One Beginner’s Guide to Couponing

In the past couple weeks, I’ve been getting really addicted to TLC’s Extreme Couponing. If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically a show about people who make a full-time job out of clipping and using coupons to build massive grocery stockpiles. These people will ring up a $1,000+ grocery bill and then use coupons to get it down to mere dollars (seriously, like $10!)

Now, I don’t have 40 hours per week to devote to couponing. Hell, I barely have 1! However, the show has inspired me to start couponing at a reasonable level. I mean, I don’t need 100 years’ worth of deodorant like these people. However, Michael and I could definitely use to save a little cash here and there.

We just got into it a couple weeks ago, so I’m not an expert by any means. However, we’re already saving an average of 50-60% per shopping trip, in addition to getting quite a few items completely for free!

If you’re interested in getting started like we are but still don’t want to devote your entire life to couponing, here’s my simple guide to getting started…

1. Clip Coupons

Every Sunday, I buy the paper solely so I can get all the coupons out of it. And I clip EVERYTHING — you never know which ones you’re going to need. You can also get a lot of coupons online at websites like Coupons.com, on brands’ Facebook pages, etc. On Extreme Couponing, one woman went dumpster diving at her local recycling center. Personally, I won’t go this far, but it is one way to get them! A blog I follow, Coupon Katie, also has an awesome coupon database that I use when I’m looking for something specific.

2. Organize the Coupons

My big task this past week was to build my coupon binder. I’m notoriously organized, so I decided the binder route was the best bet for me. To create your own, all you’ll need is a binder (duh) and baseball card inserts, which really work well for holding coupons. I found these at Walmart near the front of the store where the baseball cards are for about $5 per pack of 35.

I separated mine out into quite a few sections, basically based on my favorite store’s aisles and used those little sticky tabs to make things easy to find. Then, I stuffed all my coupons in! For coupons I had a few of, I put them in the same slot with the closest expiration date on top.

3. Find Match-ups

Here’s the part that makes me happy to have the internet — finding coupon match-ups for all the stores I go to. Basically, this is the art of pairing store sales with coupons to get items for cheap, even free, and blogs all over the internet do most of the work for you on a weekly basis.

On Sunday/Monday, after I’ve clipped my weekly coupons, I go to Google’s Blog Search and search for match-ups that were posted in the past day or so (sales usually run Sunday-Saturday so make sure you check the dates on the blog post to ensure you’re looking at the right match-ups). It’s as easy as searching “Kroger coupon match-ups”, or whatever store(s) you shop at. Then, I go through a few of the blog posts to see what the best weekly deals are at all my stores and make sure I have the coupons for the deals I want to take advantage of.

4. Create Your Shopping List

Starting with the match-up deals I found online for the week (basically the stuff I can get for free or really cheap), I start creating lists for all the stores I shop at. Then, I look at each store’s sales flier to see what else is on sale that Michael and I might need. I compare the store’s sales with my coupon binder to see what I can get the best deals on. I then save all of this in a Word document so that I can update it easily if I find additional deals through the week. I make note on the list of each item’s sale price, in addition to the coupon(s) I have for it so I know exactly how much I should be paying in the end.

5. Shop

Here’s the fun part: Gather your coupons and your list, and start shopping! I also sometimes bring my binder just in case we find a random sale in-store or my husband sees something that he just has to have ;)

A few additional things to keep in mind:

  • Every store has a unique coupon policy, and some are more lenient than others. Make sure you know your store’s policy so you’re not surprised when you get to the register.
  • Many stores double manufacturers coupons for more savings! But again, this is something you’ll have to check their policy for.
  • You’re usually able to print a few of each online coupon, so if there’s a great sale you really want to take advantage of, print as many as you can and stock up on the item!
  • Like your wedding binder, a coupon binder needs to be purged at least once per month to remove anything that’s outdated (aka expired).

During the month of May, Michael and I are challenging ourselves to see exactly how much we can save…so stay tuned for details on that, and happy shopping!

Anyone have other tips to share?

[Image by sdc2027. Used under Creative Commons.]

About Nicole Denton

With a love of planning just about anything — from her own wedding, to bridal and baby showers, to dinner parties, and more – Nicole is the Plunge Project’s founder and editor-in-chief. A New Jersey native, Nicole has called Chandler, Arizona home since 2013, where she currently lives with her husband Michael; two pit bulls, Shelby and Link; and cat, Kity Perry. A University of Tennessee graduate, Nicole has a bachelors in communications and a career at a rapidly-growing digital marketing firm.

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