There was a time, not too terribly long ago, when I considered couponing a waste of my time and money because they didn’t seem to do too much for me. I used to argue that I had yet to find a coupon for things that I actually needed, such as fresh produce or bags of brown rice. Over the last year and a half, though, I’ve learned to save some pretty big bucks with couponing wisely. I even wrote a book on it: Joyful Momma’s Guide to Shopping & Cooking Frugally.
I also have a couple of resources to help you live frugally:
The article below may be of even more help to you in getting started couponing.
12 Simple Steps to Start Couponing
Couponing, for me, isn’t not about buying whatever I have a coupon for. I switch it the other way around. I only keep coupons for those items I do buy regularly, otherwise, to me, it’s a waste of my money.
Initially, it seemed that most couponing websites and videos made the whole process seem very complicated, and made the reader feel that unless they were buying hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for just a few bucks after coupons, they were not doing it right. I couldn’t figure out exactly how to get those kinds of savings. Slowly, though, I began to get started saving big money on those items which did have good coupons with them that I already buy regularly. I discovered 12 simple steps to get started saving big with coupons, which I share below.
1. Brainstorm your regular meals
Whether we do it on a plan or not, every family seems to have regular meals they prepare. Take some time to write down those regular meals you prepare most often, as well as those meals you enjoy making when you find those special ingredients for a good price.
2. Develop a shopping list for the ingredients of those meals
Next, take some time, and write out the ingredients (including seasonings, condiments and other products) which go with these meals. For example, when we make tacos, we don’t just eat them as is. We usually add sour cream and some sort of taco sauce to them too. Also, we don’t make cookies very often, but when we do, we always need parchment paper for baking on, to prevent burning. Nine times out of ten, before I made up my master shopping list, I’d forget the parchment paper.
3. Add cleaners and toiletries to your list
Now, add your cleaners and toiletries and other extras to your master shopping list. I even include flea medicine, pet shampoo, and magic erasers to the list. Again, most of the time, before the master shopping list, I would not think of these things until I needed them, which cost me big money. When you’re buying something at the last minute, you usually spend more on it, because you don’t have the freedom to wait around for a great sale or coupon.
4. Begin buying newspapers regularly
Newspapers, as in, plural. I buy 3 newspapers every Sunday morning just for the coupons.The total cost is $4.50, but I regularly save over $40 (usually more) each week with coupons, even though I give away most of them. It’s a great savings for me. It may take a few weeks of buying newspapers, amassing coupons, and finding sales before you start to see this kind of savings. I don’t usually use my coupons in the same week I find them — sales don’t seem to line up that way. I also print off coupons from the internet to supplement those newspaper coupons. You can find free, printable coupons here.
5. Clip and Sort Your Coupons Weekly
On Sunday afternoon, the girls and I have a lovely time of fellowship cutting out coupons, and then sorting them. I cut them all out. I stack them into separate piles:
- Items that are on my master shopping list (these are coupons that are useful to me, which I keep)
- Items for people with babies and toddlers (which I don’t need)
- Items for pet owners that I don’t need (I only keep flea med coupons, shampoo coupons, and anything for Kibbles n Bits — fussy dogs!)
- Other coupons I don’t need
I pack up these “don’t need” coupons and hand them out to friends at church on Sunday evening. Thus, I bless others with what I don’t need. My friend Tammy said I saved her $40 with my discarded coupons in one week!
6. Find out the coupon policies at all local stores
Not every store allows you to use coupons equally. Most stores will give you the face value on the coupon. that is, 50 cents off takes 50 cents off your order. Other stores double coupons up to 50 cents. So, in that case, 50 cents off means $1 off your order. This is better. Other stores allow you to double coupons up to $1. This is even better. The store near us that doubles coupons to $1 is an extra 5 miles from my house. However, if I have a selection of coupons over 50 cents, this is well worth it to drive an extra 5 miles. One or two items easily save me the extra gas money.
7. Go to www.CouponMom.com and check out their “Grocery Deals by State”.
I start with the extreme drugstore deals, and then onto the grocery stores in our area. Anything that is marked “Free” or more than 80% off that I also have on my master list (whether I need it that week or not) I buy. Period. It goes on my list. In doing so, I’ve stocked up on a year’s supply of shampoo, conditioner, maxi pads, toothpaste, Listerine, deodorant, body wash, and Tylenol — for free! This may seem like small fry at first, but by not having to spend that money on those items every time I run out, I have freed up more grocery money for our family.
8. Look over and Double Check Sales Circulars for Local Stores
Because www.CouponMom.com is not perfect (who is?), double check the deals in your weekly circulars. These are mostly found in our newspapers we buy. Sometimes our local store has different deals than the store whose flyer they used.
9. Look up sales for those items you are nearly out of or need for that week.
Obviously, you have to get what you actually do have need of that week too. Always look up the sales and coupons available for those items you may need. you never know. You may get lucky. Find out which store has the best price for those items, if they are on sale.
10. Plan your shopping trip route.
In the winter this is not as important to me. However, in the summer, I have to carefully plan where I’m going to go. Those stores where I’m going to buy refrigerated or frozen items, I’m going to have to go there last. I keep a couple of coolers in my car in the summer just in case, too.
11. Organize your coupons for that week’s shopping trip
I have envelopes for each store. I find this easier than having my large coupon organizer with me, and it keeps my ADD from overloading. I write out a shopping list for each store, and make a note of the coupon’s restrictions (for example, if it’s buy one get one free, or $1 off on 2, or limits on size).
12. Check for any expiring coupons
if any coupons are expiring soon, see if there’s any sales involving those products, so you can use them. If they wind up expiring before you’ve had the chance to use them, not to worry. American Military personnel and their families can always use them. See CouponstoTroops.com
For more tasty tips for saving on your grocery budget from grocery store to dinner table, see my new book, Joyful Momma’s Guide to Shopping & Cooking Frugally. You can find out more information about Shopping and Cooking Frugally here.