I am pleased to have my looooong time friend(we used to live in the same neighborhood as kids and were inseparable until about middle school), Jen (aka Dimestretcher Mom) share with you about couponing basics. I use coupons, but not like she does! She inspires me to clip more, shop more, and get stuff free--or almost free!
I asked her to share with you her couponing basics--just in case you are like me and are yearning to shop effectively and wisely with coupons. She is my Yoda! LOL
into it. It’s almost like a game I play with myself…how can I save more money? It’s really fun (stay
with me…it IS!!) and the bonus is, I can use the money I save for other things: to pay bills, fun money,
I will admit, starting out if you’ve never couponed is a little daunting, but hopefully, I can guide you
through. It will take time in the beginning, but after a while, it will be second nature and your shopping
trips will get shorter and shorter. There are two ways to go about it: couponing from week to week, or
stockpiling so that you can “cherry pick” (just buy sale items and necessities) most of the time.
The first thing you need to do is get an organizing system. A lot of people use zippered 3-ring binders
with baseball card pages in them. You can purchase these at Wal-Mart or Kmart. Load your pages into
your binder and label the slots how you want them. I personally use a box. It’s a plastic Rubbermaid box
about the size of a shoe box and it “locks” shut. I made dividers with large index cards and stick on tabs I
bought at Office Max. This works much better for me than a binder.
Once you have decided what system to use, labeling is important!!! The labels will keep you from being
confused and help you find your coupons easier. For example, the dividers in my box are labeled how it
made the most sense to me. I have one color tabs for food, another for health and beauty, and another
for things like kids coupons, restaurant coupons, and adult coupons (sanitary pads, clothing, etc.). Each
color is together. I started mine with food, then divided them: bread & deli, boxed helpers (includes
pastas, rices, convenience, etc), condiments and seasonings, meats, frozen, dairy & refrigerated,
beverages, snacks, cereals (includes cereal bars, etc).
The next section in my box is HBA, and I divided them: Hair, bodywashes and soaps, lotion and
deodorant, teeth, medicine. You can divide them any way you want, but do it in a way that makes sense
to you, and in a way where you won’t have to search through so many coupons just to find what you
are looking for. If you have one section for all health and beauty aids, for example, then you will have to
search through all of those things I had listed just to find your toothpaste coupon, and believe me, you
will NOT be happy.
Ok, so now you have your system and it’s labeled. What now? Collect those coupons!!!! Buy
newspapers on Sunday, ask friends and family for their coupons that they won’t be using, look on
packaging, look for “blinkies” in store (the little blinking machines in front of products in the store with
coupons for those items- don’t be afraid to take a few), look for tear pads of coupons, and print online.
Coupons.com and Smartsource.com have lots of printable coupons. Try to get multiples of coupons.
You can even try a coupon clipping service once you get used to couponing. Set up a free email account
(Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail) just for couponing and newsletters, and sign up online with companies whose
products you use often. Check the email daily, because most companies you sign up with will send you
coupons in your email. WRITE those companies. Compliment their products if you love them. A lot will
send you coupons! As you get them, clip them and organize them. Be sure you go through your coupons
at the end of each month and toss the expired ones.
Now, you’re ready!!! Never EVER go to a store without your coupons!!! You never know what will
be on an unadvertised sale or clearance. The reason I get multiples is this: if something is a fantastic
price, I will stock up. I once found Olay lotion on clearance for $4 a bottle. I had a bunch of $4 coupons.
I bought every one they had. As you collect coupons a while though, you will also notice which kinds
of coupons you use more, and you will notice what companies put out the same coupons regularly.
Find out who doubles (if any) coupons in your area, as well as who lets you stack a manufacturer’s
coupon with a store coupon. (Walgreens and Target both do this.) Knowledge helps you decide who has
the best deal for you.
Don’t buy an item (unless you REALLY want to try it) JUST because you have a coupon. Make sure it’s
the best deal. If you’re going to buy bread and store brand is less than name brand with coupon, just get
Pay attention to the wording on the coupon. Some are good for certain sizes, some will say “any”.
Sometimes a coupon that says “any” can get you a free or really cheap item if you buy the smallest.
An example is the recent $1 Gain dishwashing liquid coupons. Wal-Mart had some for $1.77 and some
for $.97. The coupon said “any” and I had several, so I was able to score several free Gain dishwashing
Don’t be brand loyal. For some things, sure, it’s ok, but in the long run, you need to be flexible. For
example, I have a stockpile of about 3 different kinds of detergent. The reason for this is that the sale
price with coupon was too good to pass up on each kind.
Match your coupons to sales. If you HAVE to have it, buy it, or if the coupon is fantastic on a regular
priced item (like the Gain liquid) go ahead. Otherwise, wait for a sale! Most things go on sale in 12 week
rotations at least. Once it is a fabulous price, get enough to last you 12 weeks if you can. Some things
you won’t have to. Toothpaste is almost always free or cheap somewhere with coupons. The same
with shampoo, razors, etc. Cereal, snack items, etc are almost always cheapest around the time school
starts. Baking goods are almost always cheapest around Thanksgiving and Christmas. You’ll start to see
Watch impulse buys. If it’s a good deal, go for it, but just because you have a coupon, it doesn’t mean
that’s the right time or the right STORE to use it.
Get some couponing buddies. Keep each other informed of sales and trade coupons between you. Just
because you won’t use a coupon doesn’t mean they won’t.
Take your time. If you feel rushed, you may not see a great deal. Sign up for emails from the grocery
stores in your area. They will email you flyers so you can plan part of your trip before you go. Remember
that some stores do double coupons to maximize your savings!!! For some grocery stores, such as
Kroger, you can also have coupons loaded directly to your shopper card. Check their website for details.
You can often use paper coupons with these.
Remember to give yourself time to get the hang of it. Once you start seeing the savings, you’ll be
Jennifer is a stay at home mom to three children. You can find her blogging and sharing her deals at Dimestretcher Mom. She also has a fan page on Facebook where she shares TONS of freebies and deals! You can also look her up on Twitter.