A Beginner's Guide to Couponing Effectively

woman cutting out coupons
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Interested in couponing, but not sure how to get started? Here's everything you need to know to start saving 25-50% on your grocery bill.

Where to Look for Coupons

Make a list of the products and brands that you buy regularly. Then, track down coupons for as many of those things as you can. Here are the best places to look:

  • Newspapers. Smart Source and RedPlum publish the coupon inserts that come tucked in your Sunday paper. They include coupons for a variety of brands. Procter and Gamble publishes its own coupon insert at the start of each month. If this week's paper has a lot of good coupons, 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 print coupons or load them to your store loyalty card at the Smart SourceRedPlum, and P&G Everyday websites.
  • Coupons.com. 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 Drugstore Websites. Most store websites now offer coupons that you can download directly to your store card. This includes both manufacturer, 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!
  • Cellphone 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. With this method, you can 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 each issue includes. 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, email, 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 where 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 for which coupons are rarely available.
  • On Products. Look in and on the packaging of the products that you buy for special loyalty coupons. For example, your favorite cereal may have coupons on the packaging that you can use on your next purchase.

How to Keep Coupons Organized

The key to keeping track of your coupons is finding the approach that works best for you. Three options to consider are as follows:

  • 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, you can take several steps 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. If another system works better for you--by aisle, by expiration date, or something else—then put that plan 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. What you choose isn't as important as having a single 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. Staying on top of this task prevents the coupons from getting lost and saves 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.

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