Looking for a way to save even more money on the everyday things you’re already buying? Learning how to start couponing isn’t as intimidating as you might think. Learn the basics in this post that breaks down everything you need to know.
If you’ve been searching for a way to stretch your dollar further, or to save more money in general, couponing is where it’s at. You already buy items like shampoo, toilet paper, and toothpaste, so you might as well learn how to coupon so you can get those items for free!
Couponing is confusing, especially when you’re first starting out. Whether you’re a beginner or looking for new ways to save with coupons, this guide to couponing is here to help.
You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to learn how to save some big money on groceries, household essentials, clothing and more. The best part? You also don’t need to dedicate tons of time finding the best deals and coupon codes.
Learning how to coupon is simpler then you might think, especially when you have someone help teach you the most important things to know.
I should start by saying that this article isn’t about extreme couponing like you’ve probably seen on television. While that’s absolutely a way many people save money with coupons, I’ve personally always felt like that was a little too overwhelming for me.
Instead, this guide on how to start couponing will help you learn the basics to lower your grocery bill, save money when shopping for household essentials, clothing and even gifts- all without having to make “extreme” changes.
Let’s get started on learning how to start couponing.
What is couponing?
If you’re new to the world of couponing, you may not even know what it really is. Couponing has been around since 1887 and Coca Cola was the first company to offer consumers a deal on their item.
Coca Cola actually handwrote coupons and mailed them across the country. How cool is that?
But, back to WHAT coupons are – they are a way to save money. The official meaning of the word coupon is as follows: “a voucher entitling the holder to a discount for a particular product.”
Keep in mind that companies use coupons as a way to engage the customer. When a company releases a coupon, they are hoping to build loyalty with the person using the coupon and buying the product.
Before you get started, it’s important to figure out what your ultimate goal is. Maybe you’re trying to reduce your expenses so you can become a stay at home mom, or maybe your goal is to use the extra money for a dream vacation.
Or, if you’re anything like me, your goal is to never have to pay full price!
As you figure out your motivation, it’s ideal to keep in mind this goal and what is important to your personal life and your family’s needs.
Understanding Sales Cycles
While most of this article is about couponing for beginners, one of the most valuable places to start is by talking about store sales cycles. By knowing when your favorite grocery stores have certain sales, you’ll be even to save even more in addition to your couponing strategy.
Different items go on sale at different points of the year. Usually this is most noticeable for things like seasonal items and fresh produce. However, by learning your store’s sales cycles, you can also start to anticipate when other items will be discounted throughout the year as well.
Nearly everything goes on sale at least once over a 6-12 week period in most stores. Take for example your kid’s favorite cereal, which full price is usually $3.50. You happen to have a coupon to save $1.00, which would bring the price to $2.50.
However, if you waited to purchase this item when the store was having a cereal sale where every box was discounted by $1, you would be able to save $2 a box!
What do I need to start couponing?
If you’re are going to learn how to coupon, then you may need a few items on your “must-have” list. Don’t worry, these items aren’t expensive!
- Printer – if you choose to print coupons, then you’re going to need a printer.
- Plastic binder or coupon box – you’re going to need something to hold your coupons in! I recommend snagging an expandable coupon binder like this one to help you stay organized if you like to easily bring them to the store. Prefer to keep most of your coupons at home? A coupon box helps keep them organized with coupon inserts or envelopes.
- A phone – those digital coupons that are calling your name will need to be downloaded using the app on your phone.
Start the couponing 101 with one store
You can’t possibly learn to coupon at several stores at one time. Pick your favorite store and start couponing there. You will be so glad you picked one store and started the learning process.
Each store’s coupon policy is different, and they can vary greatly. A great place to start is with learning the ropes for your favorite grocery store. Once you feel comfortable with that one retailer, expand your knowledge with your next most shopped store and so on.
An easy way to start is to look through the store’s weekly ad and make note the items your family loves that have a sale price that are great deals this week. I prefer to circle these to help them stand out when I go back to make my shopping list. This makes it easy to check my available coupons as well as the store loyalty program before heading to the store.
How to Find Coupons
There are two main different types of coupons: store coupons and manufacturer’s coupons.
Like the name implies, store coupons are issued by the store and can only be used at that particular store. These can be found in the store’s weekly ad, might be sent to you in the mail, and can sometimes also be found on their website or if they have a store app.
Manufacturer’s coupons are issued by the manufacturer of a specific item (or collection of items). These coupons can be used at any store that accepts them. They almost always have “manufacturer’s coupon” somewhere on them.
These paper coupons are typically found in the Sunday paper or some daily newspapers/local newspapers, mailers, and some magazines.
Love paper coupons? Consider a subscription to your local newspaper! Check out Groupon for deals on newspaper subscriptions.
There are also websites that allow you to find printable coupons. Take a look at websites like Coupons.com, Pillsbury.com, PGEveryday.com and SmartSource.com. If you love a particular product or brand, you can many times also find printable coupons available there easily available (or sent to you if you sign up for their mailing list).
You can usually use both a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon to save even more! This is also known as coupon stacking.
Pay attention to the small print. Be sure to pay attention to the expiration date of each manufacturer’s coupon as these can vary greatly.
Make a list of what you want to coupon
You may quickly decide that you don’t want to coupon for every single thing and that’s okay. Go ahead and make a list of what you want to coupon.
You may decide that you want to coupon for diapers or baby wipes. Perhaps you’re looking for coupons for makeup or other beauty products. Maybe you’re a mom that strictly is looking to coupon hygiene products.
Either way, know what you want to coupon and start making a list of what you want and need. Keep an eye out for deals on these items when you build your grocery list.
Spend some time looking through coupons and comparing ads
Since you have the one store you’re going to start with, this part with be fun and simple! You can spend some time looking through coupons and comparing ads.
It’s easier if you coupon when things are on sale! Look at items that are on sale, see if you can snag a coupon for them, and match everything up.
Pay attention to store loyalty programs too. Our local grocery store gives you extra points towards discounts at certain times of the year when you purchase gift cards.
There are also some amazing couponing websites out there that you can check out. These websites, like Money Saving Mom and Krazy Koupon Lady. Check daily to see if there are items you can get at a discount! A little bit of knowledge goes a long way before you take that shopping trip.
Look for coupons online
While it’s great to go to the store and use digital coupons, make sure you also look for online coupons. Anytime you go shopping, do research before and look for a coupon code.
You’ll be amazed at how many different places will give you a coupon code for signing up for an email.
Learn to stack coupons
One of the best skills you will learn as a couponer is how to stack coupons (also known as double coupons). How does that work? Stacking coupons is when you purchase an item BUT you use several coupons.
When all the planets align, you may be able to get a tube of name-brand toothpaste by using a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon. You may also get lucky and notice the item is on sale!
Why would anyone want to coupon?
You may be asking yourself, why would anyone want to coupon? There are several reasons you may find yourself couponing.
Taking the time to find a product on sale and look for a coupon for it to get the best deal is addicting. The more you do it, the more addictive it becomes. You are literally getting items for free or for cheap!
Consider Setting Up a Home Stockpile
One of the most popular reasons why many people choose to coupon is to give them the opportunity to stock up on family favorites when they can get the best prices.
If the idea of a crazy bunker comes to mind, that’s not exactly what most people are talking about. Instead, many families choose to purchase multiple of our most used items during this time. In my home, that’s peanut butter, certain canned veggies, and toiletries.
By waiting until the sales cycle and combining those store discounts with your coupons, you are able to gradually build a stockpile at home. This helps to cut down on last minute runs to the grocery store when you realize you’re totally out of something important, like toilet paper.
Some of the easiest items to stockpile include pantry staples like grains, canned beans and other vegetables, flour and pasta, as well as your favorite frozen foods. These items keep for a while and can be used to make many dishes.
Creating a stockpile of toiletries like deodorant, shampoo and toothpaste, as well as cleaning products, laundry detergent, paper towels and toilet paper is also a smart move.
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Final thoughts on couponing for beginners
There are many reasons that someone would want to coupon and these reasons are all valid. If you’re on the fence about learning to coupon, I hope you’ll take these tips to heart and use them as you begin your couponing journey.
I think the hardest part of couponing is getting started. However, once you put your mind to it and decide you want to do it, you can easily start couponing and finding items that your family both wants and needs.
Keep in mind that some stores never have sales or have coupons, as well as the true savings of the coupons you find. If a store coupon requires that you spend $100 to use it, but you normally don’t spend more than $50 for a typical run, keep in mind if that is truly savings to you.
Pay attention to the expiration dates and fine prints. Copying or altering coupons is never OK, and is actually illegal.
If your local store is out of something that you really wanted to snag on this trip, talk to customer service and see if they will write you a rain check. This allows you to get the same deal the next time you come in.
Are you an experienced couponer? What are your best couponing tips for someone just starting out?