With TLC’s hit show Extreme Couponing bringing new ways to save money to life, there are many blogs and articles out there about couponing. But honestly, you have to do what suits YOUR needs best.
First of all, you need to ask yourself, “Why am I couponing? To save money? To build a stockpile?” My reasoning is to save money. Either way, here is my tried and true couponing method:
- Invest in a 1 or 2-inch zippered binder, preferably with pockets for a pen/pencil, calculator, and scissors.
- Buy a package of baseball card clear plastic sleeves w/inserts.
- Buy a package (or two) of indexed tab dividers.
- Buy a small notebook that will fit into one of the binder pockets.
- In my binder, I have tabs for the following categories: Breakfast Foods/Snacks, Beverages, Cooking Items, Frozen, Pasta, Meat & Dairy, Canned, Condiments, Personal Products, Medical, Cleaning & Paper Products, Pets, Store-Specific, Restaurants, and Other.
- Each Sunday, I get 2 papers. In our area, we get access to two different Sunday papers, so I get one of each.
- Cut out ONLY the coupons you think you will use. I used to cut out ALL the coupons but then figured out it was a waste of time when I only used some of them.
- Sort your coupons into the categories you have in your binder, and slide them into the baseball page inserts under that tab.
- Each week when the weekly sales ads are released, I look through them for things that I need. I write down the items I have coupons for in the small notebook, then compare ads. Some stores will have the same items on sale each week. Couponing is mainly about getting the best LOWEST PRICE deal you can with the coupons you have. Some stores rotate items with other stores. For example, CVS and Walgreens usually rotate between Palmolive and Dove dish detergent every week. If one has Dove, the other one will have Palmolive, and vice-versa.
- Once you have determined what store has the lowest priced item WITH the coupon you have, then mark it off in the notebook and transfer to your shopping list.
- Don’t be store specific. You may have to go to more than one store for your shopping trip. It takes a little longer, but will save you money in the long run.
- Since I’m going to several stores each week and have different lists & coupons for each store, I usually put the coupons and list for each store in separate labeled envelopes to make it easier to pull out at the register. I don’t take my binder into the store with me. It stays in the car. That way, I still have it if I find something I didn’t see in the advertisement that I have a coupon for, but I don’t have to lug the thing around the store getting the stink-eye from other shoppers.
And that’s about it for basic couponing. I don’t have a stockpile, and I don’t use 20 coupons for one item, like some extreme couponers do. I may have 5 of the most of anything that I buy.
Another tip for couponing is to buy things w/coupons BEFORE you need them, so that when you run out, you don’t have to pay full-price for things you need.
I don’t know exactly how much money I’ve saved each month couponing, but it sure is nice to see the register knock off digits at the checkout. For an awesome guide to couponing, check out Heather Wheeler’s book, Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey: Save Money & Make the Grocery Aisle Your Catwalk!. Heather was actually on the Extreme Couponing show, so she can probably be considered a pro at it. Check out her site here.