How to Coupon

Welcome to the money saving, penny pinching, coupon cutting club!
I am guessing you have seen "Extreme Couponing", know someone who has a huge stockpile of stuff they got for dirt cheap, or you just plain NEED to find a way to save money during these tough economic times. Making coupons a regular part of your routine will save you insane amounts of money, give you a feeling of control over your family's finances and well being, and open your eyes to how valuable a penny really can be. I am talking from experience here!
I do not claim to be a professional coupon cutter, but I feel like I have a system that works very well for me. I hope to share my knowledge and give you a strong head start in the world of couponing. It may take a few weeks to a couple of months to really get a good feel of how everything works, but it will all be worth it when you never have to pay retail for groceries again!

Coupon Basics: Why, When, Where, & How

Why should I coupon? 

You know that awesome feeling you have when you find a really good deal on something you need? How would you like a feeling ten times that amazing when you turn that "good" deal into a "how is this even possible" deal? In today's world, it seems as though everyone is looking to cut costs and expenses from every possible aspect of their lives. Couponing not only frees your budget up, it allows you to give to other people, during a time you never thought you would be able to get by on your own. 

When do you use your coupons?

The most important thing to know is that you ONLY BUY ITEMS WHEN THEY ARE ON SALE IN BULK!!! A sale, combined with a coupon or two will get you the lowest price possible. There will be lots of times you will even get items for free! When this happens, you want to get as many items as you have coupons for. This way, you won't run out a month later and have to buy it at retail price. Instead, you will be able to wait until 3-4 months later, when the store's sales cycle through, and that item gets marked down again. 
Resist the temptation to go out and use all of your new coupons right away on things that are marked at regular retail price. You will end up dissapointed, frustrated, and very doubtful that coupons could ever work for you. The bitter truth is, you will not use many of the coupons you collect. But the ones you do use will get you deals that will make you want to shop till you drop! 

Where do you get your coupons?

I will never fail to tell people that the absolute best place for coupons is the Sunday paper. It is not unusual for us coupon lovers to order multiple papers, because the whole point is being able to buy multiples of each item that goes on sale. Stocking up is essential to the couponing process, and it all starts with gathering as many coupons as you can get your hands on!
You can subscribe here for the Sunday paper for only $1.00/week and get the Wednesday newspaper with all of the weekly ads for free!

If you are not willing or able to pay for a subscription you can:

- Ask neighbors and friends to collect any coupons they will not use to donate to you

- Talk to your neighborhood stores and see if they might give you any extra newspapers they did not sell

- DUMPSTER DIVE!! This is my weekly trick! There are plenty of recycling dumpsters out there with loads of coupons.

There are also plenty of internet sites out there that offer printable coupons. Most of the available printable coupons have a print limit of 2 per computer. The four sites I check religiously for printable coupons are:

Another essential link to my coupon collecting is the Coupon Database from The Krazy Coupon Lady. This database has a list of all available printable coupons organized alphabetically according to brand. Every week the grocery deals come out, I check to see if she has any printable coupons that match the sales items. It is a fantastic tool!

Digital Coupons are also available for a number of grocery stores. These coupons can be loaded to your store's loyalty card online before your visit. Most of the digital coupons are treated as manufacturer coupons, and cannot be combined with other paper manufacturer coupons. Here in Arizona, Fry's and  Safeway are the only stores, I know of, that offer digital coupon savings.

How do you find deals?

Every store's deals usually change on a weekly basis. They send out their weekly ads in the Sunday & Wednesday newspapers (depending on what cycle their sales are on), and online.
When the new deals come out, I make it a point to go through each one, and match up any really good sales with any manufacturer, store, or printable coupons available. 
One useful tool in matching up my newspaper insert coupons is the Arizona Coupon List of all manufacturer coupons that have been available in the newspaper inserts from Pinching Your Penny. They are organized alphabetically by brand. Once I find the coupon I need, I scroll over to see what newspaper insert is what included in. I can then go take those specific inserts out of my file cabinet (you will learn more about my organizing system below), and clip the exact coupon I will need for my shopping trip. 
This saves me hours and hours of time! I no longer clip every coupon that comes in the newspaper. Instead, I store all of my inserts, look up needed coupons on the coupon list, and clip them when and if I need them.

You can also look for deals that have already been matched for you on many different blogs and sites, including mine! My goal is to try and bring you the best deals for Arizona's East Valley!

Now that I have explained some of the coupon basics, I will introduce you to my "system". Ready?

The System

I have never been a super organized person, but ever since I have started couponing, it has forced me to completely reevaluate my time, my space, and my habits. In order to be as productive and effective as possible, I had to develop something that worked for me. 
Hence, I organize my coupons in two different places.

All of my newspaper coupon inserts go into a filing cabinets. They are separated by:

 Type of insert 
(SmartSource, P&G, or Red Plum)

 Date they were issued 
(You can find it on the outside fold of the insert.)

 Cover Art 
(Some papers have 2 of one type of insert. 
They have different covers and different coupons so I file them seperately) 

I try and collect at least 5+ copies of each insert so that I can stock up on items on sale. Each file is clearly labeled so that I can find the insert with the coupon I need fast and easy.

All of my store and printable coupons are kept in my coupon binder. There are different sections for the different categories of coupons. Each section is marked with a tab and includes 2-3 sheets of baseball card holders to hold each coupon. The front of the binder has all of the store coupon sections. The back of my binder has sections for the printable coupons. They are split up the following categories:

Cleaning Supplies
Meat & Fish
Canned Goods
Services (restaurants, tanning salon, ect.)

These categories work and make sense to me. You can use mine, or come up with your own! Every Sunday night I clean out my coupon binder to make sure there are no expired coupons wasting precious coupons space. I also make sure to always keep a pair of scissors, a pad of lined paper, a calculator, and a pen in a little three ring pouch at the front of my binder. It is my little "emergency" coupon cutting kit Smiley.

Usually, when you tell someone you coupon, their normal response is, "I would , but there are never any coupons for anything I use", or "I just buy store brand products. It saves me just as much money". 
These same responses were once my naive statements. I had no idea the resources available, and the deals that were possible. REAL couponing is not about clipping things here and there if you think you might need it at the store that day. REAL couponing is about researching weekly deals, matching coupons up with super sales, and then planning your shopping trips down to the very last item. You could say couponing is a part time job. It requires ongoing work and awareness. Think you are up for the challenge?