Where Do You Begin? My Intro To Couponing

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Old 04-11-2011, 07:10 PM
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Star Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing


You have discovered couponing! This is a wonderful world, but it can be very overwhelming. So how exactly do you begin? I’ve put together this post to help those new to couponing to learn where to start.

First off some points I want to make:
Have Realistic Expectations
You have seen “Extreme Couponing” and you too want to save 99% of your grocery bill. This is a wonderful goal but remember that this will take a long time to obtain, if ever. These savings are achieved over time as you collect coupons and build up a stockpile. Eventually you will have enough items on hand that you can be picky about sales and only buy free and cheap items.

I am not trying to discourage you at all; I just want to make sure you have realistic expectations. From watching “Extreme Couponing” it’s easy to think you can achieve their savings after only an hour or two of work. But that is just not realistic. Couponing does take time and effort.

Realize the Costs

Sure the people on that show save a ton of money, but how much are they putting in to get that savings? You have to balance the savings with the amount of time needed to achieve that savings. If you are taking too much time away from your family then the savings is not worth it in the end. Find the balance of time and savings for you. Also, remember, the longer you coupon the less time it takes. After a while you instinctively know what is a good deal and a good coupon. You will find a system and a balance.

I believe it is entirely possible to save 50% or more on your grocery bill. The savings will vary depending on your family size, eating habits, and the stores available to you. But everyone can use coupons, and everyone can save!

Some Basic Rules of Coupons:

Coupons may only be used once. You may not buy ten boxes of cereal and scan the coupon for $1 off cereal ten times. The store will only be reimbursed for the single coupon you scanned – they will then lose $9 for the nine additional times you scanned the coupon.

You may not use two coupons on one item. You may not buy one package of diapers and use ten coupons on it. You may only use one of your coupons on the diapers. You may, however, use one store coupon and one manufacturer coupon on one item if the store allows it.

Coupons may not be copied! Copying coupons is illegal. Do not do it! There are many ways to obtain multiples of coupons in legal ways like buying multiple newspapers.

Read the wording of the coupon and ignore the picture! Manufacturer’s tend to put a picture of their most expensive product on the coupon to make you think that is what you have to buy. If you actually read the terms of the coupon, it will usually say “save on ANY brand xyz product.” That means you can buy even the least expensive product and still save with the coupon! Always follow the size and type wording of the coupon.

You can use a coupon on an item that is on sale or clearance too! Occasionally the cashier will try to tell you otherwise, but a quick chat with the manager or corporate can clear that up.

Do not use expired coupons even if they scan! If you have a stash of expired coupons, consider sending them to military families overseas. They can use coupons up to 6 months past their expiration.

Per Purchase vs Per transaction – Understanding the difference between coupon terms stating limit one coupon per purchase and one coupon per transaction is is an important point in couponing. limit one coupon per purchase means one coupon per item. Each item you buy is a purchase. So if you purchase ten boxes of crackers you can use ten coupons. They want to prevent you from thinking you can buy one box or crackers and use two manufacturer coupons on the same item. You should be able to use one coupon per item purchased. Of course, if the coupon is for “$1 off the purchase of two” you’ll need to buy two and you can only use one coupon for those two products. Limit one coupon per transaction: This simply means your entire shopping trip.



Okay, now on to How to Begin:
Step 1- stock up on coupons

You never know what will go on sale and when, so a “stock” of coupons allow you to swoop in and get your great deal when it pops up. Coupons come from many places: Newspaper inserts, coupon websites, product websites, store websites, product Facebook pages, store shelves (blinkies, tearpads, and peelies), magazines, brochures, and product packaging. Get your hands on them however you can. Always get a Sunday newspaper (most experienced couponers get multiple papers). Ask your friends and family to save the inserts as well. And you can trade, and even buy coupons, as needed.

Step 2- Organize your coupons
You need to know what you have and you need to be able to find it. Some options are baggies, envelopes, recipe boxes, binders, accordion files, etc. There are many systems people use – find what works best for you!!

Step 3 – Plan your shopping trip
Make sure you know your stores coupon policy (do they accept internet printed, limit the number of coupons per transaction, can you stack store and manufacturer coupons, do they double coupons and if so how many). If you cannot find it online ask at customer service or the manager. Get organized before you leave the house - Get your store ads in the paper or from online. Check the ad for cheap prices and make a list of the things you want to buy at each store. Check for deals others have posted here on AFC. Then clip your coupons and keep them with your list. Also, try to find a convenient time to go shopping – It’s better to avoid the rush hours and it’s easier without the kids.

Step 4 – Go shopping
Look at your list and gather your items. Don’t forget to check out the clearance area for good deals. Don’t be embarrassed to use coupons! Understand that coupons will slow down the check out process, so be prepared for that and don’t be embarrassed. Watch the register – sometimes the sales prices don’t ring up correctly, and sometimes coupons don’t scan. Be prepared to say something if needed.

Step 5 - Stockpile
Avid couponing leads to stockpiling! The goal here is to buy before you need an item while it’s cheap or free, and avoid having to buy it at full price when you have to have it. Buy multiple items at your rock bottom price (you will soon learn what is your rock bottom price, it varies for everyone because of store/pricing/needs variations). That way you won’t pay full price when you really need to have it. Also it eliminates the need to run to the store when you are out of something, and will cut out those impulse buys. Sales tend to cycle so try to buy enough to get you to the next cycle (commonly every 3 months).


A Few Random Things:

Start Small! Start with one store and only a few coupons and build up from there. I recommend new couponers first learn how to create a shopping list and complete trips at their local grocery store, and then move on to new stores as they get comfortable. Each chain has different rules and systems. Learn one, then move on to the next. Once you are comfortable at your grocery stores then move on to learning a drug store (CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid). Drug stores offer amazing deals but are very complicated to learn. Only approach those after you get settled into couponing.

Realize sales come and go. Don’t try to hit them all or you will go crazy. If you miss a deal, don’t beat yourself up – a new one is just around the corner. Make sure you balance family time with couponing – it can easily consume you if you aren’t careful.

Just because you have a coupon doesn’t make it a deal! A common pitfall to new couponers is buying things because you have a coupon. If you won’t use it and its not free then don’t buy it. You will just be spending unnecessarily if you spend money on something you don’t need or want.

Be respectful! Remember that cashiers and other shoppers are human beings. Be respectful and polite in your shopping and couponing. Try not to empty a shelf just because you can. Be courteous to your cashier – most are just trying to do the right thing and follow the rules. They don’t want to get in trouble. If they don’t know all the rules then politely help to educate them. Remember you catch more flies with honey than vinegar!

Be patient with yourself and have fun!! If you expect too much of yourself right off the bat you will get frustrated and quit. Keep trying, keep going, and soon all this will be second nature. Remember even if you only save $5, that’s still $5 more than last week!



Some additional FAQ:
Since I originally posted this thread I’ve gotten a lot of questions. Here are the answers to a few common ones:

Coupon Doubles – Where, how, when
Most if not all people on “Extreme Couponing” have coupon doubles, and they can get amazing deals that way. But unfortunately many areas of the country do not have any stores that double. Deals are harder without doubles but couponing is still worth it. To figure out if your store doubles please check out their section here or check their coupon policy. Even when stores do double coupons there are limits – for example a certain total number will double a day, only a few, or one, like coupon will double a day, and only certain values will double. Unlimited doubling is a fantasy not a reality. Learn what your store does and work within those limits.

Making a binder
Many people prefer to make a binder to hold and carry their coupons. If you want details on making a binder check out my post here. All the questions on this thread prompted me to write it.

Getting multiples of coupons
Getting your hands on coupons can be accomplished in many ways. The simplest is getting multiple newspapers each weekend. You can gather them in the stores as well – keep your eyes open. They can also be traded here on AFC in the FSOT section. They can also be bought (technically the coupons are free, you pay the people for their time in gathering them) on ebay and coupon clipping sites. Also, ask family, and check for recycling in your area. The key is get creative.

Insert variations
You can always see a preview of coupons coming out in the newspapers here. But please remember that there are always variations in the inserts. Generally large city newspapers will have better coupons than small newspapers. They also vary by regions of the country. The great thing about the lists is they tell you the coupons exist. If you don’t get ones you want look into trading for, or buying, them individually.

If you have other questions that are not answered here feel free to ask. If they are store specific the people in you store forum section should be able to answer them as well. Good luck and happy couponing!!



Disclaimer: I gathered bits of this and accumulated ideas from all over. Thank you to all those who helped put this into words.
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  #2  
Old 04-11-2011, 08:02 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Wow! That's amazing! Thanks!
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Old 04-13-2011, 10:51 AM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Great info!! I am an Extremely (New) Couponer......I have only used a few coupons in the past. I have a few questions. How many copies of an internet coupon do I get to print? What are some good trustworthy websites to start with? When I see the coupons for like $1.50 off when you buy two, I automatically look ever them because I don't have the money to buy two. Can you give me an example of how these coupons are worth using? I know my questions seem crazy, but I am very new to this. our income has been cut so I need to find some ways to save money on groceries.
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Old 04-13-2011, 11:10 AM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovinmyfamily08 View Post
Great info!! I am an Extremely (New) Couponer......I have only used a few coupons in the past. I have a few questions. How many copies of an internet coupon do I get to print? What are some good trustworthy websites to start with? When I see the coupons for like $1.50 off when you buy two, I automatically look ever them because I don't have the money to buy two. Can you give me an example of how these coupons are worth using? I know my questions seem crazy, but I am very new to this. our income has been cut so I need to find some ways to save money on groceries.
No problem - ask away!

There are three main sites that do internet printables (IPs) smartsource.com, redplum.com, and coupons.com (commonly referred to as bricks coupons also). Each of these companies allow you to print 2 copies of each coupon per computer, and they generally reset at the beginning of each month. You can hit the back button or go back to the start and hit print again. Each of these sites require you to install a small applet on your computer - these have been verified as safe and you only have to do it once. The applet is designed to ensure legal coupon printing instead of people making pdfs of them and such. You can also get tons of coupons from manufacturers sites and also their facebook pages. There is a great section here where members post when new printables pop up - just look under the different categories.

As for the $1.50/2 it really is a personal preference. Some coupons only come in "off 2, 3, 4" etc. You have to balance the savings versus spending if you cannot find an "off 1" coupon. Generally couponers start stockpiling - buying multiples of an item when it is on sale and have a good coupon for the item to make it super cheap or free. So I may use the $1.50/2 this time and then not have to buy it next time. But your budget and needs will have to find what is right for you. Look at what you would spend on one without a coupon, versus 2 with a coupon - I probably is worth it to buy the two.

I hope that helps you out and feel free to ask questions. We all had to start somewhere, and many others out there may have the same question!!
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Old 04-13-2011, 01:53 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Great articke. The only problem that I have with stockpiling coupons is that 99% of all the coupons I see have an expiration date (usually 3 weeks) from when I get my hands on them. Keeping up with expired coupons can be a real pain..
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Old 04-13-2011, 02:17 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Great article.

I haven't organized or arranged a shopping trip yet. I'm focusing my time -- when I'm not at work -- to collecting, reading (on here), and looking over ads/prices in catalogs and on the internet to get a clue at the average price of things, because I never really cared to notice on some items.

I think my main concern is dealing with a "hater" cashier that doesn't know the coupon policy or gives me the stink eye when I give her mine. I'd also feel bad and anxious if there were people in line behind me.

I had a q for Reddi Whip, and used it the other day in a self-check-out lane at SafeWay. It felt great to save .35 and not have to deal with anyone! hahah Don't worry, I'll get to the point where I could care less what anyone thinks when I am saving 50%+ off my bill (hopefully)
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Old 04-13-2011, 03:19 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Elaina I think the most difficult part of starting couponing for me was the embarrassment/fear. I was a very shy person and it was hard to have attention brought to myself, and I never used to stand up for myself. But now I am much more confident and not embarrassed very easily. I have had a few cashiers who are haters but since I know the store policy and I know I'm using my Qs (coupons) correctly I feel confident at standing up for myself. Since I live in a small town all the cashiers now know me, know I'm legit, don't ever give me grief, and they even come to me for advise. Problems do occasionally arise but they are rarer now. I try really, really hard to let the bad days just roll off my back. That's easier said than done but I try. As you go along you will definitely feel more confident. This is one of the ways starting small and building up really helps. Good luck to you!!
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Old 04-13-2011, 03:28 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Thank you for posting this. I have found it very helpful since I am new to this. I have always tried to use coupons before but only on occasion. Now that money is very tight I hope to put this to good use and save myself some money.
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Old 04-13-2011, 03:37 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Originally Posted by nomadicpixie View Post
Elaina I think the most difficult part of starting couponing for me was the embarrassment/fear. I was a very shy person and it was hard to have attention brought to myself, and I never used to stand up for myself. But now I am much more confident and not embarrassed very easily. I have had a few cashiers who are haters but since I know the store policy and I know I'm using my Qs (coupons) correctly I feel confident at standing up for myself. Since I live in a small town all the cashiers now know me, know I'm legit, don't ever give me grief, and they even come to me for advise. Problems do occasionally arise but they are rarer now. I try really, really hard to let the bad days just roll off my back. That's easier said than done but I try. As you go along you will definitely feel more confident. This is one of the ways starting small and building up really helps. Good luck to you!!
Thank you, I appreciate your words of inspiration!
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Old 04-15-2011, 05:06 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Old 04-16-2011, 05:24 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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This is very useful for me - my first day on AFC. I'm scouring the site for tips on where to begin. I think I will start at the local Scolari's as they have a great Internet site with the weekly add and they double coupons and combine manufacturer with store...so, away I go!
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Old 04-16-2011, 05:35 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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This is very useful for me - my first day on AFC. I'm scouring the site for tips on where to begin. I think I will start at the local Scolari's as they have a great Internet site with the weekly add and they double coupons and combine manufacturer with store...so, away I go!

Good luck!
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Old 04-17-2011, 09:05 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Great article. I am a newbie. I tried my hand at couponing and rebates several years ago and somehow allowed myself to become sidetracked. So now, here I am again, giving it another go. This time for the long run
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Old 04-18-2011, 05:43 AM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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I started my binder & got all my coupons alphabetized last night! I am SO excited! Been couponing for years & was getting SO aggravated-until I found out about THE BINDER SYSTEM! I think this method will be alot easier!Now when I go shopping and see something unexpectantly on sale or clearance I will have my binder with me and can easily find a coupon! This will save me TONS of time and aggravation!
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Old 04-18-2011, 05:55 AM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Good stuff. Thanks for laying out some realistic basics.

Here's to saving some cash!
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Old 04-18-2011, 06:00 AM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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*edit. whoops.
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Old 04-18-2011, 01:45 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Old 04-18-2011, 08:03 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Thank You

I read and re-read this post - it is most helpful and re-assuring to my newbie self. Tomorrow is my first significant coupon shopping experience. Although my list is not huge, I am going to several stores (on my bicycle - so no wasted fuel, other than my morning breakfast, ). I have to admit that I'm kind of nervous, especially about my first attempt at "stacking"(?) - I have a couple of items with both store & mfg coupons, so I hope this works out....

Mostly - I'm grateful for all of the information being shared and the kind welcome I've received. Cheers!
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Old 04-18-2011, 08:10 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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I'm really interested in learning about how to set up a binder ... is there any post or reference you can share on a good organization system? Appreciate any help.
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Old 04-18-2011, 08:55 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Thank you for the helpful information. Cheers!
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Old 04-19-2011, 07:18 AM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Quote:
Originally Posted by shopbybike View Post
I'm really interested in learning about how to set up a binder ... is there any post or reference you can share on a good organization system? Appreciate any help.
I know there are a few posts floating around that show some pictures, like this one here, that can be helpful. Here are the pointers I can give you from my personal experience.
  • Get a binder that zips shut. These can be more expensive so check thrift stores, clearance, and ebay. That way if you drop it or a kid gets a hold of it the coupons aren't all over the floor.

  • Get some sort to tabs to make the sections. You can even use paper with post-its sticking out if you need to do it cheap. Make the sections in an order that works for you. Most people sort by sections of the store (frozen, fridge, pet, paper/plastic, cleaning, HBA, etc). I personally put those in order of the aisles of the store I shop the most (aisle 1 has...). Some people put everything in alphabetical order. As time passes do not hesitate to adjust the categories to what works for you.

  • To hold the coupons get baseball card holders to hold the coupons. I actually prefer the currency holders like below better because you then don't have to fold the Qs. You can get them on ebay or Amazon.

  • I recommend you put all your coupons for free items at the very front so they don't expire by mistake.

  • I had my husband put grometts in (you can get them for a few bucks at the hardwear store) and we attached an old duffel bag strap so I could carry it. Or you can carry it in a tote for easy handling.

  • Be flexible. As with all things about couponing you will find your system. Feel free to add pages as you go, move categories, move coupons, etc. If you struggle finding a coupon in your binder move it around.

  • A few days before the end of the month go through your binder and find all the Qs that are expiring in the next few days. That way you can clean out the binder and get a chance to use any Qs you want to use but forgot about.
  • Have fun with the binder. If its too much work, try a different system. Most people love it but you may not. Be willing to try other things.

Good luck!!

ETA a few more links: here and here

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Old 04-19-2011, 08:47 AM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Thanks for this post. I am returning to using coupons after losing all coupons, stockpiled items, everything in a fire two years ago. Lately, I have been using coupons casually, especially like the coupons loaded on my Kroger card as they work automatically. I have missed using some coupons to expiration due to lack of organization. I have a binder and inserts, so will be organizing soon.
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Old 04-19-2011, 09:07 AM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Catalina Couponing question

I have been couponing for many years, but in a much smaller capacity. I recently started "extreme couponing" or my version anyway and saved $94 with coupons on my first trip. I ended up spending only $118 that day. I was super excited. Anyway, I do have one question about using coupons. If the store is having an in-store promo of buy 1 get 1 free or even buy 1 get 1 50% off, can I use 2 coupons or is that double dipping? I am purchasing 2 items and have 2 coupons but the store has a promo also.

Thanks in advance!!
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Old 04-19-2011, 10:33 AM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Originally Posted by doozers4 View Post
I have been couponing for many years, but in a much smaller capacity. I recently started "extreme couponing" or my version anyway and saved $94 with coupons on my first trip. I ended up spending only $118 that day. I was super excited. Anyway, I do have one question about using coupons. If the store is having an in-store promo of buy 1 get 1 free or even buy 1 get 1 50% off, can I use 2 coupons or is that double dipping? I am purchasing 2 items and have 2 coupons but the store has a promo also.

Thanks in advance!!
For the BOG50% yes you can use 2. FOr the BOGO it actually depends on the store's policy. I know Rite Aid and Publix allow it, but some others (like Safeway) do not. So I would check their policy if to see if it says or check in the store's forum section here on AFC.
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Old 04-19-2011, 06:34 PM

RE: Where do you begin? My intro to Couponing

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Thank you SO much! That description was most helpful!!
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