Monday, March 14, 2011

…Getting Started With Coupons

Let me start by saying that I am in NO WAY a professional at this whole couponing thing, but I do have some tips and tricks to share with you.  I started couponing just last month when my husband and I decided to get a handle on our finances and look into buying/building a new home.  We decided to pay off our debts and lower our household expenses, and one of the most expensive (after our house payment) was our grocery bill.  Now, thanks to couponing, we’re on the road to cutting that by 60-80%!

I started by purchasing one newspaper and scouring the weekly ads and coupon inserts.  Now I purchase four newspapers a week unless there are going to be more than two coupon inserts that week…then I buy six!  I suggest buying newspapers based on the amount of people in your family.  There are four of us, so I buy at least four.  Now let me breakdown the types of newspaper inserts you’ll find. 

There are two that appear almost every week (usually one, but sometimes both at the same time)…Smart Source (SS) and Red Plum (RP).  These are jam-packed with savings!  Once a month there will be one or two others that appear along with the SS and RP…Proctor & Gamble, and General Mills.  Want to know when each of the inserts will be included in the paper?  Check out this complete list of coupon inserts for the year (This applies to the newspapers in the South for sure, but I’m not sure about other regions.  The coupons included each week also vary by region.):


Some people clip ALL of the coupons to add to their coupon binder (I’ll be discussing that in a second) while others only cut what they’ll use for that week.  I like to go ahead and cut everything out and get it organized so I’ll know which coupons I’ve got at a glance.  Here’s how I organize all of my coupons:


This is my “Coupon Binder”…a 3” three-ring zippered notebook!  I found this Five Star zippered notebook on sale at Office Depot for $9 (you can use whatever you’d like, but why spend a bunch of money when you don’t have to, right?), and I chose a zippered one so that my coupons wouldn’t fly out when I throw my binder into the backseat of my truck!  LOL!  And believe me…I take it EVERYWHERE with me!  Here’s a peek at how I organize it:


I purchased an alphabetical set of dividers that included an index and plastic dividers.  You can use the paper ones, but I’ve found that they tend to tear when you’re flipping back and forth in your binder.  Each letter represents a certain category.  For example, “D” represents “Breakfast” (I have my categories listed in alphabetical order as well because I’m a bit OCD…you do NOT have to do your this way).  Let’s see what’s behind the “D” divider:


It’s all of my coupons that have to do with “Breakfast”…cereals, oatmeal, grits, pancake mix, syrup, etc.  I organize all of the  manufacturer’s coupons using baseball card protectors that can be purchased at any office supply store.  I recommend starting with at least 60 of these baseball sleeves…you can always buy more when you need them.  If I have multiple copies of a coupon I’ll include them ALL in one pocket whether they’re from the paper or from the internet.  Here are some of my favorite online printable coupon places (You can usually only print out 2 coupons from your computer per site.  If someone else has a computer in your house you can use theirs to print out a total of 4):

Now that you have the newspaper weekly ads and coupons it’s time to look for the best sales!  The best way to get more bang for your buck is to utilize both sales AND coupons to get the lowest price you can.  Check out your weekly ads from the newspaper to see what kind of deals you can find, then match them up with your coupons.  ALWAYS LOOK AT THE SALES PRICES PER UNIT…just because it says “value pack” doesn’t always mean that it’s a better value!  Need help knowing what deals are out there?  Check out these websites that not only show you the deals, but they also tell you which coupons you can use to save the most (These are my favorites.  There are literally thousands of blogs and coupon sites online, so get out there and find which ones will help you the most):

That’s it for today’s “lesson”!  I’ll be back in a couple of days to cover couponing lingo, doubling & stacking coupons, other tips & tricks, and even more about my coupon binder!  THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP FOR TODAY: Start out small.  Don’t get frustrated if you’re not saving 75-90% the first time you try couponing.  There is a method to it, and you’ll pick up on it the more you do it.  You won’t be a professional overnight!  Like everything else…it takes practice.  Keep your heads up and a smile on your face! Smile  Until later…

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Kim Y. said...

Oh my gosh, Mercy! Thank you su much for sharing! I have been using coupons for years but all I did was use a regular coupon organizer. This is such a wonderful idea!

Kelly said...

I just started about a month ago. I love your ZIPPERED binder. I just grabbed an old binder off the shelf and I DO have to be careful with it. I get giddy when I see a sale item and I know I have multiple coupons in the binders. SCORE!

sherryann (aka Sherry Eckblad) said...

Thanks for the tips on couponing. They don't offer doubling here in Minnesota, I sure wish they did.

Patti J said...

Wow, Mercy! You ARE organized! What a wonderful idea! We, too, are going to have to cut back. In June, DH is changing careers, and our income will drop by 2/3. Thanks for sharing!!! Amazing what I learn in Blogland! Hugs... Oh, BTW...if you have a few extra cards laying around, please check out my blog!!! Thanks...

Nancy L. said...

thanks for this great post. i have been couponing for a couple of months now. its a little time consuming, but its worth it! you are totally right, we have to be organized and ready at the checkout!
i also love checking out "Wild for Wags" great blog for walgreens!!

Kelly Collins said...

This is great Mercy! I started couponing two months ago and find your info so helpful! Keep the info coming, and of course don't forget to include your beautiful cards!!

Anonymous said...

OMG girl.....I am a crazed coupon lady now!!! Ever since your tips yesterday I have been scouring the sites...printing coupons and does this save alot of money!!! I feel obsessed now!!! LOL

Hope all is good with you!!!
Ann Kranitz

Jennifer Thomas said...

THanks for sharing your tips and resources. Keep sharing updates in the future! :-)

Tami Black said...

Mercy, I love your blog and check it weekly but I am absolutely thankful that you are sharing so much information on couponing. Thanks for the lessons and I'm checking back more often -- I so need to learn this information!

Maria Matter said...

Thank you so much for this Mercy!

Hubby & I are finally serious about attacking our debt and just started reading Dave Ramsey's Total money makeover book! We're a family of six with a HUGE grocery bill, so clipping coupons was on my 'to do' list...this post has inspired me!
hugs & blessings!