Extreme couponing has been catapulted into the spotlight and many people are interested in saving large amounts of money on their weekly grocery bill.
This article is part two in a series on Couponing 101. If you’re just surfing in, you’ll want to start with part 1: Setting a budget.
Obviously the most important part of coupon shopping is the coupons. There are two elements to this step – gathering coupons and organizing them. Before you start gathering coupons, it is helpful to make a list, either mentally or on paper, of your most often-purchased brands and items. Knowing what you shop for will help you determine if acquiring a particular coupon is worth your time. Of course, you will come across coupons for products you don’t normally purchase. This is a great way to try something new, but be sure you are not falling into the easy trap of purchasing an item just because you have a coupon for it.
There are lots of places to find coupons, both online and off. However, the best place for someone new to couponing is the local newspaper. The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram carries one or more coupon booklets each Sunday. You can view a schedule of which inserts will be available each Sunday from DFW blogger LeAnn at Mommy’s Wish List. This will help you decide when to skip the paper and when to grab an extra one or two. For those just starting out, I recommend purchasing one paper each week that coupons will be included.
Once you’ve gotten a large pile of coupons, you’re going to need some way to keep up with them. It won’t help you save anything if you know you have a coupon for something but cannot find it! There are several popular organization techniques. Find the one that works best for you.
Ring binder with baseball card holders
This works well for those who regularly clip coupons from multiple papers and have several of each kind. Each page can hold coupons of a particular category, such as cereal, while each pocket holds coupons for a particular product.
Pros: very organized
Cons: potentially large and heavy
Recipe box with dividers
This works well for those who have a pretty substantial coupon stock, but don’t want to go quite as big as a ring binder. Each divider can be labeled with a category.
Pros: sits nicely in the seat of your shopping cart, assuming that space is not occupied by a child
Cons: popular category dividers may become crowded, making it harder to find a specific coupon
Accordion folder with labeled tabs
This container is similar to the recipe box, but more compact. It is a single piece, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing extra pages or dividers.
Pros: fits in your purse or reusable bag
Cons: limited number of tabs for categories
Everyone has to start somewhere. If you’ve only got a handful of coupons, dropping them in a business envelope will make toting them to the store easier than stuffing them in your wallet.
Pros: simple, convenient
Cons: easy to outgrow after a few weeks of coupon clipping
Regardless of which organization technique you use, or if you even make up another one, be sure its one you are comfortable with. Label your categories intuitively. While one person may choose to label based on the store aisles – cookies/crackers, pasta, canned goods – another may prefer to label based on how the items will be used – breakfast, snacks, baking.
After you’ve gathered your resources, its time to make a shopping list. This article is part 2 in an ongoing series. Part 3: Making a shopping list is available now. Subscribe to free email updates and don’t miss a single article.