A Newbie’s Approach to Couponing
Couponing is basically a new thing for me. My parents never really used coupons and I never really gave them much thought. Then earlier this year I read an article about a woman who only spent $100 a year on groceries for her family, and she did that all through coupons. That really caught my attention, considering I can easily spend that much on groceries in a week.
Since then I’ve started collecting and using coupons. I’m no coupon expert, and I’m definitely not to the point where I’m spending only dollars a week on groceries. I don’t have the time or the energy to search every store ad and travel all over the place to different stores to gather all the best deals.
Here’s my approach to couponing, which I think may be useful for other 20-somethings who may not have the same amount of time and resources as other, more experienced couponers.
I will get coupons where ever I can. My biggest source is the newspaper. Funny thing is I don’t pay for it. In Chicago we have a free newspaper called the Redeye and the weekend edition contains all the same coupon inserts as the major newspapers. I’m lucky to have a free option available, but if you don’t I still recommend getting a Sunday paper. You can subscribe (many papers have a “Sunday Only” option) or pick them up at a store or newspaper box (just check to make sure there’s inserts inside before you buy).
My newest way of getting coupons is printing them from online. This is great because it’s an option everyone has that doesn’t require extra money (beyond the cost for ink and paper). Coupons.com is a site where I print a ton of coupons. Another great place to find online coupons is manufacturer websites (look for a special offers page).
Other ways I collect coupons is gathering up the ones that come with free samples I receive, giving feedback to companies I love, and looking out for tearaways, peelies, and coupon books offered at the stores I shop in.
Before I organize coupons, I decide which coupons I actually want to keep or print. Usually I’ll only keep coupons that I know we’ll use or think there may be a chance I’d use it if there’s a good deal. I don’t bother with coupons for things I know we won’t buy like diapers or cat food.
Originally I just kept the coupons in an envelope, but after a few weeks I had way too many coupons and needed a more sophisticated system.
I found a coupon sized expandable organizer with pockets and I organize my coupons within categories. It’s perfectly sized so I can toss it in my purse. This is what works for me and the amount of coupons I deal with.
For more elaborate set ups check out the veteran coupon links at the end of this post.
My main goal is to try to match coupons with sales to maximize savings. I also read a good number of blogs that post coupon deals by store and I try to get in on as many of those as I can.
I wish my system was a little more sophisticated than that, but it’s not. I do what I can. Mostly I’m happy if I can save $10 on a shopping trip or get an item or two for free (or nearly free). I’m not perfect and definitely not a pro. I know I’ll get better with time, but for now I’m just happy with any money I can save.
Now if you want to save more and learn the tips of veteran couponers, here’s a few places I recommend you check out:
- Money Saving Mom’s Organizational Method
- A Thrifty Mom’s Coupons 101
- Coupon Geek: How to Organize Coupons