I hope to create a series for new couponers to help navigate this path, which I know can be very frustrating and confusing. In addition to discussing how to get started, I also want to focus on how to stretch your dollars without using coupons.
I would love feedback from you– what questions you have, advice from experienced couponers, if things are unclear or don’t make sense– anything and everything!
This is part 1- which offers the very basics for getting started.
**Sources for coupons. Most of us get them from the newspapers but the highest value coupons tend to come online. Typically you can only print 2 coupons per computer. Print one and then hit your back bar and a second will also print. Internet coupons are referred to as IPs and usually have a short expiration (say 30 days). IPs tend to come and go fast. It is best to print them as you find them- for example there are great Kashi coupons right now in my toolbar to the right. Once Kashi has reached a certain number of prints they will pull the coupon. It is better to print high value coupons or coupons for items you need or might want as you stumble upon them as they likely won’t be there later. I pointed out a coupon tonight for a free Right Guard deodorant- this coupon hit 10,000 prints within a few hours.- so it wasn’t even available for one day.
Technical note- if you have problems printing a coupon- like when it says install coupon printer (and you have installed it) or whatever- try cutting and pasting the link in another browser. Switch from Mozilla to IE etc.. and you misght have success.
Blinkies, peelies, tearpads. These are all coupons you can find while browsing the aisles at your local store. You probably pass them buy all the time and don’t even notice. Disregard the price of the item- just grab these as you see them (and please don’t take every single one. )
::Blinkies are the little machines located on the shelf next to the item that spit out coupons.
::Tearpads are usually located on displays or on end caps (the end of the aisle) or occasionally on the shelf. They are typically great coupons so start paying attention to displays in stores- even if it is an item you don’t typically buy.
::Peelies are a more controversial topic as they are little stickers stuck to the front of a product. Some people feel you should only take a peelie if you intend to buy the product then and there. I tend to be more liberal in my coupon ethics book. I will take a peelie if I regularly buy the product, intend to buy the product soon, or if it is a really good one. I usually take 1 or 2 at a time. Peelie stealers are a much hated group that will go through 20 items on a shelf and take every last peelie so no one else can get the deal. Don’t be a peelie stealer!
As you get started, you might consider making a list of items you love and regularly buy. Many products have clubs or newsletters that you can do a search for and join. I often tell you about these clubs too. One example is Morningstar Farms. I love vegetarian meat products and can never find coupons for them. I signed up for the Morningstar newsletter and get coupons about every quarter.
You will also want to find a source for newspaper inserts. Depending on where you live, you might be able to get an inexpensive subscription to the local Sunday paper. Reader and Supermom, Andrea recently scored a deal to get the Sacramento Bee for .38/week!! I subscribe to the Bee and get one set of inserts. If I had scored Andrea’s find, I might have considered getting multiple papers. You will want more than one copy of inserts. Erin at $5 Dinners recommends getting one paper for every family member here.
As you go along you will get a better feel for what works for your family, I would certainly look at frugal alternatives to shelling out $1.50 a week per person. Some areas get inserts with the Saturday paper, some newspapers will offer a discount if you request multiple copies (you better bet I am going to try and score that .38 deal to get a second copy of the paper!)
And don’t forget to ask family members and friends for their copies! SuperCouponGirl wrote here about how she scores tons of inserts for free. If you have a local coffee shop maybe they will set them aside for you? I have heard of couponers making deals with small stores to buy the extra papers Sunday evenings at a fraction of the price. If nothing else, you can check the local drug stores for the best deals. Walgreens and Longs and Dollar Stores all sell papers for $1.00 rather than $1.50.
Check my weekly coupon previews too and you will know when a paper has particularly good inserts and you might want to buy extra.
So now you have your assignments:
1. Start looking for coupons on your shopping trips and grab them up! I guarantee when they are out the item is likely at its highest price. Hold on to them for a few weeks and wait for a sale and you will start snagging some incredible deals too.
2. Look for deals in your area on inserts- if you happen upon a blogger in your area or know someone that is quite good at couponing- don’t hesistate to ask! Many bloggers are regularly featured on the news (like Erin in Texas, Marcy in Columbus, and recently Nicole right here in Sactown!) Why not email the experts and ask what their sources are? Stop someone that clearly knows what they are doing at the grocery store. I bet they not only have a ton of info for you but probably have some extra coupons for items in your cart!
The next part of this series will be ideas for what to do with all the coupons once you get them.
A few other articles you might want to read in the interim are:
My personal savings story and how coupons have worked for us, as featured on BeCentsable here.