Wednesday, July 14, 2010

ThriftyThursday Part One: Getting Started with Coupons!

Welcome to a new series here on ThriftyShannon: ThriftyThursday! Each week I’ll post an article to help you get started in couponing, and how to make the most of it! There may even be some guest posts along the way, so don’t miss out!

Couponing - Getting Started

Have you seen all the posts that are out there describing how the blogger saved so much money at the grocery or drugstore? I know I’ve posted a few shopping trips myself, outlining what coupons I used, and what sales I took advantage of. But I recently began to think about how some people still may not understand how to do it; so I decided to go back to the beginning.

Where to Find Coupons
The hands-down best way to get coupons is from the Sunday paper. No doubt about it. Even if you don’t subscribe, even if you don’t read any other part of the paper, the coupon circulars themselves most often will more than pay for the price of the paper. This is especially the case if you live in or near a large city.

Serious couponers will often buy more than one paper just for the coupons. I generally buy at least three, and then ask for any unused circulars from family members. You can always ask your neighbors and coworkers for their coupons as well. The more the better!

Why so many coupons? To take advantage of sales, of course! When you see a sale on an item that you use regularly, that’s the time to buy it. If you can match up a coupon with that sale, that’s when you really need to stock up.

ThriftyTip: When a favorite item is on sale, AND you have a coupon for that item, buy as many of that item as you have coupons for. In the coming weeks we’ll talk about other places you can find coupons.

For example, we’re coffee lovers around here at ThriftyCentral, and our coffee of choice at the moment is Eight O’Clock coffee. Eight O’Clock coffee regularly goes on sale at Publix for Buy One Get One free (BOGO). I LOVE BOGOs. At Publix BOGO sales mean that you get each item for 50% off, instead of paying full price for one item, and getting the second free. Since it’s not a true BOGO, you can buy any quantity of the item and still receive the sale price. This also means that you can use coupons on each item you purchase.

So, every time this sale happens, I stock up. I look for the highest value coupons I can find, buy as many bags of coffee as I have coupons for, and end up paying very little for our favorite coffee. Then I hope my stash holds out until the next sale!

At this point, you may be saying, I don’t have time to clip and file all of those coupons every week. Well, I don’t either! That’s where “Clipless Couponing” comes into play. You don’t have to go through all of the coupon circulars you get each week and clip the coupons. All you have to do is write the date on the front of each circular, usually one RedPlum and one Smartsource, with the occasional P&G thrown in. Once you have the date on them, you file them. Slip them in a file cabinet, a file box, or whatever makes it easiest for you. I file them by month so they’re easier to find.

When it’s time to plan your shopping trip, you can use a Coupon Database, such as the one at, to look for coupons for everything on your list, or you can use Weekly Coupon Matchups for your favorite stores, which can be found on blogs like, or (these are some of my favorites!). Coupon matchups will include everything that’s listed in the weekly sales paper (and then some!) as well as what coupons are currently available and where to find them.

Here’s what a coupon matchup might look like:
Eight O’Clock coffee, BOGO $4.99
$1/1 Eight O’Clock coffee, any; 7/2 SS
--> This means that the coffee is on sale, Buy One Get One free, regular price is $4.99. The coupon that’s currently available is for $1 off of one bag, any variety, and can be found in the 7/2 Smartsource (SS) coupon circular. Make sense?

Basically, the first thing you need to do when you start couponing, is get coupons! Save those Sunday circulars; even save the coupons you won't use. You never know when you may be able to get something for free that you can donate to charity. More on that later!

As always I’m open to suggestions on how to make this all easier to understand! And if you have any questions whatsoever, please don’t hesitate to ask!

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