Q & A with money-saving expert Coupon Katie

 by Trillia Newbell

Money saving tips has been a hot topic over the past few years. With the economy in the U.S. and abroad suffering it seems people are looking for the most effective and efficient ways to save. One of these methods has been coupon clipping.

 Katie Van Dyke started using coupons and with the encouragement of her husband began a blog helping others learn tricks to saving money. “I did not know anything about blogging and did not think I had time. He actually set up the site and one day when I came home he said, ‘Look honey, you have a blog,’ she said. The site is CouponKatie.com and has been a one stop shop for many hoping to save a buck.

Three years after her husband, Shawn, surprised Katie with the site, she continues to update it each week with a list of the best deals and coupon match ups for local grocery stores and drug stores. Throughout the week she also features events and special deals.  Van Dyke’s expertise is well known in the Knoxville, Tenn area and beyond and she shares insight and tips on Tuesday mornings on the WTNZ Fox 43 Morning Show.

Van Dyke, took time out to answer some questions to help you navigate through the world of coupon clipping.

Q: Coupon clipping can seem overwhelming at times. How do you approach it when you are just getting started?

 Van Dyke: Start slowly. When I started I felt like I needed to get in on every deal at every store. It is easy to get burnt out like that. Start collecting your coupons, pick one or two stores to focus on and start practicing there. Make sure you already have a grocery budget or goal and meal plan. Staying organized is super important!

Q: Do you have a file or organizing system to keep up with the coupons? If so, could you describe it?

Van Dyke:  I have used three systems. When I started I just used envelopes. I labeled around 15 envelopes and kept them in a basket. Every week I clipped all the Sunday coupons, filed them in the correct envelope. 

Second I moved to a binder.  It had baseball card holder and photo holder pages in it. Each pocket was labeled and again I clipped and organized all my coupons in my binder. This is the easiest way to take coupons with you so you can get in on clearance deals or unadvertised deals. This is also the most time consuming way to organize your coupons.

Now, I use a large accordion file. Every Sunday I write the date of the inserts very large on the front of each insert (so I can see it easily) then I file all the inserts in one pocket. When I am making my shopping list I just use my coupon match up post, go to the insert that has the coupon I need and clip it then. This method is a little less mobile but it takes much less time! 

Q:  What are some top items that are always discounted that our readers might miss or should look for?

 Van Dyke: There are several things that you should really never pay for once you start couponing- toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, deodorant, mouthwash, air fresheners, tuna, and  pasta. Things you will never need to pay more than $1, at the most, for:  shampoo, pain reliever, dish washing soap, razors,  shaving cream, cough drops, band aids, salad dressing. There are probably a lot more but those are the things that stick out. It is easy to get a lot of toiletry and cleaning items free or very cheap. That opens up a lot of room in your budget for fresh produce, dairy and meat, things that you see far fewer coupons for.

Q: One complaint I’ve heard about coupons is that they can often feature processed foods. What would you say to the consumer who prefers fresh or organic produce and goods.

Van Dyke: While these coupons are rarer they are out there. Set up a free coupon email (like gmail, hotmail, etc,) then use it to register on manufacturers websites, sign up for newsletters or just email them and tell them how much you like their products. They will start sending you coupons!  The separate account will keep you organized. Also sign up for store emails at your favorite stores. There are websites like MamboSprouts that have printable coupons for organic and natural products. And again saving on toiletry items will open up room in your budget to buy more of the foods your prefer.

Q: Coupon clipping isn’t the only way to save money. What are other tricks you might have up your sleeve?

Van Dyke: Learn the sale cycle at your store. No matter what products you are buying they are all on a six to eight week sale cycle. Start taking note and when the things you need are at their lowest price buy enough to last your family six to eight weeks, until it is on sale again. You will start saving money without even using a coupon!

Q: I’ve heard of people going to the register at CVS and actually receiving money because of all of their coupons. How does that work?

 Van Dyke: They don’t receive money, they will get Extra Care Bucks back. Specific sale items each week trigger Extra Care Bucks to print after you buy them. These are essentially store credit that can be used on your next purchase at CVS. Walgreens does this too.

Shopping at drugstores is a fantastic way to save money. Once you learn these systems and get your first Extra Care Bucks your goal is to only use those to shop with and only use cash for tax. 

Often I will go to CVS or Walgreens and spend much less out of pocket than I get back in store credit to use the next time I am there.

Coupon Katie CVS store guide: http://couponkatie.com/cvs-store-guide/

Q:  Do you stock up on items? If so, which ones?

Van Dyke: Stocking up is a hot topic right now. When things are free or at their lowest price I do stockpile- within reason. That, to me, means what my family will use in six to eight weeks until that product is at its lowest price or free again. If you came to my house right now you would see a stockpile of pasta, cereal, toothpaste, razors, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner and Clif® Z bars.

Q: When meal planning for a larger family with potentially varying tastes, how do you suggest saving money yet not losing the creativity to cook unique and fun dishes?

 Van Dyke: First look at what you have in your pantry or freezer and plan a few meals you have almost all the ingredients for. Then look at the sale ad for your store and plan the rest around what is on sale that week. Shop produce that is in season, this will help you change things up too.

Q: Which stores have the best deals?

Van Dyke: Kroger (they double coupons $.50 or less every day) , Food City (they have a lot of BOGO deals), Target (allows you to use one manufacturer coupon and one Target store coupon per item), CVS, and Walgreens.

 

Katie Van Dyke with husband Shawn and three sons

Katie Van Dyke is a Midwestern girl who married a Knoxville boy 10 years ago. It has taken most of that time, but she has come to love south, the mountains, sweet tea and the SEC.  She spends most of her day chasing and enjoying life with three energetic sons with fourth boy on the way! 

For more information or to find out about her classes, seminars, educational links and store guides, visit her website at Couponkatie.com. You may reach her directly at Katie@couponkatie.com.

 

 

 

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