Tips for Beginners

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Now I probably will never claim to be an expert at couponing- I’ve only started recently, like so many of you. However this last month has been very informative and a great learning experience.
So if I was asked how to start couponing – how would I explain it? There isn’t really one thing you can point someone to that will work for them. I think each person coupons differently, but there are a few tips and tricks I can point you towards.
Finding Coupons
The obvious place to find coupons is in your Sunday paper. Most small community papers may have the inserts, but the larger publications will have a greater chance of having the inserts and the variety you want.Another place to look is online. I have listed the major coupon sites here. Most of the online coupon sites have you install a small program that directs the coupons right to your printer. Often you can hit the back button and it will print them a second time. These sites track your IP address, so they can limit the amount of prints you make. However if you have two computers, i.e a laptop and a desktop- you can print them again.

If you want to go to the extreme you can do like some people, you can dumpster drive, dig through other people’s trash/recycling etc. That isn’t my style. And I’ve heard of a lady getting in legal trouble for going to the recycling center to take them. It is their property once it is on their premises- don’t break the law to get coupons- trust me this wont be wont be worth the risk.

If you are looking for a specific coupon (brand etc) check their website- sometimes they have coupons. For example- Ball Park Franks are on sale for 98¢ tomorrow at Meijers. If you didn’t get the 50¢/1 coupon, you can visit Ball Park’s Website for a 75¢/2 coupon. So instead of free, they will be only 50¢ a package!

Also check a companies facebook page if they have one. They often have high value coupons on their website!

How many papers should you get?
How many do you feel comfortable with? I started with 3, but quickly moved up to 5. This allowed me to take advantage of more deals at once. I actually will be moving up to 6 this weekend. Why? Because a lot of deals work best with an even number of coupons. Those 2/$5 deals area great- but think if you can use 2 $1/1 coupons with it. Now your total is 2/$3! That’s even better!

The only downfall with getting more papers  those $2/2 coupons. If you take advantage of the deal and want to utilize all of your coupons you will be buying a ton of products.

If you don’t have a ton of space, or don’t need a ton of things – maybe start out with one or two papers.

Organizing your Coupons
This again is something that you will have to work out for you. What works best for you, and makes the most sense to you.

I personally use a binder with baseball card sleeves. You can find these at most stores in the toys section. Look for the baseball cards, or Pokemon or whatever is popular at the time. We tend to find the ones we purchase on the end caps towards the back. Or check them out online- you can find great deals.

Other people like to use Currency Sleeves for the larger coupons. To me it is just another expense, and I don’t have a problem folding coupons. If you decide to fold your coupons, make sure the product description and expiration date is visible.

Tonight I’m actually moving into a second binder. I have 16 different tabs, and they are already starting to make the 1 inch binder bulge. So now 8 will be in each binder, and this provides more space to grow and more pockets on the inside for different things.

What tabs should you use?
Whatever makes the most sense to you. I’ve read where some people have 40 different categories. Now I like organization, but that’s a bit extreme for me.

My binder has two empty sleeves in the front that I put the restaurant coupons I use, Boston Market, Buca di Beppo, Longhorn etc.  Then the Tabs are as follows:

  • Free – Any item that is free with coupon. You’ll get a lot of these off Facebook etc. Like the Oreda Free Sweet Potato Fries!
  • Baking – Sugars, Flours, Condensed Milk etc
  • Boxed Meals – Hamburger Helper, Cereal, Lunchables, prepared meals- the quick and easy stuff
  • Canned – Soups, veggies
  • Condiments – Ketchup, Mustard, Marinades, Sauces
  • Dairy – Milk, butter, cream etc
  • Drinks – Water, soda, Mio etc
  • Frozen – Desserts, sometimes meats etc
  • Health and Beauty – Makeup, Shampoo and Conditioner, Body wash, deodorant, tooth paste, toothbrushes
  • Household – Air fresheners, cleaning products, candles, pyrex, tupperware
  • Kids – toys, games etc. Yes you can get toy coupons!
  • Laundry – You will be shocked how quick that one filled up – anything to do with laundry. Detergent, Fabric softener
  • Meat – You’d be surprised how many meat coupons there are out there, lunch meat, sausage, ground meat etc. I tend to put eggs in there as well.
  • Medicine – Any oral or topical OTC medicine
  • Pets – food, treats, toys etc
  • Snacks – Anything you might want for snacks, chips, candy, sometimes I shuffle nutrition bars etc in there.

With the exception of Free, I keep the different tabs alphabetical. You don’t have to do it that way, it is what works for me. Free I just like to keep in the front so I can pay attention to it. There isn’t a tab for produce etc – mostly because those coupons are few are far between. I have no problem putting them up front so I don’t let them go to waste.

First and foremost know your stores Coupon Policies. It is the best way to make sure you are doing things right. These policies may change over time and you should check them out often in case.

Get to know your local store locations, and get to know the workers. Despite having 6 Walgreens within a few minute drive of my house – there is one I prefer to go to for some of the deals – one of the employees is very nice, patient and even ordered extra products for me.

Some couponers tell you to “profile” your cashier – but beware this can burn you. Not all cashiers are friendly. If you get to know the workers at the store- you will get to know if they’re going to be receptive to your couponing or if they’re going to roll their eyes and not help out if there is a problem along the way.

Ask what days their trucks come in- that way you can make sure you get the items when they come in. Keep in mind that sometimes the product doesn’t make it out until the next day.

Look over the ads well – make sure it applies to the location you’re at. The toothbrush deal I snagged at Walgreens yesterday is only at the location in Detroit, while the other 5 locations near me are not running the same deal. It seems odd, especially with their close vicinity- however each store is run differently.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember the employees are being paid to work there, and part of that is customer service. They can look in the back for more product, they can get a manager if you are having issues.

They can even get rain checks for you! This is very important – you can ask for rain checks and get the deal when the product comes in. But remember this again will vary from store to store. One store offered to have the manager initial my coupons in the case the product came in after they expired, another told me they could honor the deal but not the register rewards, while a third handed me a raincheck for the toothpaste at the rate it would after register rewards is taken off. This could be different from store to store, manager to manager. But never hesitate to ask for a rain check. The cashier may get an attitude about it (some often do)- but you are entitled to ask for a raincheck.

General Etiquette and things to do
Whether you have 2 coupons, or 20 have them ready before you go.

Don’t go into a store and empty the shelf. You might ask the manager to order the products if you have 40 coupons. I’m not saying if there are only 4 boxes, and you have coupons, don’t take them. But not only is it rude to other couponers to clear our everything in a tri-county area – but to the general public. There may be a mother who needs those diapers for her baby. I’m not saying don’t get your products, but try to be respectful to other shoppers.

Once in a while clean out your coupons, whether it is once a week, every other or once a month- get those expired ones out of your stack. Recycle them or put them in an envelope and send them to the troops. But nothing is worse than finding that great deal you think you had set up wont work because your coupon is expired.

Try to use your coupons with the soonest expiration date first. I made this mistake recently- I had two coupons with the same value, and I used the ones that expired later. The ones I mistakenly forgot about expire today – and I only have 1 left of the others – not enough to take advantage of a super deal if I wanted.

Always know what you have in your binder/envelopes etc. I’m not saying memorize them – but have a great idea of what there is in there and what you can get with them.

Plan your shopping trips – get the ads and do some comparison shopping.

Have a coupon buddy – my friend Jamie finds deals I don’t and vice versa- we bounce deals/coupons back and forth.

Use legitimate coupons- don’t use fakes. There are serious consequences for coupon fraud.

Don’t go overboard and have fun 🙂

Let me know what other tips you might have newbies. There is a lot that can be done with couponing!


  1. I HIGHLY recommend a home delivery subscription if you are in search of coupons in the newspaper. The next best resource is ask friends / family members who get the paper to give you any leftover coupons they don’t need.
    Because of the spike in couponing interest, there have been reports from MI, OH and across the country of single copy newspapers at the news racks not having the entire coupon run. Reason 1. people stealing the coupons. Reason 2. there wasn’t enough to go around the entire press run (and in that case, home delivery gets priority).
    That being said, my own research indicates that the following newspapers in Southeast Michigan do get coupon books to distribute in their Sunday / weekend editions although the number of coupons and product selections will vary:
    Detroit Free Press, Monroe Evening News, Livingston Daily Press and Argus, Lincoln Park News-Herald, Dearborn Press and Guide, Mount Clemens Macomb Daily, Detroit Sunday Select, Warrendale Press and Guide, Woodhaven News-Herald, Riverview News-Herald, Ecorse News-Herald, Melvindale News-Herald, Romulus News-Herald, Novi News, Royal Oak Daily Tribune, Northville Record, Brownstown News Herald, Monroe News, Lapeer County Press, South Lyon Herald, Milford Times, Huron Valley News-Herald, Southgate News Herald, Wyandotte News-Herald, Trenton News-Herald, Allen Park News-Herald, Dearborn Heights Press and Guide, Taylor News-Herald, Toledo Blade.


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