A Beginner’s Guide to Coupons

Coupons are complicated.  There are 801 different ways to begin.  Here is my guide to getting started, and how I saved $402.94 my first year.

Photo Credit:  WalterWhite (MorgueFile)

In 2013, I watched “Extreme Couponing” with my jaw stuck on the floor.  Turns out, none of the stores in my area offer the type of doubling and tripling of coupons you see in that show.  BUT, could I still save enough to make it worthwhile?

My friend Kara was a coupon maven.  I had heard stories of the piles of goods she had gotten for a bargain.  So I came to her for help.  She showed me her organized rows of laundry detergent, baby wipes, dryer sheets, crayons, toothpaste, floss, etc.  All bought for pennies using coupons.

Where NOT to start:

Disclaimer:  Lots of people swear by this method, so don’t write it off completely.  If you’re like me, though, you don’t want to begin here.

This is why.

Nearly every expert I read said to print coupons off the computer.  So I’d check out the site, select a few coupons, then discover that I had to become a member with my own log in.  Or I had to download specific coupon software.

Then I realized our printer was out of ink.  That’s when I’d say to myself that couponing was complicated and dumb.  Then I’d give up.  <–Not exactly proud of my attitude.

Where to start:

Kara offered a simpler approach to get started.  No printer.  No downloading.

  1. Subscribe to your Sunday paper – In our area, the Sunday paper can be delivered at your doorstep for $2.00 every week.  It is stacked with weekly ads and coupons.  Take an afternoon to just study each insert with a Sharpie and some scissors.  Clip the coupons.  Circle the ads that interest you.
  2. Buy a binder – Get yourself a 3-ring binder and some coupon sheets.  Or you can use baseball card sheets.  I made my own tabs.  You really don’t want to just stuff coupons in an envelope.  It’s important to be able to see each one, especially when you’re at the store.
    • Kara recommended a zipper on the binder.  Keeps everything from flying out.
  3. wpid-img_20150323_085638.jpgLearn price points – Anytime you go shopping, from here on out, bring your binder.  The more you do this, the more you will learn.  If you have a coupon for Colgate toothpaste, eventually, you’ll see it marked down at CVS or Walgreens.  Take your coupon and buy it.  Try not to ever buy toothpaste for more than that again.  That’s called your “price point”.  For example, I will never pay more than $2.00 for toothpaste.  I won’t pay more than $2.50 for laundry detergent.  I won’t pay more than $2.50 for cereal.

Those three points are enough to get you started.  There are dozens more resources, websites, apps, etc.  But this will get your foot in the door.

Couponing Perks:

By doing this weekly and consistently, I saved $402.94 (in coupons or store credit alone) my first year.  That paid for my newspaper subscription nearly 4 times over.

I learned invaluable information about what stores have the best prices for what types of products.  For example, Target brand diapers are often the least expensive.  They also frequently offer a $5, $10, or $15 gift card if you buy two boxes.  Check it out.  You don’t have to wait for the Sunday paper.  (To view Target’s weekly ad, head here and select “weekly ad”).

Coupons, love ’em or hate ’em?  Did this article effect your opinion?

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6 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Coupons

  1. Great tips here! Our local newspaper asked me to come in and teach a series on extreme couponing a couple of years ago. They were noticing increase in newspaper sales and wanted to cash in on the phenomenon. They now offer a weekend only subscription. It was a neat experience. I’ve gotten out of the habit of the extreme, but still shop sales and match coupons regularly.

    • Thank you for reading, Steve! Yes, I was hoping to reach novices like I was a very short time ago. Sometimes things are better when simpler. I would love to post on Pinterest down the road so I’ll remember your recommendation when the time comes.

  2. I wouldn’t say they did it because of me, but several of their staff members sat in on the class so they could learn what the hype was all about. It makes sense to offer a weekend subscription for couponers because many of us buy multiple papers every week. I got a free subscription out of the deal. 🙂