Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to Start Couponing: 5 Tips from a Not So Extreme Couponer

As a stay at home mom, I'm always looking for ways to save us money. When Grace was a baby, I tried to learn to use coupons, but I quickly got overwhelmed. It took me months to really get the hang of it and I learned some valuable lessons along the way. With my difficult pregnancy with Connor, I pretty much stopped using coupons and didn't get back into it until recently. I've been easing myself back into the couponing game and thought it would be fun to share some of the things I've learned today! 

1. When you start, be realistic. You are probably not going to get a massive huge stockpile like you might have seen on Extreme Couponing. Most stores do not allow this kind of stuff anymore and honestly, who needs 100 bottles of soda anyway? I have a small stockpile of toiletries and don't ever plan to buy more than we can use in a years time. This is a hot topic in the couponing world, but I make it my policy never to clear the shelf. If I want lots of an item, I will visit several different stores. But I rarely do this since I don't tend to buy more than a couple of each item. I rarely run out of toiletries because the good deals come up so frequently. I personally hate getting all of my coupons ready and organized only to arrive at the store to find the items I'm looking for completely gone.  If you aren't going to use it or donate it, don't buy it! When you start couponing, you will get a couponing high and will want to snap up all of the great deals you can. But if you don't use that type of medicine or like that food item, why spend money on it at all? Resist so someone else who actually uses the product can get the deal. Remind yourself that this is about saving money, not spending it! 

2. Ask friends and family for coupons. I currently don't have a newspaper subscription but a family friend keeps her inserts for me. You don't need to buy 10 copies of the paper to start couponing. There are plenty of printable coupons available ( and are my favorite websites for printable coupons) that will get you great deals. If you do decide to get a subscription, check around for deals. My local paper actually includes coupons with the Wednesday edition and then includes a free Sunday paper from another large local paper so you get two sets of insert for a very low subscription price. 

3. Make a relationship with your local store employees. I read this tip when I started and was honestly intimidated by it. I'm a shy person but I discovered that it was easier than I expected. My most frequent coupon trips are to CVS and I have two locations within 10 minutes of my house. The first month I tried to start doing the serious coupon deals, I made multiple trips and left empty handed and frustrated each time because the shelves were cleared. During one of these trips, an employee asked if she could help me find anything. I took the opportunity to ask her about several items that were already gone and we got into a conversation about their stocking days and times. I found out that she was the manager. She told me about several shelf clearers and when they normally came into the store to give me some tips on when to shop. She was happy to help me and I had much better luck after that conversation. The shelf clearers shop on Sundays and the store gets their delivery on Monday mornings. They restock throughout the day and now I do my shopping on Monday afternoons and rarely have a problem getting what's on my list. 

4. Find a way that works for you to organize your coupons. I have tried the binder method and it didn't work for me. I use a small coupon holder now and love that I am able to keep it in my purse. I take about 30 minutes each Monday morning to cut and organize everything. 

5. Use store loyalty cards, savings apps, and price matching. CVS' ExtraCare card is amazing and Target's Cartwheel app saves me a ton! Our local grocery store offers a gas card that gives us money off of gas for things we would normally buy anyway. Walmart just started a price matching app that will scan all local competitors ads for you when you scan your receipt and give you credit for any lower prices it finds. I frequently use Walmart to price match local grocery ads. If you make a large purchase, be sure to watch the ads because most stores will give you the difference back if they put the item on sale within the return period. We recently purchased a laptop at Best Buy and the day after our purchase, it went on sale. A quick trip to customer service with our receipt got us nearly $40 back. Don't miss out on these kinds of easy savings!

Please let me know if you have any questions that I can answer about couponing. There are some amazing blogs that post tutorials and weekly deals. My two favorites are Penny Pinchin' Mom and Krazy Coupon Lady.

If you'd like some examples of couponing trips I've done in the past, check out these links:

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