Getting Started

I began “serious couponing” in March 2008.  I started following message boards and coupon sites (many of which are listed on my favorite resources page).  I signed up for a coupon site’s trial, and then became a full member.  I also started collecting coupons each week.  If you do a coupon site’s free trial, I highly recommend having several weeks’ worth of coupons stashed away before starting the trial in order to see the best results.

FIRST… THE LINGO

B1G1F/BOGO – Buy 1 Get 1 Free
Catalina – Coupon that comes out at register with your receipt
CRT – Cash register tape (receipt/coupon)
ECBs – CVS Extra Care Bucks
ES – Walgreens Easy Saver Coupon – in the monthly booklet
Insert – Coupons that are found in the newspaper (SS & RP)
IP – Internet Printable Coupon
IVC – Walgreen’s Instant Value Coupon
OOP – Out of Pocket
Peelie – Coupons that are stuck to a product and can be peeled off before purchasing an item
RP – Red Plum Newspaper Insert (sometimes referred to as V – Valassis)
RR – Walgreen’s Register Reward – a coupon offered with some promotions. Usually expire within 2 weeks of receiving them
SS – Smart Source Newspaper Insert
Tear pad – Coupons on a pad that you tear off, usually hanging next to the product
WYB – When You Buy
YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary

COUPONS

Ways to collect coupons:

  • Subscribe to the Sunday edition of your local newspaper.
  • Locate free newspapers in your area that carry coupons.  Check Hot Coupon World for a list of newspapers by state.
  • Ask friends and family to give you their coupons if they aren’t using them.
  • Print coupons online.
  • Check Starbucks or other places that sell papers that people will read and leave behind.
  • Look at self-checkouts for unwanted catalinas (register coupons)


STORAGE SYSTEM

I’ve heard about a number of different coupon storage systems.  You will need to find one that works best for you.  It will depend if you want to carry coupons to the store everytime you go, or if you will plan ahead and go to the store with coupons already sorted.  It will also depend if you plan to clip all your coupons or store the entire insert.  I initially kept full inserts, then clipped them each week, and now I sort, staple and store full inserts.   I pull out coupons for items I know I will use or I have heard will be a “hot” coupon and put them into a binder or if I know the store, I put it into a store envelope.  Here’s what it looks like:

Coupon inserts

inserts
I collect multiple inserts each weekend. I get them from buying double issues at a grocery store or drugstore and also by subscribing to the newspaper. You can also pay clipping services and/or trade with people on various message boards. I am not organized enough and don’t have enough time to do this.

I pull apart the inserts and staple the pages together so I can quickly cut out all of them when I need them. Check this YouTube video to see what I do.

Once I get them all sorted, I store them in magazine storage boxes that I got at Ikea (5 for $3). They’re just cardboard and won’t hold up forever, but they do the job for now. I use my label maker to put the dates on the front. It looks like this:

coupon storage

coupon storage

Clipped Coupons

For coupons that I have clipped, I store them in baggies and separate them by product type. I then put the baggies into a craft carry bag. I can easily take these with me in my car if I want to, and it makes it easier for me to find coupons that are not in the inserts.

coupon storage

coupon storage

coupon storage

coupon storage

coupon storage

TAKING COUPONS TO THE STORE

I prefer to plan ahead, print out my lists, pull together my coupons and then head to the store. Occasionally I will see a deal at a store and wish I had a coupon with me, but so far this has been rare. Some people will haul large coupon boxes into stores with them, but I’m not one of those people. I like to be discreet. 🙂 So I got these plastic envelopes at Office Depot on sale – 5 for $1.50. I used my label maker to print out five labels – Walgreens, CVS, Kroger, Tom Thumb and Albertsons. I use plain baggies for Target and Walmart, but will get plastic envelopes when I find more.

Carrying Coupons

Each week, I clear out my envelopes and put the unused coupons into the baggy storage system. I then re-fill the envelopes with new coupons for the week.

I like this storage/filing system because I can quickly find the coupons I need. Couponing takes work, so you need to find a system that works for you. I find if I don’t keep up with sorting, stapling and filing, couponing gets overwhelming and complicated.

The best thing to do is just get started and make modifications as you go along. Soon you’ll have nice stockpiles and won’t have to head to the store as often. Here is a photo from my personal care product stockpile (and this is only what I could get into the photo):

Personal Care Product stockpile