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A Beginner's Guide to Couponing

Couponing at first seems pretty simple and fun, and it is. But when first couponing, you may find yourself quickly overwhelmed. In order to get started, you’ll need to locate sources for coupons, collect the coupons, and organize them.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It is, but the couponing process quickly becomes very time consuming. When beginning couponing, you will benefit from the help of someone who’s already started it and is doing it successfully on his or her own.

It will take you two or three months before you’re fully couponing, but you can get started today. Here’s how:

  1. First, determine the sources of your coupons. The two most important initial sources of coupons are newspapers and websites. Over time, you'll want more sources for coupons so you can 1) get enough of the coupons you want and 2) find coupons for different products and dates.

    If you're really brave, when couponing, some people will:
    • Ask their neighbors for the coupon inserts in the Sunday morning newspaper
    • Ask coffee shops they stop at for their newspaper's coupons
    • Stop by the local recycling center (nasty!) and ask to rummage through the recycled newspapers
    Purchase multiple copies of your local newspaper so you can maximize the sheer quantity of coupons available for use. Keep in mind different papers will have different coupons, so figure out which paper works best for your needs, and subscribe to that one.
  2. Consider purchasing a very cheap printer that can print in black and white. Couponing heavily relies on internet coupons, and most stores are fairly accepting of online coupons as long as they have a valid date, valid manufacturer address, and scannable bar code.

    If you do it right, you should only spend $30-$40 on a printer and another $40 or so on ink during the year. Don't ruin your couponing experience by spending way too much money on a printer and ink and losing all of your savings right away.
  3. Get organized. You can use whatever organization system you'd like, as long as it's simple and makes sense to you. If you're not the organized type, try using the “Binder Method.”

This method takes a little more up-front work, but it pays dividends if you commit to long-term couponing. Simply organize your coupons by category.

The cost for couponing set-up is cheap too: simply buy a 3-ring binder along with many plastic baseball card sheets. It works fantastic, and while couponing, you won’t miss out on any deals!

Now It’s Time to Determine Which Stores to Shop At

Couponing, if you’re really into it, means you look at the sales first, and then shop accordingly. If you choose to instead figure out what you want first and then make purchases, you’ll be missing out on many great deals!

How to Determine Where to Shop

First, remember stores already competing on price and have low prices (Wal Mart, Target) tend not to do too much to bring in couponing shoppers. This doesn’t mean you can’t begin couponing there, it just means you have to time things well and learn their selection a little better.

The opposite is true for stores with higher prices and who compete instead on quality. They’ll encourage couponing shoppers to enter the store with their sales, knowing typically they will end up buying full-price items also.

If you’re couponing though, don’t buy the high-price items unless they’re something you really need, and something you need now. Otherwise, you’re totally defeating the purpose of couponing.

By stockpiling large supplies of certain necessary items and shopping at multiple stores, you are maximizing the benefits of couponing.

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Pictures of Joanie Demer and Heather Wheeler

Joanie Demer and Heather Wheeler