Starting a Neighborhood Coupon Club
For a neighborhood coupon club to be successful, you need people, and the more diverse the group is, the better. Remember, you want variety so you can take advantage of as many coupons as possible, and avoid too much competition in any one category. You don't need to be the neighborhood social secretary, but if you have a good rapport with a number of neighbors, it's easier to get people interested. The idea is to have four or five people recruit others down the block and around the corner. Before long, you may end up with a dozen or more people who are interested in participating.
Once you know there's an interest in forming a club, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Locate a place to meet - Your first thought may be to have everyone over to your house once a week, but this might not be the best strategy. Being the de facto host can get old. Community centers, libraries, local schools and sometimes even local businesses may have rooms available where you can meet to exchange coupons and discuss the best shopping locations. It never hurts to ask around.
- Increase the bounty - Explore ways to add additional coupons to the pot. Friends, coworkers and family members who could care less about coupons are a good source to tap. Small businesses in the area that receive a local paper but don't shop locally can be a resource, too. Members can also subscribe to more than one local newspaper (or collect free circulars) for the purpose of acquiring and sharing coupons. Don't forget online coupons, either. Printed coupons from online coupon sites can make a valuable addition to the pool. Acquire and distribute as many coupons as you can for goods your club members will actually use. That's the point.
- Have a system - There are a number of things to keep track of, including the number of members you have at any given time, the way you intend to categorize coupons and the method you'll use to track coupon expiration dates. You can probably do all of this with a small accordion file and a spiral notebook, but coming up with a battle plan sooner rather than later will help get everyone excited instead of befuddled.
- Put together a coupon primer - Just because a neighbor likes the notion of doing more shopping using coupons doesn't mean he really knows how coupon shopping works. To help newbies, put together a brief instruction page. Make a list of local stores that allow double coupons and stacked coupons, and note their policies. Add a vocabulary section that defines acronyms like BOGO (buy one get one) and explains how mail-in-rebates work. You might also want to make a note of the retailers in your area that are most receptive (or unreceptive) to coupon-wielding consumers. Get with a couple of other shopping savvy buddies, and take the time to educate your bargain-challenged neighbors.
- Make clipping coupons fun - Folks join coupon clubs to swap coupons and socialize. To that end, participants should bring lots of coupons to meetings, along with a pair of scissors to do the clipping honors. Have members go through their coupons beforehand to remove those they plan on using themselves. Depending on the venue, it's nice to have refreshments, and if there are lots of coupons to deal with, providing some entertainment is nice, too. It could be in the form of a presentation about additional ways to save money or even a round robin of funny coupon stories. It could also include hints on how to deal with a surly cashier or the best time of day to make a big purchase.
- Go high tech - Between meetings, it's nice to stay in touch with the occasional e-mail to members. Some coupon clubs even have their own Facebook page to share meeting updates, photos and anecdotes. If you only meet once a month or so, reaching out using electronic media can keep the group stoked and on the hunt for great bargains.
- Tally your savings - Participating in a neighborhood coupon club can be fun and save money, but there's a time investment involved. To show just how valuable those scissors sessions are, have members keep a tally of how many coupons they use and the savings involved. Make up a monthly grand total as proof positive that neighbor-helping-neighbor is a great way to save money.