Welcome to Couponing 101! Class is now in session.
All joking aside, couponing can be a great way to help you save some serious money on everyday items you need and want to buy. Even a few dollars here and there will add up over the course of years’ worth of shopping.
And the best part is that couponing doesn’t just have to involve clipping newspapers. With the internet and smartphone apps, you can take your couponing digital and save time and money.
Couponing may seem overwhelming and confusing, but it’s actually pretty simple. The great thing about couponing is it’s a great way to start saving money on just about everything that you buy and can make a real difference in your monthly budget. Plus, it’s something that virtually anyone can do.
Whether you have never clipped a single coupon in your life or you are already a seasoned coupon clipper looking to take your couponing game to the next level, you’re in luck.
Are you ready to start saving money with coupons? Keep scrolling to enter the Couponing 101 classroom: a complete beginner’s guide to couponing.
Couponing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Couponing
Lesson 1: Source Your Coupons
The first lesson in Couponing 101 is to source your coupons.
Coupons come from many different sources and modalities. You can find them in the Sunday newspaper, in mailers sent to your home, on product packaging, and on the Internet. You can even find them on the shelves of your local grocery store and in various apps. There are ones that you can print to use in-store and ones that you can load to apps or store reward cards.
Spend some time perusing the various sources for coupons and you may be surprised at just how prevalent they are. Once you find them, start clipping or saving the ones that you can use. When you find a great one, try to score more than one. Having more than just one of a particular coupon enables you to stock up on the products you use when you find a great deal.
This first step to becoming a coupon master will likely take the most time and effort as you become familiar with all the various avenues through which you can find coupons for the things you want. Over time, you’ll come to know just where to go to find the coupons you need and will become more efficient.
Lesson 2: Familiarize Yourself with Your Store’s Policies
Each store has its own policies regarding coupon usage. Some, for example, limit how many of a specific coupon you can use per transaction. Others do not allow coupons printed from the Internet. Some accept coupons from competitors or are even willing to match their advertised specials.
Some grocery stores also double or triple coupons. This means that they multiply coupons to give you extra savings. If, for example, you have a coupon that takes 50 cents off a product, a store that doubles will give you $1 off instead. Deals like these take your savings even further, so it’s smart to shop at stores that double or triple coupons when possible.
Once you’ve found your store’s coupon policy, consider printing out a copy and keeping it with you. This can be extremely helpful if you run into any problems while you are in the store.
Again, this will require more energy up front, but once you have identified policies and the best stores for you situation you’ll become much more efficient at utilizing coupons.
Lesson 3: Match Coupons with Sales
Once you have the basics about down, you can get into the more advanced levels of Couponing 101 by matching coupons with in-store sales and specials.
Pay close attention to the weekly ads for stores in your area. You can usually find the ads in your local Sunday paper, but if not, you can also look them up on the stores’ websites.
The best time to use a coupon is when a product that you use is on sale. By matching coupons with in-store sales, you can essentially double your savings. It helps to make a list that details what products you plan on buying, how much they are on sale for, and what coupon you plan on using. A list will help prevent you from making mistakes or forgetting items while shopping that could end up cost you through lost savings.
Lesson 4: Pay Attention to Sizes
You have the basics of Couponing 101 down and are even using advanced skills to match coupons to sales. Now let’s get into some of the finer nuances of couponing, beginning with sizes.
If you are used to shopping without coupons, you’ve likely noticed that larger package sizes are usually a better deal. While it may normally cost less per ounce to buy the large box of cereal instead of the small one, that may not be the case when you are using coupons.
Look at the requirements on the coupon that you want to use. It will likely state the minimum size that the product you purchase must be. In many cases, this smaller option is inexpensive enough that the coupon makes it dirt cheap or nearly free.
Pro tip: Don’t rely on the pictures on coupons! They’ll usually show an image of a larger package even if the fine print says that the discount is valid on much smaller packages.
Lesson 5: Search for Coupons for Everything
When most think of couponing they think of groceries, but in reality, couponing extends to so much more.
Couponing isn’t just about getting a good deal when you go to the grocery store. Brands of all types offer coupons and other types of discounts. You just need to know where to find them.
Start by signing up for mailing lists and loyalty programs for any stores or websites where you regularly shop. It usually takes just a few minutes and means that you will be notified of sales. Being on the mailing list also means that you will likely be sent coupons when they are available.
A quick online search can yield some impressive savings, too. Googling something like “STORE NAME + coupon” could lead you to both printable coupons and online discount codes that you can use at checkout. Sites like RetailMeNot are great resources, too, because they allow you to search for great deals both online and in-store.
Thus, couponing should extend beyond groceries to any time you’re are thinking of purchasing a product or service. You can also stack your rewards by using cashback sites like Rakuten, a rewards credit card, or all of the above!
Lesson 6: Build a Stockpile
The last lesson in our Couponing 101 introductory class is the build a stockpile.
Most successful couponers have “stockpiles,” or large collections of the products that their family uses frequently. It takes some time to build up a stockpile, but it’s something that will save you a lot of money in the long run.
When you find a great deal on something, purchase more than one. Be mindful of expiration dates, though, and don’t buy more than you can reasonably use in time. Sales tend to run in 12-week cycles, so if you can stock up on enough products to last for that long, you will likely never need to pay full price for it again.
Couponing is a great way to save money on the products you need. Whether you are shopping for clothing for kids, groceries, cleaning supplies or just about anything else, you can use coupons to keep more of your hard-earned cash in your wallet where it belongs.
It takes some practice and a little legwork up front, but before you know it, you can become a couponing guru with the most enviable stockpile on the block!
That concludes Couponing 101. Now get out there and start saving!
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.