Monday, June 30, 2014

Couponing - How to Get Started

Unless you are pretty well off, you are watching what you spend each and every day and for most of us the last few years has seen the tightening of our proverbial belts.  It has been an adjustment to say the least.  It can be hard to make changes to the way we spend and save but it can be fun if you put your mind to it.

Early in my married life I was serious about couponing.  In the mid to late 80's there were several services that would send you their listings of upcoming sales and where the coupons could be found for a fee.  There are several services like this still around but DON"T USE THEM!  Now this service is free through several websites which I think is fantastic because they do all the work and you just collect, print and/or ask people for their coupons.  Since I am getting back into the swing of coupons I thought I would share a few of the things that I am re-learning and a few things that are brand new to me.  Here are my 5 top tips for using coupons:

1.  Know Your Goal for Couponing - Are you going to be using coupons to build up a food storage, supplement your income, help out a local food bank/neighbors or are you just trying to get inexpensive or free things along the way?  Have a goal in mind as to what you are really hoping to accomplish and that will help you decide what kind of a system will work best for you.  There are several different ways to go about saving money and there really isn't any right way to do it as it is a personal thing.  My system is really one of several different processes and it works well for me.

Coupons printed from the internet do not need to be in color.  Black and white versions are fine.

Make sure that you are familiar with the fine print on your coupons.  The worst thing is to get to the check out line and find out that you misread a coupon or coupon policy.  It is frustrating if you don't figure it out until you are at the cash register!

2.  Print Coupons From the Internet - There are tons of sites that allow you to print off not just one set of coupons but several sets that are found not only in the newspaper but also additional manufacturer coupons. Take advantage of these sites and print off as many as you think you will need.  You will only be able to print a few copies of coupons per computer so if you have more than one coupon available to you, use those as well.
Smart Source
Red Plum
Walmart Coupons

3.  Follow A Coupon Matching Service - There are several services out there that take all the leg and seriously, brain work, out of couponing and they are absolutely free.  I LOVE it!

My list of items that are on sale at Walmart that I printed from  This is such a handy tool to have when strolling through the grocery store and comparing brands, sizes and prices.  

I love the sites listed below because they let me know each week where the deals are, where to find the coupons I will need, how many items I can get, how much I will save and how little I will spend. And of course most importantly, all this information is free!  There are several other sites to use but these are my four favorites.

Coupon Divas
Coupon Mom
Cuckoo for Coupon Deals
The Krazy Coupon Lady

Least Favorite
I was going to list the coupon matching sites that I don't like but I don't like to be negative so I am going to keep my mouth and keyboard quiet.  When you are looking for sites, make sure that there is no fee involved or it really isn't worth it. Unless you are going to be an "Extreme Couponer" and then you would probably feel ok paying for the service.  That defeats my purpose so I stay away from them.

4.  Don't Clip ALL the Coupons When You Get them - The coupon matching services will usually tell you where to find the coupons so you really don't have to keep track of them.  They will tell you which source to look to and most of the time they will even tell you the date that they came out so that if you have marked your stash of coupons with the date of the paper they were in, you can go right to them.

I had this portable file box in a closet and it was full of things that I haven't used for years so I emptied it out.  

After taking everything out of this old hanging file box I grabbed some old color hanging file folders (because I love color) and labeled them with the Sunday dates for my coupon bundles.  They are old and mismatched but who cares.  I don't want to pay money to save money - that makes no sense!  As time goes on I will make new labels with current dates and move them around. I also keep a pair of scissors, Post-It-Notes and a Sharpie in the top of this box in it's handy-dandy lid on the top of the lid.  But enough of that!

When I get my coupon booklets I go through them, keeping all the pages in order, and clip the coupons I know that I will use because I purchase these items on a regular basis.  I then make sure that all the pages are together and in order and I staple each bundle together at the top left corner.  I then take a black or red Sharpie and write the date of the paper that the coupon bundle came out of and store them in my file box. When I need to pull a coupon from a particular bundle, I know right where it is!  When they have expired, I just throw the whole bundle away.

I keep the whole bundle because even though there might be coupons of items that I don't normally buy, if I find that there is a coupon for a free item in one of my bundles, I will get that item and if I can't use it, I can give it to someone else.

When I have clipped my coupons, I put them in my shiny old coupon envelope that fits right in my purse.  I purchased this beauty at Family Dollar for $1 several years ago and it is perfect for my process of couponing. 

5.  Share Your Coupons - If you use coupons but you don't get all crazy about it and you end up throwing most of your coupons away, STOP!  Those coupons are worth money and someone else can use them.  In my office at work we share coupons by bringing them in to work after we have each clipped the ones we want and then give others the opportunity to clip the ones we haven't used.  If there are coupons that are left, someone can take those bundles home to keep in case they can be used later.

So those are my five top tips for starting your couponing system.  If you have other ideas or better ideas, I would love to hear them.  Please put your thoughts in the comments section below.  As I get back into this process, I will let you know if I come across anything else that might be helpful to you.  And by the way, if you don't want your coupons, send them to me!

Happy Couponing.

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