Jill Cataldo: 'Clipless' method of couponing saves time

If you’re not the kind of person who regularly clips coupons, you may believe coupon enthusiasts spend a great deal of time cutting, organizing and using coupons. While this may have been the way things were done decades ago, modern couponing is much more streamlined. For more than a decade, I’ve embraced the “clipless” method of couponing. It’s a little play on words, because indeed, you do clip less! By only cutting the coupons you need for this week’s shopping trip, you can truly cut your time down to a minimum. You’re then free to head to the store and redeem your coupons.

With this method, it’s important to keep your coupon inserts intact each week when they arrive in the newspaper. Don’t cut any coupons out when you initially receive the coupon insert, and definitely don’t cut only the coupons you think you will use and discard the rest. Many times, a coupon that is three or four weeks old will line up to a good sale. If you’ve already tossed the offers you didn’t plan to use, you could be missing out on a free tube of toothpaste, a free box of pasta or another bargain.

With the help of the internet, couponing has never been easier. Instead of looking through all of your sales circulars, then through all of your coupons and trying to match them up on your own, the couponing game’s gotten much easier thanks to websites that match coupons to sales for you. Simply select your store of choice, build your own personal shopping list from the items on sale and then cut the coupons for products on your shopping list.

For example, a store’s shopping list may note that sliced cheese is on sale for $1.99 this week, and the list tells you to use the 75-cent coupon from the “6/24 SS.” This abbreviation refers to the location of the coupon within your coupon inserts: You’ll find this cheese coupon in the June 24th SmartSource coupon insert from the newspaper.

By keeping the coupon inserts each week, we build a library of offers that we can draw from whenever it’s time to plan our shopping trips. You may not be aware of this, but each week’s coupon insert has a date on it along the spine. It’s in very tiny text, though, so I like to write the date across the front of the coupon insert with a marker, making it easier to see. Then, I store my inserts in an accordion file, which you can pick up in any office supply department. I use one pocket for each month’s inserts.

So, how do you find a website that’s creating shopping lists and coupon matchups for your area? Head over to your favorite search engine, and search for a “coupon blog” in your local area. Coupon bloggers and enthusiasts like me write shopping lists for local and national stores around the country, and the vast majority of these are free to use. You’re always welcome to use the lists on my JillCataldo.com blog as well! In addition to my local stores in Chicagoland, where I reside, I also write shopping lists for several national chains, which you’re welcome to use to help plan your own shopping trips.

Additionally, many coupon bloggers maintain searchable coupon databases, allowing you to type in a term like “toothpaste” and view a list of all available, recent coupons, and in which coupon inserts they can be found. I’ve got a link to one of these on my blog as well if you’d like to give it a try. Going “clipless” means my planning along with shopping trips takes less than 30 minutes. I print the shopping list for my store of choice, selecting only the items I wish to buy. Then, I grab my coupon file and cut only the specific coupons my shopping list is referencing. Finally, I head to the store with a handful of coupons that correspond to each item I plan to buy no more, no less.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to [email protected].

Click Image @ Top To Buy

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