Couponing for Beginners
For those of you that have been watching the show Extreme Couponing and want to know how to get started, this post will help get you on your way. First of all, I want you to get the idea out of your head right now, of becoming just like the people on the show. You have to remember that it is TV, and with all things on TV, take it with a grain of salt. Some of the couponers on Extreme Couponing don’t do things quite right, or ethically for that matter, and that is not something that I want to promote or teach you how to do.
I am here to teach you how to get things for free or cheap and to hopefully build up a modest stockpile. So if you are ready, here we go!
Step #1 – You first need to acquire coupons! When you see a coupon, start looking at it as if it is money. Most coupons are beneficial to have. Look at a coupon and think to yourself, “Would I buy this product if I could get it for free?” You may be able to donate the item if it isn’t something you would use. Here are some of the places you can find coupons:
- Newspaper - Almost every week, your newspaper should have 1-5 Coupon Inserts. There may be the Smart Source, Red Plum, General Mills or Procter & Gamble Insert. Sometimes you will get two of one kind. The P&G (Procter & Gamble) insert typically comes the first Sunday of every month, and contains coupons for things such as Tide, Gillette, Bounty, Charmin, Pringles, etc. Check with your local paper to see which inserts they carry because some of the smaller local papers don’t have the P&G Insert. You can preview the coupons that are to be released in the Sunday’s paper, of the upcoming week, about midweek each week.
- Printable Internet Coupons - Below are some of the most common and popular sites to get printable coupons. I post new coupons I’ve found online frequently.
- Cellfire.com (These are coupons you get online, but load to your grocery store loyalty card, for no clipping!)
- Kellogg’s – They regularly have a variety of coupons
- Manufacturers – These days, most companies have a facebook page and from time to time, offer a coupon on their fanpage. You will often be able to find coupons on any given manufacturer’s website. You can even email or call a company and let them know how much you enjoy their product, and oftentimes they will mail you some coupons!
- Blinkies – These are the little boxes you will find in the grocery store. They have a blinking light (hence the name) and will release one coupon at a time. They will typically be found near the product the coupon is for. They change constantly.
- Tearpads – These are pads of paper/coupons that can be found near any given product. You are free to tear off a coupon and use it on your shopping trip. Just be sure to not tear off several – leave some for the other shoppers.
- Peelies – These are the coupons that can be found directly on a product. Do not go around and take coupons off of products unless you intend to buy them.
- Hangtags – These are coupons that can often be found hanging around a bottle of some time – Juice, Oil, etc.
- Magazines – Most magazine subscriptions have a couple of coupons throughout them. The most common magazine for coupons is the All You Magazine. This can be purchased at Walmart or Amazon, and comes with $50-$100 in coupons!
- Purchase Coupons - It is technically against the law to purchase a coupon, but you can pay someone for their time it took to clip a coupon. You can find coupons for sale on sites such as ebay.
- Ask your friends/family/neighbors for their unused coupon inserts. My grandparents live in an assisted living facility, and they would often gather a few inserts for me that the elderly residents wouldn’t use.
Step #2 – Organize your coupons! It is important to know what coupons you have and where they are. You need to find a system that works for you. Start small, since you are just building your coupon supply, then broaden into something more if needed. When I first started, I used a 4×6 Photo album. I labeled the pages by category, and would sometimes have several pages to a category. For example: I found that I had a lot of Frozen Food coupons, so I would allow more space for those. Once I started getting too many coupons to fit a small album, I got a binder. I like to first have categories of stores that I shop frequently, then I categorize the coupons. Here is a list of the categories that I organize my coupons by:
- Rite Aid
- (Grocery Store(s))
- Rebates & Receipts
Then I have my coupon pages:
- Canned Foods
- Snacks & Candy
- Household Products
- Personal Care – Feminine Products, Contact Solution etc
- Deodorant & Razors
- Body Care – Soap, Body Wash, Sunscreen etc
- Oral Care – Toothpaste, Floss, Mouth Wash, Toothbrushes
- Hair Care – Shampoo, Hair Color, Hair Accessories
Step #3 – Shop the Sales! DO NOT go buy an item just because you have a coupon for it; That would be a sure way to spend more money, and not save more money. Keep your coupon and wait for a good sale. You can watch the weekly sale ads yourself and if an item is a good price, then you can use your coupon on it to maximize your savings. To help you with this, I post coupon matchups for several different grocery stores. This means that each week when an ad comes out, I will list only the items that are at a good price. Then I will tell you what coupon to use on that item (where to print it, or which newspaper it came in), to get the item for free or cheap. The best sales are ones where the item is discounted and in addition, there is a store coupon in the ad. For most stores, in-ad coupons and manufacturer coupons can be stacked. Here is an example:
Haribo Gummi Bears $.69 with in-ad coupon (This is a coupon in the Walgreens ad this week)
Stack with $.30 off 1 Pkg of Haribo Gummi Snacks (printable coupon)
Final Price: $.39!!
Important things to pay attention to, to know if something is a good sale: When the price is lower than typical (stock up when items are at their lowest price point, so you don’t have to purchase the item again until it is once again at it’s lowest price point). When there is a Buy One Get One Free Sale – even if one item will be free, you can still use a manufacturer coupon for the free item. This means you can use 2 coupons in a BOGO Free Sale. When there is a store coupon in addition to the sale, then you can STACK coupons (use a store coupon AND manufacturer coupon for the same item). When there is a double coupon promotion going on at your store. Not every store has double coupons, but you can check your store’s coupon policy to see if they offer it. Usually this means a store will double any coupon, up to a certain amount. When you have a rebate for a given item and it is on sale, it may be a good time to shop and use your coupons!
*You may not need a certain item, but it’s not a bad idea to donate it. You should also be open to trying new brands. Maybe you typically buy Ragu Pasta Sauce, but if the Classico Pasta Sauce is on sale and you have a great coupon for it that would make it free – would you get it? This is when it is a good idea to keep coupons for things that may not be your favorite or typical shopping items.
I do not promote shelf clearing. this is when you go into a store with tons of coupons and take all they have – leaving nothing for other shoppers. Be modest in your shopping and you will still go a long way.
If you are fairly new to my site, be sure to check out my “Understanding the Lingo” page, for help in understanding the lingo I use in many posts with coupons and grocery store coupon matchups.
For help in understanding how to shop the drugstores (my favorite), see my “Walgreens & CVS 101″ Page.
Please leave a comment or message me if you have any questions at all!