Couponing 101

If you haven't been a couponer before, it can be a little daunting to get started.  These days it is even more intimidating because of all the shows about couponing like Extreme Couponing.  Do not let couponing run your life like most of the people on these shows.  I would start out slowly.  This way you don't get overwhelmed.

To start off, set a goal of using a couple of coupons each time you go to the store.  However, make sure you are getting stuff that you usually buy or will use.  Don't let the coupons add money to your grocery bill by buying something that you wouldn't buy under normal circumstances.  Unless, of course, you gt it for free.

If you want to start a little bigger, it will take a little bit of work, organization, and determination.   Below are some pointers.  I hope this helps you.

What You Need:
Coupon Binder
Page Dividers
Plastic Baseball Card Holder Sheets
Spare Time
Coupons (Duh :))

To Get Started
Find coupons online or buy them (in your Sunday paper).  You can check out my Coupon tab for a list of coupon sites.  Clip your coupons.  I usually cut mine at night when we are watching tv.  I can't stand to just sit there and do nothing except watch tv.  I have to do something with my hands.  I guess that is a mommy thing.  We always have to multi-task.

Next thing you need to do is organize your coupons.  Decide on what categories you want in your binder.  I put all of the non food items first in my binder, like oral care, hair care, cleaning supplies, paper goods, air fresheners, laundry, etc.  After these I put food items, and separate them by beverages, dairy, frozen, canned goods breakfast items, etc.  It is up to you how you want to separate them.  Do what works for you.

If you print coupons, make sure they are ones that you will use.  This way you don't waste money on paper and ink.  There are some great coupons online.  However, you need to think about whether or not your store will accept them.  I have a page full of coupon policies.  Most stores will not accept printed coupons for free items.

You can check some of your favorites for coupon match-ups (what coupon to use with whatever sale to get the best deal).  Check your grocery ads to see what is on sale and what you have a coupon for.  Make your list for the store and but an * next to an item if you have a coupon for it.  Stick to your list.  (Even if you don't use coupons, this will save you money.)  I will usually pull the coupons I am going to use, and put them in the front of my binder or attached to my list. 

If there are several stores where I can get a deal, I will usually shop at Walmart.  Walmart will match any advertised special, including meat and produce.  Also, Walmart will give you money back for coupon overages.  I will write down which store has which deal.  So, it is easier when you go to checkout.  Make sure you bring the ads with you.

Once you have everything written down, it is time to go to the store.  Don't forget to bring your binder and ads.  I will put the ads at the back of my binder.  This way they are ready when I check out, in case the cashier asks to see it.  Sometimes they want to see it and other times they don't really care or already know about the sales.  I keep all of the stuff I have to price match together.  This way it is easier for me to remember and for the cashier.  When you check out, make sure you double check to make sure everything rings up correctly, including your coupons.

That is basically, all there is to couponing.  It will take a little bit of time and practice but you will get the hang of it.  You can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars each year by couponing.  Even if you only do a few coupons each time, you can save money.  Just count the money you save with coupons as a job.  Figure out how much time you spend on it by how much you save.  You could end up making (saving) over $20 an hour.  And if you are like me, this is time spent in front of the tv.

Do you coupon?  Do you have any other hints to share?  Do you have any questions?  Good luck and start saving loads of money.