Here are step-by-step instructions on how to get started with coupons and saving more!
1. Get Coupons!
You can get coupons by subscribing to your local paper.
For the Washington Metro area it is the Washington Post Sundays. If you have it delivered you will get the coupons early located in the ad style section. I usually get it on Saturday morning. Washington Post will have SmartSource, P&G and Red Plum coupons.
The coupons inserts that are available include the following:
SmartSource coupons (SS)
Red Plum Coupons – Valassis (RP or V)
Procter & Gamble (P&G)
You can ask friends and family for their copies of coupons. This is strongly suggested! I’ve asked my co-workers, family and friends. You wouldn’t believe how many coupons I can get each week. Some of my co-workers are so helpful by asking others too. At times I can have 10 or more inserts. This is very important when some deals require multiple coupons. Ask your neighbors too! Besides, if you tell them about coupons and how much you can save using them they might want to start saving too!
Internet Printable Coupons (IP)
You can also get coupons from the internet. There are limits on how many can be printed per computer. Usually 2 per computer. Check out Coupons.com, Mysavings.com, Coupon Network and Redplum.com. Or you can click on coupons links right here on my blog and print them right away. Most of them require you to install a simple printer software so that the website can communicate with your computer and printer. This is needed to prevent fraud and create a unique number on the coupon to track. For more information about using Printable Coupons and to check for validity please visit the Coupon Resource Center online at www.printcoupons.com.
You can sign up for Shortcuts.com and Cellfire.com and get eCoupons put on your store card like Safeway and when you checkout with your club card the coupon gets automatically deducted. You have to sign up for each program and you have to load your club card with the coupons. The coupons can only be used once. You can use regular manufacture coupons and/or store coupons with eCoupons but some stores do limit this so beware.
You can sign up for different programs to receive home mailers including the P&G Everyday Solutions These are usually high value coupons and can sometimes include freebies or B1G1 coupons.
These are coupon machines that are set-up at the products. They can be found at grocery stores, drugstores, and discount stores. SmartSource is the main distributer of them. Here is an image of what it looks like.
A hangtag coupon is a coupon that is hung on a product, usually the neck of a bottle.
A peelie is a coupon that attached to the product usually with a sticky backing. You have to “peel” it off the sticky backing to get it off the product.
A tearpad is a pad of coupons usually found near the product at the store or on a product display area it looks similar to a notepad. Some stores have an area that display tearpads.
Magazines surprisingly have coupons so make sure to look through them too. Women’s Day, Parenting, and All You magazine. I strongly suggest you get a subscription to All You. You can also pick it up at your local Walmart ONLY and it is located at the checkout stand. Look at your frequent flyer mileage free magazine offers because I was able to get a FREE subscription to All You through that. It usually has over $50 worth of coupons per issue and can pay for itself each month.
At your local grocery store, these are coupons that print at the checkout counter. This is a special machine that prints out coupons for you to use on your next purchase. That includes the wonderful X/XX coupons which means $5 off a $20 purchase!
2. Understand Your Stores
Familiarize yourself with the stores in your area and their coupon policies. Coupon policies vary greatly by store, chain and the area of the country. Call or stop by the customer service desk, to find out what the policies are. See the links above for the coupon policies.
In addition finding websites/blogs that have your stores coupon match-ups is the easiest way to save. Have someone help you create your grocery list for you! For the Northern Virginia/Washington Metro Area I’ve created a list of blogs that do the work for you. I will update this as I learn more information. Please leave a comment if you find out new information.
Join a forum and get to know others that are experts in saving with coupons.
3. Buy Smaller
You would be surprised to find out that its a LOT cheaper to buy smaller not larger! With coupons, smaller items sometimes work out to be free or super cheap. Buy smaller items, and use your coupons to buy in bulk. You end up spending less for more. Remember to LOWER your Out Of Pocket (OOP) expense. Start thinking about pennies not dollars!
4. Look for markdown and clearance items.
Coupons can be used on an item even when it is on clearance. This works out in your favor, because in most instances you can get something for free or mere pennies.
When something is going to be free or a great deal, stock up! This way you don’t run out of something, and then have to run out and pay full price for it. Try to build up a 3-6 month stash of things you need. Preparing like this also makes you feel more secure. You will have the peace of mind that if something were to happen, you would be able to feed/take care of your family for a while. Some people have a 1-2 year supply of toiletries, paper products, and other non-perishable items. This way each year they are only getting what they can get for free. Just be sure to watch your expiration dates! Some people mention that they don’t have the space to store a stockpile. Start looking at different locations in your house to store things. There are a lot of creative places to store toilet paper, paper towels, and toothpaste such as under the bed in the top of a closet and even in a clean storage area.
6. Organize your Coupons!
File all of the inserts.
File all your inserts by day and type (8/10 S, 12/14 RP, 8/31 PG, ect…) This saves you a lot of time because you don’t have to clip all of them at once.
When you search a coupon database like WeUseCoupons.com, HotCoupon.com, Couponmom.com, or Slickdeals.com you can quickly find the coupon. Just note the insert and date listed for it, pull out that date’s folder and flip through the appropriate insert for your coupon. See this link HERE for more information.
I also use The Couponizer. Click HERE to see my post from earlier. The Couponizer is a great way to store the basic coupons or the coupons you don’t have a place for. I don’t want to carry around a large binder and a Shoebox is too large for me to carry around, but The Couponizer is a great binder that I can quickly sort my coupons and buy my items.
Binder Method and Shoebox Method
There are alternative systems as well like the Binder Method or Shoebox Method.
The Binder Method is carrying a binder filled with every coupon clipped. While the Shoebox Method is carrying all of the coupons in a shoebox.
7. How much time you spend on coupons and saving is all up to you.
A lot of people including family and friends are very impressed with how much I save. They see that the fruits of my labor are worth it. But, how much time do I spend on this? It all depends on what is going on. If I’m really busy with my family I won’t worry about. I spend as much time on this as I want to. Some weeks I spend a little bit more time because I like sharing my deals with others and I’m excited about upcoming PROFIT making deals at CVS or the grocery store.
There have been times that I can’t go shopping and I miss a good sale. That happens! Remember there will always be more deals to be had! Don’t get too worried or excited if a deal doesn’t work because the next time it will.
Be patient with yourself! Remember this is to help you and your family. I’m always learning even though I’ve done this for almost 4 years.