Let’s Coupon: Getting Started With Couponing
I’m no stranger to using coupons. In fact, I LOVE them with a passion. However, since purchasing my first home in October (go me!), I’ve decided that I NEED to save. And by save I need to cut my grocery, household bills – hopefully – in half. I’ve researched for days to find money saving tips from successful shoppers and bloggers around the web. Now, I know this is going to take practice and a lot of trial and error on my part since this is the first time I’m going to attempt to only buy what I have coupons for and stock up on items when they are super cheap and/or free. In any case, I’ve decided to blog my progress to keep myself on track and to hopefully help and encourage others who also want to join in on the Great Couponing Adventure!
First Thing I Learned: Do Your Research
Luckily, we live in a day and age where everything imaginable can be accessed via the internet gods. If you don’t know how to do something you simply, Google it. Now don’t get me wrong, there is an abundance of trash and scams out there: sign up for this to get access to that super secret stuff you can only find here. Wrong. Don’t do that. There are plenty of places that offer FREE advice without the pressure to “sign up” or “join”. You just have to be diligent in your search. Sometimes, the first website that pops up may not be the best site for YOU. Also, look at reviews of sites you visit. See what others have to say before you look. Is it helpful? Are there any gimmicks you have to do in order to view the items you want to see? Know exactly what you want to gain from the site before you get started. Make a list. Check it twice. And then stick to it.
Here are a list of some of the sites I found very helpful about couponing:
Southern Savers — I really enjoyed this site (and not just because they are southern like me!). Southern Savers offers step-by-step advice on how to get started.
Deal Seeking Mom – Love this site! They offer loads of advice and links about how to coupon, what to look for, and what I’ve found most helpful is the engaged readers themselves. In the comments for certain posts I enjoyed, readers have offered their own advice and it’s great to see what works for people and what does not.
Living Rich With Coupons – This is a great site to see what coupons are hot right now, last chance coupons, among other resources. I found myself browsing this site a LOT to see if there was anything that I had missed from other websites.
So, Let’t Get Started: Find Those Coupon
After you’ve researched and you understand the basic principles of couponing — such as ONLY buy what you have coupons for and tailor your weekly/nightly meals to fit the coupons, which means you MUST plan ahead – then it’s time to find coupons.
Where to get coupons?
Newspaper – The most traditional place you can find them. Sunday papers usually have the most. Check the inserts in the paper for coupons and sometimes on those black and white newspaper pages you can find local coupons for other things. Heck I found one for a $19.99 oil change!
Magazines – According to the interwebs “All You” is the best magazine and usually has the most. I picked on up just to see since I was already at Wal-Mart and it’s only available at Wal-mart.
On The Web: Printable and Downloadable Coupons
There are many other places you can look, but for now I am sticking with those since this is my first go at couponing.
Next Thing To Do: Get Organized!
Sometimes this is easier said than done. From what I’ve found, there are oodles of ways to get, maintain, and track your coupons. What works for some may not work for everyone else. This is where some trial and error will come into play. The method I chose is the Binder/Baseball cards one. I spent roughly 20 dollars getting everything I needed for this process.
How I set up my binder:
I did splurge a little on my binder. I paid ~$6 for a cute binder that I didn’t mind taking out in public. I also purchased 3 packs of baseball card inserts, sheet protectors (for recipes I print), sharpies, travel scissors, dividers WITH pockets (this will come in handy later), and a small coupon holder that I will take into the store when I don’t want to take the binder.
After I printed all the coupons I wanted (which turned out to be 85 total), I had to decide how I was going to organize them. So, I created 5 sections for the places I shop and 1 section for recipe printouts:
- Tab 1: Target – I shop here the most.
- Tab 2: Wal-Mart – Because when I’m not at Target I’m at Wal-Mart.
- Tab 3: Coupons for Everywhere – These are coupons that are not exclusive to one store and that I can combine with coupons for other stores.
- Tab 4: Other Grocery Stores – I hate grocery stores! But, part of this process is to TRACK down the deals. So, I must now go to the grocery store if/when they have a better deal.
- Tab 5: Other – This is for random coupons that don’t fit into categories of food/household items. Such as toys for my daughter, lawn and garden products.
- Tab 6: Recipes — This is where I keep recipes that I print or find in magazines.
The next thing I did is color code (because I’m super anal about colors/organization/general neatness and order). Of course Target gets red, Wal-Mart the blue, and I just tried to match up colors the best I could. And with the way my mind works, I already know which colored tab to flip to for a particular store.
Third, I put the baseball card inserts between the tabs and labeled them. Some of the labels I used are:
Categories for Inserts:
Meats and Poultry
Beauty and Health
I labeled ONLY the first sheets for each category between each tab this way. Then, I put in two inserts behind each category in case I had more of one kind of coupon I would have extra inserts behind it. This way, none of my coupons gets mislabeled and I can put one coupon in each slot of the insert instead of doubling up. I know this is probably tedious and time consuming; however, if I walk into the store I want to see what I have clearly and not have to search and hope I find it. Hopefully, this will eliminate me overlooking coupons. Doing it this way also allows me to read the expiration dates on the back.
Last but not least, put it all together and decorate if you like! Here is what my coupon book looks like with everything inside.
Go Electronic to Save Time: Apps
I will talk more about these apps in a later post but for now, here’s the gist…
Flipp – I can search all the weekly ads for my local grocery stores and retailers without ever having to get a newspaper or go in the store. But be warned, this app is so ADICTIVE!
Coupon Keeper 2 – OMG this app is AMAZING! It allows you to scan all your coupons into the system and it tracks expiration dates, the categories (which are customizable so you can match them to your binders!!!) and it totals up your savings. I did upgrade to the PRO version because there is a limit to the number of coupons you can scan. This way, I’m not flipping through my binder 24/7 or writing down what coupons I have and when they will expire. I highly recommend using it to save LOADS of time. The only downside is you cannot get the coupons on multiple devices. I hope they find a way to let me synchronize them between iPad and iPhone soon! *fingers crossed*
It’s time to put all that WORK –and yes, it was work – to the test and see how much money you can save.
Since my blog is new, I don’t expect to get many views or comments on this post. But if anybody does stop by, I’d love to hear how you coupon. What works for you and what meals you’ve made from your coupons. Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you on my next couponing post!