I always used coupons but I did not get my start couponing like a boss right away.
I own my own daycare and have a family of four. It costs a lot to feed all those mouths every day. So, I was the mom who would get up on a Sunday morning, walk out and get the newspaper off the ground, head back in to grab a big cup of tea and start clipping.
I would fumble through the advertisements, see what was on sale, and try to plan my shopping trip. Any coupons I would cut would go into an envelope. I would then clean up my mess and throw anything leftover away.
On that same Sunday, I would head out to the store. I would grab a cart, and start filling it with things on my list. One by one, the cart would fill with things my family needed to make it through another week.
Once I had gotten everything on my list, I would head up to the checkout area. I would place all the items neatly on the belt and then grab my coupons.
But, to my surprise, they were not in my purse. In the rush of being an unorganized mom, I had left that envelope on the counter at home.
What do I do? Do I put all of this back and head home to get the coupons?
The answer was no. I would hope for the best, enjoy the savings from items on sale and wait until next weekend to try this all over again.
Learn To Coupon And Save Money
Then in 2011, I was introduced to a woman who was looking for childcare. She was a friend of a current family that I worked for.
When I heard her name, I was excited to meet her, obviously for the childcare opportunity, but because she was “extreme couponing”.
I had seen the shows on tv, but couldn’t figure out how anyone could do it. But, I was about to meet someone who might be able to help.
I met with her and began watching her child the following week. At the time she taught classes around the area on how to extreme coupons. I took a class and I was hooked. I wanted to run to the store that night and buy items, get them free and save money.
From then on, I didn’t shop without coupons. It was like a game.
How much could I save? What items could I get free? Are there things I could donate? It was so fun.
And because it is fun, and based on one of the biggest household expenses we have, I decided I wanted to share what I had learned.
Hacks To Start Couponing Like A Boss
Now that I have been into couponing for all of these years, I have learned a thing or two. But when I started out, there were some basics that got me interested and pointed me in the right direction. Simple things that will save you money and time.
Buy More Than One Newspaper
When you buy more than one newspaper, yes you are spending more money, but you are getting more coupons.
You can subscribe to your local newspaper for multiple papers to be delivered or you can head to the store to buy them. For a family of four, I usually have 6 – 8 newspapers.
This way I can buy more than one item when it is on sale. This will add to my stockpile.
Start Stockpiling Your Deals
Stockpiling is preparing your family for the future. Stores usually run sale cycles every 6 – 8 weeks. So, if an item is on sale that week, it won’t be for another month or so.
And if this is something your family needs on a weekly or monthly basis, you should try to plan ahead. Or if something is very cheap or free, you buy more to take advantage of the price at that time.
If dish soap ends up being $.29 each after the coupon, then buy 4 or 6. Put one in your kitchen, and the others in your stockpile. When you run out and don’t have to go to the store to buy it at a regular price of $1.99.
This is where you will really begin to appreciate your stockpile.
Organize Your Coupons
One of the biggest things I can recommend is to stay organized. Everyone is different and has different ways to coupon.
Some people organize their inserts in a file and pull them at the time needed to clip a coupon. Others cut every coupon out at once, and then keep the coupons in a binder or large envelope. Try both ways, and see what works for you.
Begin To Coupon Like A Pro
Take Advantage Of Sales
Stores want you to come into the store and spend hundreds of dollars. They pull you in by putting “Loss Leaders” on the front page of their flyers each week.
These are items that are discounted so much, that the store will actually take a loss when you buy them. It is the belief that when you enter that store to grab those grapes that are discounted, you won’t stop there.
You will run around and grab another $75.00 worth of items and make up for the loss they took on the grapes. You feel like you are getting a great deal, but they actually made more money off of you.
If you stick to the list and only buy the loss leaders, you will save money on the item and be ahead of the game.
If you can combine those sales with a coupon, you are guaranteed to get a great deal!
Utilize Coupon Websites To Save Time
Don’t do all the work on your own: There are many websites that go through the flyers, and sort out where to find coupons and the best time to use them.
Many of these websites like The Krazy Coupon Lady will have the information up to one week in advance so that you can plan ahead. Laundry detergent is going on sale next week, and there is a coupon in the upcoming Sunday paper?
Then I know I should buy more newspapers than usual.
Don’t Waste Money On Food
Pay attention to expiration dates. If you have bought 8 boxes of cereal for your family, but your family doesn’t eat that much cereal, it will end up going bad.
Expired food is a waste of time and money. You spent your time getting prepared for your shopping trip, heading to the store, buying the item and then putting it away when you get home.
Even if you spent little or nothing on the cereal, you still spent money on the newspaper to get the coupon. So, now you are out of the item, the time and money.
Extreme Couponing For Beginners
Use Couponing To Donate Food and Toiletries
Once you begin couponing, you will see there are many things you can get for free. Most of the time, these things end up being taxables and things you can use around your house.
Toothpaste, toothbrushes, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, and paper towels just to name a few.
If you can get extras with little or no cost, donate. There is always a local food pantry or place that takes donations. And these are the things that get overlooked often. Pass on your good deal to someone who needs it. You can read about the benefits of a food pantry here.
Start Small When Couponing For The First Time
When I shop, I go to multiple stores, depending on the deal, of items I need for my stockpile. However, when I first started out, I began using coupons at one store, and only did small transactions.
That way I could easily know what to expect, how much I was going to spend, and more importantly how much I would save.
Enjoy The Couponing Game
As I said at the beginning of this, it is like a game. If you are stressed, it is making you upset or angry, stop, look things over and start again.
It can be overwhelming.
Look over how you are keeping your coupons. Are you organized? Are you setting aside enough time to prepare for your trip? Make changes. Have fun.
Designate a specific time on Sunday to clip your coupons. If Sundays aren’t good, pick another day. Is the store too busy when you shop? Pick a better time.
Store peak times are weekends and dinner time. If you have the availability to go shopping at 11:00 AM on a Tuesday, you will thank me.
These are just some simple tips so you can start couponing like a boss. It takes time and it takes patience. But once you learn the basics, and start using them week after week, you will start to see the money you are saving.
It will be so rewarding! And it will only push you to want more.
Kimberly Butler is a mom and business owner in Queensbury. She has owned a childcare program for twenty years. She loves to save money, find bargains and search for sales. And of course……use coupons. Aside from her day job, she writes a weekly column for The Post-Star, as well as teaching a coupon class there. In her free time, she collects Pyrex, mason jars and anything vintage. She lives with her husband Bill, her two children Samantha and Aaron, and her 13-year-old black lab named Duke.