Monday, May 14, 2012

Baby on a Budget Guest Post: Top 10 Couponing Tips for Beginners

Some of the tips given by Baby on a Budget guest posters can be used to save money in all areas of your life, not just with a little one.  Couponing fits perfectly into this category.  I plan to write a post later on specifically about coupons for baby items (believe it or not, baby coupons are everywhere), but it's helpful to get a basic overview of couponing first.  I am so glad Beth Anne offered to write a guest post on couponing because she has a wealth of experience on the topic.  Although I do use coupons and actually find some pretty great deals sometimes (I usually save at least 30% of my grocery bill between coupons and sales), there were several of the following tips were brand new to me.  Remember, not all tips might apply to you and you don't have to be a "couponer" in order to get good savings from coupons now and then.  Figure out what works best for you and your family!


When I first read about Mandi’s “Baby on A Budget” series I saw that she was looking for a guest post on Couponing. Even though I don’t have any children I still am a couponer and Mandi graciously agreed to let me write an intro to couponing post.

I want to prerequisite that I am no “couponing” expert although I have been called a Coupon Queen from family members. I have only been couponing since June I have made my fair share of mistakes, errors, and missed deals. No one is perfect but I hope these tips can help you get started.

1. Buy the Sunday paper. I always recommend buying at least 2 copies (I buy 4). The reason for this is for when a store has a BOGO (Buy one get one free) sale you can use two coupons. Sometimes you can get a discount if you buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper. If nothing else you don’t pay tax.

EXAMPLE: Publix had Nabisco Crackers on sale a few weeks ago BOGO @ $3 for 2 boxes. I had a coupon that was $1 off any 1 Nabisco product. I was able to use two coupons and pay $1 for two boxes of Nabisco Crackers (or 50 cents each). That is an 80% savings!
2. Create an organizational method. The key to couponing is staying ORGANIZED! Everyone uses a different method.

Some use binders.

Some use file folders or expandable files,
and some use the Couponizer (great for beginners)

Some organize coupons by date

and others organize coupons by category.

One thing I DO NOT recommend is organizing by Alphabet and organizing by EXPIRATION DATE. I have heard horror stories of these two methods because when you go to use the coupons it is hard to find the coupon you are looking for because some coupons work for different products and all coupons expire at different times.

EXAMPLE: I organize in a binder by date for the Sunday inserts and I have all my loose and printable coupons in an expandable file folder by category. There are examples above of the different things I use to organize my coupons.

3. Learn the LINGO. Once you get into couponing and following other couponing blogs you will learn that it is like learning a new language. There are so many different phrases that I have compiled a list of all the common couponing phrases.

EXAMPLE: You may see sentences like: “ALL NABISCO PRODUCTS BOGO $3, $1/1 SS 1/12/12” until you “learn the language” you will be TOTALLY confused. The above sentence can be translated as follows: All Nabisco products are on sale for Buy one get one free at $3 for 2. Use the $1 off 1 coupon from the Smart Source insert from January 1, 2012 newspaper.

Here are some other common phrases:
MFR – Manufacturer’s Coupon
PEELIE – Coupon that is found as a sticker on a certain product (you must BUY the product to use this kind of coupon)
STACKING – Using a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon
OOP – Out of Pocket

Portion of my stockpile from last summer
4. Learn the sale cycles in order to stockpile. Just about every COMMON item in your grocery store will eventually go on sale every 6-12 weeks. When the item goes on sale, you should purchase enough to get you through the next sale.

EXAMPLE: Let us use our Nabisco Crackers example. Each box of Nabisco Crackers comes with 100 crackers. How many crackers do you need to last you 6-12 weeks? Is two boxes enough or will you need 4 boxes? If you are having a party in a month you may want to pick up a few extra boxes while they are on sale so you aren’t purchasing the crackers for $3 a box or 80% more than necessary the week of the party.

5. Forget about Brand Loyalty. I know your Mom has been buying Crest toothpaste for YEARS and swears by it but you will get the most savings if you buy whatever brand is on sale. Like I said earlier every COMMON grocery store ITEM will go on sale every 6-12 weeks it just may not be your preferred brand.

EXAMPLE: I went overboard and literally have enough laundry soap to last me a year. I paid between $1-5 for each bottle of soap. I have Tide, Wisk, Purell, All, and Gain. My mom always bought All. I’m not sure why and I don’t think she knows either. But we were open to other brands and even though All is still our preferred brand we are willing to adjust and try whatever brand goes on sale that cycle.

6. Create a Pricelist. Due to regional differences you may not be able to get the same deals in Florida as someone in NY. Especially when you are first starting out and learning the prices. It is good to start with a list of all the lowest prices as a “guide” and then alter it to see what kind of deals you are finding.

EXAMPLE: My price list states that Frozen Vegetables can be purchased between Free and $0.75 each. I have purchased Frozen Vegetables for $0.69 and $1 so I am right on target for my pricelist price. If I saw an ad and the final price was $2 I may want to think twice before purchasing the item (unless I really needed them).

7. Shop Every WEEK. This may seem extreme but in order to get every possible sale item it is imperative that you shop at least twice a month (every week if possible). No one said you had to spend $100 every week. I recommend looking at the sales circular/coupon match-ups and see what items that your family NORMALLY USES is on sale. If nothing your family uses is on sale then don’t worry about it. But if one or two items that your family uses is on sale go to the store and get those one or two items.

EXAMPLE: Every Wednesday or Sunday go through all of the new ads (that usually come in the mail or online) and see if anything that your family uses is on sale. If you are running out of butter and that is the only good BOGO at Publix go and get the butter. There have been several weeks that less than 5 items have been on sale but I ran to the store to pick up the items in order to stock up on them at their lowest price.

8. Learn the Stores' Coupon Policy. Before you step foot in the store print a copy of the coupon policy, read it and take it with you to the store. Every store has different rules. Some stores double coupons up to xyz cents some don’t. Some stores will take COMPETITOR COUPONS, eCoupons, manufacturer coupons, x number of coupons per loyalty card and some don’t. Make sure to understand the policy before making a HUGE mistake at the register. 90% of the store policies should be available online. If you cannot locate a certain stores policy let me know and I will help you out. If it is a small store that is maybe not known nationwide you can always call the store or ask in the customer service area for a copy.

EXAMPLE: It is good to take it with you because many times the cashiers aren’t informed of the policy. If you have it printed to show them they will be like oh okay I didn’t know (Trust me I worked in a grocery store in high school and had NO IDEA what the policy was).

9. Take advantage of Rain checks. If you go to the store and they are out of the sale item you were going to purchase ask for a rain check at the customer service counter. Depending on the store the rain check will usually expire 1 month after it is issued. You can still use coupons with the rain checked item. Make sure to tell them the amount of deals you want to purchase so they can write it on the rain check (if necessary).

EXAMPLE: You go to Publix and they are out of the Nabisco Crackers in the flavor you like. You can go to customer service and ask for a rain check. Even though they may have other flavors just tell them they are out of the flavor you want and they will write a rain check. I have done this several times and was never given a hard time.

10. Shop in the drugstores. There are three popular drugstores spread throughout the country; CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-aid. Many people stay away from drugstores because they think their prices are TOO HIGH and a rip-off. Those people are WRONG because I have gotten some of my BEST DEALS shopping in drugstores! What makes Drugstores tricky is when you buy certain products you will receive Extra Care Bucks (ECB – CVS) or Register Rewards (RR – Walgreens) that can go towards an additional purchase. Some people will try and be WAY too complicated and do 3 transactions and use the rewards from transaction 1 to pay for transaction 2. I find it MUCH simpler to just do 1 transaction and then the following week use your old rewards. You usually get between 2-4 weeks to use the rewards.

EXAMPLE: On Thanksgiving weekend I was able to get a TON of free items at CVS. Note my Black Friday trip was very unusual. But I can usually save about 50% with $5-$10 in Extra Care Bucks (ECBs) for next time.

CVS Trip from Black Friday: Spent $55, Saved $32, Received $42 in Extra Care Bucks (ECBs)!


Follow [Subscribe] to a Coupon/Deal Blog. Find a blog that posts coupon match-ups for stores that you shop in the most. It is also helpful to find one for your area due to regional differences. What these blogs do is take this week’s Publix Circular, matches it with the coupons that are available, and tells you the final price (approx.) of the purchase. (Some will even tell you if you should stock up with 3-6 month supply). These blogs are also helpful if you are looking to save money online as well.

EXAMPLE: Many of these blogs (especially around Christmas time) will post great Amazon deals that they think are good deals. Word of caution don’t follow more than 5 of these types of blogs or you will get SUPER overwhelmed and a TON of email. Most Coupon/Deal blogs post 10+ times a day (I also have found that most of these blogs all post the same deals). I suggest 1-5 so you get a variety and then after a few weeks or months you will probably figure out which blogs you like the best.

*Disclosure: All prices and numbers in this post were made up by me and aren’t real deals

Beth Anne blogs about her two passions: Couponing and the Catholic Faith at The Catholic Couponer. She strives to help her readers learn to save money by couponing so they have extra money to get out of debt, go on a vacation, or give more to the less fortunate.  She recently relocated to Florida from Texas and loves exploring her new city and taking weekend trips to Walt Disney World.


  1. So you do NOT recommend organizing by expiration date? That sounds like the ideal way to organize it, to me.

  2. Yes the problem with organizing that way is in last sundays newspaper everything expires at different times so it's too hard to keep track. Where if you organize by category, alphabet or date they came out it will be easier to find what you are looking for.

    Hope that helps!

  3. These advices doesn't work for me ... 
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  4. I don't want to speak for Beth Anne, but I don't recommend organizing by expiration date.  For example, if I'm in the store and I see a brand of shampoo on sale and think, "Oh, I think I have a coupon to match that for a great price" it would be really hard to find it if it was organized by expiration date.  It would be much easier to find it if it was filed under "hair products" or "personal care products" or something like that.  


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