The Newbie’s Guide To Using Coupons

22 Mar

I know that over the course of the last year or so I’ve brought up the subject of coupons and just how much I save with them. Recently I’ve heard from a few people who are impressed with my ability to save at the grocery store, so I thought I’d share my couponing tips again.

I am by no means an expert, in fact I consider myself a novice coupon diva. An amateur really. But everyone has to start somewhere right? I don’t have a huge binder or filing cabinet. I don’t buy 10 Sunday papers just for the coupons. I don’t have a circle of friends that I exchange coupons with. Most importantly I don’t spend hours a week finding, and organizing my coupons.

When you use coupons, you really do need an organizational system. All your coupons stuffed into an envelope in no particular order isn’t going to cut it. I went out and bought an inexpensive plastic accordion holder for mine. It’s small, only about 7 inches wide, so it can easily travel with me. The inside is divided into 12 sections which I labeled with categories. I only keep my grocery coupons in here, my coupons for stores and restaurants have their own home. Here’s a few pictures of where I keep my coupons.

Within the categories in my file box, I sort my coupons by expiration date. Closest to expiration to no expiration date. This system helps me make the most of my coupons and not miss an expiration date.

Where do I get my coupons? I have a ritual for acquiring my coupons, once a week (usually Sunday) I get online and go to my favorite coupon sites. I also pilfer my parent’s Sunday paper. If you can’t steal the coupons from someone else’s paper, investing in your own Sunday paper is a good idea. Trust me when I say, more often than not, it will pay for itself with the coupons you can get from it. Besides the internet (I tell you where soon), and the Sunday paper, I also get coupons from ALL YOU magazine. ALL YOU can only be found at Walmart, and is usually stuffed with great coupons. In addition to the coupons in the magazine itself, ALL YOU has coupons on their website, some of them are exclusive.

I mainly stick to three places for my internet coupons. is probably my favorite since it has the most coupons available. After I hit I usually head over to SmartSource. Finally, I visit RedPlum. No coupon value is too small for me, pennies can really add up over the course of a year. My grocery store also doubles coupons up to $.99, so those little $.25 off coupons turn into $.50 with a quick scan at the register.

When using coupons you have to know your store’s coupon policy. Some stores will not take internet coupons, some will take them, but not for free items. It’s also helpful to know what your store’s policy for double and triple coupons is. A quick trip to their website should clear up any confusion. Some stores (unfortunately not for me) have the ability to allow you to add coupons directly to your store club card. Spend some time getting familiar with what your store offers.

Besides using coupons, I save a ton of money just by shopping sale items, and even more by matching my coupons with those sale items. There is nothing more satisfying than watching your savings add up and getting something for nothing (or close to nothing). Each week I sit down with my Giant circular and make my list. If London Broil is on sale, we’ll be barbecuing that week. I try very hard to plan our meals around what is on sale that week so I buy very little that’s not on sale. I also stock up on pantry items when they go on sale. Cereal is a favorite of mine to buy in bulk. When the cereals we like go on sale I stock up and use my coupons for big discounts.

Last week I picked up three big boxes of our favorite cereals. They were on sale buy two get one free, then I had a $1.00 off two boxes coupon and a $.55 off a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch (one of my three). That box of CTC was free, but they still took off the $.55 and doubled it, so I got $1.10 off a FREE box of cereal. I paid just $.12 per ounce of cereal for all three boxes. Not too shabby.

If you need some extra help matching sale items at your favorite grocery store to coupons that are out there, there’s a blog for that. Savvy women (and men) all over the country dedicate their blogs to helping us save money. Where I live, I like to use For The Mammas for that extra help. If you click on the link you’ll see this week’s Shop Rite match ups with links to get some of the coupons that you might have missed. I’m sure a simple Google search will help you find a blog with coupon match ups for your store of choice.

I save about $2,500 a year just at my grocery store and just by using coupons and shopping sale items. I save even more by not being brand loyal anymore and by buying a lot of private label (store brand) items. In this economy we can all use a little extra cash in our pockets, and by spending a very short amount of time collecting, sorting and organizing coupons you can have just that. I used to be embarrassed about using coupons, now I’m proud of the money I am able to save my family.

Feel free to share your couponing tips and tricks or ask any questions.

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