Couponing 101

New to Couponing?
Then you are in the right place!
I began using coupons about 5 years ago when I had my first child and in the past few years
it has become a way of life and something that our family could not survive without.
If you are new and feeling overwhelmed just take a deep breath and remember that we were all
new at one point and that it takes time to figure it all out - be patient grasshoppers - I am here to help :)
Before we get into tips to save they most money, there are some Do's and Don'ts in couponing and these are vital to know and understand. These are more important than ever after some recent happenings and a certain show that has disappointingly featured someone committing blatant coupon fraud. Just a few people can ruin it for everyone so FOLLOW THE RULES!!!
  1. Know your store's coupon policy. Make a list of the stores you shop at, go online and print their policies or email or call the store if you cannot find it. Print these policies off and keep them with you.  At some point in your couponing adventures you will have a cashier argue with you or tell you that you are doing something wrong by using the coupons. Having these policies with you will help you overcome this grumpy persons problem. You also need to know stores policies on Internet Printables, coupon doubling, and coupon stacking(using a store coupon + a manufacturer's coupon).
    The next 2 rules get into coupon fraud - this IS a very serious offense - read about what it is and what the consequences are HERE.
  2. Make sure your coupons are legitimate.  Internet Printables are becoming quite a problem for retailers. People are actually creating fake coupons. And others are just photocopying IP's. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER COPY COUPONS!!! This is incredibly illegal!!!  You are usually limited to 2 prints per coupon, if you need more than this, use another computer - either in your home or ask a friend or neighbor to do it for you.
  3. Use the coupons for the intended item. Sometimes coupons are very non-specific. They do not exclude or include any certain item (this is how alot of trial item are free). If the item does specify a certain item or size only use it on that item. I know that there are ways to use coupons for items that the coupon is not intended for - and I am not sharing those ways- but it is wrong to do and retailers will become stricter and more difficult to deal with when this happens.
    4.  Read the fine print!!!!  When you get "the beep" it is usually because you have not correctly used a coupon.  Several coupons now have a limit on them - such as only 1 coupon per transaction.  P&G coupons now have a limit of 4 like coupons in one transaction.  Do not
    try to sneak in an extra coupon, it is OK to do more than one transaction at most retailers.
Coupon Etiquette
  1. Don't be a hoarder. We all love a good deal, and I totally encourage stockpiling (like a 3-6 month stock), but don't clear the shelf. Spockpiling should be done gradually not all in one trip to Kroger or Target.  Make a couple of trips over the week if you really want to stock up or ask an employee if they have more inventory in the back before you clean them out.  Keep in mind there are other customers and couponers out there that have put time and effort into making a shopping list and it is very disappointing to get to the store and there is nothing left.
  2. Be courteous to other shoppers.  If you know you are going to be using a huge stack of coupons, try to go during non peak hours. If that is not possible, you may want to tell the people behind you in line that you have a lengthy transaction so they can be prepared for the wait or find another line. You may also want to warn your cashier so that they will not get so frustrated.
  3. Be ready at checkout. Nothing is more frustrating than standing behind someone who is unorganized. Whether they can't find their coupons or seem caught off guard when it is time to pay and don't have their cash or check card out (This is my pet peeve by the way). If you have coupons or giftcards, it is best to have them ready before you start unloading your cart. I always place mine on the ledge next to the credit card machine. Also, be aware of what order you need to hand your coupons over in. Every store is a little different. I cover all of that in Walgreens 101, CVS 101, Target 101 and Kroger 101
  4. Be a coupon fairy. If you have a coupon and you decide not to use it or it will expire before you can use it, leave it next to the item for someone else.
Coupon Resources
There are several places to find coupons.
First and foremost is the Sunday Paper. I head down to Weigel's every Sunday morning for my paper and my Diet Coke. It is best to always check the Sunday Coupon Preview, you can do that HERE.  It list the upcoming inserts and the possible coupons. It will also let you know the weeks that will have no inserts. Some weeks have 3 or more inserts, these are usually the weeks when I pick up an extra copy.
There are also several online resources for Internet Printables (IPs).
Take note when you print coupons from, some are Target store coupons and some are Manufacturer coupons. Just look at the top of the coupon and it should specify.   If you are planning on stacking coupons, double check that you have one Target coupon and one Manufacturer's coupon, not 2 of the same.

Digital/eCoupons  These coupons load directly onto your Kroger Loyalty card, they do not double.
For whatever reason, Kroger has recently changed their policy on eCoupons. You use to be able to stack these with paper coupons for extra savings but that is no more. Make sure not to load a eCoupon if you are planning on using a paper coupon. Once the eCoupon attaches the machine will beep and the cashier will not be able to apply the paper coupon.
Saving Star

I usually mark on my shopping list what items I also have a digital coupon for. Be sure to read closely exactly what item the coupon is for (size, quantity, flavor) or it will not work, also be sure to scan your shoppers card before anything is rang up, some say the computer will go back and take off the digital coupons but it never has for me.
"Buying" coupons OK, so you cannot legally buy and sell coupons, however you can order coupons and pay for shipping and handling. There are several sites that offer this service but 2 that I trust are The Coupon Clippers and Coupons Unlimited (This is a local clipper) If you are not already registered go ahead and do it, if you need a coupon chances are other do as well and they go fast. You can also "buy" coupons on eBay - if it is a very hard to find coupon you can usually get it from eBay. The cost of the this is minimal and the savings from the coupons MORE than compensates for it. Coupon Lingo If you are going to be reading the blogs - which obviously you are, then you will want to commit this to memory. SS - Smart Source Insert RP - Red Plum Insert P&G - Procter & Gamble Insert MFR - Manufacturer Coupon SC - Store Coupon CC - Competitor Coupon B1G1/BOGO - Buy One, Get One WYB - When You Buy YMMV - Your Milege May Vary MIR - Mail in Rebate FAR - Free After Rebate $1 SS 1/4 - $1 Coupon Smart Source Jan.4th OOP - Out of Pocket WFC - Weekly Flyer Coupon $1.50/2 - $1.50 off two items ECB - Extracare Bucks (CVS) WAGS - Walgreens RR - Register Reward (Wags) IP - Internet Printable For the sake of time and efficiency we abbreviate certain items in almost every single post, the abbreviations are pretty much universal so there should not be much variation among bloggers.  Go HERE to read my post about creating a Coupon Binder to keep it all organized.

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