A Beginner’s Guide to Coupons : How to Use Them and Where to Find Them

By now, you’ve probably seen the extreme cases. Those who consider couponing a full time job. There’s even a show about it:

But no matter your opinion on this method of saving money, you don’t have to be an “extreme couponer” to reap the benefits and savings that can be had by couponing. Take a look at some interesting coupon clipping facts featured at The Digerati Life:

  • It takes the average person about 20 minutes to an hour to organize coupons for a shopping trip.
  • The biggest problem people have with clipping and locating coupons is the time-consuming nature of the activity.
  • The average coupon user saves about 12% off of their grocery bill, but using the right strategies, you can save up to 75% to 80%.
  • At least 80% of people use coupons in some form, but most of these people do not have a system for organizing or using them.

So you too can benefit from using coupons without going nuts or devoting ridiculous amounts of time to your efforts. And the best part about couponing is that you can determine how much time to spend doing it and to what extent you’ll be a “couponer.” Let’s take a look at some methods for achieving your money-saving goals (today, with a focus on grocery coupons).

How to Be A Successful Couponer

Have you seen videos and news stories like the one above from Consumer Reports but are still unsure of how to get begin reaping similar benefits? Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Keep Your Coupons Organized

Firstly, to be a true couponer, you’ll need to find a way to keep organized. Here are things you’ll need to do and locate while you put together your coupon organizer. Once you’ve gotten it together, be sure never to leave home without it. You never know when it will come in handy!

  • Find a Container: find something you can use as a coupon holder, like a wallet or a recipe box.
  • Develop a Sort of Filing System: whether you organize coupons by grocery category (i.e. dairy, frozen foods, baking goods, etc.) or by expiration date, make sure all of the coupons you clip have a distinct landing spot that makes it easy for you to find them later.
  • Purge Regularly: expired coupons will do you no good and will just take up unnecessary space. Take the time to clean out your coupon holder often to keep it as up to date as possible.
  • Use a Price Book: head here for some tips for creating your own price book to keep in your coupon organizer to help you keep track of varying prices.

Find Stores With Generous Coupon Policies

Finding stores that double coupons is key if you’re looking for optimal savings. Unsure of which stores will double coupons? Take a look at this helpful list from Frugal Living to locate qualifying stores in your area.

Wherever you shop, make sure you become aware of your local stores’ savings programs and policies before you take your grocery trip. You don’t want to miss out on potential savings just because you weren’t aware of how a certain store operates.

Match Up Sales With Coupons

Make an effort to hold onto your coupons until the store has reduced the price of the item to save even more money. There are many sites that do the tedious work of matching up coupons every week. Read on to learn about some of those sites.

Don’t Buy Things You Don’t Need

One of the main downfalls that coupon users encounter is the lure to buy things they don’t really need just because they have a coupon for it. This is where it is helpful to create grocery lists and even price books. Figure out what you need on a day to day basis and base your coupon hunting around those items.

If you find a great coupon and/or sale for something non-perishable that you’ll use eventually, buying the item could save you some money in the future. However, if you use a coupon to buy something you wouldn’t normally buy, you’re actually wasting money. Don’t be let yourself be irrationally tempted by the power of discounts! Keep your head about you, stay organized and focused, and think of coupons as cash you can use for the items you need.

Where to Find Coupons:

So once you’re ready to fill your organizer with coupons, where do you actually go to find them? There are tons of sites and resources out there that you have at your disposal, however, here are some of my favorites – sites that I can recommend from personal experience:

  • Coupons Spotters: try out Tip Hero’s sister site for finding some of the latest printable grocery coupons out there.
  • Coupon Mom: search grocery, restaurant and drugstore coupons by state with Coupon Mom’s celebrated databases. Coupon Mom also tells you when you should buy what and what coupons you can match up for optimal savings. You can also choose to get the latest coupon and deal notifications sent directly to your inbox.
  • Coupon Cabin: search for local, grocery, printable and online coupons by category, type or store.
  • Online Coupon Codes: here you’ll find some of the best sites out there for finding online promotional and coupon codes.
  • Coupons.com: easily “clip” and print the latest manufacturer and store coupons.
  • Wicked Cool Deals: this great site offers coupon matchups to ensure ultimate savings, among other fabulous features.
  • Smart Source: clip as many coupons as you want and print them out for use on your next grocery run.
  • Direct from the Manufacturer: check manufacturers’ websites for the latest coupons that they’re offering before buying their brand of products.

Offline Resources:

Coupons don’t just exist online, of course. Here are some other resources for finding them:

  • Store Mailings: if you sign up for a frequent shopper card at a store, you may receive special coupons in the mail from time to time.
  • Newpapers: the Sunday paper is a great place to look for coupons if you have some time to clip.
  • In Store: you can find coupons on store shelves, on the backs of products you buy and on the bottom of your receipts. Just always keep your eye peeled for these savings opportunities.
  • Junk Mail: just take a quick look before you toss. You may find something useful once in a while.
  • Magazines: you can often find manufacturer coupons in women’s publications like Woman’s Day, Red Book, Family Circle and Good Housekeeping.

Couponing takes patience and time. However, it can be an extremely worthwhile pursuit. By investing less than an hour a week into couponing, you too can join the great couponers from around the world in saving up to 80% off of your grocery bill. And when you do accomplish this, it’s a great feeling. Trust me.

Additional Sources: Frugal Living, Saving Cents With Sense, The Digerati Life, Consumer Reports

Photo credit: dmdonahoo