A Beginner's Guide to Couponing Effectively

woman cutting out coupons
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If you're interested in couponing, but you aren't sure how to get started, this guide is for you. It covers all the basics in one easy read.

Where to Look for Coupons

There are lots of coupons up for grabs, if you know where to find them. By far, the best places to look are:

  • Newspapers: The Smart Source and RedPlum coupon inserts appear on a near-weekly basis. The Procter and Gamble insert appears at the start of each month. If there are a lot of good coupons in this week's paper, consider buying extra copies. Dollar Tree sells papers at a discount, so a lot of couponers buy their extra papers there. If clipping isn't your thing, you can also print or load coupons to your store loyalty card at the Smart SourceRedPlum and P&G Everyday websites.
  • Coupons.com:  This website has hundreds of printable grocery coupons. They typically allow you to print two of each coupon, so be sure to max out your prints.
  • Grocery and Drug Store Websites: Most store websites now offer coupons that you can download directly to your store card. This includes both manufacturer coupons, as well as store-specific coupons. Get in the habit of checking for new coupons before you head to the store. Sometimes there are even freebies. To redeem your coupons, just present your store card at checkout. Easy!
  • Cell Phone Apps: Coupon Apps like iBotta and Checkout51 make it easy to earn cash back for things that you'd buy anyway. Save even more by pairing an app deal with coupons. This is a good way to snag a bunch of freebies and moneymakers.
  • Magazines: Women's publications such as All YouWoman's Day, Red Book, Family Circle and Good Housekeeping frequently carry manufacturer coupons. All You even puts together an index of all the coupons that are included in each issue. Take a peek at some of these magazines the next time you're waiting in line, and you may just decide that buying a subscription is more than worth the cost.
  • In store: Look for coupons on store shelves, on products and on the back of your receipts. Also look for coupons to print out at the register. If you see a "Try Me Free" sticker on any product, check the packaging for a rebate offer. Shampoo companies frequently run these types of promotions.

Additional places to look:

  • Junk mail: High-value manufacturer coupons have started to appear in junk mailers, so be sure to look before you toss them.
  • Direct from the manufacturer: Check manufacturer websites for printable coupons or contact companies (by mail, e-mail or phone) to request coupons. Often just a quick note to let a company know that you love their products is all it takes to get a bunch of coupons.
  • Store mailings: Get a frequent shopper card for the grocery stores that you shop, and you may be rewarded with special coupon mailings that are customized to your purchase habits. It's a great way to get coupons for produce, meat  and other items that you rarely find coupons for.
  • On products: Look in and on the packaging of the products that you buy for special loyalty coupons. There may be coupons on your favorite cereal that you can use on your next purchase.

How to Keep Coupons Organized

There are lots of ways to organize coupons; the key is to find the approach that works best for you. Three options to consider:

  • Clipping out all coupons
  • Clipping out just the coupons that you intend to use
  • Leaving the coupon inserts intact, and clipping coupons on an "as-needed" basis

Whichever approach you choose, there are several things that you can do to ensure that your coupons remain neat and accessible:

  1. Develop a filing system. Many couponers organize their coupons by grocery category—dairy, frozen foods, deli, etc.—but it's not the only way to go. Find a filing system that works for you--by aisle, by expiration, etc.—and put it into action.
  2. Find a container to hold your coupons. Use a shoebox, a storage container, a coupon binder, a coupon wallet or a recipe box—it doesn't matter what you choose—but it is important to have a landing spot for all of those coupons.
  3. File coupons the same day you get them. Okay, so you may not always have time to file your coupons right away, but try to file them as soon as you can. This will prevent them from getting lost, and save you the hassle of having to sort through a big mess of coupons all at once.
  4. Purge regularly. Expired coupons won't save you money, so don't let them hog space in your coupon file. Set a schedule for purging expired coupons, and stick to it.

    If you prefer to stick to digital coupons, check to see if your grocery store allows you to print a list of all of your coupons from their website. This will make it easier to shop.

    How to Maximize Your Savings: