Television shows like Extreme Couponing show women and men who go into grocery stores and purchase hundreds of dollars worth of items for next to nothing using what seems like a binder of endless coupons. (No kidding, I watched an episode of a lady whose purchase totaled over $700 and after all her coupon codes, she walked out paying $80. MIND BLOWN!) While it looks appealing, where do you start? Keep reading for the Beginner’s Guide to Couponing…
First things first, understand your budget.
Before starting, write down your budget for groceries for the month (or week, depends on how frequently you like to shop). This is important because you need to know what you can spend. Once you have a good budget in mind, you can then decide on a saving goal. Set a goal of how much money you want to save. This will make the coupon collecting part work in your favor later. I tend to pay with cash. That way, I can physically see what I have saved. If you like to swipe your card, that is good, too.
Scope out your pantry, refrigerator and cabinets.
Make your list. Find out the items you need and jot them down. Jot it all down, actually, because there is just about a coupon for EVERYTHING, if you are willing to find it!
Start collecting coupon inserts from the local Sunday paper.
In our local newspaper, there are usually 2 or 3 coupon book inserts, which make for a lot of great savings. For your favorite brands, search their individual websites for coupons, promos and freebies. If you write a review explaining why you love a product, some brands will send you samples and discounts in the mail. Not all companies do this, but for the ones who do, we thank you!
ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE!
Whether you use a binder with card inserts or an accordian folder, organizing your coupons prior to your visit is going to be a time and money saver. Try organizing by category and sub categories. For example: I have Food, Laundry, Cleaning, and Misc. as the main tabs. For sub tabs, I divide food into frozen, canned, and fresh and so on. This makes for easy finding when it is time to check out.
Join a local couponing group on Facebook.
This helped me TREMENDOUSLY because it was created by a couponing veteran who was not shy about sharing her secrets to saving, coupon codes, where to use the coupons and even the number available to each customer! This is also a great way to network sales, coupon limits, and share and trade coupons.
Read the fine print.
Coupons will have a few things that are important to pay attention to. One being the expiration date and the other being the limit number. You do not want to be at the register with baskets full of laundry detergent to realize you can either use one coupon per visit or your coupon is past its expiration date.
Check with your local grocery store to find out about their couponing policy.
Some stores will allow you to use their store coupon and the manufacturers coupon, others will not. It is always best to call ahead and find out about inventory, coupon policies and any other questions you may have prior to loading up the car.
Game plan your visit.
Know what you are going into the store to purchase. Aimlessly walking down each isle can become expensive. You will be prone to pick up items that are not on your original list. Stick to the list regardless of how tempting it is to pick up items or that random box of ice cream.
Take your time while you shop.
Couponing is no quick visit to the store. It will take time to read the labels, locate the products, adhere to the coupon details and check out. Loading the car is also going to take time as well. Patience is major, so do not feel bad for taking your first few couponing trips alone. It is much easier to stay focused when you don’t have to chase little bodies around the store (or find extra items in the basket).
Now for the fun part… GO SHOPPING!
It is time to put all that preparation to the test and head to the store. Put on your comfy shoes, grab your coupons, money and hit the aisles. Enjoy the quiet time, money savings and the look on everyone’s faces as they stare in awe at the number of items you have in your stock pile.
P.S.: Once you are a couponing pro and have a stockpile together, research local shelters and food banks to donate any access you may have. We donated a lot of items from various stockpiles to areas of national disasters during this last hurricane season. We were able to donate an 18-wheeler full of supplies, food and other items. Such an amazing feeling to give back to others.
Happy couponing and may the discounts always be in you favor!