch for those blinky machines (the little red machines that "spit" coupons out) in the stores.....usually that product will go on sale within 2-3 weeks after you first see the machine and the store will pull it out right before the sales.
** If needed, buy or trade for extra coupons that you may need (view the couponing/refunding links page for more info).
 
Get to know your area stores and their policies.
Call the stores and ask if they double or triple coupons, or price match competitor's ads. Some stores, such as Walgreens & Eckerds will accept a manufacturer coupon in conjunction with their store coupons.   Also, don't overlook other stores in your area. Here iwe have Dollar General Stores. This store accept coupons and carry name brand items AT A FRACTION of the cost of other stores. You can normally get free shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, cleaners, and lots more just by using your coupons here.
 
Stockpile!!
Whenever you find a great deal on a product, buy as many as you can (and that you have coupons for), especially if you are getting the item for free. This will help you in the long run. And your other couponing friends will understand you even if others think you are crazy for having 30 of a particular item-ha!
 
Go online and save too.
There are plenty of online sites where members post their wonderful finds whether they be online or in brick and mortar stores. places to look for deals
www.mycoupons.com   click on the Look What I Found or the Tips of the Trade Board or visit  www.frugal-families.com. Check the Couponing/Refunding Links page for more info. There are lots of online coupon sites that online coupon codes, just do a search in your search engine for coupons and you'll be amazed at what that will uncover.
 
Get a subscription to Refunding Makes Cents (or refunding cents) magazine. It will pay for itself very quickly by showing you hot deals that are only available for a short period of time.  They also have a chit chat room (if you are a subscriber you can join in the chat and view it) where others talk about the latest hottest deals...If you do not have this magazine, this is the ONE that you need-I promise!

Refunding Makes Cents (or "Refund Cents")


This is the link to sign up to get a subscription to Refunding Makes Cents.
Its a published monthly magazine and the subscirption also entitles you to access to their website. They are both full of hot deals, and new refund/couponing offers. Turn your coupons and refund offers into cold hard CASH!
This magazine will pay for itself very quickly!!
If you are not get a subscriber-you should be!
Join the fun!
 
Don't use a coupon just because you have it. In other words, don't buy something you normally wouldn't buy just because you have a coupon for it (unless it's free of course)

Take advantage of online point earning sites. Usually these sites will let you earn points that can be redeemed for gift certificates for restaurant, movie rentals, etc. Here is my favorite to get you started:
IF YOU JOIN, USE ME AS YOUR REFERRAL. JUST LET THEM KNOW "FUNKYDIVAGIRL" REFFERED YOU
I get many points annually thru this site and cash them in late Oct. for gift certificates and use those as stocking stuffers in my husbands Xmas stocking-he LOVES it!

Take advantage of sites that will give you money for registering or opening an account with them as well as online retailers/etc. that will give you things if you sign up with them.

If the coupon says "off any size" then buy the smallest size. This is a better price deal.

If you are curious about knowing how much money you are saving: keep track of your savings so you can see how good you're doing. This will keep you motivated to get it even lower. I just keep my in a notebook. The before coupon total, and the after coupon total. I also try to keep a running total of the coupon amount that I use. This will give me an idea of how much I am saving with them.

If an item on sale at the store is out of stock, get a raincheck. If you have a raincheck, order coupons to go with it from one of the online coupon services. (see that post for those web sites).

Call, write or email the companies with either a negative or positive thought about their particular product(s), they may send you cents off coupons for maybe a coupon for a free product.

Most importantly have fun. It's the thrill of the hunt aspect. 

KEEPING TRACK OF YOUR SAVINGS
 
If you are the type that wants to keep track of your savings, you may find that a spreadsheet is most useful. Here is one for you to use Supermarket Savings (click on link)

 
Keep It Legal
 
As you refund and coupon, be sure to keep it legal and honest.  Greedy refunders have been caught, taken to trial, and sent to jail for having many post office boxes in lots of different names and for counterfeiting free item coupons.  Don't make homemade cash register receipts.  Read the fine print on refund forms.  Most require that you personally buy the item you are requesting a refund on.  Keep it legal and fun.  Refunding and couponing is a great way to reduce your grocery bill.

LETS TALK ABOUT STOCKPILING!!
 
Stockpiling will make you re-think about your pantry and your storage areas in your home. If you have limited storage areas, you may need to consider getting space from your garage, shed, under your bed, in closets, ect...My last home didnt have good storage places in the house and I did store toothpaste, lotion and toiletries under the bed in storage containers.
 
Currently, I have spice racks on the walls to hold my spices so I have the shelves for other things. Stockpiling will make you re-think about the space that you have in your home and how to make the best use of it.
 
Never turn someone down if they offer you shelving!! Take it and use it somewhere for your stockpiles! It may be for the garage or the pantry...but it will be helpful.
 
Start stocking up on containers that you can use for storage. I have all types of containers in my pantry...everything from containers from the dollar store to old large pickle jars (they are clean-of course) to hold a certain product that I have in my stockpile. My friend Sam has a relative who works in the school cafeteria and they bring her the old peanut butter containers-they are the perfect size and have a screw on top!
 
Example- I have lots of jars full of electrasol gel-pacs..I got at least 40 boxes of electrasol gel packs for free (maybe even more than 40) but they took up too much space. It was more space effective for me to open up each box and take out the gel-tabs and put them into containers. Sam is using the peanut butter containers for this same purpose too.. They took up less space and they are available when I need them. I do this with many things.
 
You can always trade part of your stockpile with someone else for part of theirs. (this is always helpful) Its not uncommon for me to trade something with my neighbor Sam (she also has stockpiles of her own going). I will even admit to you that I am using a whole shelf in her upright freezer-ha! I have been lucky in the past to have great neighbors and usually they will have extra freezer space. I will fill up my freezer and when I am all full, I will ask to use part of theirs and offering them at least half of what I store in their freezer for their trouble.  It has always worked out well for me (even tho, it is a bit funny-ha).
 
Feel free to submit to me your stockpiling ideas or tips. I will post them on here.