Since so many people have expressed an interest in learning how to coupon I thought I would make a post about just that. Couponing is something that takes time. If you don't want to invest the time and energy into researching the deals, clipping the coupons, etc then stop reading right here. LOL It's worth the time if you're willing to do the work.
Let's start with a couple of common misconceptions.
#1 is that you have to be surrounded by stores that double. This is not true. You can have only one store that accepts coupons and still get great deals. Will it take a little more work? Maybe, but you'll soon learn their sale cycles, the staff, etc and it will actually work in your favor.
#2 is that you can start out getting loads of stuff for free. This is more of a half truth than a complete myth. Depending on the sales that week and what coupons you have to start with you might get some items for free/almost free from the beginning. If you've watched the show Extreme Couponing I can tell you this show is not reality. The people on that show do not shop like that every week. In fact most will tell you that they've NEVER done a shop like that before the show and it was simply done for entertainment purposes.
Now on to some basic information. We all know what a coupon is and where they come from. Money off certain item "certificates" that come in the newspaper or are printed from the internet. Using them alone will save you a few cents on the dollar, which is OK any savings is good. However if you pair them with sales, store coupons, clearance, etc you'll save much much more.
The number one rule is to start small! Don't rush into this buying a ton of coupons online or a million newspapers your first week. Pick one store in your town and start there. First item of business, go online to their website and print their coupon policy. Read it, learn it, and most importantly keep it with you. You never know when you will get into the store only to have them argue with you over your coupons.
Now, you MUST get the newspaper every single week. (rule of thumb, unless it's a Holiday there will be at least one insert in the paper, you can find insert schedules online to make sure each week if you want to) The location of the papers will differ in each town. Generally you can find them in the newspaper box out front or inside at the register. Get the paper for the biggest city that is offered. Small local papers have less coupons, if any at all. Important note: if you get the paper from the newspaper box, DO NOT take out more than you pay for. You are not hurting the newspaper company, you are hurting the person delivering the papers because it will come out of their pocket. If you want 2 papers, get one then close the box and put more money in. When you get your papers, take them home and remove all the inserts. Write the date on the front of each insert. When you look up coupon matchups online they will say something like "5/1/11 RP". This means it's from the May 1st Red Plum. Now you can easily go and find the coupon you need. Some people prefer to clip all the coupons from the insert and put in their binder/envelopes or just clip the ones they need and get rid of the rest. Any of these methods will work.
Don't buy an item at full price simply because you have a coupon for it. If you get a coupon for 50c off toothpaste and you don't need the toothpaste right then, leave it. Chances are it will go on sale before the coupon expires.
Part 2 coming soon!