Couponing 101

Today, couponing is nothing like what your grandmother or mother used to do. In complete honesty, it's nothing like you see on those reality TV shows, either. The truth about couponing and its benefits lies somewhere between simply saving $0.50 on a loaf of bread and walking away with $1,000 worth of groceries for $5.00. When done correctly, you can cut your grocery bill in half (or more) just by couponing. It's not something that is done overnight, but once you really get into it, it can be addictive.

So, I know you are asking where to start, right? Well, right here. You clicked on this article which means you've taken the first step into couponing. In today's post, I'll give you the basics you need to get started and a few tips that will make the process easier.

My Coupon Binder
In order to save the maximum amount of money when you grocery shop, the key is combining coupons with weekly sales at your grocery store. This is where couponing gets fun, profitable, and makes the difference between saving $5 on your weekly grocery bill and $75. You could take the somewhat long road and get the sales flyer for your grocery store that week and spend a few hours comparing the sales with the coupons you have, or you could head to your favorite search engine (mine is Google) and type in 'Coupon Match Ups' along with your closest city. What this will do is bring up a bunch of websites that have done the hard work for you. They looked at the weekly sales flyers, figured out what was on sale and where and when there was a coupon for any sale items, and many even have links to online coupon printing sites where you can print the coupons right there. (For me, in the southwest, I use Bargain Believer, so you can see the type of site I'm talking about.) Is every single sale item and its coupon equivalent going to be on these sites? Probably not, but once you've been doing this for awhile, it gets easier and easier to spot sales and match coupons yourself.

It's also best to shop at the grocery store with the best coupon policy. Many stores either double
coupons or make every coupon worth $1. Those are the ones to do your shopping at. Stores with reward points or a savings card are great, too, and ones with added fuel perks are amazing (save money on groceries and gas). Each grocery store has a website out there, and many of them have their coupon policy on their website. If nothing else, call them and ask. You need to know if they double or value every coupon at $1, and if there is a limit on the number of like coupons you can use in one transaction. Thanks to those reality couponing shows, most stores have a limit of 3 or 4 identical coupons you can use in one trip. Check to also see if your store allows you to combine their store coupons with manufacturer's coupons. Target, for example, does allow this, so if you print Target coupons from their website, you can combine those with coupons clipped from the Sunday paper or coupons printed off of generic coupon sites, on the same item. This adds up to huge savings, and often getting the item for free!

You will definitely want to figure out the best way to organize your coupons. This is crucial. I've seen people organize their coupons according to the date and place they got them (like Sunday paper on 9/2) as many of the coupon match up sites organize this way. I've seen people with envelopes, file folders, binders, pencil boxes... just about everything. Personally, I use a big 2 inch binder with trading card inserts to hold my coupons (seen above). I have a few page protectors in there to hold my shopping lists or the weekly sales flyers, and a pencil bag in the front that I use to hold the coupons I'm going to use in my transaction, as I pull them from the binder. I have my coupons divided by categories, such as Cereal, Dairy, Snacks, Toiletries-Hair, Household- Cleaning, etc. This is just what works for me. Do I take this binder with me every time I go grocery shopping? I sure do! I usually miss a few items when I do my research, so I like to have all of my coupons with me to catch all of the deals I can.

So, how is couponing lucrative? I'll give you a scenario...

Let's say we're buying granola bars for your kid's lunch. A box of granola bars normally runs $2.99. Your grocery store has put that box of granola bars on sale, 2 boxes for $4 that week, or $2 each. You have a simple $.40 off coupon, but your grocery store values all coupons at $1, so your $.40 off coupon is now worth $1.00.

$2.00 sale price of granola bars - $1 valued coupon = $1 per box of granola bars.
That's a savings of $1.99 per box of granola bars.

This is an actual sale I've taken advantage of in my recent past, so it's not something I just made up. I shop at a grocery store that values all coupons at $1 (unless, of course, the coupon is for over $1, then it's face value) and allows 3 like coupons to be valued at $1 in one transaction. So, when this sale came around, I had 3 coupons I had clipped from the Sunday paper (yes, I buy multiple papers just for couponing purposes), and I ended up spending a total of $3 on 3 boxes of granola bars that would normally have cost me $9 total.

Savings like that get my blood flowing, my adrenaline rushing, and add up to major savings on a cart-full of groceries. Personally, I average 40%-55% savings on my groceries every time I go shopping, meaning I take a $130 grocery bill down to $70 (for example). I save money, but I'm also stocking up on items we need by buying 3 boxes of granola bars instead of just 1. It's a win-win situation for my family.

Many times, combining sales and coupons yields items being free. We have an entire drawer full of toothpaste in our bathroom because my grocery store put tubes on sale 10 for $10, and my $.30 off coupon was valued at $1.00, so I picked up a tube or two of free toothpaste every time I went shopping. I don't have 500 tubes of free toothpaste, but enough to where we don't have to worry about how clean our mouths are for a while.

I do spend a little time each week checking out sales from other stores, seeing if any new coupons have been submitted at the free coupon printing sites, and checking out my coupon match up websites. I always print or clip any coupon that I think my family and I could possibly use as soon as I see it, just in case a store has a great deal on it. The amount of preparation I do before an actual grocery shopping trip is about an hour. I check the match up site, compare the sales to the coupons I already have, and print new ones I need. Our weekly meals get based around the sales that week in order to maximize savings.

Finally, the last couponing basic that I can pass on is the best sites to head to for printing coupons. Many sites out there are scams, or based on some of the main sites, so it's just best to have a concise list available. I put a 'Coupons' folder onto my bookmarks bar for easy access. The main ones are:
Grocery Coupon Network
Smart Source
Coupon Network by Catalina

You'll find that your coupon match up sites will have direct links to companies' websites (like Betty Crocker, P&G, Unilever, etc.) when they offer coupons (not an all-time thing).

So, there you have it- Couponing 101. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask below! Happy couponing!

~This article was written by Morgan, the newest member of the Mummy Knows Reviews team. She is also known as Tatted Mom, and can be found over at her humor blog The Inklings of Life for your daily dose of motherhood chaos.


Erin said…
Holy smokes! Thanks for the tips!!!
Holli said…
these are some great tips!! i have been that 'saving $5' person for a long time.. i think i'm ready to level up and get some real savings.
Tatted Mom said…
It's so easy to do, and I will warn you now- addictive. My favorite store to get free stuff at is Target- every week I come home with items I paid almost nothing for. Good luck and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!!

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