Help! I don’t know where to begin…
Couponing is a whole new world, and it takes a little bit of time to fully get into the swing of things.
The good news is that you can start right away. Hooray!
The not-quite-so-good news is that you won’t be able to get all of the deals for a few weeks while you build up your coupon stash. It takes about a month or so to build up a solid coupon collection. Don’t worry, though, because you’ll still be able to get some good deals in the meantime.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started:
Step 1: Buy the Sunday paper
In order to coupon successfully, you need to buy the newspaper every Sunday, with the exception of 3 or 4 Sundays out of the year around major holidays when there are no coupon inserts. This is where the vast majority of coupons come from, and they’re becoming more and more important as stores like Kroger limit the number of internet printables you can use (grr). I personally buy two copies of the newspaper every Sunday morning so that I’ll have twice the number of inserts. I keep them stored and organized in an accordion file that’s divided by date (Jan, Feb, Mar, etc). There are other methods of organization out there, but we’ll discuss those another time.
Step 2: Pick a store
Some folks disagree, but hear me out. If you’re just learning to coupon, doing too much too soon can start to become overwhelming, tempting you to give up before you ever really get started. Don’t fall into that trap! Just pick one store that you want to use coupons at. I recommend Kroger or Publix since their coupon system is a little easier to figure out than Walgreens or Rite Aid. Walmart is another option, but be prepared for cashiers who may not be very familiar with the coupon policy of their store. Anyway, pick whichever store works best for you and then…
Step 3: Learn that store’s coupon policy
Read it. Study it. Print it. Get to know the policy inside and out. Why? Because when you walk into a store to score a deal, it gives you confidence. You understand how the policy works and exactly how you’re getting your bargain. This comes in handy if you ever run into a clerk that mistakenly tells you that you can’t use a coupon that you KNOW you can. If you know the policy, and especially if you have a copy of it with you, you’ll be able to politely explain it to them. More often than not you’ll be able to use your coupon and snag your deal.
Step 4: Be kind and courteous
Okay, so this isn’t *technically* a step for couponing, but it’s important. In the above scenario, where you’re explaining the coupon policy to a cashier, be nice about it. Don’t call them an idiot or raise your voice or try to demean them. The vast majority of the time, they haven’t been trained very well on the policy and just don’t know. If you run into this kind of cashier (happens VERY rarely)…
…simply ask to speak to a manager. You truly will catch more flies with honey.
Also, resist the temptation to “clear the shelf” of any super deals. Even if you have 20 $1/1 Crest coupons and they’ve gone on sale for $1 a tube, don’t buy all 20. As a rule of thumb, I try to only get 2-4 of something in one trip, and then if there’s still some left later in the week I might get more. Always practice courteous couponing!
Step 5: Look for great coupon matchups online
At places like Clarksville Clippers! There are actually tons out there – just do a google search for “coupon site” or “coupon deals” and a bunch will pop up. There’s no need to pour through the weekly ad and do all the legwork when someone else has already done it for you. 🙂 Also be sure to check out my note on “Coupon Lingo” to learn about different coupon abbreviations — you’ll see them a lot, on this page and others.
Step 6: Start by getting just a few deals at a time
This is another practice that will keep you from getting overwhelmed and help build your confidence as a couponer. When you first get started, choose just a handful of deals that you want to get at your chosen store. You’re a lot less likely to get mixed up this way. I remember when I first started couponing, I thought I had a $0.40/1 Pillsbury coupon that actually turned out to be $0.40/3! Whoops! It makes for an embarrassing moment at checkout. Anyway, choose 3 or 4 great deals and just focus on those. As you build your confidence, you’ll naturally start using more.