Centsible Saver

To maximize savings, use a binder full of coupons

adunn@newsobserver.comJanuary 12, 2013 

Editor’s note: For daily tips on saving money, check out the Centsible Saver blog on newsobserver.com. Amy Dunn writes every day about coupons, saving money and frugal living. Below are recent excerpts from her blog.

Getting organized – and staying organized – is probably the single best way to maximize coupon savings at the supermarket and drug stores.

After all, those clipped coupons won’t do you any good left behind on the kitchen counter.

In my coupon classes, I recommend that folks consider using a three-ring binder outfitted with baseball card pocket pages. It allows you to see, at a glance, whether you have a coupon for a particular product.

Before you ever leave the house, a coupon binder makes planning your grocery trip easier, allowing you to quickly match sales with coupons. And once you get to the store, if you stumble upon an unadvertised sale or clearance, you can very quickly flip to the appropriate section to find a coupon to sweeten the deal.

If toting a binder through the grocery aisles seems too extreme, you may want to opt for a file box or small accordion file. Anything to get the pile of coupons off your counter and into the store with you. Even a shoe box will work.

Once you’ve committed to a binder, box or accordion file, file your coupons by category – the key to finding coupons quickly.

Some folks arrange their coupon organizers by the aisles of their favorite store, but if you shop multiple stores, it’s best to arrange alphabetically by grocery category.

These are the categories that work for me: baking, beverages, breads, candy, canned goods, cereals, cleaners, condiments, dairy, deodorants, freezer, hair care, meats, medicines, miscellaneous groceries, office supplies, oral care, paper/plastic, produce, snacks, soaps and shaving.

Other categories you might use: baby, breakfast, cosmetics, feminine care, grains, packaged items, pets, skin care, free coupons and store coupons.

For setting up your own coupon binder, here’s what I recommend:

1. A two-inch binder with a zippered closure. My first binder was salvaged from the bottom of one of my kids’ closets. I later upgraded to a brand-new binder I found at a yard sale. You can also score a deal on a binder during back-to-school sales.

Many companies, including TheCouponPro.com based in Apex, sell already assembled coupon binders online. Though not quite as frugal, it’s definitely convenient and will jump start more efficient couponing.

2. Clear plastic pocket pages intended for baseball card collecting. Most small coupons will slide easily into one of the nine pockets or can be folded to fit. Be sure to fold larger coupons so you’re able to see the product and coupon value on one side and the expiration date on the other. This makes weeding out expired coupons much easier.

Once again, I raided my sons’ closets for their abandoned baseball card collections. But you can also purchase these pages online or at big-box and office-supply stores.

3. A few larger-size pocket pages to hold rebate forms, rain checks, extra-large coupons and drugstore rewards. These, too, can be found online and at office-supply stores.

4. Dividers. I’ve tried using full-size paper or plastic dividers but find these either wear out quickly or add a lot of unnecessary bulk. Instead, I use plastic Post-It tabs that attach directly to the plastic pages with adhesive and can be labeled with permanent marker. I’ve used these for several years now and never had one fall off.

5. A folder or pocket sleeve to hold current grocery circulars and store coupon policies. My binder happens to have a built-in sleeve where I tuck my sales circulars.

6. Scissors. You never know when you’re going to need to clip a coupon on the go.

7. A zippered pouch to hold your scissors, along with other handy tools such as a calculator, notepad and pen.

One final note: Be sure to put your name and contact information in your coupon organizer. It’s too valuable a resource to lose.

Earth Fare Rewards

Earth Fare has launched a new rewards program to help shoppers save money with the lure of $10 in free groceries.

Sign up for the new Tomato Bank program on EarthFare.com, and you’ll automatically receive 1,000 points, which translates to an automatic $10 credit the next time you shop at Earth Fare.

Earn more points – and more free groceries – while shopping. Bringing your own reusable grocery bags and using Earth Fare coupons are among the ways to earn points. Earth Fare, based in Asheville, has one location in the Triangle at 10341 Moncreiffe Road in the Brier Creek area of Raleigh.

Breakfast on the house

Make your reservation now for a free breakfast at Subway shops starting Jan. 28.

You’ll receive a free breakfast melt sandwich – built on a 3-inch flatbread or an English muffin – along with a 16 oz. Seattle’s Best Coffee.

The offer, which runs Jan. 28 through Feb. 2, is good in the Triangle and many other parts of North Carolina. I did a little ZIP code surfing and confirmed the freebie is being offered in Burlington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Wilmington. But folks in Boone and Charlotte are out of luck this time around.

Sign up at FreeSubwayBreakfast.com/NorthCarolina. Enter your town or ZIP code to find a Subway nearby and then choose the day and time you’d like to go. Subway will send you an email confirming your reservation.

Dunn: 919-829-4522

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