Couponing 101: Complete Beginners Guide – Part 1

Complete beginners guide to couponing !

If you have absolutely no idea how to do this ‘coupon thing’, this is the place to start!
This thread is intended to give you the basic and not-so-basic tips to save a lot of money on groceries, cleaning supplies, and health and beauty products. So let’s get started!

What stores do you have in your area?

Make a list.

It may be bigger than you think!
Once you learn how to work the system, you may find yourself shopping at stores that you thought were “too expensive”, because they actually have better deals in the long run!

Familiarize yourself with their coupon policies
Ask at the customer service desk.
Policies vary by store, chain and area of the country.
Some stores that you thought do not take coupons actually do!
Did you know that Dollar General takes coupons?

Double Coupons:
The stores will double the face value of the coupon, meaning that your coupon is worth twice the face value.
The best kind of grocery stores double coupons up to $1.00 (commonly known as Super Doubles).
Many other stores double coupons up to $.50 or $.60.
Some stores also have a limit as to how many of the same coupon they will double.

No Doubles: Your coupons will be accepted at face value only.

Triple Coupons:

This rare bird comes as a promotion in certain areas.
The store will triple the value of your coupon up to a certain value.
In this instance, a $.50 coupon would be worth $1.50!

Some stores will allow you to ‘stack’ their store coupons with your manufacturer coupons for even greater savings!
Some of them are: CVS, Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, Toys-R-Us, Target and some grocery stores.
These store coupons can come from home mailers (get on the mailing lists!), store ads, flyers and the stores’ monthly magazines.

If the store has a loyalty card, get one. Or two.
This is often the only way that you will get the sale prices.

A very few stores– mostly in the Midwest– will take coupons that have already expired.
The dates vary from 3 months to 6 months past the expiration date.

Certain stores will accept competitor’s coupons for everything from FREE gift cards with a prescription to the catalinas that print after the order.

Questions to ask:

  • Does your store double coupons?
  • What is the maximum value that you will double?
  • How many ‘like’ coupons will double?
  • Do you ever have triple coupon promotions?
  • Do you take Internet printed coupons?
  • Can I combine store coupons with manufacturer coupons?
  • Does this store take expired coupons?
  • Do you accept competitor coupons?

Get the weekly ads for all of your stores!

These are usually delivered in your home newspaper. If they are not, you can view them online at the store’s website.

Your goal is to match the weekly sales with the coupons in your possession.
You will spend less if you have a plan.
Don’t buy everything you need at one store just because it is convenient for you.
The store across the street might have other things from your list on sale.

NOTE: brand loyalty goes out the window for serious couponers!
Buy what is on sale!

The previews are also frequently posted in the individual store websites.
Make sure that you read the ads yourself, though, because a hot deal for one person might not be hot for you!

NOTE: If a store has something on sale: # for $xx, you are not obligated to buy the full number to get the sale price… unless the ad says so! Something that is 10/$10.00 is actually “each item is $1”.

Also, these # for $xx sales are not always the best deal. Sometimes they even increase the price for this type of sale. EX: a can of tomatoes is on sale at 5/$5.00. But since you are now so price-savvy, you know that the regular, everyday price of the item is only $.89! You know to pass on this ‘sale’!


Herbal Essences shampoo or conditioner is on sale at 2/$5.00= $2.50.
You have a $1 off 1 coupon, and your store doubles dollars! $2.50- $2.00= $.50. That is a good deal for something that usually costs $3.49!

Hamburger Helper is on sale for 10/10.00.
You have a $.50/1 coupon.
You store doubles that coupon, making the item FREE!

Where do I get all of these coupons?

Your first source should be the Sunday newspaper.
The coupons are usually with the magazine section inside the funnies!
There are three kinds of coupon inserts to look for: the SmartSource (SS), the Redplum, which was formerly known as Valassis (V), and once a month, the Procter & Gamble Brand Saver (P&G).
There are no inserts on major holidays, so you might want to save your money on those days.

The first key to saving money is to obtain multiple copies of the inserts– lots of them.
You want to do this as inexpensively as possible.

You probably already get a paper, either home delivered or at the news stand, so you have one set of inserts there.
*If you buy it at the store, make sure the coupons are actually in there before you pay for the paper!
*Some stores discount the price of the Sunday paper, or offer a special deal on two.
*Then you can ask everyone you know.
*Most people don’t use coupons, or if they do, they cut one or two and toss the rest. Get those.
*Ask your mother, your neighbors, your church friends, coworkers– anyone that you can think of!
*If you live in or close to an apartment or condo complex, check out the recycling bins.
You’d be surprised how many people just toss the whole center section!
These are usually pretty clean, since recycling companies require you to separate newspaper from other recyclables.
*Join the “Dumpster Divers”! This is what people call it when they go to the local recycling center to poke around for extra inserts.
*Make friends with the people who run them if you are confronted—they can become your best friends! They might be able to tell you when the carriers come to dump their extras.
*Ask at the local store on Sunday night or Monday morning.
*Many papers require that only the front page of unsold papers be returned for credit, or if they need the whole paper, they don’t want the inserts. It never hurts to ask!
*Look at hotels, nursing homes, McDonald’s on a Sunday morning… anywhere that people sit to read the paper and leave the inserts.

There are reputable coupon clipping services that will send coupons for a handling fee.
Free from the sources above is always best, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money!
Another source of coupons is online printable coupons.
Most sites allow you to print two copies of each coupon.
You will need to ask if your store accepts these.

Once you have your coupons, you need to organize them!
Some people keep the inserts intact and file them by date (SS 12/4, V 12/11, P&G 1/6, etc.)
This system saves a great deal of time initially, but getting ready for shopping is more of a chore.
You have to cut the coupons that you need at that time.

Others clip all of the coupons from the beginning, and file them in various ways. The most popular is the “binder method”: some form of 3 ring, zippable binder with baseball card and other inserts.
Other use the shoe box method with index cards to list coupons.

Make sure that you go through your coupons and weed out your expired coupons at least once a month!
This prevents the task from becoming overwhelming, and prevents embarrassment at the store if you try to use an expired coupon.

The second key to saving money is the stockpile!

Once you have found that great deal, you need to buy a lot of it.
Not just 1 for now and 1 to have on hand for later, but 10 or 20 or more. T
his is the logic behind all of those coupons that you obtained from everyone you know!

This is only a sensible idea if you have room to store it, and the item is non-perishable. You know what your family needs, but everyone needs toilet paper, toothpaste and deodorant!

Hard-core couponers have on hand a one or two year supply of things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, body wash or soap, and cleaning supplies.
When you use one of them, you can just go to wherever you store your stockpile for another.
You have purchased these items at the price you wanted to pay, not the price the store wanted you to pay!
Free or nearly free is better than full price any day!
Once you get better at this, you will see the maximum amount that you are willing to pay drop like a rock!


Part 2 ->

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