Coupon 101: Where Do I Find Coupons?

A common question I get from many newbie couponers is, where do I find coupons?  There are many different types of coupons, and you should take advantage of them ALL!

The bigger your coupon stash, the bigger your savings!  In order to maximize your savings, you need to build a stockpile that’s suitable for your family.  In order to build that stockpile, you need to get your hands on enough coupons to purchase the items your family needs in large quantities, when they are at their rock-bottom price.

  • The Sunday Newspaper – Your Sunday paper is still the primary and most reliable place to find coupons.  Your best bet is to subscribe to home delivery, and to subscribe to MULTIPLE copies.  I recommend 4-6 newspapers a week (1 per family member is a good guide).  Why?  Because you’ll get 4-6 of each coupon that comes out that week!  If peanut butter hits a rock bottom price, you’ll have enough coupons to purchase enough to last your family until that rock bottom price rolls around again (about 3 months)!  A Sunday-only subscription should be very reasonable, and it will very likely pay for itself in ONE shopping trip.  You will save HUNDREDS of dollars a month.  HUNDREDS.  (You can find discount newspaper subscriptions right here on this site… CLICK HERE)  If you want to save the maximum amount each month – get yourself multiple Sunday papers!
  • Clipping Services – There are several sources on the web that sell pre-clipped coupons, and even full inserts.  This is a great way to obtain additional coupons for items that you are trying to build a stockpile for.  I typically will purchase additional coupons for items that my family consumes every day.  This is also a great way to get your hands on some of the regional coupons that may not have been available in your local paper.  For example, if your region received a $1/2 coupon on pasta sauce, and other regions received a $1/1 coupon, it might be worth it to purchase the $1/1 if it’s an item that you consume regularly!  NEVER pay for coupons unless you are going to use them.  Also be careful to watch the expiration dates and sale dates to make sure you’ll have time to use them.
  • Internet Printable Coupons – Nearly all stores accept Internet coupons.  There are several sources for internet coupons, the most popular sites being: Coupons.comSmartSource, RedPlum, Hopster and Common Kindness.  The downside to internet coupons is that they have print limits.  In most cases, you can print (2) copies of each coupon from each computer.  However, the manufacturers’ also put an overall print limit on each offer, so if you see something you want or need, your best to print it right away before it runs out of prints.
  • Electronic Coupons or E-Coupons -E-Coupons are the newest form of coupons available today.  These require no clipping or printing, but instead are loaded directly to your store loyalty cards.  There are several sources for e-Coupons, including SavingStar, Cellfire, PGeSaver, Upromise, and my new favorites… Ibotta and Checkout 51!  You can also find e-Coupons on many of the grocery store sites, such as Kroger (Ralphs in SoCal), and Safeway (Vons in SoCal).
  • Catalina Coupons – These are coupons that are generated during checkout.  You’ve probably seen the gray square machines at the registers at some of the stores you shop in.  They print out long, receipt-like coupons or advertisements at the end of your transaction.  Always pay attention to what the cashier hands you at the end of your transaction.  You wouldn’t dream of throwing away MONEY, would you?  Coupons are money!  Catalina coupons can be tied to a specific product (i.e. $1/1 Jar Skippy Peanut Butter) or they can be store specific (i.e. $2.00 Off Your Next Shopping Trip, Courtesy of Skippy).  The latter can be combined with manufacturer coupons and can be used to purchase almost anything in the store (restrictions may apply to items like alcohol, tobacco, etc.).  Catalina Coupons can be advertised offers, or completely random.
  • Blinkies – These are manufacturers coupons that are dispensed from the small automatic machines that are found in stores on the grocery aisles, etc.  The dispensers are usually affixed to the shelves, or attached to the refrigerator/freezer cases, near the product they are advertising.  We call them ‘Blinkies’ because they usually have a flashing red light on them that flashes as it dispenses the coupons, one at a time.  Since these are manufacturer coupons, you can use them at ANY store, not just the one you found the coupon in!
  • Tearpads – Tearpads just as they sound… a pad of manufacturer’s coupons found near the product being advertised.  These too, are manufacturer coupons, and may be used at any store for the product referenced in the coupon.
  • Peelies – These are manufacturer coupons that are attached to a product’s packaging.  You will need to ‘peel’ the coupon off of the package in order to redeem it.  However, you do NOT have to redeem it right away (you may have a better coupon in your binder), or even on the specific product it was attached to.  Read the coupon terms and use it as you would any other coupon type.  Often times it is best to purchase the smallest size that the coupon allows in order to maximize your savings.
  • ALL YOU Magazine – This is a must-have magazine for serious couponers.  It is published monthly, and each issue is loaded with money-saving coupons.  This is magazine more than pays for itself!
  • Store Coupons – A store coupon is a discount from the STORE or Retailer vs. the manufacturer.  Unlike manufacturer coupons, this comes out of the store’s profit.  Often these are found in the weekly circulars (i.e. Vons or Walgreens.)  You may also find store coupons on the store’s website.  For example, Target offers several STORE coupons on their site, and they also have a brand new Target Cartwheel program for even more savings!  Manufacturer’s coupons very clearly state ‘manufacturer coupon’ on them.  If they are not labeled as a manufacturer coupon, it is almost a guarantee that it’s a Store coupon.  We LOVE store coupons!   You are allowed to STACK (use more than 1 coupon on the same item) them with a manufacturer coupon for extreme savings!
  • Coupon Database – I have a great coupon database right HERE on this site!  Looking for a coupon for something that isn’t on sale or included in my weekly match-ups?  Be sure to search the database!  The database includes coupons from various sources… inserts, printable, electronic, package inserts… you name it!

 

* This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy HERE.

Reminder: Shop The Clearance Section!

Just a quick reminder to always shop the CLEARANCE area in your stores! You’ll find items on clearance for all sorts of reasons.  Sometimes even if the manufacturer changes the packaging slightly.

One of my favorite stores to do this in, is Vons (Safeway).  Today I was able to get this 40ct Box of Foster Farms Mini Corn Dogs for ONLY $1.77… with no Coupons!  I’m not sure why these were on clearance today.  They don’t expire until June 2013, and there were several boxes… all in perfect condition!  (Clearance does vary by store, but you might want to check your store to see if you find this deal too.)

Here’s how my transaction went to day:

***DEAL SCENARIO***
Foster Farms Mini Corn Dogs 40ct – $6.99
Less 50% OFF Clearance – Deducted $3.50
Less $1.72 – My Just For U Personalized Price was $5.27 ($6.99 – $5.27 = $1.72)
= $1.77 (75% Savings)

At Vons, the bright orange clearance stickers have the regular price of the item on them, just above the big 50% OFF.  The bar code on that sticker is tied to the regular price that is listed.  You can see in my picture that my orange sticker has a regular price of $6.99, which is why it deducted $3.50 for my 50% savings.  Now, if these were on SALE for less than $6.99, or if you have a personalized price that is less (like I did), it will still deduct the  50% OFF based on the price printed on the sticker.  If there was a manufacturer coupon available, I could have used that too!

I do this ALL THE TIME at Vons…. it’s awesome.  I’ve picked up Tide for $0.99, snagged dog biscuits for FREE… even scored large tubs of ice cream for $0.50!  I never leave the store without checking both the clearance cart as well as the freezer clearance.  If you aren’t sure where these areas are in your store, be sure to ask!  It’s obviously going to be hit or miss, but there are some GREAT DEALS if you just take the time to look!

If you aren’t already aware, Vons (Safeway) has an APP for the Just For U program.  Download it to your phone.  You can load coupons to your card while you’re shopping in the store and they will be ready to use immediately!  If you don’t have a smart phone… many stores have computers set up at the front of the store near the registers where you can access your account. Take advantage of them!

Where do you find the Best Clearance Deals?

* This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy HERE.

Extreme Couponing Tip – Shop Your Grocery Clearance!

If you’ve been around here long, I’m sure you’ve seem my many posts about my clearance finds at Target.  I wanted to point out to everyone that the grocery stores have clearance sections too!  If you don’t find it, make sure to ask customer service where it is.

I had to run out to the grocery stores this morning to pick up this week’s sales circulars since they didn’t find their way to my mailbox yesterday.  I’ve had all (5) kids at home for the last few weeks (year-round school = fall break) and needless to say the older boys were starting to complain about me not having any ‘food’ in the house.  (Their definition of ‘food’ consists of Pop Tarts, cookies, chips, candy and the like… all of which seem to disappear like lightning around here!)  I decided to pick up a few items from Vons while I was there, just to tide them over.

I ALWAYS shop the clearance section.  You never know what you might find.  Sometimes the packaging has changed, sometimes the box is dented, other times it’s over-stock… you never know!  This morning I found these boxes of Tide Free & Gentle 40-load on the clearance cart with 50% Off stickers on them.  These were originally priced at $9.99, and $5.00 isn’t really a bargain in my book for laundry detergent.  However, Tide is on SALE this week for $5.99.  ALWAYS check to see what the prices are on the shelf because the item will scan at the sale price, AND you still will get the 50% discount off the SHELF PRICE!

My (3) boxes of Tide each scanned for $5.99, and an additional $3.00 came off each box from my 50% off stickers.  $2.99 is a much better price.  BUT… of course I had my coupon binder with me and I had (3) of the $2/1 Tide or Gain Powder Detergent (SS 9/11/11) coupons with me! 

I got $29.97 worth of TIDE detergent for $2.97… or 90% SAVINGS!

How’s $0.99 each for 40-load boxes of Tide? 

* This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy HERE.

Coupon 101: Meet The Direct-Link Coupon Widget!

I’m sure that you’ve noticed this colorful widget in my sidebar, but I haven’t really pointed it out, or explained what it is!

This is a dynamic widget that lists the (15) most recent coupons added to Coupons.com!  See the scrollbar on the right side?  You can pull up or down on it to see additional available coupons!  Best of all, each of the coupons you see has a direct-link to that specific coupon.  No need to waste time searching for it… simply click and print!  EASY!  (Note: If the coupon is in the widget, it’s still available to print… if it’s run out of prints, it won’t appear in the widget.)

Be sure to look at the widget each time you visit my site, in case you see something new before I do!

* This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy HERE.

New Coupon Database is LIVE!

As of this morning, my New Coupon Database is LIVE!

You can access it by simply clicking on the ‘Coupon Database’ image in the right sidebar, or by navigating through the menu under ‘Coupons’!

I am so excited to be able to offer this tool to my readers!  Now, if you need to purchase an item and don’t see it listed in my weekly match-ups, you can easily search for it in my database!


Head over and check it out and let me know what you think!

* This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy HERE.

Reader Question: How Do You Organize Coupons?


Reader Mary, sent in a question yesterday, and askedHOW DO YOU RECOMMEND ORGANIZING COUPONS?

Well… let me start by saying that what’s right for one, may or may not, be right for another.  This is all about what works best for YOU.  If you are new to couponing all together, I would recommend that you experiment with a few different methods before you race down to Office Max and drop all of your newly-found coupon savings on a new filing system.

I personally, started out using a plastic file box designed for index cards.  I added tabbed dividers inside to separate the major categories (produce, meats, freezer, etc.).  As I got more serious about couponing, I quickly outgrew my small box and upgraded to a shoe-box sized plastic box with a lid (picked it up at Target for around $2).  Fortunately I was able to use the same tabbed dividers I already had, and just transferred my system over.  My new box fit nicely in the cart (where your child is supposed to ride), and that became my best-ever excuse of why it was important that I did the grocery shopping ALONE (still working today, I might add!).

It wasn’t until last year, that I found my Happy Place of Coupon Organization.  Yes, I am one of ‘THOSE WOMEN’ that lug a 5-inch binder into the grocery store, each and every time I shop.  I never thought my coupon binder would attract more attention out in public than my triplets do, but let me tell you… it does!  {TLC’s Extreme Couponing television show added quite a bit of hype.  Couponing is da’ bomb right now!  (By the way… did you know that the average couponer today has a household income of over $75,000?)}

I have really excelled in my couponing over the last year, and I owe it 100% to my binder, aka my 6th child (this one is a GIRL!).  I LOVE this system.  I can find a coupon in a matter of seconds while shopping, whereas before I had to flip through a stack of coupons within a category.  Regardless of what method you choose, an absolute MUST in my mind is to keep them organized by category.  If you get stressed out trying to FIND a coupon, then you are most likely to throw in the towel before you reach your full savings potential.  I am saving more money now, because my coupons are more accessible! 

If you are interested in starting with, or converting to the Coupon-Binder method, you will need the following items:

  • 3-Ring Binder (Mine is now a 5″, but I started with a 3″)
  • Baseball Card Holders (I bought a box of 100 from Amazon for around $15, but they sell them everywhere in smaller quantities.  Mine are standard 9 pockets/page)
  • Sheet Protectors or Tabbed Dividers (to separate your categories)

The initial set up is easy, but time consuming… especially if you are moving over from another system.  For me, the end result was worth it.

  • Determine your categories.  You can have as many or as few as you like…. and they may change over time as you get into your groove.
  •  Label your dividers with your chosen categories and put them into the binder.
  • Insert your baseball card holders behind each category divider.  I would start with (1) per category and then just add them as you need to.  Some categories will have multiple pages, others might be fine with one.
  • Add your coupons!  You will need to fold some of the coupons in order to fit them into the sleeves.  The printable coupons fit nicely if you just fold them in half.  (I like to keep a few sheet protectors on hand for the rare occasion a giant coupon prints out… it happens.)  Make sure if you have multiple expiration dates for the same coupon, that you put the 1st to expire on top!
  • Maintenance.  Each week when you add new coupons, make sure to also scan for expired ones.  I find it easiest to do this while filing since I’m already flipping through the pages anyway.  Since the first to expire are on top, you shouldn’t have to look too hard.

Before you shop, get organized!   Some final tips…

  • Choose your store.  There is no need when you are first starting out, to hit every store in town.  It’s ok to miss a deal.  You will live.  Once you get the hang of things you will likely want to shop more, but for now, let’s start slow
  • Pull out the coupons that you already know you are going to use, and clip them to your list.  This applies to whatever system you decide on… binder, file box, accordion file, wadded up in your purse(!)
  • Take all of your coupons to the store with you.  If you (inevitably) opt to purchase additional items not on your list, flip to see if you have coupons for those items.  If you do, clip those to your list along with the others.  (Tip: Always take a peek at the clearance carts.  You can often pick up something for free or almost free if you pay attention.)
  • By the time you get to the check-out, you will have a nice stack of coupons ready to hand over to the cashier.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back, and maybe even the cashier a high-five, when you hear how much you saved!

As I said before, what works for ME may not be the best option for YOU.  I would love to hear how you organize your coupons… what’s working for you?  What’s NOT?

 

* This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy HERE.