Getting Started

Welcome to the world of Couponing and Bargain Hunting.  I assume that by coming here you want to save more than just a few dollars at the grocery store.  Well, this site can help you do that, but it’s important to note that the extreme couponing you see on TV is a bit exhaturated.  Most stores do not allow that type of coupon usage anymore and most of those people are using coupons incorrectly anyhow.


Making the most out of coupons does take some effort and it involves a change in shopping habits, but it doesn’t need to take over your life either.   Couponing can be easily adapted to fit into your own needs and schedule.  Some people go after every major deal and others like me will just do a few each week.   Either way, the goal is to take advantage of the sales so that you get the best possible price on the items you purchase.


So what do I mean by the “best possible price”?  Well, it means you have to plan ahead a little bit and not wait until you run low or out of an item to purchase it.  Purchase your items based on the sales and coupon match-ups instead.   Wait for a good sale and combine  coupons and store incentives to get your items at the lowest possible cost.  Purchase enough of those items to last until the next sale.  This allows you to get the most out of your grocery budget


Keep doing this and your inventory will grow (this is referred to as stockpiling) and ideally you will only be running out of perishable items.  You should soon start to see a major reduction in your grocery expenses since you will not be running out of things and having to purchase them at the higher price.


Stockpiling should be adapted to your own personal needs.  I personally do not see the need to have 100 tubes of toothpaste stacked up in my garage, but some people do.  Keep in mind that most sales eventually repeat themselves (usually within a 6 week cycle).  Over time you will figure out how much of any given item you want to bring home to keep you stocked up until the next major deal.


The process might seem overwhelming at first, but I promise that it really isn’t difficult.  You get used to it quickly and after a while you will wonder how you ever shopped any other way.  My best advice to a beginner is to start small and work your way into the more complicated deals.  The best way to do that is by reading what others are doing.  Follow blogs that are focused on the stores in your area and get familiar with the Coupon Policies for the various stores that you shop.  Try doing a few of the coupon matchp-ups and you will quickly start to understand what is going on.


The important thing is to have your coupons organized and ready to use when the right deal comes up!  So with that in mind I will attempt to set you up with what you need to get started.  Keep in mind that everyone has their own method and over time you will too.


First, you will need the coupons themselves of course.  There are a number of places to get them and you can find many of those links in the sidebars and posts on my Blog.   If you are just starting out then I would strongly suggest you either get a subscription to the Sunday paper or purchase it first thing Sunday morning.  One paper really isn’t enough though so start asking your friends and co-workers to save the Sunday coupons for you.  Try to have at least 3 sets of coupons to work with each week.  You should also be on the lookout for the coupons that the store puts out on the shelves and near the products themselves.  Gather them up anywhere you find them, but when you do find them DO NOT and I’ll stress this again – DO NOT take them all.  Take what you might need and leave the rest for someone else.  Magazines are another good coupon source and it is very easy to get free magazine subscriptions.  Just watch for my posts and you will soon be on your way.


Don’t be afraid to send an email to the manufacturer of your favorite products and ask for coupons.  Many companies will send you coupons just for asking.  Check their Internet Sites and look for a “Contact Us” section, but make sure to check the “Promotions” being offered first (they may already have some available).   Ebay offers whole inserts for purchase and there are a number of good clipping services out there as well.  A lot of people order their coupons in anticipation of an upcoming sale.  Buying coupons might sound kind of silly, but the amount you will save can often be far more than the cost of the coupons.


There are also a number of Internet sites to print coupons from so you really should have a computer and printer available.  It does not matter if you print in color or not.  Just make sure you print what you want when it is available as many popular coupons will have a limited number available.


Next you will need something to put all those coupons in.  It will take some experimentation to determine what works best for you.  For starters I would recommend a good sized organizer.  Some people also like to carry them in a plastic box with index card dividers.  If you have the time then I’d suggest starting with the binder method, which I will describe to you in my Organization Section.


You should have a good filing system at home for any extra coupon books or fliers you may have.  Write the date on the front cover of your inserts and file them accordingly.  There are a number of Coupon Database Sites out there that will tell you what insert a particular coupon is located in.  You never know when you will need to go back and clip a few more (assuming you don’t clip all of them at once).


Now you will need to understand the Coupon Policy for each store you want to shop at.  Most major chains publish this policy on their webs sites.  You can also ask other couponers who shop at your stores.  Store Cashiers do not always understand their own policies and some people like to take a copy of the store policy with them in case they need to defend a particular transaction.  For example, I once had a cashier tell me that I could not use a coupon on something that would make it free.  Another cashier once told me that coupons weren’t accepted on clearance merchandise.  Usually asking for a Manager will remedy the situation, but it helps to know the policy before you do that.


The most important thing to know is rather your store doubles or not.  Most grocery stores here in Arizona do and my coupon match-ups will reflect that.  Doubling means that any coupon you have will automatically double up to $1.00.  After that the coupon will be face value only.  Some stores do not like Internet printables and others will only let you use a certain number of coupons.  Reading through blogs and sale matchups for your particular area are the best way to learn what works with your individual stores.  Sometimes you will see the term “ymmv”.  This means “your mileage may vary” and what they are referring to is something special that worked with their particular store or with their individual cashier and may NOT work in every case.


Lastly, you should read the store ads each week and look for any special coupons that might be available for your store.  Most all stores allow you to use a store coupon and a manufacturer’s (the ones I just spoke of) coupon together.   This is known as “stacking”.  A good stacking example is the Walgreens Ad.  Those little coupons they put in their flyer are known as “store” coupons.  Sometimes they will actually say “store coupon” and other times they will have the actual store name printed on them.


One thing I should also mention is that you really need to create a separate e-mail account for your coupon and bargain hunting correspondence.  You will get a lot of junk mail from the various lists and newsletters that companies require you to sign up with to get coupons.


The last thing you are going to need to get started is that all important thing called TIME.  Set aside a block of time to clip and organize your coupons every week.  It doesn’t take long if you make it routine.  I usually do mine in the space of time left before leaving for work or when I am watching TV at night.  Make a list of good sale items and get your coupons ready in advance of going to the store, read the blogs and always pay attention to what other couponers are doing in your particular area.

Take a look at some of my other menu sections for more detailed explanations of coupon terms and methods as well as links to some helpful resources.

Posted by: on October 22, 2010 under