Couponing for Beginners

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Instead of getting irritated every time my mail box is stuffed with a coupon circular that I did not request to receive, and instead of stubbornly calling all of them to demand to be removed from their mailing list, I decided to figure out what kind of savings could really be had by coupon-clipping.

Groceries, home goods, construction goods, baby stuff, vehicle items – they ALL have coupon options! I had not realized how useful coupons could be. I’ve glanced through those coupon papers before and it seemed like the coupons were mostly for things I did not shop for in any case. I was wrong; think about the savings on doubling, or even tripling, coupons for everyday use items like toilet paper, toothpaste and deodorant. So, what’s my suggestion? Clear a storage shelf in your house or garage, clip and sort your coupons, and plan your shopping trips accordingly! Read on for a how-to on Couponing for Beginners.

Click here for military specific commissary coupon FAQs.

To get started, you will need a few supplies. I suggest a pair of crafting scissors, paper clips or staples to group coupons, a recycle bin or bag for your trash paper, and a sorting/filing storage system.

  1. Decide on a storage solution. You will need to store both your coupon resources (temporary) and your cut coupons (more long term). For your resources, like magazines, mailers, etc. have a desk bin or a drawer or file somewhere where you can quickly put these items until you are ready to sort through them. For your coupons, what storage solution makes sense to you? It is really up to your personal preference whether you store coupons uncut, alphabetically, by date, by store, or by category – for a few options. Whatever your preference, have a storage solution before you start collecting coupons or you will get overwhelmed by paper and clutter and probably scrap the whole experience before you get started, just to clean off your desk!
    • Some coupon-clippers prefer a binder system with dividers and plastic sleeves so they can quickly flip through sections and see their coupons.
    • I prefer a filing drawer with manila folders where I store my coupons by expiration date and type. For example, sections include Groceries, Baby, Toiletries, Home Goods, Expired and Soon-to-Expire.
  2. Choose your coupon resources.
    • Next time you go to your grocery store, check if they have a Weekly (or Daily) Deals magazine; this is usually near the entrances or checkout. Many grocery stores offer discounts and coupons on their websites as well to print. Subscribe to store magazines where you frequently shop for a snail mail copy or an email copy of their circular. Check your local newspaper and check the product manufacturer’s website. For online shopping and couponing, consider creating a folder of bookmarks in your internet browser so that you have quick access to your frequented stores.
    • Sign up for your frequented-stores’ discount program or loyalty card to get in-store savings without a coupon. You will have to provide your contact information, but that’s a good thing because they typically mail or email a weekly sales ad notifying you what savings will be available in store the coming week. This type of deal is available at grocery stores and pet stores. Some high-end retailers may offer a similar program, but it seems that most require you to have the store’s credit card to receive regular discounts.
  3. Clip coupons. Cut out your coupons from your selected mailers, newspapers, grocery-weeklies, online ads (printable), etc. Don’t forget to check product packaging and boxes for coupons as well. (While you are at it, cut the box tops off your products too and donate them to a school near you). I like to highlight the coupon expiration (exp.) date and whether the coupon is limited to one item or can be used to purchase multiples of the same product.
  4. Know store policy. Some questions to ask before you get too far into the coupon clipping craze focus on whether your frequented stores accept coupons and what their rules are. Check the store website for answers to the following questions or ask their customer service representative:
    • Do you double or triple coupons?
    • Do you accept printed coupons?
    • Do you accept copied coupons?
    • Do you accept competitor’s coupons?
    • Do you accept expired coupons?
    • Can I use more than one identical coupon per visit?
  5. Maximize your savings.
    • Combine discounts. Combine a coupon with a sale or promotion of the same item.
    • Stock Up. If the coupon and/or sale is good for multiple of the same item, stock up! You may have 1+ of the same coupon or a coupon may be good for 1+ of the same item; whichever the case – buy whatever is practical for you to store (without items expiring on your shelf!)
    • Branch out. Venture out of your comfort zone and try a different product brand.
    • Track expiration dates. This is good advice for both your coupons and the products you purchase. Don’t become a coupon hoarder – keep track of expiration dates so you don’t waste a good coupon.
    • Buy what you use. Sales and coupons can be dangerous if you get in the habit of buying items “because it’s on sale”; if you’ve never used that product before, odds are you won’t start now. Don’t waste your money! If a deal is too good to pass up – say on 100 rolls of toilet paper and you just don’t have the storage space, donate the product excess to a shelter or church.

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