Do you get coupons in the mail or in your Sunday paper, only to throw them away? Have you tried using coupons but gained nothing but $0.50 in savings and frustration, thus giving up entirely? Using coupons can save so much money, you just have to know what to look for and how to use them effectively. It is not an easy task. It is time consuming and tedious work. But, after your first shopping trip where you bring home $200 worth of groceries for $100 (or even less) you will realize that that time was well spent! Then, the more you do it, the easier it gets. You just have to have one huge key to success: patience. Patience truly is a virtue in the “coupon game.”
Couponing, as it is called, is not for anyone who just cannot sit still. There is a bit of work that goes with it, but I will share my steps to success with you, and it will make the process much, much easier.
1. Setting Up: First of all, get your supplies together. Scissors, coupons, your store’s weekly ad (circular), a pen, paper, something to hold your coupons (like an accordion folder, or a binder with baseball card sheets), and a table or somewhere you can sort. Set everything up however you are most comfortable. I won’t lie to you, you will be there for a while during your first sitting of clipping, but after your first time sitting down to do it, it does get faster.
2. Getting Started: What I always recommend is to first look through your circular. Your store will have items sorted out in the circular. For example, if you are looking at a grocery store’s ad, it will have a section for dairy, frozen, meat, produce, hygiene, and dry goods. Look through them to see how it is separated in the ad, and look to see what is on sale. This is what is key to saving so much money. Matching your coupons with sale items will increase your savings so much more than just making a shopping list and deciding which coupons to take. You will find as you go on that sale items and coupons for those items are available around the same time.
After you look through your circular, get your scissors and coupons out. This will be the most tedious part of the process, because you will be doing a lot of clipping. Coupon clipping is incredibly boring, but having music or even the TV in the background will help. But stay on task, it is really easy to let yourself get distracted.
You will see that having looked through your ad before clipping helps, because when you’re clipping out those coupons you will remember seeing some of them in the ad.
As you sort your coupons, if you are beginning, you may find it easiest to sort by how the ad is sorted. After you get more in depth, you may find yourself wanting to sort more meticulously. *You may want to just go to your store one day and take notes of how the store is set up and which aisles hold which products, that way your shopping trips go by quicker.*
Sorting is very important, because it makes the matching process much easier.
3. Matching: Matching. Exactly what you think it is. Take your ad and your coupons and just see what matches up. (VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT BUY SOMETHING JUST BECAUSE IT IS ON SALE AND YOU HAVE A COUPON. It is very tempting because you will be able to say “I saved $X.XX” but you will have spent money that you didn’t need to.)
While matching, I find it easiest to circle what I need in the ad and set that coupon aside for when I go to make my list, but I definitely always will say to do what is best for you. Whatever makes your life easier.
Also, when you find a match, be SURE that your coupon is exactly what is on sale. If it isn’t, then you will find that you won’t be saving anything. You always have to be positive that everything matches up correctly. For example, if you have a coupon for Colgate Optic White and the sale is just for regular Colgate, then you cannot use that coupon. So be sure to check!
4. Making a list: This is where attention to detail comes in. You need to be sure that what you write down is what is on the coupon. Just like when you match and need to be sure that what is on the coupon matches the ad. If you just write down “Colgate” then you will find yourself shuffling through your coupons to make sure you get the right kind. That will take more time than it needs to. So be as detailed as you can be! A lot of people like to type it up on the computer and print out their list. If this works for you, then by all means! Again and again, the theme of couponing is to make your life easier.
5. Everything else: Honestly, aside from actually going shopping and picking everything up, that small list is pretty much all you need to do. But remember to take your time, if you get frustrated then stop. If you have too many distractions, stop. Using coupons is meant to make things easier for you, making your purchasing decisions easier, saving money easier, don’t let any frustration you may have get the best of you. If you do, you will want to quit and won’t want to start up again. And with the amount of money you have the potential to save, you really should just take your time and do it as easily as you can.
There is more, you can try “Extreme” couponing, which is getting as much as you can for as close to free as possible. Couponing at department stores, or warehouse stores, using coupons at stores like K-Mart or Wal-Mart. I like to start out at the grocery store. Everyone goes grocery shopping, so why not start where you know you have to go already?
There are a few important details, always always always check the fine print on the coupon, always know the coupon’s expiration date, know your store’s coupon policy. The coupon policy is important, because even the cashiers don’t always know the store’s policy, so there are just things that you need to remember.
If you ever have any questions, please feel free to ask. I will answer anything I can!