I hope this is a good how-to to get you started in couponing. It really is very easy, but let's all remember to leave some for others. If there are only two mustards left on the shelf, okay, take them. But, if there are 80 mustards and you take all 80, you're asking for bad karma! Okay, I've said my peace on clearing shelves. :) Let's move on.
The number one question I get from people is "Where do you get your coupons?" Well, like everyone else, I get them from the paper. I take the time to cut them all out myself, too. Crazy, huh? But, that's what I have to do to save LOADS of money for my family! Now, I have learned to go get one or two early edition papers from Walgreens or Randall's on Saturday. I double check that the papers I'm picking have coupons in them as well. I highly advise against getting your paper from gas stations/convenience stores because "someone" usually takes out all the coupons and you pay $2 to recycle the entire paper. What a waste of time and effort and money. I also have a subscription to my metro area paper (the Houston Chronicle), but a lot of times my delivery person skips me, hence, the reason I decided to make sure I get at least ONE early edition each week. You don't know how many times I've been left with no coupons on Sunday afternoon and regret it for WEEKS when I see a great deal that I didn't get the coupon for. Can you say AGGRAVATING?!? Lastly, you should clip every single coupon in your paper. A lot of times, things you would never expect to buy will make you money and you can donate the item to a local women's shelter, food bank, or your church + it leaves you feeling good about yourself to be able to give back!
I also print some coupons, but only the ones I truly need. I suggest that if you find a good deal in the blogs (I'll get to those later) that has a link to print a coupon, make sure you don't already have the paper coupon. There are a few different websites you can use to print your coupons: SmartSource, RedPlum, and Coupons.com. You can also "like" manufacturers on Facebook or sign up on the manufacturer's websites and get coupons there.
Now let's get to how you should organize your coupons. Everyone has a different way of organizing their coupons but this is the way I've found is best for me. You need a 2-3" binder. Bigger is better in this case because you don't want to have to change it later. You will also need 40-50 dividers and a minimum of 60 baseball card sheets. I made a category for everything from dairy and yogurt to hair care, oral care, and beauty. I have about 38 categories + a miscellaneous, and a divider for each store as well. My stores are Randalls, Kroger, Target, Walgreens, CVS, HEB, and Walmart. Behind every store's divider I have the store's coupon policy. This is the only thing I have behind my Walmart and HEB dividers. In my binder, I also have a stock up price spreadsheet from ForTheMommas and the The Krazy Coupon Lady's Sales Cycles. I also have a list from The Krazy Coupon Lady's website that says how long items last such as peanut butter, evaporated milk, etc., but I can't locate it at the moment on the site. I have all of these lists and policies in sheet protectors in my binder. Make sure you keep the weekly ads in your binder as well. I also have a pocket for coupons that haven't been organized, scissors, and a magic marker - all for just in case.
Once you have all your coupons organized, you can start deal hunting. Yay! Almost the most fun part! I suggest visiting the following blogs daily to make sure you know about all the great deals. You don't want to miss anything. KCL, Couponing To Disney, For The Mommas, and I'm sure you'll find more that you like as well.
I like to make a list of all my deals I plan to get when I go out. Sometimes I get them all, sometimes I don't. Don't let it get you down if you miss out on something or there isn't as great a deal at your local store that one of the blogs found at their store. Also, be sure you take your binder with you to the store every single time. A lot of times you'll notice something on sale that you missed on the blogs and you'll be kicking yourself if you don't have your binder. Additionally, you can use coupons on clearance items so make sure you always have that baby with you!
Now on to the stores.
Randall's: Here (as in the Houston area), they triple up to $.39 and double up to $.50. They also have "Catalinas" which are coupons that print out at the register. Be sure you know what you should be getting Catalinas from so you can make sure you get them all. The KCL has a post that is updated regularly so you know what Catalinas you should be getting. They also have coupon booklets around the store so make sure you get these! These are considered store coupons so they are stackable with manufacturer coupons. :) You'll get the best deals stacking SALES with store coupons, with manufacturer coupons, with catalinas from previous trips.
Kroger: Discontinuing their d/t coupon program on Wednesday, April 13th, in the Houston area. BOOOOOOOOOOO Kroger!!!! Not much else to write home about here.
Walgreens: They have coupon booklets each month at the front of the store with the ads. Get one (or 5). Also, you can use these coupons with the in-ad coupons. The in-ad coupons are not deals you get just by going to the store. You MUST have the ad and have them scan the in-ad coupon to get this price! You can stack sales with the the coupon booklet coupons, with in-ad coupons, with manufacturer coupons, with Register Rewards for maximum savings. Register Rewards are Walgreens "bucks" you can use on your next purchase just like money (except for alcohol, tobacco, etc.). Note: you can not get RR's for one item and use them in the next transaction to get the same item and get additional RR's. For example: If I buy a pack of Huggies and get $2 RR's, I can't buy another pack of Huggies and use the $2 RR's and get another $2 RR's. I would need to use the $2 RR's for something else like toothbrushes or whatever else is on your list.
CVS: CVS is fabulous! First, make sure you have a CVS card. When you go to the store, make sure you scan your card at the coupon center in the middle of the store. It will print out coupons for you there. Scan it until it says, "No more coupons today. Try again tomorrow." CVS gives ECB's (Extra Care Bucks) which are just like Walgreens RR's except that they have a limit of how many times you can get the ECB for each item since they can track it with a card. Pretty genius for them! Again, you can stack sales with manufacturer coupons plus ECB's for maximum savings.
Target: One of the most fun stores ever to shop at now that I know what I'm doing. Target is SO cool because you can stack Target coupons (you can print them from their website) plus manufacturer coupons. When they have a great sale, they have great coupons! LOVE this store!!
Some more tips before I go: scan the registers and look for the HS aged boy. They just want to get you through their line and on your way. Older women cashiers act as if you're taking money physically out of their pocket and it's SO much hassle. Trust me on this. :)
BOGO sales (especially at CVS!): You can use two (2) coupons for these 2 items. You're "buying" them both so use those two $1.50 off coupons for those BOGO toothpaste. I got some a few weeks ago for $.60 total! I was so proud - until I realized I probably could've gotten them for free at Target! Nuts. :)
I hope that is enough to get you started for now.