Beginners Guide to Couponing
This post will serve as a beginners guide to finding, organizing and using coupons to save you and your family lots of money.
Step 1: Find Coupons
Coupons are available in many places such as in the Sunday Newspaper, Magazines, Printable Coupon Sites and Clipping Services. For a complete list of all the different sources please refer to: Where to Find Coupons?
Step 2: Coupon Organization
There are various methods couponers use to organize their coupons. Here are the most popular:
Coupon Organizer aka the Coupon Wallet: With this system you clip coupons you will be using and file them using dividers. You can sort them alphabetically or by departments such as: Dairy, Cereal, Frozen, etc. Most coupon organizers are designed to fit in a regular size purse and are very durable.
Coupon Binder: This method is the most popular among couponers. You will need to buy a 3 ring binder and baseball card holders to store your coupons in. What you would do is clip all your coupons and file them according to your liking. By bringing your binder with you when you shop, you will have all the coupons you need, as well as coupons for any unadvertised deals or clearance sales.
Filing by Insert: Some couponers choose to clip only the coupons they know they will be using soon and filing the inserts by date in a file cabinet or a storage bin. This method doesn’t require much work and is my preferred method.
It is a good idea to try out a system and see what works best for you. Just be sure to go through your coupons periodically and get rid of any expired coupons.
Step 3: Learn your Store’s Coupon Policy
Every store has a coupon policy in place and I strongly recommend you not only familiarize yourself with it but also print a copy to keep in your binder. There might come a time when you need to show the coupon policy to an employee who is not familiar with it. Most importantly, don’t get upset and keep a level head when you hit a snag. Simply hand over the copy of the coupon policy and let it do the talking for you.
For a list of my Featured Stores Coupon Policies please refer to this post: Store Coupon Policies
Some stores offer FREE store cards also known as a loyalty cards for their customers. Be sure to get one as you will not be given the advertised sale price without one.
Find out if your store does price matching: Target and Walmart will price match an item, if you bring the competitors current flyer with you and ask them to do a price match. For example, Stop & Shop has Tropicana Juice on sale for $2.00 and Walmart sells it for $3.00. When you go to check out just show the Walmart cashier the Stop & Shop flyer and you will get the juice for $2.00.
Find out whether your store accepts internet coupons, competitor coupons and how many like coupons you can use in one transaction. For instance, my ShopRite allows only 4 like coupons per transaction. Meaning if I am buying 5 bags of chips, I can only use 4 of the same coupons. I would have to do a separate transaction in order to use the coupon on the 5th bag of chips.
Some stores allow the use of multiple coupons on one item. For example, you can use both a manufacturer coupon as well as a store coupon. Also, stores like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens will let you use their store rewards on top of both the store coupon and manufacturer coupons often resulting in FREE items.
Lots of grocery stores will double coupons under $0.99. For example: If you have a coupon that is for $0.50 off any item that coupon will automatically be doubled to $1.00. If your coupon is for $0.75 off an item then a $1.50 will be deducted off the price of the item. There will be times when combined with a store sale and double coupons you will get certain items FREE of charge.
Sometimes stores run out of items that are on sale. In this case you will need to obtain a Rain Check which will guarantee you will get that item at the sale price the next time you shop. Most Rain Checks have expiration dates so be sure to come back in the allotted time, typically within 30 days.
Step 4: Coupon Matchups
Be sure to check out weekly store ads which will be available in your Sunday paper along with the coupon inserts. Some stores have their upcoming ad available online a day or two before the new sale starts so you can get a sneak peek ahead of time.
Compare prices on the items you are interested in purchasing to see which store is offering the best deal. You can try matching your coupons to store sales or you can use a coupon matchup site that will do all the work for you.
Thrifty Coupon Diva offers weekly coupon matchups for stores such as: Stop & Shop, ShopRite, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and occasionally Walmart, Target and Kmart.
Also be sure to check out the How to Shop For FREE with Coupons post which highlights all the FREE Deals available at stores every week. This is a great way to begin couponing because leaving a store knowing you got something for FREE is exciting and it will have you looking forward to more FREE deals in the near future.
Step 5: Helpful Tips & Coupon Etiquette
Hang onto those coupons and wait for a sale to guarantee you are getting a great deal. Often times people get their coupons and they use them right away on items that are not even on sale. That is not the way to save money. You have to be patient and wait for a good sale on the items you are interested in purchasing which will guarantee you are getting a truly great deal.
When you combine coupons, great sales and other promotions such as store coupons, double coupons, store rewards and rebates you are maximizing your savings potential. That makes it an ideal time to add items to your stock pile. Remember, that having a nice stock pile takes time, so don’t blow your budget and take it slow.
When to Shop:
I typically like to shop within the first 3 days of the sale just in case a store runs out of sale items. If a particular item is out of stock, you can try another store or you can ask when the store gets their shipments in and come back then. Some stores will not issue rain checks on sale items but you can always ask.
What does it mean when a coupon states One Coupon per Purchase?
There is some confusion as to what this term means. One Coupon per Purchase means that you can use one coupon per one item purchased. It does not mean that you can only use one coupon per transaction. So, if you are ringing out and you have 10 items in your shopping cart and you have 10 coupons you can use all of them.
While checking out, make sure that all your coupons get put through and always check your receipt before you leave the store. This ensures that everything rang up correctly including your coupons. If there are any problems, go to the customer service desk and they will resolve any issues and give you a refund if necessary.
Please be considerate of others and don’t become a ”shelf clearer”. This term refers to couponers that abuse the system by wiping out the sale merchandise, not leaving anything for others who want to take advantage of the deals. This is also why stores are changing their coupon policies and posting limits.
Getting things FREE or really cheap with the use of coupons is a lot of fun. If you get too excited and go a little overboard buying things, you can always share your goods with family and friends. Also, if you know you will not be able to use certain items before their expiration date consider donating them to a local food pantry or shelter.