I remember my first time going couponing - I was so excited because I saved maybe 10% on my purchase by purchasing only items with coupons! Wow, I thought I was amazing! I just walked through Walmart and picked out only the items I had coupons for - and I thought that's what couponing was all about! Little did I know - it goes much deeper than that!
I started researching a little more into the matter, and learned the goal behind couponing is not just to go to whatever store you feel like and use a manufacturers coupon, but the real goal is to do the following:
Match up coupons with store's promotions to get low prices on name brand products.
Once the prices hit below generic brands, you've got yourself a good deal!
This means that the best way to use coupons is to wait until there's a fantastic deal on the item in a store ad. When this deal comes, you match the deal with the manufacturers coupon and pay a very low price for the item.
So...how do you get started couponing?
1. Get some coupons and organize them.
Currently, I get a subscription of the newspaper and I also do printable coupons online. However, I collect coupons from many sources, including in store coupons, in ad coupons, tearpad coupons (coupons that are on the shelf next to the item), peelies (coupons that are on the item that you can peel off) and basically wherever I can find them! Most of the time, you do not have to use coupons at a particular store unless the coupon specifies, so pull or tear them off and use them later on a big promotion.
Newspaper subscriptions can get expensive, and a lot of people prefer to just use printable coupons. This will get you some good deals, but not all of them. I've found that about 50% of my stock up price items come from the coupon inserts in the magazines, so I'd suggest (for a small family) at least getting one subscription. Newspapers also have deals where they'll send 5 Sunday Newspapers to you, so you can get enough coupon inserts to stock up big on valued items.
I have a binder that I've organized my coupons in by the date of the insert. I do not clip any of my inserts to save time. I just wait until I see a good deal, go to that insert, clip the coupon and run to the store.
If you have a lot of time and want to get extreme, I would suggest clipping all coupons and organizing them by item. For example, organize by frozen food, dairy, cookies/crackers, health & beauty, etc. If these are organized, you have a better chance of finding a sale item in store that hasn't been posted in the ads that you can then find a coupon to easily match with it. Because I haven't clipped all my coupons, I've found I do not buy anything on impulse - my shopping trips are planned with only the coupons I've clipped before I walk into the store.
2. Plan a shopping list
Like I said, before I go to the store, I know what I'm going to buy. It's important to go in having a plan and sometimes even a back up plan if your items are out of stock. I usually will write down what items I'm going to buy and in what order (because order counts). This makes is especially easy for the cashiers and I feel that if you respect and help them, they'll be kind and respect you.
One thing I'd highly suggest is that you know the coupon policies before you go into the store. Every store has a different coupon policy and sometimes they can be very different, so make sure you know what you're getting into. I've found that Walgreens and Albertson's have great, knowledgeable cashiers when it comes to couponing. Dollar Tree & Kmart have been the most difficult for me to shop at with coupons, so make sure you know what the policy is before you shop!
3. Don't overload yourself
Sometimes I feel like I need to get every deal possible, but I've had to learn that's just not possible! There have been many occasions where I've missed a coupon or I've come home from thinking I got a deal and a better one pops up just a few days later! DON'T STRESS! Couponing is challenging and fun, but most of all it's a way to save money and still get the products you need for your home and family! Even though we are spending less than we ever have on grocery items, we feel a little spoiled with our small stockpile in our house!
I suggest not overloading yourself by remembering to not get disappointed when a sale passes you by or you don't quite have the right coupons to get the best deal possible on an item! Just work with what you have. Remember that you don't need to be running to the store as soon as a promotion pops up! I've found what works best for me is to visit a store a day - I plan to hit Walgreens on Mondays (because their product runs out FAST), Dollar Tree on Tuesdays, Albertson's on Wednesdays and Broulim's & Walmart on the weekend. I usually schedule the trip for the same time every day, so I can be home with my family and take care of home and job responsibilities. Just find what works for you and don't try to overwork yourself! Remember, this is supposed to be FUN!
If you have any questions about couponing, ask away! I'm willing to give you any piece of information from my brain (on the matter) that I have!