I have been couponing for over a decade. I have saved thousands. I wish I would’ve been meticulous about tracking how much I have saved, but an estimated guess would be that I have easily saved over $25,000.00 in the 10 years I have been couponing.
Right now, I save about $200-300 a month, which is over $2,400 a year. So in case you haven’t gotten into couponing yet, now is a great time. This is couponing for beginners article. If you are already a seasoned pro, I offer my online video training course which outlines my efficient step-by-step couponing system which will save you $45.00 in 35 minutes of couponing prep or less.
Before I got started there was a lot I had to learn. These were the days before the popular TV show Extreme Couponing came on TLC. I didn’t have as many resources as there are now. I would have to say getting started now is a great time to start because of all the technological advancements that make matching sales and coupons so easy. Not to mention the huge amount of printable and online coupons and discounts available now that weren’t then.
Have I convinced you to start couponing? If so, let’s get started. Here are 11 coupon basics that you need to know no matter which store you shop at:
#1. Coupons have expiration dates and must be used before they expire. They also have other restrictions that need to be followed: size, quantity, brand, make, etc. Just think of it this way: the Big Print Giveth, the Small Print Taketh Away. For example, a Pampers coupon will say $2.50 off in big print. At the outset that seems like an awesome deal. When you read the smaller print it will say off two boxes of Pampers Swaddlers Diapers. The boxes are pricey and it’s usually always a better deal to buy the smaller jumbo packs and use a high value coupon on those. The small print just took the $2.50 and made it not such a great deal after all. Read each coupon carefully.
#2. Coupon websites that match sales with the coupon are the best way to go when planning your shopping trip. They do most of the work for you. They find the sales and then they find any available coupon for the sales and match them up. It’s awesome! A few that I have been using with a lot of success are:
A great all around match up site is www.grocerysmarts.com. I love this site. With Grocerysmarts.com you can highlight just the stock up prices (I’ll mention more about those below). You can also easily list all the grocery stores in your area on one page. Awesome- especially for price matching. I use this website in conjunction with Krazycouponlady.com.
Another amazing website that you can often find awesome, typically unadvertised and all the best deals is thekrazycouponlady.com. I love this site and its app as well!
Quickly checking at least two and usually three different sources before going to a store ensures that I don’t miss an amazing deal.
Finally, an awesome app that works for just about any popular grocery store and some retail stores and theaters allows you to earn cash back is called Ibotta. In the first 3 months of using it, I made $77! Ibotta is like a mobile coupon app/rebate machine. When you buy something being sponsored by Ibotta and the store you bought it at you will earn cash back. At the end of your shopping trip to redeem an item you need to follow a quick process of learning a fact, watching a short clip, or sharing it on Facebook. After that, you simply take a quick photo of your receipt and the product you bought and the cash will be credited to your account. Plus, if you sign up and redeem 10 purchases with over .25 cent rebates you will receive a $10.00 bonus if done in the first 30 days which is a pretty great deal! Click here to sign up for Ibotta and be sure to redeem to earn your $20.00 bonus.
Another free app is called Checkout51. It is very similar to Ibotta but it can be used with any store. I’ve tested it and It works great! Plus, unlike Ibotta, it isn’t stored exclusive, which is great for people who live in smaller towns and that don’t shop at big chain grocery stores. You can get cash back on milk, eggs, and other everyday groceries. I use this and Ibotta together and sometimes get items for free! Sign up for Checkout51 here!
#3. You can print off coupons online. Most coupons can be printed 2 times per computer. If you have a laptop and a desktop you can get 4 coupons to use. You simply either need to hit the back button after a coupon is done printing and it will reprint or you will need to go back and re-select the coupon and print again. These are some of the best resources to find online coupons:
a. Coupons.com—is the largest database of online printable manufacturer coupons. You can often just go to coupons.com and find items that you may have on your grocery list and print them off there. More efficient use of time is to search on hotcouponworld.com for the items on your grocery list instead of sifting through all of the coupons on coupons.com.
b. HotCouponWorld.com—is a huge coupon search/database that can search for almost every coupon out there in the USA. Once you are at HotCouponWorld.com, click on the coupon database and search for items that you need. It will show you if there are any coupons out there (printable, insert (non printable), etc.) available for that certain item. (The database doesn’t work with smartphones. You will need to use desktops or laptops to search for coupons for specific items.)
#4. If you use over 5-10 coupons each shopping trip, buying a Sunday newspaper subscription will save you money. I tried both couponing with and without the newspaper. I saved much more by having a newspaper subscription. I actually paid for all 4 of my newspaper subscriptions in the first 3 weeks I had them by using the coupons I found in them.
- It is important to note that if you ever don’t have the newspaper arrive, are missing inserts in your paper, or get the wrong quantity delivered, the newspaper company will credit you for an extra paper at the end of your subscription. Although this rarely happens, if it does you need to call and notify them each time. Also, when you buy the newspaper call them and tell them you do not want the special editions (as they cost additional money and will cut your subscription short).
#5. Coupons come in the mail and newspapers. The main mailer is an insert called Red Plum. In some areas, Red Plum also comes in the Sunday papers. The abbreviation used for Red Plum on most all couponing sites is RP. Smart Source ( SS) comes in the Sunday papers. Proctor and Gamble (PG) also come in the newspaper (usually the first paper each month). Side note: another few abbreviations are BOGO ‘buy one get one free” and MM which means it is a money maker. A money maker, in most cases, means that by buying the item (which is free) you will have extra money through its purchase to use toward another item in that same purchase. OOP means total out of pocket money you will need to purchase the transaction/products.
#6. Each paper has a date on its tiny spine. If you look closely you will be able to see the date. When you see on the match up sites that there is a sale and a coupon they will tell you where to find the coupon. If it is an internet coupon there will be a link to click to go to that site. If it is a newspaper coupon they will state it by using the abbreviation of the insert and date on its spine. For example, it will look like this: Huggies 2.00/1 Jumbo Pack SS 1/12 meaning that in the Smart Source insert that was delivered on January 12th you can find a 2.00 off one package of Huggies diapers (that was just an example). Inserts that are mailed don’t always have the same date stamped on them as the date they arrived because they arrive on different days for different people. They are typically stamped with the date of the upcoming Sunday.
#7. Make sure to buy multiples of the items you will use that are on sale and have coupons to go with them. Extreme Couponing is when you stock up on items that are rock bottom in price. This is how you are going to save the most money. All three resources/websites I mentioned above use a scale to show how good of a deal the sale/coupon matchup is. If they are listed as a stock up or 5 star deal then buy multiples because most items only go on sale with coupons every 3 or 6 months.
#8. The easiest most efficient way to coupon is not to clip coupons until you are sure you are going to use them. I use an accordion binder like this and slip the coupon inserts into it when they come on Sundays. I keep all the Red Plums together, the PG’s together, and the SS’s together in one or two sections. I order them newest to oldest. I also keep my printed coupons and loose random coupons that have come in mailers, magazines, etc. in their own sections as well.
- Once the insert is a few months old I quickly scan through it. If the majority of coupons are expired I take the inserts and recycle/trash them. I am constantly rotating my inserts in and out of my binder so they all fit.
#9. Start at one store and get familiar with the coupons, clearance section, rewards programs, restrictions, etc. Once you feel like you understand that store, try mastering another in your area. Here is a link to how to coupon at Target. How to coupon at Kroger aka Smith’s, Ralph’s, Fry’s, etc, How to coupon at Walmart, How to coupon at Walgreens, How to coupon at CVS. How to coupon at RiteAid.
#10. Monitor your expenditures. This deserves a post all on its own but here it is: You can go broke saving money. That is right, you can go broke saving money. If I don’t closely monitor myself I will try to get every single deal out there and spend hours day couponing. When I do this I usually always over spend in our grocery category. How did I overspend by saving 40-100% off? It is the amount of small purchases I make. They really do add up. Moderation and slowly building a stock pile is the way to go. Couponing can be a thrill and give you a rush when you walk away from the store with discounted and even free stuff. Just realize you paid taxes, gas to get to the store, money on the newspapers, paper, ink, etc. and time.
Couponing is one of the best ways to save on groceries and other household items but it can get expensive if you try to build a stock pile overnight or are in the stores every day. Think about trying to take a turtle approach and try not to be the hare (like I was). A thing I do to balance this out is to only extreme coupon a few weeks out of the month instead of all four.
#11. Read my 17 Mistakes Couponers Make and How to Avoid them here. This list is both for the novice and the experienced couponer. It will give you some great guidelines and help you avoid many pitfalls couponers make. Or better yet, take my course:
Anita’s Secret Couponing System Video Training Learn How to Save $45.00 in 35 Minutes of Grocery Preparation
Want to save over $45.00 in 35 minutes of preparation each time you go grocery shopping? I will show you how in my exclusive planning video. I have streamlined couponing, discount shopping, meal planning, and other ways to save which saves me thousands every year! I reveal all of my efficiency secrets and simple ways to feed my family for less. If you are in charge of the grocery shopping, you do NOT want to miss this.
Current Price: $7.79
Click to order Couponing Training Video.
Want even more tips on how to save on food and household goods? There are a variety of ways (for the couponer, anti-couponer, and wholesale shopper) mentioned in my book I co-authored: Living a Rich Life as a Stay-at-Home Mom: How to Build a Secure Financial Foundation for You and Your Children