Couponing 101: Saving Money For Beginners

Couponing 101: For Beginners

We have all probably seen the T.V. Show Extreme Couponers, but I am here to tell you that in real life using coupons is NOTHING like what was shown on television (which may be why the show was cancelled).  What I CAN say about coupons though, is that through proper couponing I have been able to save my family an enormous amount of money while not having to wonder if I will have enough money in the grocery budget to last us the entire month.
This post contains affiliate links. Meaning if a purchase is made through one of these links, I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you.Learn to save money on every day needs with couponing 101

My Journey

I started couponing out of necessity. in 2013, I had just given birth to my first child. I was enrolled in a full time Bachelor’s program. My husband was our only source of income, and it wasn’t much. I knew I needed to do something to alleviate the financial stress. I had learned about couponing from my older sister and decided I could do it.

When I first began to delve into the world of coupons, it was intimidating to say the least. Everywhere I looked there seemed to be time consuming and complicated breakdowns, and I started to think that there was no possible way I could ever understand it, let alone have the time to make it worthwhile.   I started to become discouraged, and wanted to just throw in the towel at this point, until I finally found that one blog that turned things around for me, http://mycouponexpert.com

A woman local to me by the name of Caroline, runs this amazing site with a plethora of helpful information and weekly match-ups to all of our local ads. Once I discovered her, it was like everything just clicked!

After browsing around a while, I was able to find a method which worked best for me. I decided to store my coupons in a binder for easy access. This method does not work for everyone, but it is one which I prefer. I organized my binder from A-Z by product brand name. Many people I know organize theirs by category as well (canned foods, pet supplies, baby items, etc.…), so you just need to find what method works for you and go with it!

Where to Start

Learn to save money with coupons

The Coupons

First thing is first, buy the Sunday paper. Always buy in increments of two(this will be explained later). The Sunday paper is where you will find the bulk of your coupons. You can even check and see what coupons will be in the paper by visiting this site.

You will also be able to print coupons from different websites such as Coupons.com. Internet printables have a limit. You will be able to print two of the same coupon per device. I have access to three computers in my home, so I can print six total of the same coupon. Be aware, COUPONS CANNOT BE PHOTOCOPIED. This is illegal and can lead to your IP address being banned from printing coupons at all. Each coupon has a unique identifying code, and the cashiers do check for them.

You can also get coupons directly from the manufacturer! Just find brands you love and shoot them an email. For more information on getting free coupons (and even products) in the mail, check out my full post here!

Organization

Everyone will find their own favorite way to organize their coupons. I will discuss some of the most popular ones.

Binder

This is my personal preference. I use a large three ring binder, this one. Along with the binder, I utilize baseball card holders to keep all of my coupons organized. There are a few ways to organize your binder. Some do it by category, while others do it alphabetically. Either one will work well. With this method you need to clip all of your coupons and place them in the holders in the binder. I like this method because it allows me to see exactly what coupons I have at any given time. It is slightly time consuming, but it is my couponing preference.

File

I know a lot of people who prefer to file their inserts. This entails using a filing container similar to this one and filing the entire insert. Some people prefer this method because it does not involve clipping everything right away. You can simply pull out the insert you need and clip the coupon you need when you need it. While this works for a lot of people, I prefer to have everything clipped.

The Preparation

Now that you know where to get your coupons and how to keep them organized, it is time to learn how to prepare for a shopping trip!

couponing for beginners. Save hungreds on your grocery bill with these simple tips! PLUS get a FREE Shopping Spreadsheet to keep you organized.

Find Local Matchups

I live in Central Florida and my favorite coupon blogger is Caroline at My Coupon Expert. She does amazing matchups for our local stores every week.  If you do not live in Central Florida, you will probably have to find someone local to you. Every area has different stores, so matchups will differ from region to region. For me, I have a Publix and a Win-Dixie.  You can find local bloggers by Googling “insert your local your local grocery store here” matchups.

Once you have found your local matchups, you will be able to see what is on sale and what coupons to use. Matchups make couponing super simple for the average person because there is no guess work. You know what is on sale, you know what coupons to use, and you are able to easily make a list.

Scour the Sales Ads

Even though you have the matchups, sometimes it is still a good idea to look at the sales ads yourself. Sometimes sales can be missed by a blogger. Checking for yourself will allow you to make sure you are getting the best deals possible.

Research Your Store’s Policy

Each store has their own coupon policy. It is important to research your store’s policy before you go out on a couponing adventure. i typically shop at Publix, and their policy allows one coupon per item, even when the item is buy one get one free. So for example; if crackers are on sale buy one get one free, I will get two boxes. I am then able to use two coupons on that purchase. Each item is separate, even though one is free. This maximizes my savings. I am also able to use one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon per item. Manufacturers coupons are your typical coupons you would print or find in the paper. Store coupons are put out by the retailer themselves. So if I had a store coupon for those same cracker mentioned earlier, I could use two of those as well.

Following so far? Good! Now, I mentioned earlier that it was important to buy Sunday papers in increments of two. The aforementioned scenario is why. When items are buy one get one free, you will want two coupons.

I highly recommend printing out your store’s policy and keeping it with you when you shop.

Make a List

Always go to the store with a list! I like to make mine using an Excel spreadsheet that I created. I’m able to put in the number of items I am getting, their price and my coupon value. Before even walking into the store, I know the amount of money that I will be spending. You can of course use a pen and paper to make your list, but I like knowing exactly what I will be spending. If you are interested in my spreadsheet, sign up for my newsletter to get a free copy!

Collect Your Coupons

Now that your list is done, it is time to collect your coupons. I like to use a little file folder like this one. I put all of the coupons that i plan on using into the folder and keep it in my purse. A lot of people bring their whole binder with them. That is perfectly fine, but I personally find it to be too cumbersome. If I happen to find a great unadvertised deal while I am shopping and I know I have a coupon for it at home, I will make a quick note of it and come back later.

Check Your Apps

There are tons of amazing money saving apps for your smartphone. The two that I use on a regular basis are Ibotta and Checkout51. (Sign up for Ibotta with my referral link and get a $10 bonus with your first purchase!). Both of these apps will have lists of items that are available for rebates. You purchase your item and when you get home, you scan the bar code and take a picture of the receipt. That’s it! Once the rebates are confirmed you will receive the money in your account! Both of these apps have a cash out minimum of $20. Once you reach that threshold, you can cash out to your PayPal account or you can keep building it up as long as you want before cashing out.  I personally like to let mine build up all year and use it for Christmas money!

Know the Lingo

It is important to know the meaning of the language on your coupons. Every coupon has guidelines written on it that you need to understand. Sometimes, an under-trained cashier will not know the difference between “one per purchase” and “one per item”. For this reason,  it is important that you know the difference!

  • One Per Purchase- you are able to use one of the coupon per item purchased. Buying 2 items? Use 2 coupons!
  • One Per Transaction- you can use one of the same coupon per transaction. Even if you are buying 2 items, you can only use one coupon.

Remember I told you to find a local couponing blogger and follow them? Well, you will probably want to know all of the abbreviations that couponers use as well! I have made a list so you will never have to question it! Feel Free to Pin the image to save for later!

Couponing Lingo You Need To Know

The Shopping Trip

You’ve done it! You have a handle on the basics. Your list is ready and you have your coupons in hand. It is now time to take on your first shopping trip.

Filling the Cart

It is easy to get nervous during your first few trips,  but just try to relax and enjoy it.  Go by your list, don’t veer off course. I always double check that my items match my coups before putting them in my car. Then I will mark them off of my list and move on to the next item. If the item that you are looking for is out of stock, don’t fret! Simply head over to the customer service desk and request a rain-check( see above info-graphic). With a rain check, even if your coupons expire before the item is back in stock, you can still use them as long as they were valid at the time the rain-check was issued.

The Checkout

You have everything in your cart, ready for checkout now, and here comes the part when your heart starts to sink and the nerves creep in. I personally “cashier” shop.  It might sound terrible, but I prefer a younger cashier. They are typically more knowledgeable than the older generation and more friendly as well. ALWAYS be extremely friendly and patient with the cashier. If they are reading and checking every single coupon, that is their job! There has been so many instances of couponing fraud recently that they need to be extra careful to ensure everything is on the up and up.

In order to speed along the check out process, I have a method that has been proven to cut time and make the cashier happy. What I do it when I put my items on the belt, I place the corresponding coupons right there with them. That way the cashier sees the item, sees the coupon, and is able to quickly ensure that the coupon matches the item.

There will be times you get a rude cashier, just smile and move along. Sometimes you can ask to speak to a manager in order to verify a coupon, but remember to always be friendly!  There has been times where I have had to pull out my copy of the coupon policy and show it to the cashier so that I could use some of my coupons. I assure you, most of these cashiers aren’t out to get you they are simply protecting their jobs.  Most likely this is going to be a store that you will be shopping at on a regular basis. You want the cashiers to remember you for a positive reason, not a negative!

The Wrap Up

Now you know the basics of couponing and are ready for your first trip! Don’t get discouraged  if it does not go completely according to plan, because it rarely ever does! Remember, any amount saved is an awesome job! Don’t Forget to sign up for my newsletter in order to receive your FREE Coupon Shopping Spreadsheet!!!

Questions? Comments? Feel free to leave a reply below and I will get back to you as soon as possible! I love helping people learn the basics of couponing so they can save money for their families too!

Learn to Coupon and get a FREE Shopping Spreadsheet to Make Saving Money Even Easier

82 comments

    • admin says:

      I was able to live on my husband making $10 an hour and me a,full time student with no jib when our daughter was young because of coupons 🙂

  1. twoboysonepup says:

    Wow, I need to follow your tips haha. I’m at a “forgetting to coupon” point…where I get coupons, save them, and don’t use them:(

  2. Cork and Fork Aficionado says:

    I need to get back into couponing again. I was doing it for a while and then stopped. Thanks for the tips!

  3. simplyburch says:

    So many great tips, this makes it feel much more doable and take away the intimidation of couponing. I am saving this for my future planning to save some money!

  4. jentheodore says:

    Wow – this is awesome! What a great resource for beginning to coupon. I’ll admit, I’ve wanted to do it, but had no idea where to start. Any way I can save money is a good thing!

    • admin says:

      Thank you! So many people think they need to save like those people did on that (TERRIBLE) TV show, but really ANY savings is a good savings!

    • admin says:

      I typically buy 2 Sunday papers and then I print as well. Now that I have a system I may be spend 2-3 hrs a week on it. Clipping, looking at matchup and entering my data into my spreadsheet.

  5. J. Ivy Boyter says:

    I wish I had more time for couponing. As it is, I’m a busy SAHM who doesn’t even do her own shopping anymore LOL. Before the second baby came around though, I did couponing, but it’s a time investment. I’ll get there again. Great tips.

  6. Natasha says:

    Couponing is literally a lifesaver for me. We are a family of six, so I have to know what I am going to buy before I head to the store, and it has to be cheap! I managed to get our budget to around $400 worth full meals (3xs) as day for a month.

  7. 21flavorsofsplendor says:

    You have inspired me to get back into couponing. When I lived in Georgia, I loved it and used the file method. So it looks this Sunday, I need to get me some news papers. 😉

  8. alicasenhouse says:

    This is amazing. I’ve always wanted to get into couponing because of that show. I didn’t realize it was cancelled. I stopped watching TV after I had kids haha! But seriously, thanks for all the detailed information. It’s a good starting place for me.

    • admin says:

      My husband thought I was crazy at first, until he came to the store with me one time and we walked out with almost a free cart of food.

  9. Spunky Moms says:

    I used to be a big-time couponer…ah…good times. I totally remember that nervous/sinking feeling at the cash register, like….dude, if these coupons don’t work I’ll either have to pay a wad of money or walk away from the cart. LOL! I guess I stopped because it took me SO long to research, clip, and shop each week…it was almost like a part time job.

    • admin says:

      A lot has changed! I know a very large part of it was due to that TV show. The regulations got more strict and the limits got lower.

  10. Bre Gana says:

    This is so helpful! How long does it usually take you to clip all the coupons and figure out which ones you’re going to use with your list and be fully ready for your shopping trip?

    • admin says:

      I usually spend about 2-3 hour total clipping, reading matchups, making a list and getting my coupons together. It usually isn’t all at once either ill do some and,then come,back to it when I have time.

  11. Janel Berchielli (@JanelB) says:

    During the whole extreme coupon days it actually made it harder for the average person to use them. Lots of stores flat out refused to honor coupons every time I used them. That made me not want to print them anymore, now I just do the digital ones like Target or at my grocery store. So less hassle to deal with.

    • admin says:

      “The dark days” lol they made everything so much harder. Then you find out that many of the people were illegally using coupons and the stores were bending policy for the show..it was terrible. It isn’t so bad anymore, but I’m not really “extreme”.

  12. Teresa says:

    The issue I have with coupons, is this . . . there are never coupons for the brands that I like to use and buy. I don’t buy stuff because there is a coupon because I know myself, and I will never use it. Sometimes I get lucky and find coupons I like, but not too often.

  13. Ali Gilbert says:

    I will check out the My Coupon Expert! We used to have a local coupon blogger but she stopped…so I stopped, but maybe this will help me start again! Thanks for the tips.

    • admin says:

      Caroline on MCE is great. She’s in central Florida so the Publix and Winn Dixie deals would all be the same through all of Florida.

  14. Mommy Engineering says:

    I’ve always wanted to get into couponing but it does seem really overwhelming at first! Learning the lingo is so important! I never understood anything people were saying to try and help me because I didn’t understand the lingo! Such a helpful post! Definitely bookmarking!

  15. Heather L. says:

    It sounds like you’ve got a really good system in place for you. 🙂 Prior to going gluten free and primarily cooking from scratch, I loved couponing as I save a lot of money. These days, it’s not worth the time as there just aren’t enough coupons available for organic, from-scratch items. If I find a coupon for a brand I use, I’ll happily use it, but I no longer spend a lot of time couponing.

  16. Keren Charles says:

    Thank you for providing this very clear strategy for couponing. I think that now I am willing to take the time ro try this. So many of my friends do it, but it a as looks like it is such a hassale. You have changed my impression on Couponing.

  17. Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh says:

    I’m just not a couponer. I tried. Went to the Southern Savers coupon event where she taught us how to do Publix and the like. I did it. My problem is the place I live in just doesn’t have the coupons in the paper, like it’s supposed too.

  18. Robin Rue says:

    I used to be a lot better at couponing than I am now. I love all of the tips that you have featured here to help me get back into it.

  19. toughcookiemommy says:

    These are some great tips for getting started with couponing. I do it from time to time but I definitely need to get more organized and get myself a binder.

  20. Sona Sethi says:

    Wow! Amazing post. Never thought of so many interesting areas around couponing. I have been through the same challenges of saving the coupons but never using them in time of need.

  21. Irina says:

    Oh I used to coupon like crazy a few years back. My 4 kiddos helped me. We saved so much and we always had so much shampoo and toothpaste at the house. I haven’t done it for quite some time. I miss it. You shared some really great tips dear.

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