Couponlicious 101

Here are the basics to learning how to coupon and building your stockpile. Don’t be discouraged you don’t have to be a genius or math wizard to be a couponer.  You don’t even have to be extreme. I am just hoping to teach you how you can save money for you and your family’s budget. I get so excited when I save 80-90% of my shopping receipt or better yet when they pay me money….WooHoo!

Building a stockpile is not creating a mini mart in your home, but having enough products on hand to get you through the next sales cycle. Stores cycle most products approximately every 12 weeks. Keep in mind for seasonal sales, those products are at rock bottom pricing during their season.

Your main goal when couponing is to never pay full price for an item. You always want to pay ROCK BOTTOM PRICES! When using your coupons matched up with rock bottom prices you are likely to save 70-100% of the retail price.

I have had people tell me they don’t have a budget and can’t afford to build a stockpile. If this is the case for you, just build your stockpile with the FREE items. Couponing for free items is a great way to familiarize yourself with couponing. You wouldn’t believe all the items you will get for free.

*Be careful not to get crazy with only buying your for stockpile. I went a month without buying our everyday groceries, my husband couldn’t understand why I was shopping so much and we didn’t have anything to eat. I got so involved with my stockpile, I was building up my health and beauty I forgot to buy groceries J He once told me as I was walking out the door, “Honey, I don’t think I can eat anymore deodorant!” I literally had to remind my shopping buddy to make sure I buy FOOD!

Getting started:

Take 10% of your grocery budget and put that amount towards your stockpile purchases. The other 90% should go towards your everyday grocery purchases.

For example:
If your budget is $100.00/week
$90.00 will be spent on meals and daily necessities
$10.00 will be used for your stockpile

Try to plan your meals around your coupons and stockpile.
Eventually your will start spending less on your everyday groceries and that money will turn into “savings” for your to budget elsewhere.

How many people are in your household equals the number of coupon inserts or Sunday papers you need to buy.

For example: We have a household of 6, so I buy or use my coupon resources to have 6 Sunday papers/coupon inserts each week. Utilize your resources to get your inserts for free, buying those papers each week can really add up!
* See Couponlicious 102

Price Book
Start compiling a list of items/brands you use. You will want to get a notebook and list all of your favorite items and keep track of the prices and sales.  
Keeping track of your price list will help you figure out when or when not to buy an item. You want to always buy your stock pile items at ROCK BOTTOM prices.

Products will cycle approximately every 12 weeks, so don’t beat yourself up if you missed a deal. It will cycle back. I have noticed if I missed a deal at one store, the competition usually runs the same sale the next week. Some products are seasonal and you will get very familiar with those products. For instance, you should stock up on the BBQ items from Memorial Day to Labor Day, if not by winter you will be paying full price for those items.

Be brand flexible. You will not have to worry about purchasing generic brands when couponing, but your favorite brand might not always be the best deal. This is a great way to try new products that you normally wouldn’t buy.

Understanding how coupons work.

Coupons are like dollar amounts to me. I use them instead of cash and treat them the same way. The coupon amounts will always vary, depending on the manufacturer.
Familiarize yourself with the stores you will be shopping in. Do they double coupons? And up to what amount? Just for the record “double coupon” means the store will double the coupon value. I love it when someone tells me they tried to use 2 coupons for one item because they thought that’s what double coupons meant.

For example: Dawn dish liquid is on sale for $1.00
                       You have a $.50 off coupon
And your store doubles which makes the coupon worth $1.00
                        Final cost would be: FREE

You can always tell if a coupon will double because the first digit in the barcode will be a 5. If the coupon will not double, the first digit in the barcode will be a 9.
Some stores will double up to $.99 cents.
Matching your coupons with the sale ads will stretch your dollar very far.

Coupon matchup
This means to match up the coupons with the best store deals. You can look at the ads in your papers and mailers to match up your coupons or you can just check out what the bloggers are listing. The bloggers will post all of the match ups and you can just print your list and most of the coupons from their websites. This makes life so much easier. Don’t you just love technology?

Coupon lingo
When you become familiar with couponing and reading the blogs/websites you will notice we have our own language. It will drive you crazy if you aren’t familiar with the acronyms. I have compiled a list of the coupon lingo on my blog for you to reference.

Once you have done the matchups and gathered your coupons together you are ready to go shopping.

Always check your favorite stores coupon policy!!! They can be found on my policy page or on the store’s website. You should keep a copy of the store’s policy in your binder or with you just in case you need to reference it. Sometimes the employees are not up to date with new policy changes.

Here are a few helpful hints to make your couponing trip easier:

Have a separate envelope or zipper pouch to put your coupons in that you will need at checkout. I have a zipper pouch that I clamp onto the shopping cart. When I place the item in my cart, I also put that coupon in my pouch to ensure I have all of my coupons needed for checkout.
Always make sure you matched the right item with the one on sale. Sometimes the shelves can get messy and the item you need will be with the wrong size item. Be sure to always check the ounces and such.
When checking out, try to watch your cashier scanning your items and coupons. You want to ensure that you are getting the right amounts deducted.

Profiling.  Another thing you might have heard was to “profile” your cashier. I totally believe in this. You will have a better shopping experience. I will avoid anyone who has a miserable look on their face. First of all I am shopping, getting my “coupon high” and I don’t want anyone to ruin that for me. Second, you might be checking out for a while, if you have a fistful of coupons it might take you 30 minutes just to check out! You will want someone who can be patient with this. I usually look for the younger kids or men. I don’t know why but that has just been my experience. Nothing is worse than having some miserable person telling you how couponing is going to stop and making you feel like you are stealing from their company or doing something illegal!

Where to find Coupons
There are a lot of resources for acquiring coupons; you just need to know where to find them. You don’t have to go dumpster diving, although I have reach inside a garbage can before to get a coupon insert J

Here are some helpful ways to get those coupons:

Newspapers- this is where you will find your coupon inserts such as Smart Source, Valassis, and GM (General Mills) These coupons inserts are distributed on a weekly basis. The Procter and Gamble insert is only distributed once a month and that’s usually at the beginning. Be sure to check the SUNDAY PREVIEW to see when it will be coming out.
Red Plum will either come in the mail or your Sunday paper.
All coupons in the newspapers are regional so we don’t all get the same coupons or the same inserts in our newspapers.
Remember- There are no coupons on a holiday weekend!!!

In store- look on store shelves for blinkies, tearpads, peelies, coupons may also be on the product itself. Don’t forget to peel those off and use them.
Also look for coupons to print out at the register-
Catalinas will list the ongoing Catalina deals.

Online- I always find the high value coupons online. I have had many shopping trips just using printables. This is one of my main resources for coupons.
One very important suggestion that I do have is to set up and email account just for couponing. Most companies will ask you to sign up for their newsletter before they will allow you to access the coupon. This will prevent your regular email from getting overloaded.

Printable coupons- You can print a coupon twice per computer. NEVER EVER photocopy a coupon! It’s against the law. There is also a barcode on the coupon and each one is different. Here are some popular sites to get your coupons You can sign up for this site and earn points for coupons

Direct from the manufacturer- check manufacturer websites for printable coupons or contact companies (by mail, e-mail or phone) to request coupons, Also don’t rule out FACEBOOK. Many companies use Facebook for marketing. I always check the manufacturer’s website and Facebook for my favorite brands.

Frequent Shopper Cards- sign up and get a frequent shopper card for the stores that you shop, and you may be rewarded with special coupon mailings. Also, some stores offer E-COUPONS. E-coupons are nice because you can just go on the store website and load them onto your card.
Here are a few other e-coupon sites that you can register your reward card and they will deposit the coupon or savings directly to your card or account:
Magazines- publications such as All you, Woman's Day, Red Book, Family Circle, Weight Watchers and Good Housekeeping frequently carry manufacturer coupons.
Friends, Family and Coworkers- Ask them to give you the coupons they are not using. You will be surprised as to how many coupon inserts you will be able to accumulate. I always give my coupon donors a “thank you” bag of the freebies I get from couponing.

How to Keep Coupons Organized

There are lots of ways to organize coupons; the key is to find the approach that works best for you.

Options to consider:

The Filing Method- Leaving the coupon inserts intact and clipping coupons on an "as-needed" basis. With this method all you need to do is write the date on the front page of the insert and file according to date. The date is always located on the spine of the coupon.
You can use a filing crate or cabinet to put your inserts in. You can also use a binder and put the inserts inside a clear sleeve. I used large Ziploc bags when I first started couponing. I would put the insert in a Ziploc and just date the bags.
When you plan a shopping trip you just print your shopping list from your favorite blog (Couponlicious) and I use envelopes to keep my coupons sorted. I just mark the store name on the front and put my clipped coupons and list inside each envelope. I got this great organizer from Thirty-One and it keeps all of my envelopes organized and there are pockets for my scissors and pen. There is also another little pocket I will put the coupons inside if the store is out of that product.

My opinion: This method works best when you have more than 10 inserts a week. And you don’t have time to clip all of the inserts each week.

The Binder Method- I prefer the zippered binders to ensure the coupons don’t fall out. What you need for this is a binder, dividers and sleeves. There are different ways to organize your binder. First you must label your dividers; there are many ways to do this. Labeling your dividers will be a personal preference.
You can label them by manufacturer name or by category. For example dairy, frozen foods, shaving, oral hygiene, etc. I sorted my labels by category and I put them in my binder in sequence to the aisles of the store I shop at the most. Once you have completed that you need to put it all together. Within each category divider you should put 1-2 sleeves in between. I have the 9 pocket, 6 pocket, 4 pocket and 3 pocket sleeves in my binder. You can order these online or find them at a local hobby store. Now that you have your binder set up you can clip all of your coupons and file them inside the sleeve pockets. I like this method because you have all of your coupons with you at all times. I have gotten some great unadvertised clearance deals by using my binder.

My opinion: This method works best if you don’t have time everyday to cut and plan your entire shopping trip. The binder method is more work, but the time balances out for you during the week. I can clip all of my coupons (with the help of my fabulous daughters) then all I need to do is print my shopping list and go.

Whichever approach you choose, there are several things that you can do to ensure that your coupons remain neat and accessible:

File coupons as soon as you can! Okay, so you may not always have time to file your coupons right away, but try, this will prevent them from getting lost, and save you the hassle of having to sort through a big mess of coupons all at once. I have had huge piles of coupons that took over my living room floor!!! It can get exhausting and overwhelming if you fall behind. Just remember to tell yourself that it’s okay if you missed a deal, it will always cycle back around J

Purge regularly. Expired coupons won't save you money! Set a schedule for purging expired coupons. Military folks overseas can use our expired coupons so find a resource for donating your expired coupons.

Check out my friend Sarah over at Raining Hot Coupons she has some fabulous videos on organizing your coupons and she also sells the binders!
My friend Maureen at Save and Share with Coupons sells sleeves for the binders!

Here’s another method that I just found out about….check it out

Introducing a new way to organize your coupons! The My Coupon Closet is the newest and easiest way to organize. It was created for the busy family who want to continue to coupon, but cannot find time to get it all done. It has everything you need -perfect for the beginner or the experienced couponer.

Right now for a limited time, you can get FREE shipping when you enter the code
Your purchase will include:
60 white custom coupon files to organize your manufacturer coupons. These are manufactured just for coupon use.
5 green custom coupon files for your store coupons (All custom files are closed on three sides so you never have to worry about coupons slipping out.)
1 pair of scissors and 1 pen A separator to store all your supplies
A Plastic box with snap on lid to store your new files
A Free Bag to carry your new organizer.


There are so many variations of coupon jargon. I have compiled a list of the most common abbreviations that I use. This will help you interpret the blogs when you are reading the coupon match up deals.

Q or CPN-Coupon
MQ or MFR- Manufacturers Coupon
BOGO- Buy one get one free
B2G1F- Buy two get one Free
Peelies- coupons that are usually found on the product
Blinkie- the machine at the stores that will spit out coupons
TEAR PAD- coupon pad hanging on a shelf
CAT-Catalina coupon- manufacturer and store promotion coupons that print out with your receipts
OOP-Out of Pocket Expense
YMMV-Your Mileage May Vary- meaning the deal may be regional
FAR-Free After Rebate
MIR- Mail in rebate
SCR- Single check rebate
POP-Proof of purchase (like a product label or UPC)
AY- All You Magazine
DND- Does not double
ONYO- On your next order
WYB- When you buy
ALA- As low as
PG-Proctor & Gamble coupon insert
SS-Smart Source coupon insert
RP- Red Plum coupons insert
GM- General Mills insert

CVS- ECB Extra Care Bucks- Catalina money
RITE AID- Up Reward- this will print out on your Rite Aid receipt
WALGREENS- RR- Register Reward -Catalina money
Wags- Walgreens

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