Jill Cataldo

Jill Cataldo

“Dear Jill,

I’m giving your method of only cutting the coupons you need for one weekly shopping trip a try.

Previously I have cut all of the coupons out of the newspaper that I will use before they expire, so this is a new method for me.

However, I am concerned about what happens when you spot a sale item that you did not know about. What do you do?

Last week I found a bunch of holiday napkins on clearance. If I did not have coupons for napkins with me, I would not have bought them.

Can you share other tips for how you decide exactly which coupons you should carry?”

Millie K.

I’m a huge fan of the “clipless” method of couponing – only cutting the coupons I will use this week.

It’s much faster and easier than cutting and carrying every coupon that appears in the newspaper.

I’ve explained this method previously in my column, but if you missed it, I’ve got a guide to getting started on my blog at jillcataldo.com/welcometocouponing.

With the help of a coupon blog or website, you can create a custom shopping list that tells you exactly which coupons to cut from your inserts.

I save the newspaper coupon inserts each week, building a large library of coupons that I can draw from for each of my shopping trips.

Then, I cut the coupons my shopping list calls for.

I strongly believe this is the fastest, easiest way to coupon, because it keeps your preparation time to a minimum.

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Fans of the “carry every single coupon to the store” method do, at times, have trouble letting go of all of their coupons.

It’s simply not necessary to bring every coupon you own in case an opportunity arises to use them.

However, there are some occasions where you may encounter an unadvertised sale on an item. What should you do?

When I spot a great sale or clearance that I wasn’t expecting, I look at the price of the item and use my smartphone to do a quick search of a coupon database to see if there are any current coupons available.

I have a free Coupon Lookup database on my JillCataldo.com blog if you’d like to see an example.

If no coupon exists, and the item is a good price, I may buy it regardless.

If a coupon exists for the item, but I’m not currently carrying it, I have a few other options.

Did you know that some stores allow you to post-redeem coupons? You can purchase the item, then return to the store at some point in the future with your receipt and your coupons.

Visit the service counter, and the staff will accept your coupons post-sale, giving you cash or a refund.

If a coupon exists for the item I want to buy, but I’m at a store that will not accept coupons after a transaction, I may decide to pick it up on a future trip, adding the coupon for the item to my wallet when I return home.

Or, if I really want the item, I may decide that even without an extra 50 cents off, it’s worth buying.

I like to consider all of the time I’m saving by not cutting, managing and carrying all of my coupons as a trade-off too – I may trade missing an occasional discount here or there, but in the big picture, I’m still saving a great deal of money without spending too much time couponing.I do have two exceptions to the “only cut what you’ll use on this trip” method which you may wish to adopt: I carry all free-product coupons, as I never want to let one expire and miss out on a deal. I also carry coupons for products I know I will buy.

For example, if you like a particular brand of juice and will buy it whenever it goes on sale, you may find it worth carrying these coupons in your wallet so they’re immediately available to you when you spot a sale.

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Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@supercouponing.com.