The one thing that people always ask me is “How do you do it?” or “Doesn’t that take forever?” My answers are, “It’s actually quite simple once you learn how to do it, and no, it doesn’t take ME forever!” When people see me in Wal-Mart or Target with my coupon binder, some people smile at me, some people laugh, and some people come up and ask, “Are you one of those people on TV?” LOL No, not quite! I am actually NOT what you would call an extreme couponer. I’m a SMART and saavy couponer! I do not buy mass quantities of things I do not have a need for just to say, “Hey look what I got for free!” The first thing you need to do before learning to coupon is to learn store and corporate policies and rules on using coupons at their stores. Each store is different. Each state is different! Some chains will do coupons one way in one state and then it will be different in another state, although it’s the same chain. You can go to the stores you use and request a copy of their coupon policy. Some stores will post it in their stores. You can also go to their store websites and find their coupon policies there! ALWAYS HAVE A PRINTED COPY OF THE COUPON POLICY WITH YOU BEFORE TRYING TO USE COUPONS AT THAT STORE!
Step 1: Make a list of what you NEED or WANT.
Step 2: If you get a newspaper that has coupons in it or magazines that have coupons in them, go through it and see if any items you need or want have coupons available in those printed materials. If they do, grab them! If they don’t, put them to the side. (Just because you don’t need them now, doesn’t mean you can’t use them at another time or pass them along to someone who can use them.)
Step 3: Do a search of online coupons for items on your list. You can do a Google search that says “printable coupons for _______”, and it will bring up all the sites, blogs, etc. that have a coupon for that item. You can also try going directly to the company website and seeking out coupons there. Facebook pages getting liked will sometimes bring you a coupon too!
Step 4: Figure out an organization system that works for you to store and separate your coupons. I use a binder with dividers that have sleeves in them, and I put tabs on the ends that say “Grocery,” “Restaurant,” “Baby,” “Household,” etc. Taking a few minutes to create a system will save you tons of time when you are doing your shopping.
Step 5: Figure out what store you are going to shop from. Wal-Mart and Target both match competitors ads, so if you have a mom & pop store local to the Wal-Mart or Target, that has your items cheaper, TAKE THE AD, (the items MUST BE same item, same size, same brand…and can’t be BOGOs!), get the items and show the ad when you check out. **I always use a pen or marker to circle the whole item, description and price on the ad. That way I don’t lose track of where the item to match is. Always make sure you tell them you need to Ad-match at the START of the transaction!- Also the ad HAS TO BE from that week!**
Step 6: Now once you have matched the price of the item, you can use your coupons! Don’t do coupons before ad matching!
Step 7: If you have a coupon that is a store coupon, like Target, most stores like Target (but double check) will allow you to use ONE store coupon + ONE manufacturer coupon for the same item. So, if you ad matched the item, then used the store coupon, plus you used the mfg coupon, you have already TRIPLED your savings. For example, shampoo $4: comp. ad $3 on sale, store coupon $1 off, mfg coupon $1 off, that makes your $4 shampoo cost only $1!!! Great deal!
Step 8: If you are using a store coupon that says “Buy one, get one for free.” You can still save money on that FREE item! So, this is what you need to do: If you have you are getting those 2 items, you will need 2 mfg coupons of the same item, but they must be for one item each…not “$ off 2”. If you have a BOGO item that is $5 each, you are getting the 2nd $5 item for free, so you have already saved $5. Take a $1 off one item coupon x 2 items, then you have saved $1 off your paid item and you have MADE $1 on your free item! Yeah, you just got paid to buy! Now there is a trick to making that work, you must use your DOLLAR OFF coupons FIRST, so put the BOGO coupon at the bottom of your coupon stack to be used after all your other coupons. If you use the BOGO coupon first, then it will not allow a $ off coupon to be used for the 2nd item.
Step 9: Now congratulate yourself….you just learned how to save a whole lot of money! It may sound like a lot of steps, but once you get the ball rolling, you will learn that it does not take much time at all…and hey, if it does take a little time, but it’s saving your family some much needed money, then isn’t it worth it?
Everything that I have put in this article is well-known within smart couponers communities and blogs. It is all legal to do, unless a store specifically states in their policies otherwise. PLEASE BE A RESPONSIBLE COUPONER AND LEARN YOUR STORES’ POLICIES!
Some examples of my great shopping trips:
I once got $300 worth of groceries at a Wal-Mart in Wisconsin for $90!!!
I once got $300 worth of Leap Frog learning toys at a Target in Wisconsin for $30!!!
Both trips followed all of the above steps. Each trip took some time at the checkout, but with savings like that, it was well worth it!
Good luck! Check back next Friday to see what great deals or tips we throw your way!
Submitted by Jami Van Brocklin.
Jami has approximately 10 years of experience with seeking out great deals and discounts, couponing, and just being an all-around smart shopper! She wasn’t always shopper savvy. It took becoming a mom and learning how to make money stretch for her to get this way!