When you're spending hundreds of dollars on groceries and other products every month, yet you're always running out of everyday necessities, it's time for a lifestyle change.
The demands of daily life can make it hard to focus on saving money, but you'll still need to find new ways to get the products you need without spending too much. Because you could be saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year through couponing, consider collecting coupons to start maximizing your savings.
This comprehensive guide to couponing will show you how to reduce or even eliminate the cost of essential items, so you can get organized and save money. You will feel overwhelmed when you first get started with couponing, but, once you find your sea legs, you'll be going out and buying the things you need for less money in no time.
This hobby is made for ordinary people who are willing to put in the time, effort and patience to change their lives, so read on to learn more about this money-saving practice.
In This Guide
What Are Coupons?
Before we dive into a more detailed definition of couponing and the process behind this phenomenon, we're going to go over coupons and how they're valuable to shoppers. Coupons, which are one of the best ways to save money like a pro, are printed vouchers that let you save a specified amount of money on a pre-determined product or set of products.
Because coupons are cash you can use at popular places to shop, you can think of them like free money for your favorite stores. The coupon will tell you the saving amount, product name, and purchase requirements, so the possibilities are endless when you're ready to embrace this way to save money.
What is Couponing?
Couponing is when you take your coupons to the store and use them to get discounted prices on a variety of products. Because you can get deals on food, personal care, household items and more, you'll be surprised at how much money you'll save by simply cutting them out of your Sunday paper or reaching out to your favorite brands.
You can plan to save money on everyday items like prepackaged meats, hair care products or laundry detergent, so you won't have to pay full price again for these items if you play your cards right. Whether you choose to get your coupons from stores, manufacturers or more, learn the process before diving into the four levels of couponing.
The Process Behind Coupons
After you hand your coupons over and the cashier scans them, they'll be placed in the cash drawer and then added up at the end of the day. The store will then apply the sum to the amount of money made that day and mail the coupons to the manufacturers at the end of the week.
Because stores get reimbursed a certain amount of money every time they send in a bag of coupons, they can add up to millions of dollars per week, especially for the larger chains. The manufacturers, finally, count and often recount the coupons to avoid counterfeit coupons and coupon fraud and then pay the amount they owe to each retailer.
The Four Levels of Couponing
If you're wondering how you'll fit into this process, let's go through the four levels of couponing to see how this hobby can work for you.
1. The Casual Coupon Shopper
Being a casual couponer entails paying full price for the majority of your groceries and using coupons once in awhile. This level accounts for minimal savings, as shoppers only save a few dollars at a time.
Because this level of couponing lets you sidestep the effort needed to clip coupons, organize them and search for sales, you'll be saving time and dishing out more money. You can make your money saving efforts count if you have an hour or two to devote to couponing, so consider getting to the next level in the couponing game.
2. The Generic Brand Shopper
Being a generic brand store shopper involves saving money by buying generic brands over name brands. Because you can save money by paying only for generic brands, some shoppers will choose generic even when there's a coupon for a brand name.
This type of couponing, however, can help you find good savings on higher quality products. Given that brands sway buyers to choose their products with coupons, take shopping to the next level by using coupons to save money on more expensive products.
3. The Coupon Deal Shopper
Being a coupon deal shopper comes with saving money on brand name products by buying items when they go on sale. This technique works best when you combine a manufacturer's coupon with a store sale to score big.
Because you can get items for little to no money, this degree of couponing is the second-best way to make great savings. The practice of waiting for a sale rather than simply buying generic goods lets you buy items only when they're discounted and you have a worthwhile coupon to use for them.
Pro Tip: Match your coupons to the sales at major grocery and drug stores in your area to get the best deals on everyday items.
4. The Extreme Coupon Shopper
Being an extreme coupon shopper means you'll master the art of looking for multiple deals at a time. You can use manufacturer coupons in conjunction with stores ones on the same product like a coupon deal shopper and then take your savings up a notch.
Because you can use two or more coupons, or double coupon, on a buy-one-get-one-free sale, for example, the possibilities are endless when striking multiple deals at once. This practice ensures you'll be walking away with incredible savings once you've gotten the hang of using different double coupon techniques to work your way toward success.
How to Get Started with Couponing
Now that you're familiar with the ins and outs of couponing, it's time to start taking advantage of store coupons, manufacturer coupons, and store sales all at the same time.
You can start by learning how to double coupon or browse the web for the best promo code to get items for free, or, at least, almost free. Once you've planned to set aside an hour or two every week for couponing, concentrate on giving it your all and begin watching the savings roll in.
Gather Your Coupons
Gathering your coupons is the first step in couponing, so here are 5 places to start looking for deals.
- The Newspaper: Your local Sunday paper is the most popular place to find coupons. Because you'll need a lot of coupons in your pursuit of extreme couponing glory, try to get more than one copy of each paper and, as a result, every coupon. This game plan means you should arrange to get as many copies of the paper as you can every week to make the most of each deal. When you look in the newspaper or even Sunday editions of major publications, you'll find coupon inserts and local ads to help you get a jump on the week's potential savings.
- The Mail: Your mail is a second place to discover coupons. When you take the time to sort through your mail for flyers, inserts, and postcards with coupons, you'll find a treasure in most everything that comes along. You should open every item of mail regardless because you never know what amazing deal you could find hidden away.
- The Internet: Your computer is a third place to browse for coupons. Given that the Internet is complete with every type of printable coupon, work on finding the best internet deals available. A digital coupon you can print at home lets you refine your search by shopping on coupon websites and setting up alerts for coupons from manufacturers that interest you. Whether you choose to click a link, print the file and bring it to the store or have the coupon mailed to you, the Internet is all you need to enjoy local coupons and sales.
- The Store: Your local store is a fourth place to keep an eye out for coupons. Because most stores should have coupon walls with store flyers, walk into a grocery store or a drugstore to find every kind of in-store coupon. You also have the option to ask for a free coupon booklet, so, if you're willing to track one down, you'll reap even more savings with a little persistence. With Catalina coupons, which are printed at the store after checkout, you'll have a whole host of coupons to have at your disposal for saving money.
- The Manufacturer: The manufacturer is a fifth place to seek out coupons. As both the stores and manufacturers mail out coupons on occasion, wait patiently for them to send you surprises in the mail or reach out to them and speed up the process. One way to get exclusive coupons from manufacturers is to write to your favorite brands and tell them the many ways you're a valued customer and how much you love their products. Once you're also in the habit of surfing their websites and social media profiles for sales, specials, and coupons, use these emails as ways to request more free coupons.
Organize Your Coupons
Organizing your coupons is the second step in couponing, so here are two ways to file your clippings and full pages to save money.
1. Invest in a Coupon Binder: The first option when organizing your coupons is investing in a coupon binder. With a coupon binder full of tabs and pockets, you can use a system of A to Z dividers and protector sheets to sort your coupons by the first letter of the product's name. You'll want to keep track of product name for each coupon and its expiration date, so tailor your binder for easy access to this information after the clipping coupon process. If you clip and file the coupons set to expire first in the front, for example, you'll work out a system that works for you and put yourself in control when you start shopping with your binder.
2. Opt for a Folder Container: The second option when organizing your coupons is opting for a folder container. With a box of files full of whole inserts, you can file coupon inserts in their entirety by grouping identical coupons together. You'll need to keep records of the coupons you have to make the most of this method, so use hanging file folder system to hold the pages and then separate each category by label. If you'd rather work with a stretch organizer or go old school with envelopes, organize the coupons by retailer and then save time on clipping and filing by only using the coupons you need when you arrive at the store.
Starting shopping is the third step in couponing, so here's how to take the leap and make the most of this cost-effective hobby.
Whether you start with a store coupon or a one from a manufacturer, you'll be ready to visit your local grocery store or drugstore with a coupon to save. You should watch the sales ads carefully before you head out, so you can start off with one deal and then work your way up to becoming an extreme couponer.
When you've found a sale that tickles your fancy, select a coupon that corresponds with the promotion at hand. You'll know the exact product you're looking for in the store, and, once you grab the right one off of the shelf, proceed to the checkout to claim your prize.
Pro Tip: Read the fine print on every coupon to avoid selecting items that aren't included in the deal.
Store Your Purchases
Storing your purchases is the fourth and final step in couponing, so here are the best practices for putting away every great find after a successful shopping trip.
The way you organize and store your purchases is one of the most important parts of couponing, especially once you've graduated to one of the higher levels. Because you'll start to collect items quickly, you'll need more space to start stockpiling items with longer shelf lives like toothpaste, laundry detergent, and shampoo.
The key to successful storage is making sure your home doesn't fill up with products, so set limits for yourself and start finding ways to keep your items. Whether you set up shelves in your garage or find space in your kitchen, group similar products together and keep an eye on expiration dates to make sure the fruits of your labor are always in order.
The Best Practices for Couponing
Take Advantage of Holidays
If Mother's Day, Black Friday or another annual occasion is coming up, you'll be able to take advantage of these holidays to save even more money with coupons. You can follow sales cycles year-round to plan your purchases and buy the items you want at the lowest prices.
Because waiting for a sale to avoid spending money on full-price items will help you get the lowest price, you should be in tune with holidays and other events throughout the year.
Learn The Store Policy
Whether you're shopping at Trader Joe's, Rite Aid or another popular chain, you can learn each store's coupon policy to use your coupons more effectively. You'll want to check every coupon policy periodically, so you know the rules in the event that one of the employees isn't familiar with them.
Pro Tip: Shop on the days with special sales for students or veterans, for example, to make greater savings when you meet the criteria.
Set Limits For Yourself
Because the art of couponing can become an all-consuming hobby, you should set a few limits for yourself to get the best deals and keep your feet on the ground. You'll often find yourself doing everything you can to achieve the best final price on every item, but you also need to get into the habit of only buying the things you need each week.
When you're confident in your abilities and you find a great deal, ask yourself if you'll use the product at hand before you make a purchase.
It's Time to Start Shopping
Now that you're familiar with the best practices for couponing, you're ready to start shopping. The major grocery stores, drugstores and mass retailers in your area are good places to start looking for deals, so make a list of the things you need and the ones you'll want more of soon.
Once you've created a shopping list and made a note of what's going to be on sale, see if you have coupons to match the items you have your eye on. You should also consult resources like Trader Joe's Fearless flyer and Rite Aid's online deals before leaving your house to make great savings in every possible way.
Why Do Couponing?
If you're looking for simple ways to save money this year, couponing is an effect method for cutting back on household expenses. The thought of paying less for necessities is enough to make anyone with a family weak in the knees, so rest assured knowing you'll be on your way to becoming an extreme couponer in no time.
Whether you're looking to pay less for groceries, toiletries, cleaning products or more, you won't believe the kinds of savings you'll see when you put your mind to couponing.
Given that the money you bank from using a coupon or loyalty card each time you shop will improve your life in many ways, you shouldn't need to give it a second thought. These great money saving tips are all you need to cut back on spending while maximizing your savings, so don't feel like you need to be a stay-at-home mom to find great deals every week.