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How to Coupon An In Depth Beginners Guide to Couponing closetsamples
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Couponing is a fantastic way to save money on your everyday purchases, and it's easier to get started than you might think. In this in-depth beginner's guide, we'll walk you through the ins and outs of couponing, from finding and organizing coupons to maximizing your savings at the checkout. Whether you're a seasoned bargain hunter or new to the world of coupons, this guide has something for everyone. 
 
With inflation on the rise, saving money wherever you can has become a must. After all, groceries aren’t cheap and clipping coupons can help stretch that dollar further when you need it most, so join me to learn the basics of couponing.
 

Getting Started with Couponing

Before you dive into the world of couponing, it's essential to have a clear understanding of the basics. Coupons are vouchers that offer discounts on specific products or brands. They can be found in various places, such as newspapers, magazines, online websites, and mobile apps. Some of the most common types of coupons include manufacturer coupons, store coupons, and digital coupons. 
 
A coupon, by definition, is a voucher that entitles the holder to a discount on a particular purchase. Make sense, right? But, let’s talk about the important parts of a coupon – or at least the parts you’ll want to make note of. There’s the amount of savings along with the quantity required (for example, 75¢ off 1, $1 off 2, buy one and get one, or even a free-value), the expiration date, and most importantly, the terms.  As easy as it is to ignore the small print, that’s where you’ll learn the important stuff. This will tell you how many identical coupons you can use on the same shopping trip. (Limit 1, limit 2, and limit 4 are the most common ones.) All this information will help you plan your shopping trips and save money!
 
Did you know? Stores are encouraged to accept manufacturer’s coupons. In fact, the terms spell out exactly how the store will be reimbursed for accepting it. It’s usually coupon face value, plus a handling or processing incentive. That being said, make sure you check out your local store’s coupon policy to know exactly what they are open to accepting and what they are not! 
 
Free photo back view young couple walking with bags
Image credit: Freepik
 

Types of Coupons

Manufacturer’s Coupons

These come directly from the companies that make the products. Coupons are a great way to increase product purchases, drive product awareness, reward loyal customers, and re-engage with customers – they want you to buy their products and this definitely motivates us! Let’s face it, we love that. You’ll find these in the Sunday Newspapers as inserts, printable from our favorite websites, peelies which are found directly on the products (you see them in the store right on the store shelves and you can peel them off which is where they get that “peelie” name), and mailers sent to our homes. (Many of the coupons sent to our home arrived with samples, so if you haven’t already, check out how to get free samples here!
 

Store Coupons

These are coupons that are sponsored by the stores instead of manufacturers. They state “store” at the top, usually feature the logo of that store, and are ONLY redeemable at that store.  The best part about store coupons is that you can stack a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon!  This means you can use one of each on a SINGLE item, leading to even bigger savings.
 

Digital Coupons

Digital coupons can be both manufacturer’s and store's coupons. Stores like Kroger, Dollar General, Target, and more offer both through their loyalty programs and apps. These are free to sign up for and arguably make couponing easier than ever. The only downfall is that you only get a single coupon whereas if you clip from inserts you might be able to gather up and use multiple coupons and stock up.
 

Cashback Apps

While not “technically” a coupon, it works about the same.  Instead of submitting a coupon to get that money “off” an item at the time of purchase, these work where you submit the receipt proving your purchase and getting that money back – like a rebate, only faster!  It’s more or less reversed. Sometimes – and you really do have to pay attention because it isn’t too often – you can stack them with coupons as well.
 
Free photo woman with smart phone in supermarket standing by the shelves full of fruit at grocery store holding thumbs up
Image credit: Freepik
 

Finding Coupons

The first step to successful couponing is to find coupons. Look for them in your local newspapers, magazines, and mailers. Online sources such as coupon websites, manufacturer websites, and retailer websites also offer a wide range of digital coupons that you can print or load onto your loyalty card. 
 
The Sunday morning newspaper often includes inserts or coupons for you to clip. Granted, a subscription isn’t free, but you can opt for a Sunday-only plan. If that’s not in your budget, that's okay but keep your ears open and you might find that you have a friend or a neighbor that enjoys the paper, but not the coupons. Don’t be afraid to ask around – many end up in the recycling without a second thought!
 
Printed coupons are often very popular!  If you have the means to print with a printer at home, it’s quite convenient too. The most well-known website to print these coupons is Coupons.com!  You’ll find money savings on a variety of products like baby care, pet needs, foods, drinks, personal care, make-up, and brands like Nivea, Off!, Advil, Garnier, Cover Girl, Gatorade, Welch’s, Colgate, and more! You’ll also want to go directly to the manufacturer’s websites to look for coupons!  P&G (that’s Tide, Charmin, Gain, Bounty, Olay, Swiffer,  Febreeze, Gillette, Downy, and more!) allow you to print coupons for their brands directly on their website when you sign up for their FREE P&G Everyday program. (A friendly note about P&G coupons, they expire 24 hours from the moment you print them, so print them the night before or the morning that you go to the store.)
 
Kellogg’s (that’s all your favorite cereals, Pop-Tarts, Eggo Waffles, Pringles, Cheez-its, Townhouse, and MorningStar) also hosts the ability to print coupons for their family of products from their site as well. It’s as easy as going to the websites of the brands your family uses often and seeing if they have them.  ScottU by KotexCottonelleSuperPretzel, and Angel Soft are probably all brands you recognize and have; you just need to do a little investigative work with all your favorite products!
 
Did you know? The first day of each month is the biggest printable coupon release day. It’s out with the old and in with the new.  Most printed coupons have a 30-day expiration from the date you print (though some can be 2 weeks), so you’ll want to leap on those when they first come out. They are limited in availability and can go quickly, but you’ll have the time to find an accompanying deal.
 
Digital coupons really do make couponing easy. Most of your favorite grocery stores (Kroger, Food Lion, Giant), dollar stores (Family Dollar and Dollar General), drug stores (CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid), as well as Target offer programs where you “clip” or add the coupon to your account (which are always free to set up) and redeeming by simply using a loyalty card or phone number at the checkout. These coupons are taken off automatically. Talk about convenience!
 
Cashback Apps are the newest version of coupons though they work “backwards” as explained above. I personally love these! Everything I need is on my phone.  All that I really have to do is take a picture of my receipt when I get home (which IS sometimes the hardest part!) You basically save the offers you want to redeem to your account or list and then go buy them!  There is even a feature on these apps that allows you to scan the barcode of the item while you’re at the store to ensure you’ve got the right item to be able to get your money back.  AND, in most cases, you can get multiple redemptions too!  Meaning, if you want to buy 4 boxes of cereal because it’s on sale, you can get cash back on each one! Sometimes you’ll discover bonus offers that award you even more cash back! You do need to pay attention to how long offers are valid for as they do have expirations as well.
 
Ibotta is also a couponer’s favorite with Fetch as a close second!  Shopmium’s offers nearly always mimic the coupons released in the Sunday paper or on Coupons.com but is limited to one redemption. Checkout51 and Shopkick might also offer you some savings on select products. So, here’s the best part about these apps – you might find an offer for your product on several of them!  It’s a stacking dream!  (One word of caution, you won’t always be able to stack with paper coupons for the same item. Read the details of the offer to see if using a paper coupon in addition to claiming the offer is forbidden or not. Paper coupons will show on the receipt and the app will recognize it.)
 
Did you know? Some of our favorite points and shopping programs like MyPoints and Swagbucks offer points on specific grocery products! It’s under Magic Receipts! Check it out! 
 
Expert Tip: While you’re scanning receipts, there are apps that award points for each receipt image that you upload. It does take a while to bank points to redeem, but it’s super easy and only takes a few moments. So if you’re interested in those, check out CoinOutReceipt HogReceiptPal, and ReceiptJar!
 
Free photo smiling female cashier with buyer at checkout counter in grocery store
Image credit: Freepik 
 

Organizing Coupons

As you accumulate coupons, it's crucial to stay organized. Consider using a coupon organizer or binder to keep your coupons sorted by category. This way, you can quickly locate the coupons you need when you're ready to shop. Don't forget to check the expiration dates to ensure that your coupons are still valid. 
 
Whether you prefer an envelope system, an accordion file, or something even bigger like a binder, as long as you know where your coupons are and have some order to them, that’s what matters! That way, when you spot a clearance or unadvertised deal in the store that you have a coupon for, you’ll be able to quickly locate it to take advantage of it.  It’s also a good idea to clean out your coupons on the last day of every month.  That’s when the majority of coupons expire, so get in a habit to get rid of the old and add the new.
 

Understanding Coupon Policies

Different stores have varying coupon policies, so it's essential to familiarize yourself with the rules of the stores you frequent. Some stores may allow you to stack manufacturer and store coupons for additional savings, while others may have restrictions on coupon usage.
 

Matching Coupons to Sales

One of the most effective couponing strategies is to match your coupons with ongoing sales. Pay attention to weekly advertisements and plan your shopping trips accordingly. Combining coupons with discounted items can lead to significant savings. 
 
Know your “regular” prices and sale prices and what makes it a deal. Pay attention to the cycles of the sales.  As you start to watch the weekly ads over time, you’ll note that about every 3 weeks your favorite cereal goes on sale, save your coupons for those weeks!  Use those lower-priced opportunities to stock up, stretching you until the next sales week.  A little planning can go a long way!
  

Stacking Coupons

Stacking coupons means using multiple coupons on a single item. Some stores allow you to combine a manufacturer coupon with a store coupon for increased savings. Just make sure to follow the store's policies and guidelines when stacking coupons.
 

Being Mindful of Stockpiling

While stockpiling items when they are on sale can be a great way to save money in the long run, be mindful not to overdo it. Only stockpile items that your family will genuinely use before they expire.
 

Tracking Savings

Keep track of your savings to see the impact of your couponing efforts. Use a spreadsheet, like my excel expense tracker, or a simple notebook to record the regular price, sale price, and coupon amount for each item you purchase. Over time, you'll be amazed at how much money you've saved. When you see the value of your efforts, you’ll be motivated to continue, and this is what makes couponing so fun.  Before you know it, you’ll have a savings tally for a month and realize that you are able to do things with that money you never thought you could! But you CAN do it. And you’ll probably even wonder why you didn’t do it sooner…
 
Expert Tip: Make a list! Not only does it help me remember what I need to buy, but it helps me note what items are on sale, which ones have a coupon, the ones that I have a cashback offer for, and on and on!  I also have a tendency to do the math as I’m listing it out.  It helps me know if it is a good deal and if I want to stock up or if it’s just mediocre and I might consider waiting. 
 
Free photo a young woman buys groceries in a supermarket with a phone in her hands
Image credit: Freepik 
 

How to Coupon: A Beginner’s Guide to Couponing (FAQ)

What is the trick to extreme couponing?

There is no trick to it, but knowledge is power! To get into extreme couponing, you need to be very familiar with store couponing policies as well as develop a familiarity with coupons, both manufacturer’s and store and how they work. You’ll also want to pay attention to store sales and the cycles they follow.  When you start combining them with sales, you’ll see the bigger savings.  If your local store does double or triple coupon events, these are even more exciting opportunities to save or get items for FREE! 
 

How do I start couponing step by step?

Do as little or as much as you’re comfortable with. Start with looking for coupons for items your family regularly use. Then once you’re comfortable with using coupons, start watching for sales to go with them. Keep it simple and as you go, you’ll become more proficient with it. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Have fun with it.  There will always be some deals that don’t go as you had planned, but use those as learning opportunities – don’t get discouraged! Every penny does help your budget, so take pride in what you can do to save money for your family.
 

What is the secret to couponing?

There is no secret, but there are some very helpful things that can really benefit you and make couponing truly work for you!
 
Follow blogs, websites, and social media that do the math for you!  They’ll tip you off to some of the better weekly deals and step you through exactly what you need to do the deal yourself!
 
Closet of Free Samples is your source for the latest and greatest coupons and store deals!  Sign up for the daily newsletter as well as follow on FacebookTelegramInstagram, and Twitter so that you’ll be the first to know when they are available!
 
TIP: Join our exclusive Facebook group for even more fun with like-minded couponing friends!
 
You might also consider having a couponing buddy!  Maybe you use Colgate toothpaste while your friend prefers Crest. You’ll be watching out for coupons for each other and encouraging along the way!  It’s more fun to do coupon shopping with a pal!
 

How do I know if my local store accepts coupons?

Most stores have a coupon policy posted on their website spelling out their rules for coupon acceptance. They are sometimes very difficult to find – well hidden, like going on a scavenger hunt - but if you Google your store name, followed by “coupon policy”, it usually finds it faster than you can if you dig around on their site. Some of the important things they call out are whether or not they accept printable coupons, how BOGO (Buy One, Get One Free) coupons are handled, and any other potential exclusions. Walmart has one, as does Target.
 

Can I use a coupon where the discount is worth more than the item?

Yes! In coupon lingo, it’s called overage. A couponer’s dream is to find that item on sale or clearance for less than the coupon value. You have to play it smart though. The stores aren’t going to give you the cash back for that overage, so it will more or less be used against the rest of your purchases. So having said that, make sure you have a “cushion” to use that up if you are going to be getting an overage.
 

Can I get coupons by mail?

Yes, sometimes! Frito-Lay has a program where you can request coupons for their products (Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Lays, Ruffles, and Quaker products) by mail every 2 weeks! It’s one of my favorites and I wish more companies did that.  Sometimes reaching out to manufacturers through their “Contact Us” link on their websites and letting them know how much your family likes their products will yield coupons by mail.
 
Couponing can be a fun and rewarding way to save money on everyday expenses. By following these steps and staying organized, you'll be well on your way to becoming a savvy couponer who knows how to maximize savings and get the best deals. Happy couponing!
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