Start Coupon Shopping: Couponing for Beginners
Looking to save up a bit cash for a rainy day? Or do you have an indulgent expense on the horizon, like a vacation? Aside from a pay raise, the only way to pump up your bottom line is by cutting expense.
Couponing has recently become a popular way to cut back on expenses and increase cash on hand. Coupon shopping lets people amass extra funds with minimal inconvenience.
Old stereotypes said only grandmothers knew the secret arts of couponing. But extreme couponing’s rising popularity, thanks to TLC’s popular reality show, has many getting their scissors and binders.
For many, couponing starts as a hobby which, if done properly, creates big savings. Yet it’s not as simple as clipping and organizing coupons then lugging them to the grocery store.
Extreme couponing is the amassing of multiple coupons for long-lasting items, timed to cut prices at the cash register. The craft of couponing relies on a delicate balance of market knowledge, patience, and a developed sense for finding deals.
You may be a couponing hobbyist right now, stocking up and clipping but not using your coupons wisely. Shopping coupons are merely potential deals you can exploit. True couponing requires timing.
Sound complicated? We’re here to help. Consider this a crash course in couponing for beginners. We’ll call it “Coupon 101.”
In this couponing 101 guide, you will learn to coupon. We will help you:
- Find the best shopping coupons, including apps and websites used by extreme couponing pros.
- Give you tips and tricks on organizing coupons for maximum efficiency and savings.
- Teach you the basic techniques of coupon shopping to efficiently maximize your discounts.
Before we go any further, there’s an often-misunderstood rule to couponing which doesn’t get enough attention. Ignore it, and you’ve failed Couponing 101. Namely: you don’t save money by buying something you don’t need just because it has a discount.
That’s right: just because something is cheaper than usual doesn’t mean you should include it in your coupon shopping routine. Bear this in mind above all else.
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Too often, people lose focus and get so caught up in the game of extreme couponing, they forget its purpose. So remember, money wasted on discounted items you never use negates the savings you accumulate elsewhere.
If done properly, couponing will become an integral part of your shopping routine. Let’s get started with Couponing 101.
Couponing 101: Where to Find Shopping Coupons
Perhaps the hardest adjustment to couponing for beginners remains the daunting volume of shopping coupons. It seems every store and product offers savings on nearly every item.
But drowning yourself in shopping coupons without any sort of aim only makes a mess out of the extreme couponing process. Remember: your main couponing goal is the save money efficiently.
Instead of frustrating yourself digging endlessly for shopping coupons, try to narrow your search by:
- Geography by couponing in stores which are close to home. Do not add 50 miles to your grocery shopping route; you’ll lose any savings on travel expenses and lost time.
- Limiting the amount you spend on couponing to a few hours a week at most.
- Budgeting your finances properly so you can have a savings target for every extreme couponing excursion. Make your couponing goals substantial yet achievable.
- Limiting the number of apps or sites you use to a handful at any given time. Be ready to ditch a site or app that hasn’t produced as much as others and try another one instead.
Most of your encounters with shopping coupons until now have likely been in the form of store and newspaper circulars. Perhaps you have a habit of perusing them casually, or ignoring them completely. They’re absolutely vital if you want to learn to coupon.
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Here’s a basic couponing 101 tip: before you start searching for shopping coupons, pay attention to the ones already in your life. You’re probably not even noticing how many are around you.
Start with shopping coupons you already encounter, whether through newspapers or stores. These will be easiest to incorporate into a coupon shopping routine.
Also, subscribe to the Sunday edition of your local newspaper, if you can. Subscriptions are usually cheaper than newsstand prices. You’ll earn back the cost of the subscription via couponing in no time.
The circulars offered by the local paper on a weekly basis not only set the foundation for your extreme couponing adventure, they’ll also build the couponing 101 lesson of building a ritualistic couponing habit.
Taking time out every Sunday to sift through circulars can set the basic coupon 101 habit of sorting and clipping coupons.
Coupons can also be found via a number of apps and web sites. Each has its pitfalls and perks. Check them carefully to see which suits your needs most.
The more time you invest early on, the bigger the dividends you’ll see in the long run.
Many couponing sites and apps allow you to sign up for newsletters or email updates. Take advantage of this. To that end, try your best to get the coupons sent to you, via email or app notification.
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Feel free to dig around several sites, but never over-commit. Give a handful a try at a time, and continue using the ones that work.
Here’s a brief list of some of the better shopping coupon sites and apps available:
Next, be sure to download the apps and check the sites of any stores you regularly visit for shopping coupons. Widespread retailers like Walmart and Target can advertise their own coupons and discounts.
Finally, check manufacturers for their own product discounts. Many have printable coupons or deals available via their web sites.
Check the product pages of common household items you may need to stock up on soon for any shopping coupons as well.
All four of these sources can be combined to create mega-deals. A manufacturer’s discount used atop a store sale with a coupon from a circular can make some items completely free.
Just remain vigilant without drowning in discounts. It’s a basic couponing 101 tenet that you can’t exploit the deals you don’t know are out there.
Learn to Coupon: Organizing Coupons for Maximum Savings
Now that you know where to find shopping coupons, you may be tempted to hoard as many coupons as possible.
Don’t. Remember: you do not save money by getting discounts on things you don’t need.
Instead, take stock of non-perishable items in your household. Ones you use regularly and can store long-term for use over time. This can range from razor blades to laundry detergent and dishwashing tabs.
Now, begin casually perusing the circulars you already encounter or the coupons you’ve found via app and the web. Separate them into categories and sort them into a very basic binder.
Organizing coupons should be very customizable and easy to navigate for you personally. Remember, couponing 101 treasures efficiency most. Sort your coupons in a way which matches your shopping habits.
Some prefer putting circulars together, with online coupons separately. Others sort their coupons by expiration date, then chase deals as they’re about to expire.
A better system may be to group coupons for similar items together, or even by store. For example: set aside toiletries or dry foods separately, then stock up on any discounted items when you head to the store where you commonly buy them.
Now, create a second section for “catalina” shopping coupons, in which retailers offer blanket discounts off a total purchase at the register. These are the coupon 101 equivalent of free money, and should be used as often as possible.
Note their expiration dates and try your best to use these “catalina” shopping coupons before they run out.
Your goal in all of this is to create an efficient system for pulling out coupons as necessary. Never forget: couponing 101 prizes efficiency.
If you find yourself losing an hour fiddling through a binder on grocery day, consider organizing coupons some other way which better matches your shopping habits.
Couponing 101: When and How to Go Coupon Shopping
The key to successful extreme couponing lies in the execution and a bit of luck. Timing may be your biggest key to success.
However, don’t run off to the store just because you’ve discovered a $2 discount on a single item. Don’t let couponing take over your schedule.
Instead, try to build your coupon shopping excursions around necessities. You’re likely headed to the market for milk and eggs anyway. Build couponing into those runs to the store.
This is when organizing coupons pays off most. Simply peruse your coupon binder to dig out any other possible deals which align with your shopping list or the stores you’re visiting.
Wait until you need to go to the store and use your accumulated coupons along the way.
Also check store web sites, manufacturer’s product pages, and your apps before heading out the door, for any new deals you may have missed.
There’s the small but critical matter of small print and expiration dates. Both are couponing conundrums.
Small print on coupons must be read, because the conditions and applicability of a coupon isn’t universal. But they do offer a good filter for which coupons to keep and which to use only if luck allows it.
Organizing coupons by expiration date may offer some fix to the expiration date conundrum, but you’ll likely find yourself coupon shopping not out of necessity but simply because you don’t want to miss out on deals.
In this case, remember the golden rule of couponing 101: You don’t save money buying something you don’t need at a discount. It’s worth repeating often.
Instead, learn a retailer’s discounting habits to get the most out of your coupon shopping. Some items go on sale with some regularity, and exploited over time can lead to big savings. Other goods have only one or two steep discounts a year, which may signal an opportunity to stock up.
With time and couponing experience, you’ll be able to decipher actual deals from menial discounts and put both to use.
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Finally, focus on the great pinnacle of extreme couponing success: an overage. Overages are when you combine so many discounts, the store owes you money for an item.
Let’s say, for example, you manage to merge several shopping coupons: a store coupon atop a manufacturer coupon and an already-discounted item, then slap a “catalina” coupon atop the whole transaction. Quite a feat!
The combination of savings can add up to a negative transaction for the retailer.
Their loss is your gain. You now have a surplus of funds to spend on other items in the store. It takes a bit of luck to get overages, but with time and experience couponing, you’ll encounter them more and more often.
Couponing, like all money-saving ventures, needs to be taken on with a measured attitude and a slow pace. Don’t let early frustrations cause you to back down or give up. Chase reasonable goals instead.
It may help to phase in and build up couponing habits so that you do not inundate yourself with too many machinations at once.
Perhaps start with circulars, then incorporate couponing web sites. Add manufacturer and retail offers at the very end.
Finally, don’t let discounts and savings be the sole purpose of your coupon shopping. Too often, couponing becomes all-consuming for some.
Control your extreme couponing urges. It is simply a strategy, not a lifestyle as it’s depicted on television.
Shop smartly and with a dedicated focus, and you’ll find steep savings where you need them. Now go out there and do some extreme couponing!
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