Getting Started On Your Couponing Adventure
Many people want to start couponing but get frightened by what they feel is the enormity of it all. Television shows like Extreme Couponing depict people spending all of their free time looking for specials and organizing coupons, and most of us probably can't – or won't! – live like that. Fortunately, coupons do not have to be an all-consuming thing, but it does help to get organized before heading out on your shopping trip.
I generally spend an hour each week menu-planning and coupon clipping, and perhaps half an hour each week looking through sales flyers from the stores in my area and perusing sites such as southernsavers.com and couponmom.com to find the sale items at my local stores. I never clip a coupon unless I intend to take it to the store that day, as clipping in advance is a huge time sucker.
So what is it you need to do to get started with coupons?
To begin couponing you'll need a few items:
- An accordion folder to hold and organize your coupons
- Subscription(s) to one or two newspapers
- Scissors for clipping
- A printer if you want to use internet coupons
- An email address dedicated to coupons, unless you don't mind if your normal email address becomes flooded with savings and recipes on a weekly – and sometimes daily – basis
That doesn't seem too draining, now does it?
Setting it Up
First things first – you have to get some coupons. Each week in the Sunday paper you'll receive a variety of coupon packets. The two major ones are Red Plum and Smart Source. Monthly, P&G sends out an insert as well. The coupons in this insert generally run for the month only; the coupons in RP and SS usually run for several months. You may also want to ask friends who don't coupon if you can have their inserts.
TIP – Every item will go on sale one time in a sales cycle (more on this later), so once about every six weeks. You don't have to buy two hundred tubes of toothpaste at one time to save money; you only need to buy enough tubes to make it until the next sales cycle!
As you receive these coupons, place them – unclipped – in the accordion file by date. Last year I attended a seminar done by Jenny from SouthernSavers.com, and she gave the best advice: write the date of the insert on the first page of the insert and then slip it into the accordion file for easy access. This way, when you need a coupon that can be found in Red Plum's 2/4 insert, you can easily locate it without taking all of the inserts out of the folder.
Using a fifty-cent off coupon on a four-dollar box of cereal doesn't make much of a dent in the budget, but using that same coupon on the box of cereal when it is on sale for $2 does. Understanding the essentials behind matching coupons with sales is key in saving money at the store. In my next post, I'll discuss how to use the coupons you are keeping stored in your accordion file to best maximize your savings.