Wish you could save more at the grocery store? Envious of your friends' Facebook posts capturing their grocery store haul that cost them peanuts?
If you wish you could have the same success, it's time to learn how to coupon.
You can find room in your schedule if you view couponing as a smart investment that you tend to every week. Once you're in the right frame of mind, you'll be ready to learn how to start couponing and put in the work to see results.
When the savings begin to add up, you'll be encouraged to continue, one coupon at a time.
How to Start Couponing
Because couponing can seem overwhelming, and because there are so many sources when it comes to couponing, getting organized is one of the most important steps when you learn how to start couponing.
These 10 tips for couponing will help you get started, make progress, see results, and carry on.
1. Couponing for Beginners: Gather Supplies
Anticipate a simplified couponing journey if you have these items at the ready every week:
· Computer (or tablet).
· Printer (always make sure you have enough ink and paper!).
· A filing system, such as a binder with clearly labeled dividers.
· Store flyers.
· Local newspaper or circulars that include coupons (don't automatically toss that Valpak!).
2. Work Couponing Into Your Schedule
You're a busy adult, but do you make time every week for your favorite TV show or a night out with friends? You don't have to give up anything you love for couponing, but the point is: You can make time for couponing if you really want to. Your undivided attention to couponing an hour or two each week will pay dividends.
You could surf couponing apps and websites while you're waiting to pick up your child or waiting your turn at the dentist or salon. But, you're better off identifying a dedicated couponing zone and gathering your couponing tools in one place where you won't be distracted. Make an appointment on your calendar. And stick to it. Couponing will feel less like a dreaded chore and more like a helpful task you can feel satisfied checking off your list.
3. Identify the Best Sources for Coupons
Coupons come from many sources. As you learn how to coupon, you'll discover that the usual suspects include:
· Sunday paper.
· Weekly circulars.
· Coupon websites.
· Grocery store website.
· Smartphone apps.
· Grocery store bulletin board or print-out at the store entrance.
· Sign up for emails from your favorite grocery stores too to ensure that coupons make their way to your inbox regularly.
4. Develop a System
One of the most important lessons when you're learning how to start couponing is to develop a system for collecting your coupons. Determine what comes first, second, third, and so on in your couponing hunt:
· Surf for online coupons then print them out.
· Load email coupons to your store discount card so they will automatically be applied at checkout.
· Look through local flyers for physical coupons and cut them out.
· Visit grocery store or savings apps for more coupons to print or load to your apps and store discount card.
· Organize as you go, or gather all the coupons then organize all at once.
There is no right or wrong order for tracking down your coupons. It may take some trial and error until you settle on the hunting system that works best. Once you determine your sweet spot for couponing, stick to it every time you sit down to coupon. It will become a habit and you'll never worry about missing a good deal.
5. Be Open to Paper Coupons and Online Coupons
Some people rely solely on their smartphones for everything from coupons to grocery lists. If you've never cut out paper coupons before, be open to having a hard copy of potential savings. If you depend only on your phone to do the work for you, it means you're missing out on valuable couponing possibilities.
Likewise, being reluctant to do any couponing online or on your smartphone is also a disadvantage. App-only coupons can save you dollars you never anticipated. And coupon websites may have savings that paper coupons don't offer (plus, you can print out most of the online ones anyway).
6. Make a Home for Your Coupons
This step is one of the most crucial when it comes to couponing for beginners. How do you arrange the coupons so that they are friendly to use and make sense to you? Here are just some of the tips for couponing:
· First things first: Organize your coupons so you can see every one of them. Maybe this means putting the coupons in a plastic binder that holds pages with pockets. If you put your coupons into bunches, they will stick together, be easily overlooked, and just make you frustrated when you can't find what you want.
· For some people, organizing coupons by the aisles in their favorite grocery store helps. This method allows you to go page by page in your book or binder as you walk up and down the aisles and match coupons to products.
· If you're a fan of alphabetizing, you may appreciate a binder organized from A-Z by product name for easy location.
· Another option for how to start couponing is arranging your coupons by grocery store department, like produce or frozen foods. Or you can get very specific. For example, fresh veggies, canned veggies, frozen veggies.
· Within each category, keep expired coupons toward the front (this is when a ring binder comes in handy – you don't have to move dozens of coupons around, just pages). You'll be more likely to use them and won't feel like your couponing efforts have gone to waste.
You may need to test out different methods of organization as you learn how to coupon before you find your groove, but go with your gut and what makes the most sense to you. Organized coupons get used. Unorganized coupons do not.
7. Adjust Your Grocery List
Once you have a system and an order to your couponing, the question becomes: Do I cut out and print out coupons only for the items I regularly use? Or should I be open to new items? Some people avoid couponing because they feel like they're getting suckered into buying something they wouldn't normally want, or being persuaded to buy a product in bulk (remember, bulk is a good thing when it comes to regularly used paper
products, canned goods, cleaning supplies, or personal hygiene products).
Again, your couponing choices are a personal preference, and one you may have to test to see what works best. In general, however, more is usually better than less when it comes to coupons. If you see a coupon for spices but just restocked your entire pantry, clip it anyway – you never know when you'll spill the entire bottle of garlic salt on the counter and be without.
8. Coupon Before You Go?
You may be reluctant to taking your couponing book to the store with you, but it will be a valuable accompaniment on your shopping trip. Avoid your generous book of coupons overwhelming you with one easy trick:
Designate an area in your binder for coupons that correspond to your grocery list. Review your shopping list each week before you physically go to the store, and move the coupons that apply to that week's shopping list to the front of the binder in your specially designated spot. You'll find it easier to match your coupons to the items on your grocery list. Should you find a product you want to purchase that wasn't on your list, you'll still have your entire collection of coupons to skim through for savings while you're physically in the store.
9. Use Couponing to Help You Meal Plan
Whether you are a practiced chef or a novice in the kitchen, coupons can help guide you to a meal-planning system. They can even help you create magical meals out of a hodge-podge of ingredients that you purchased simply for the savings.
One unexpected side effect of couponing: You'll become a better cook. Becoming familiar with so many products you might not otherwise purchase, and feeling comfortable with the nooks and crannies of your grocery store might just encourage you to pop on over to meal-planning websites after you've printed your latest coupons.
10. Keep on Couponing
The task may seem daunting now, but if you follow these tips for couponing, you'll discover your system, what works best given your time and resources, and you'll reap the rewards. Seeing major savings in your bank account should be all the incentive you need to keep on couponing.