Saturday, November 12, 2011

How does one start couponing?

We've had a few requests from the community asking how to get started saving money by couponing. (which I am over the moon about, by the way!)  Sarah and I started around the same time after we'd watched a few episodes of Extreme Couponing on TLC. Yes, we are relatively new to this and by no means as 'with it' as the people featured on that show, but we jumped in with both feet and were seeing savings in no time. Last night I went to Acme and saved 44% on my groceries and my trip to Giant Eagle today was a 54% savings. Nowhere near television reality show worthy, but I'm pleased with my results. We have our trips of 80% or more savings, but the reality is that not every shopping trip is going to be that way. We strive for practical frugality.  That means you aren't likely to see me clearing a shelf of barbecue sauce, but I will buy 6-10 of them if I have the coupons and the deal is good.

Step one in getting started is to gather coupons. You can find coupons nearly everywhere. 

Sunday Newspapers
Sunday newspapers are a more "traditional" source of manufacturer's coupons. Coupon inserts vary by region and newspaper. Each week you should find at least on Smart Source insert and one Redplum insert. Periodically there will be additional coupon inserts such as Proctor and Gamble or General Mills. You can find out ahead of time through this blog or through the Sunday Coupon PreviewMake sure that you check your papers for coupon inserts before you buy the papers. Paper carriers and store employees are responsible for putting the inserts into the papers, they are human and makes mistakes, there are also dishonest people who remove the inserts. Newspapers from larger metropolitan areas usually have slightly better coupons that we find in local papers. In our area, the Plain Dealer usually has a slightly different Smartsource insert than the local papers, but the Plain Dealer never has Redplum inserts, those inserts are mailed out up North. Buy your papers in multiples of two, that way you have at least two coupons for any sale that requires you to buy two of an item.

Online Printables
Coupons are online through manufacturer's websites, simply check out your favorite brands.  You can also print t through, and similar websites (though I recommend if you are going to print from a coupon gathering website, you do so through Swagbucks so that you save money and earn points at the same time!)  Most places these days take printable coupons, but some stores limit how many printed coupons you can use per trip, check the coupon policy before you shop, I have most local stores listed here. You will have to install some software on your computer that allows the printing, mostly I think it just counts how many you print. Generally, you can print two of each coupon per computer.  Yes, that means you can steal your significant other's laptop to print more coupons! Facebook is also a good source of printable manufacturer's coupons. 

Direct Mail Coupons
There are a few ways of getting direct mail coupons. One way is to email the company directly and request coupons. I also tend to give companies feedback, both positive and negative, normally a company will reward you for taking the time to do this with coupons, but I have even gotten samples and full sized products for this practice. Another way of getting coupons mailed directly to your home is to sign up for free samples and to sign up for periodic coupon campaigns. Proctor and Gamble and SC Johnson are two of the largest companies to have these sort of campaigns but their sign up windows are small, watch for them and take the opportunity if it arises.

Peelies, Blinkies, and other coupons. 
I'm sure you've utilized a coupon stuck to the packaging of an item, those are referred to in the coupon world as peelies. I consider them bonus coupons, to be honest, I don't count on finding them but am delighted when I do. Another source of coupons you can find in store are the coupons dispensed by a machine, sometimes referred to as blinkies. I usually take a couple of these when I find them and wait for the item to go on sale. Tearpads are another coupon source, I take a couple of those when I see them as well. Look inside your cereal boxes and other packaging, this is one of my favorite sources for coupons as the coupons inside packaging are usually fairly high value and have lengthy expiration dates. 

Store Coupons
These types of coupons are generally available on the store's website, through their customer cards, and weekly ads. Walgreens puts out a monthly coupon book and CVS has a kiosk in the front of the store that prints coupons. Most stores allow the stacking of a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon which greatly increases the savings for you.

There are various sources of coupons that add directly to your store cards. There are those that deduct directly with your purchase, such as Giant Eagle's eOffers, Cellfire's eCoupons, Shortcuts eCoupons, and P&G eOffers.  The other type of eCoupon source are savings type accounts such as SavingStar and Upomise. With both of these, the coupon price is added to an account and once your account reaches a certain amount you can request a check or paypal deposit of the balance. 

This is all a bit overwhelming, but it's not as difficult as it seems. You can start small tomorrow by purchasing two newspapers, tomorrow's paper should hold a Smartsource, a Redplum, and a General Mills. Or you can browse some of the online coupon databases and print a few coupons. Every bit counts! Tomorrow we will discuss putting your coupons to work for you!

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