Getting Started

I realized this morning that I've developed the content of this blog around the assumption that everyone uses coupons on some level. Just because I was raised by a mom who was super-skilled, doesn't mean that everyone had the same experience. So, I'm going to attempt to write a getting started guide for those who aren't quite sure how to get started!

Some of the common questions I hear from people when we talk about coupons include, where do I get the coupons? How do you get SO many? How should I store them? What about expiration dates? I'll start by addressing these questions.

Where to Get Coupons & How I Get So Many

The best answer I can offer here is get them anywhere you can!

Weekly Grocery Sale Flyers
Every week, you receive grocery store ads. In with those ads, you will find coupon inserts. Sometimes 1, sometimes more! If for some reason, you don't get the grocery ads it means that a previous occupant may have opted-out. If that's your situation, let me know and I might be able to help you start receiving them.

I live in Pittsburgh and both of our major Sunday newspapers seem to include the same inserts each week. This is apparently not true in all markets. Subscribe to the Sunday paper, or pick it up for $1.50, chances are you will save at least that much. If there's a coupon that I REALLY want, I will buy extra papers.

I heard that All You magazine contains a LOT of valuable coupons. So, I subscribed. I have yet to get the first issue, but I'll update when I know for sure if it was worth it.

You would probably be very surprised to know that people get the Sunday paper to "read" it. That's beyond me, I read news online. But, if they "read" the paper, maybe they throw out their coupons and will just give them to you. It never hurts to ask!

My library has a basket of coupon inserts that people don't want or need. You can take extras and throw them in and get some coupons you need. I try to drop off pet food coupons once a week, although I don't always make it.

I have a list of sites on the right side of the blog where you can find coupons online. Most stores will take online coupons if they are from legitimate distributors. There are people who put out fraudulent coupons, so cashiers tend to be suspicious of anything over $2 off. Most stores also won't take "free" coupons for items, even if they are legitimate.

Buy Them
Until this week, I'd never considered this as an option. However, if there's a coupon that makes an item FREE and it's something you use all of the time, it's worth it to spend a few dollars for 10-20 coupons! I bought 30 planters peanut butter coupons for about $3. TOTALLY worth it to me because we go through a LOT of peanut butter.

How to Store Your Coupons
I think I've seen everything. I know some people who keep the entire inserts and just take a coupon out when they need it, people who sort by expiration date and people who sort by brand. None of those solutions would work for me but if it works for you, then great!

Here's what I do:

I use a large expandable file folder with the following divisions (and subdivision done by business sized envelopes):

Home (cleaning products, batteries, home misc, laundry, air fresheners, paper products)
Health & Beauty (Cosmetics, hair products, deodorant, shaving, feminine, soap/shower, baby)
Prepared (Canned, condiments, pasta/sauce, mac and cheese, bread, other)
Dairy (yogurt, butter/cream cheese, other, cheese, other)
Other (take out, bookstore, haircuts, etc)
For Others (pet food, or whatever I can't use)

I have a smaller expandable folder that I use for my shopping trips that is divided by transactions and I normally throw in some extra coupons that I MIGHT use, should I find a great deal. I only do multiple transactions in the case where I'm using more than 12 identical coupons, or I am using my mom's advantage card for an eOffer that I've used, or if it's a catalina deal (where you get X amount of money off next order,etc.) because generally you can only get ONE per transaction.

Expiration Dates
Because I use envelopes within my expandable, I can grab an envelope and check for expired. After a while, you start to see a cycle. All proctor and gamble coupons generally expire in a month. I try to sit down Sunday morning and pull out the expired coupons before adding the new ones. I'll be the first to admit that I miss some or just don't get around to checking them enough. So, always look at the expiration dates when pulling out your coupons. (If you shop at a PX, they will sometimes accept expired coupons - but ASK!)