Maximize Savings With Manufacturer’s Coupons

Manufacturers coupons can be found as printable coupons online or clipped from publications and inserts. Here are some ways to get the most “bang” for each one:

1) Many times when companies are promoting a particular product, they use several promotional methods at once. For instance, they might have a high value coupon as one campaign, television ads as another, and travel/trial size products available as a third. Be on the lookout for special prices and smaller sizes to match with your coupon and maximize savings.

2) Manufacturer coupons are valid on clearance items. Be sure to check endcaps and clearance aisles to match up deals.

3) When a coupon like the one pictured below does not specify a product size, it can be used to purchase travel/trial size when available. Target and WalMart both have great travel size sections located near the hair care/mouth care/deodorant aisles. Matching up coupons to small sized products often yields freebies!

4) Printable coupons should only come from legit coupon sites like,, or from the manufacturers website. Most of the time, legit printables have a unique code on each one and usually are not found as a PDF document. Never use a PDF coupon unless it comes directly from the manufacturers website.

5) Photocopying printable coupons is considered coupon fraud. Be sure that printables are legit by checking for the unique codes and a clear barcode. Since some of the clarity is lost in the photocopying process, fakes will have blurred barcodes that probably wouldn’t scan at checkout. When in doubt, don’t use it.

6) The wording on a coupon is very important. Some coupons will be valid on any product from a particular product line. For example, it might say “$1.00 off any Johnson & Johnson Baby Product”, but the product photo might be Johnson’s Bedtime Bath Wash. Be aware that the photo on the coupon is usually for the highest priced item in that product line, and normally does not limit the coupon usage. Because the wording of the coupon says, “any” product, you are able to use it on shampoo, powder, baby oil, trial sizes and of course, on any clearance items.

7) You will realize the most savings when you learn how to stockpile.

My New Coupon Organizer!

I have a lot of coupons – and not a lot of time. So I’ve been looking for a *cute* and functional change from the typical coupon binder. I’ve found that it takes me too much time to fold the coupons to fit into the clear plastic holders, and I don’t have the patience!!!

I’ve seen several ideas online for coupon boxes using everything from recipe boxes to tackle boxes to briefcases! But yesterday while shopping in Michaels, I found the perfect solution:

Ta-daaah! Using this box, I’ll be able to quickly clip and file coupons each week without wanting to *ahem* throw them across the room. Here’s how I made it:

This week, Michaels has the Recollections Photo Boxes for 3/$5 or $1.66 each. The Martha Stewart Punch Pad cost $6.29 and contains 30 decorative sheets of card stock that are just about the perfect size for making dividers! Total purchase price: $7.95

Inside the box, I was thrilled to find some pre-made dividers that I used as templates. Here’s what mine look like:

Next, I printed my titles on regular copy paper,

cut them out, and glued them on. Voila!

If you’re really creative, you could even decorate the box!

Here are my divider titles:

Divider Titles

The Art Of Stockpiling

What is stockpiling?

In the couponing world, the term stockpiling is used to refer to stocking up on products that are free or nearly free after coupons/sales. In a relatively short period of time, you can stock your pantry with 3-12 months worth of nonperishables and eliminate them from your grocery budget. This is how the most savings is realized because by doing this, you eliminate buying out of necessity – which is when you pay the most! The goal is to have enough on hand to get you through to the next rock bottom pricing, thus NEVER paying retail – or anything close to it!

For example: if you have a stockpile of shampoo, you’ll be able to wait three months until it’s at its rock bottom price before buying more. In contrast, if you’re out of shampoo, you’ll gladly pay the shelf price for it, sale or not.

Right now I have so much free deodorant, razors, shampoo, conditioner, styling products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bar soap and body wash in my stockpile that I won’t even buy it unless I make money doing so (yes, it’s possible). This can be YOU in a few months time! For the most part, you’ll need to give up brand loyalty in order to maximize savings. Concentrate instead on matching coupons with sales and filling your cupboards with FREE STUFF!

Before I started couponing, I was the worst about brand loyalty. It was one of the excuses I used for thumbing my nose at the whole coupon clipping thing.

I liked what I liked.

I wanted what I wanted.
And that was that.
As the economy continued to nosedive however, my brand-snobbiness quickly withered away, and I have been very pleasantly surprised at the quality of items I have acquired. I have more skin care products, makeup, home fragrance items, candles, etc. than I ever had before. Good stuff. You know, the nice little “extras” that we often sacrifice when the budget is tight. I actually enjoy a better quality of life by taking what is free rather than staying in my old rut of brand loyalty.

You will too.

(photo credit: TheCuttinEdge)

What To Stockpile

This will, of course vary by family. For me, I found it helpful to start by determining the twenty non-perishable food items my family consumes most often. Since my goal is a 3 month stockpile, I estimate how many I’ll need of each item and place it in parenthesis next to the item name on my inventory sheets.

For example, my family of seven uses 4 jars of tomato sauce per week. I multiply that by 12 weeks and write “48” on my inventory sheet next to my tomato sauce entry.

Other items to stockpile – here is a basic list to give you some idea:
Paper Products:
~toilet paper
~paper towels
~paper plates
~feminine hygiene products
~diapers, wipes
Cleaning Products:
~furniture cleaning spray
~window cleaner
~dish soap
~laundry soap
~fabric softener
~surface & misc cleaners
Personal Care:
~toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash
~hair styling products
~baby wash products
~razors, shaving cream
Using Inventory Sheets
I use a simple an inventory system to make stockpile shopping a lot easier. You’ll find the free downloadable spreadsheets below. With this system I am able to know at a glance how much I have and what I need:
I begin by listing items by catagory so they’re easy to find. As items are added or used from my stockpile, I place a single line through the quantity and update the number in the next box. The box to the furthest right is always the current inventory amount (see below).

Organizing Your Stash!
There are dozens of ways you can organize your stockpile. For me, I found it helpful to keep all toiletry and personal care items in a large linen closet near the bathrooms, while the rest of it is stored on shelves in the mudroom – which is near the kitchen. Think about where you’ll be using these items and where you can find the space. You may need to get creative.

One thing to keep in mind is that your stockpile will always be evolving. You’ll have lots of extra hair products one month. The next month you’ll have a bit less, but lots more deodorant. Remember to be flexible and be prepared to quickly reorganize each month or so.

Coupon Abbreviations and Lingo

Sunday Coupon Inserts. These are the names of the different inserts you’ll find in your Sunday newspaper. Ordinarily, you’ll see these abbreviations accompanied with the date the newspaper came out:

SS – Smart Source
RP – Red Plum (sometimes also called Valassis)
PG – Procter & Gamble
GM – General Mills
KG – Kellogg

Other abbreviations:

B1G1 or BOGO – buy one get one
MIR – mail in rebate
RR – register reward (Walgreens)
FAR – free after rebate
IVC – instant value coupon
ECB – extra care bucks (CVS)
OOP – out of pocket
YMMV – your mileage may vary. Means all stores may not accept or participate.
IP – internet printable
MC or MQ – manufacturers coupon
Q – coupon
SCR – single check rebate (Rite Aid)
WYB – when you buy

Catalina – coupons for $$ off your next purchase that print out alongside your receipt at the register.
Stack – use two coupons together. For example, Walgreens allows you to use a Walgreens store coupon with a manufacturers coupon on the same item.
Peelies – coupons you find on the product itself (peels off)
Blinkies – sm coupon machines found in many stores that spit out coupons. They have a blinking light, hence the name.
Hangtags – just what it sounds like. Coupon is on a tag that hangs from the product.
Tearpads – just what it sounds like. Usually tearpad coupons hang on shelves near the product.

Intro to Couponing

This post will provide a starting point for your couponing adventures. Other stuff you’ll want to learn:
Abbreviations and Coupon Lingo
Walgreens for Beginners
CVS for Beginners.

Up until a few years ago, I had always assumed couponing was a waste of time.
I can remember as a young married woman sifting through the Sunday inserts and finding coupons for things like overpriced vitamins, unnecessary cleaning items and frozen dinners manufactured by some company I’d never heard of! When I did find a coupon I could use, it was only a few cents off – so I figured what’s the point?

Obviously, I wasn’t paying attention.

Then one day I stumbled across a video that showed me how to save big bucks by combining store sales and coupons. It was a eureka moment.  In this economy and with 5 kids to feed, I thought I’d give it a try. And the rest my friend, is history!

As you collect coupons, keep in mind that you are purchasing to build a stockpile of nonperishables: canned goods, paper products, toiletries, etc. Think about setting a goal to have 3-6 months of these products on hand. By doing this you eliminate buying out of necessity which is when you pay the most. If you have a stockpile of shampoo, you’ll be able to wait until it’s free (or dirt cheap) before making a purchase. But if you’re out of shampoo, you’ll gladly pay the shelf price for it!

Don’t worry, stockpiling won’t cost you any extra out of pocket. Just figure out how much you spend per month on these items and use that (or a portion of that) as your stockpile budget. I’ll show you how to make it s-t-r-e-t-c-h!

The two best places to find coupons are the internet and newspaper inserts.

Newspaper Inserts
Consider buying multiple copies of the Sunday newspaper. The general rule of thumb is one for every family member.  If you live in a small town, you may want to purchase a newspaper from a nearby city if it is available as they generally have more coupons.

You can preview the coupons that will be in upcoming newspapers HERE. Sometimes you hit the motherload, and some weeks I just skip buying the paper altogether.

If you’d rather skip the hassle and expense of buying multiple papers and clipping coupons, use a coupon clipping service or buy your coupons on ebay!

Internet Printables
The three main sources for internet printables are, Redplum or SmartSource.  You can also occasionally find them on the manufacturer’s websites.  Moms by Heart shares news of all high-value printables so you’re sure to get the best ones!

This is where I lose most people. I start to hear the it’s too hard/too confusing/I don’t have time excuses.
Well, I’m not buyin’ it, sister!
I’m not denying that it can be overwhelming at first. But it’s like anything else – you learn the ropes slow but sure, and get into a routine. Pretty soon it’s a breeze. Start by visiting Moms by Heart each Saturday morning to see my Walgreens coupon match ups. Plan to buy one or two things free with coupon until you feel comfortable enough to fill your cart with freebies.

Here’s an example:
Softsoap hand soap is $2.29 and you have a $.35 off coupon.
But when the soap goes on sale for $.99, using your coupon gets you 72% off the regular price!
You’ll end up paying less for three than you normally do for one. The extra two go into your stockpile and you don’t have to buy hand soap until it goes on sale again!

There are several frugal blogs that will do all the work of matching sale prices to coupons.  You just need to clip ’em!