Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beginner Couponers

So you've watched Extreme Couponing or you have been following the blogs and are ready to get started, right?  You get your Sunday paper, you sit down and go through some of the match ups from great blogs such as thriftytexaspenny and suddenly you feel like you have been transported to another planet where they are speaking some strange dialect that you have never heard before.... right?
Well take heart my fellow frugal friend, help is on the way!  Here you can find step by step instructions to help you go from empty handed to hands full of freebies in no time!

Step 1:
Decide how you are going to organize your coupons.  Most experienced couponers (myself included) use a binder of some sort.  I recommend starting with a 3" binder.  I realize this seems like overkill when you have one lowly set of coupon circulars to start out with but believe me you will fill it before you know it!  Also I recommend baseball card holders to organize your coupons.  You can buy these at most retail stores, however, I order mine on Amazon simply because you can get them cheaper and in larger quantities.  Some sites also offer free shipping if you order over a certain dollar amount.  This is great for going in halves with a friend! (this is what I did)
There is another option for organization, the shoe box method.  This is the method recommended by couponmom.  This method has it's good points and it's bad points.  The good points are that there is minimal up front investment of time and supplies.  All you need is a box of some sort, you can literally use a shoe box or you can purchase a plastic reusable shoe size box from Wal-Mart (with a coupon of course!)  You simply staple your circulars together (this keeps them from getting separated and mixed in with other circulars) and write the date that the newspaper came out on the front of the circular.  You then store your coupons in your box until you are ready to cut and use them.  Now, the down side to this is that your coupons are not easily accessible.  If you are shopping and run into a clearance item or an unadvertised sale you may miss out on a deal because your coupons are at home.

Step 2:
Get a Sunday paper.  for beginners I don't recommend getting more than two copies of the paper at a time.  I recommend that you get a paper from the largest city in your area, this will typically have the most coupons in it.  (for example, I live near Longview, but I get the Dallas paper)

Step 3:
If you are using the binder method you will want to clip your coupons right away.  Clip every coupon, even the ones for things you would never use.  there are several reasons for this, first it's amazing what you will try when it's free or close to it!  And second, you can always donate items that you don't want to use personally, and third, you may have friends who use the item and you can share!  Then you can organize your coupons according to categories.  I have my binder organized by the isles int he grocery store.  The Krazy Coupon Lady has printable dividers and lots of tips on how to organize your binder!  Then you simply slip the coupons into the baseball card holders and voila... you are ready to go!
If you are using the shoe box method you will simply write the date of the Sunday paper on the outside c over of your insert booklet and place the booklet in a box.  I recommend that you staple the booklet together to ensure they don't get mixed up!

Step 4:
Go through the copies of the sales ads.  The Sunday paper will have CVS, Walgreens, Target, Wal-Mart and the Dollar Stores ads in it.  The grocery store ads will come in the mail on Tuesday.

Step 5:
At this point you may choose to use the matchups found at many sites and blogs such as ThriftyTexasPenny and ParyMoppins.  These sites are invaluable in that they have done all the legwork for you.  They have matched the sales items with coupons available for those same items.  They basically have drawn you a roadmap to savings!  The only drawback is that they are written in coupon-ese and are hard to understand... until you crack the code!  Here are a few things you will need to know before you get started.  First you must desipher the language.  There are three different circulars that come in the Sunday paper.  There is Red Plum, Smart Source and Proctor&Gamble which are abreviated RP, SS and PG respectively.  Every once in a while there will be two of the same brand of circular in which case they would be abreviated RP1, RP2, SS1, SS2 etc.  After those abreviations you will see a set of numbers which will be the date that the circular came in the paper.  So if you see a matchup that references SS 6/5 that means the coupon they are referenceing was in the Smart Source insert from the June 5th newspaper.  Remember that circulars are regional so depending on where you are getting your matchups from you may or may not have that exact coupon in your paper.  If the matchup is referencing a printable coupon then there will be a link to the website that you can simply click and print the coupon.

Step 6:
Make your list.  List out all the things you would like to buy.  My list will sook something like this...
Kraft dressing 16oz any $1.99 - $1/1 Q = .99
Translated into English that means Kroger has Kraft salad dressing on sale 1.99 for any flavor, I have a coupon for $1 off 1 bottle making my OOP (out of pocket) .99!

I will do this for all the items I am planning to buy. 

Step 7:
Put all the coupons you plan to use in an envelope and place it in the front pocket of your binder.  I also keep an empty envelope with me so that in case the store is out of an item I was planning on buying I can take that particular coupon out and put it in the empty envelope for re-filing later.  This way I'm not trying to weed through the coupons I am no longer using while I'm at the register.

Step 8:
Go shoppping!  You can either go to the store that has the items on sale or head over to Wal Mart to take advantage of their ad match policy. 
(There will be an All About Wal Mart post coming soon!)

I hope this helps and everyone is able to get a runnign start! 
It may sound simply, and that's because it really is!  There is a common misconception that couponing requires an advanced degree in calculus and takes hours of prep work, that is simply not true.  It is simply matching coupons with what's on sale in order to get the absolute best price available!

Happy Shopping everyone!

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