Couponing 101: A simple guide to begin using coupons and how and where to start.
We’re going to delve into how to start using coupons. First, my quick take on it.
I know when I started it was overwhelming and I didn’t have anyone to teach me the ropes. Many coupon sites and blogs can explain what they do, brag about getting tons of FREE groceries for $.29, what they learned from their mothers or what they researched on line. Using coupons is a personal experience because let’s face it..you HAVE to do it in person! Everyone has different experiences when they walk in a store with coupons and every one’s needs will vary. Keep in mind, that no matter HOW much you save, that’s money in your pocket. It doesn’t have to be huge to be meaningful. For today, I will give you simple and easy to understand ways to start.
Now let’s begin!
The Sunday paper in your area can be delivered to you by calling them OR you can buy it from a gas station, drug store, grocery store or stores like Walmart. Even if you have to ask a neighbor, friend or relative for their coupon inserts and not actually BUY the paper… that’s fine too. People who don’t use coupons are happy to let you have theirs. That’s the cheapest way and I highly recommend it!
Once you have these inserts you are on your way. Every week there are at least two inserts. The common inserts are from RedPlum and SmartSource. (If you ever read coupon blogs and see the letters: RP or SS this is what they are referring to). Around every month to six weeks there will be an insert from Proctor & Gamble…commonly referred to as P&G. We also post a page on this blog called Couponing Terms. Be sure to read this to get familiar with the coupon terminology. Areas of the country differ as to which coupons are actually inside the Sunday inserts and are regional. If you hear of someone in New York getting a coupon you didn’t get in your Oklahoma paper, that’s why.
If you have Internet access and a printer, you can also print coupons on line.
There are a few web sites that allow you to print coupons.
Once you go to their sites, you will be asked to download a special coupon application. You need to do this to print the coupon because of the bar codes. It is safe for your computer to do this.* All three sites offer troubleshooting if you have any issues. Always make sure before you print ANY coupons that you have enough ink and paper is in the printer. After you go through their lists of coupons, there will be a small box on each of them to click. You will see a check mark to remind you that you already chose that coupon. Once you are finished checking the ones you need, click the “print” button. Voila! You have coupons! These are manufacturer coupons and can be used in all stores that accept coupons.
Printing tip: After you have printed one coupon, you can hit your back arrow and print one more of the same one. They almost always allow you to print two.
Now that you know WHAT to get and HOW to get them, the next question will be, “How do I use them now that I have them?”
- Know what your store’s coupon policy is! If your store will double coupons, that’s more savings. Ask first because not all stores double coupons. It’s always a good idea if you can have a printed version of your store’s coupon policy with you.
- Cut only the coupons you KNOW you will use! What good is a coupon if you don’t actually buy the product?
- Put the coupons you cut or print in an envelope, coupon binder or baggy. It doesn’t matter. Put them in anything that works for you so they don’t get lost. (Just trust me on this one…lol) You can view our video on “How to organize your coupons” on our home page.
- Check your local grocery stores/drug stores sales ads to see what they have on sale
- Match the coupons you have to what is on sale from your store’s sale ad. (Using a coupon is good, but using it on a sale item is even better!) 😉
- Finding the smallest package of an item is usually the best one to use your coupon on. Be sure your coupons says it can be used on “ANY” of the item in that brand. When it says ANY, it means there are no size restrictions and you can use it on for instance, a trial size and in many cases get it for free. If your coupon does not say “any”, you cannot use it on a trial size. We’ll talk more about the terms written on coupons in a minute.
- Make a list of JUST those items you have coupons for. (It’s okay if it’s only one or two items when your a beginner.)
- Place only the coupons you will use in a separate envelope and write the name of the store you’re going to on it.
- Take your list and envelope to the store (IF you don’t have an envelope use a ziploc baggy, or paper clip)
- Only buy what is on your list (Remember, this is a trial run. No need to fill the fridge just yet.)
- BEFORE the cashier totals your items, let him/her know that you have coupons and have them ready. This is also the time to hand the cashier your store’s customer savings card. Most grocery stores offer them. If you do not have one, you can get a form to fill out at the customer service desk. They will mail it to you once the have the completed form.
- Once your coupons are scanned you will be asked to pay and be handed you’re receipt. You receipt should tell you how much you saved.
I want to get back to doubling coupons. IF your store doubles coupons (and not all do) , here’s how it would work:
Let’s say you have a $0.50 coupon for deodorant. Your grocery store has the same deodorant (as what your coupon states) on sale for $1.00. At the register, once your coupon scans, it will double to $1.00 making that deodorant FREE! (Not including sales tax of course.) As you can see, using coupons can really save a lot extra if your store will double them.
When a store doubles coupons, it works like this:
A $0.25 coupon will double to $0.50.
A $0.35 coupon will double to $0.70.
A $0.50 coupon will double to $1.00!
Most stores do not double a $1.00 coupon to $2.00 but a few still do. Just be sure to ask your store manager.
Additionally, coupons are notorious for stating one thing and have a completely different picture of a product on their coupon. The picture is great for brand recognition and helpful when looking for that brand in a store, but it’s not the most important part of the coupon. Always go by the wording!
Here are a few examples of what we usually see written on a coupon, that many cashiers get confused about.
Use on “ANY” (xyz product) means you can use it on ANY item within that brand and on ANY size, not just what is pictured.
- Limit one coupon per
purchase: Each qualifying item or items is a purchase. What it really means is that you cannot use two coupons on the same product.
- Limit one coupon per
transaction. This means you can use only one of each coupon on a single transaction. If you have more than one of these, just break up your items into a separate transaction. The separation bars at checkout can be helpful in keeping your transactions divided.
- Limit one coupon per
day/visit. This is pretty straight forward and means just what it states.
- Limit one coupon per
person/customer/household. You can only use one coupon..period.
It’s as simple as that! You are now on your way to saving money. Don’t be discouraged if your first shopping trip didn’t save you a whopping $70. If you only saved ONE dollar, that’s one dollar in YOUR pocket, not theirs! It’s a process. What ever you do…DO NOT compare yourself with the extreme couponers you see or read about. These folks happen to live near stores that offer really good deals that many markets don’t. They’ve also been using coupons a long time, spend upwards of 40 hours a week preparing for one shopping trip and know all the tricks of the trade. Getting $1,000 worth of groceries for hardly nothing is not common place and unrealistic to the average shopper. Additionally, most stores have very strict limits and wouldn’t even allow using that many coupons in a single transaction. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s how it really works.
Having said that, the first time I used coupons I saved $6. Now I save $200-$300 a month. It’s not thousands however, it is significant. So let me assure you that it gets easier and well worth your time and effort. With every trip to the store you’ll get more and more comfortable and in no time you will be shaving decent amounts off your grocery bill!
There are some added tricks to saving money, with or without coupons you can read HERE!
I hope you learned something from our Couponing 101 page. Happy Couponing!