This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.
You’ve heard it over and over again… Couponing can save you hundreds on groceries and household items.
Yet every time you try couponing, you only end up saving a few bucks… what gives?
Maybe you think that it’s just not worth it or that it’s just not possible to save money on groceries without spending hours every week clipping coupons.
Welp, the reason you aren’t saving much by couponing is that you are doing it all wrong.
You can’t expect to save a bunch of money if you flip through your Sunday paper once a month and look for coupons for items that you intend to buy that afternoon.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. But on the flip side, it doesn’t need to consume every spare minute that you have either.
If you want to learn how to coupon to cut your grocery budget in half in as little time as possible, let me show you how to coupon the right way.
Table of Contents
How to Start Couponing
Couponing is just one of many grocery saving strategies…
If you want to learn more ways to save at the supermarket, my friend Erin Chase of $5 Dinners has a FREE workshop. Click here to watch.
There are some couponing basics that you must get down before you can actually start seeing it’s benefits.
When you first start out, there will be a trial and error period. It’s best to start small and learn basic couponing techniques before you jump in headfirst.
When you first start to learn how to coupon the right way, it’s best to focus on one store. And it shouldn’t be just any store.
If you want to save the most money you can with coupons, you need to start with a national brand. I hate to say it but small, locally-owned grocery stores just won’t save you as much.
That’s not to say that you can’t save at those stores. It’s just easier to get started when you have more opportunities while learning the ropes.
Where to Find Coupons
Next, you are going to need some coupons. Your first instinct might be to buy a bunch of Sunday papers and start clipping away.
This is a good place to start but there are many other places to get coupons. Your goal is to find coupons for items that you need and use on a regular basis.
With that being said, the coupons that you find might not always be the same brands that you use regularly. Some companies just don’t have coupons for their products very often, or at all.
To save as much as you can, you should be open to trying different brands. The reason for this is that you’ll have a better chance of making the most of your time and energy.
The more open to trying new brands, the easier it’ll be to find coupon matchups that can save a lot of money. Besides, it’s a good opportunity to try new things that you might really like.
Places to find coupons
- Sunday paper
- Coupon databases
- Coupon matchup websites
- Couponing apps
- Product websites
- Ask friends and neighbors
- Unsold papers
Sunday Paper Coupon Inserts
As mentioned, the Sunday paper is a great place to start looking for coupon inserts. But before you go out and buy a pile of papers, you might want to know if it’s actually worth spending your money on them.
Why? Well, because there are times when the coupons are very minimal. There could be only one tiny insert and the coupons offered might not be anything that you’ll need.
Sometimes there aren’t any coupon inserts at all such as holiday weekends.
There are many couponing websites that you can check out that’ll give you a list of all coupons that will be in next Sunday’s paper.
It’s worth taking a few minutes to see what you’ll get before spending money buying newspapers.
Printable Coupon Websites
Printable coupons are another good option if you have a printer at home. What I like about these websites is that you can pick and choose which coupons you want without having to waste money on ink.
Another perk is that many of the Sunday paper coupons will also be on these couponing websites. This will help save money by not buying the Sunday paper if you only see one or two that you could use.
There are a few downsides to printing coupons online. One, typically you can only print two of each coupon.
When first starting out, this might not be an issue. But sometimes it takes more than two of a coupon to get the best deal possible. We’ll discuss this in a bit.
Second, as you know, printer ink can be expensive. If you do print coupons at home, print in black and white, sometimes called grayscale because colored ink is usually more expensive than black ink.
Popular places to find printable coupons
Coupon Database Websites
Another great way to get your hands on some coupons is by using a coupon database. They are similar to printable coupon websites, but typically list coupons from multiple sites and resources.
The best part of using a coupon database is that you can see every coupon available in one place. These could be on a manufacturer’s website, a printable coupon site, and even Facebook.
Many of these sites even do most of the work for you by showing coupon matchup with store sales.
This makes couponing super easy when you are matching up store sales with coupons to get the most savings possible.
Is your grocery budget out of control?
Grab this FREE guide and learn 9 simple, yet effective strategies to save money on groceries ever single week.
(spoiler alert: no cooking from scratch required)
Couponing apps are a really convenient way to coupon. The only difference is that instead of saving money at checkout, it’s deposited into your account balance.
You can withdraw your money once you reach a certain threshold. Typically you have the option to get your funds deposited into your PayPal account.
You sometimes also have the option to redeem your balance for gift cards at all kinds of retailers. In my opinion, a free Amazon gift card is just as good as cash.
Some popular couponing apps include…
Getting Started Couponing
The trick to couponing is to save the most money possible on groceries and all the other things that you need. To do this you’ll want to match the coupons you have with sale items.
So now that you’ve picked your store and know where to get coupons, it’s time to find some deals.
Go through your store’s weekly deal circular and look for items that you use that are on sale. Do you have a coupon for those items? If so great!
You will not only get a good price on your products by buying them on sale but when you add some coupons into the mix, that’s when you start seeing how much money you can really save.
Getting the Best Price Possible
As mentioned above, getting the best price possible on products should be your goal. Which is why you want to buy products at the least possible prices, then add couponing into the mix.
To do this you need to know what’s the best price you can possibly buy a product for. If you’ve never really studied store circulars this may take a bit of time to get used to doing.
But after you’ve been couponing for a few months, you should be able to spot the great deals from the ok ones.
Because not all sales are created equal, let’s take a look at some of the ways grocery stores put products on sale.
Not all Sales are Created Equal
10 for $10 sales
I’m sure you’ve seen these types of sales, you can buy 10 of a particular item for $10. Sounds like a steal right? Not always…
If the item is typically priced at $1.09 then you are only saving $.09 per item or 9%. That’s not really a great deal. On the other hand, if those items are typical $1.50 each, then you’ll be saving roughly 33% which is good.
On another note, sometimes stores might put up a sale sign for 10 for $10 when the items regular price is $1 each anyways (or even less). This is a sneaky little trick that stores use to get people to buy a particular item thinking they are getting a deal when they really aren’t.
Another thing you need to know is that just because the advertisement says 10 for $10, you typically don’t need to buy 10 of that one item to get them for $1 a piece (unless specified).
If you have 4 coupons for that one item, all you need to do is buy 4 of them. If you buy all ten, you’re bringing up the cost per item which is what you don’t want to do.
BOGO (Buy One Get One Free) or BOG50% (Buy One Get a Second for 50% off)
BOGO items are a great deal. You buy one item at the regular retail price and you get a second one for free.
You know right off the bat that you are saving half off or 50%. These are great deals.
You might also see buy one get a second for 50% off or buy 2 & get one free sales.
While these types of sales are still good, they may not be the best deals you can find these products for.
For instance, when there is a sale for buy one get a second for 50% off, you might think your saving 50%.
This is not the case because only one of the two items you have to buy is 50% off. In reality, you are only saving 25% off the total purchase price.
Buy two get one free sale items are a little bit better. Yes, you do have to buy two items at regular price, but you are getting one product for free. So in reality, you are saving 33% off your total purchase price.
% Off Sales
A percent off regular retail priced items are probably the most straightforward in terms of knowing how much you are saving. If an item is on sale for 25% off, you know exactly how much money you are saving.
But is it the lowest possible price you can get it for? Maybe. But if that item comes on sale for buy one get one free (BOGO), then getting it at 50% off is a much better deal.
Sale Item Limits
Another thing you must consider is sales limits. Many stores have a limit on how many items you can purchase at the sale price.
This is something you must pay attention to. You don’t want to go over the limit without realizing that you paid full price for some products you purchased.
There are many sales that don’t have limits. If you don’t see any fine print on the sale circular or in-store ads, then there is no need to worry about it.
You typically see store limits most often on BOGO type sales. You’ll see something like “limit 2 per purchase”. This can be a bit deceiving.
You might think that you can only buy two of that particular item but you can actually get 4.
Why? Well because in reality, you are only paying for two items. The other two items are free with the purchase of the first two.
Another thing you should watch out for is the terms of the limit. Some limits state “per purchase” which means on the same transaction. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that’s all you can get.
This simply means that you are limited to the amount you buy per transaction.
You can go back to the store later and you’ll be able to buy that item up to the limit at a later date.
You could even pay for your items on separate transactions on the same day if you want to.
Rainchecks on sale items
There are many times that a store is having a great sale that is way better than the typical sale price. Many times these extra special sales will be during the holidays.
Because that product is on sale for such a great price, many people run out and stock up on those items. Then there is nothing left on the shelf by the time you get to the store.
There is no need to worry or run out to the store the minute they open. All you need to do is simply ask for a raincheck.
A raincheck is just a slip of paper that guarantees that you can purchase the item at the sale price once the store has it back in stock.
All you have to do is present the raincheck the next time you go grocery shopping and you are good to go.
Once you know what is considered a rock bottom price for the items you buy, you can start to see how using coupons combined with sales can really save you a lot of money.
While reviewing store circulars for a little while, you’ll also discover that sales run in cycles. Most stores will rotate the deals offered in either 4 or 6-week cycles.
If a store has a BOGO sale this week, you know that deal will roll back around within 4 – 6 weeks.
Say you find a really good coupon for a product. Once you learn what the best sale price is for that product, you can hang on to those coupons until the sale cycle rolls around again.
Building up a coupon stockpile is a great way to guarantee that you will never have to pay full price for your household staples again.
You don’t need to go to extremes when creating a coupon stockpile. There is really no reason for you to have 40 jumbo packs of toilet paper sitting in your garage for months on end.
Or buying more perishable food items than you can consume. This will lead to wasted food which isn’t part of the plan.
The best way to buy groceries in bulk is by only purchasing enough of that product to last you until the next time it comes on sale for the best price you can get.
After getting the hang of couponing, you’ll want to find a way to organize your coupons. This will help you know what you have without spending time sifting through a pile of circulars.
It’s really a matter of choice how you organize your coupons. You just need to find a way that works best for you and your situation.
Filing Coupon Circulars by Date
One way to organize your coupons is to simply file your circulars by date. This method works well if you are going to be looking at coupon matchup sites to find deals.
Many of these sites will list the date the circular that has the coupon was released. This way you can easily find and clip your coupons on demand.
You can use a simple file storage box like this one, and label each folder with the date the coupons were released.
Coupon Accordion File
Using a coupon accordion file is another coupon organization method. To use this method, you’ll need to label each section in a way that makes coupons easy to find.
It could be based on the type of items. Say, all dairy coupons in one section, condiments in another and so on.
This way you’ll need to go through your circulars and clip the coupons you want. Then you simply slip them into the correct section of your accordion file.
Lastly, you can use a coupon binder to organize coupons. All you need is a simple binder and some inserts with separators. Baseball card inserts work really well for this.
This is my recommended method if you are going to be a serious couponer. What’s great about this method is that you can see every coupon you have easily available.
Simply flip through your binder while going through your store circular. As you find the best deals in the flyer simply flip through your binder and pull out the coupons you need for your next shopping trip.
Coupon stacking is when you create a strategy to use multiple coupons to save even more money.
This does cross the line into learning how to extreme coupon in a sense. Of course, that depends on how far you take it.
With that being said, I feel like any casual couponer will have the opportunity to save even more by stacking coupons at some point.
If you aren’t familiar with the term, it simply means that you use more than one coupon on specific products to save even more money.
Before going any further, you need to know that there are different types of coupons.
Types of Coupons
As you start couponing, you realize that there are also many types of coupons available. You’ll want to pay attention to this so you can get the most bang for your buck.
- Manufacturer coupons
- Store coupons
- Catalina coupons
Manufacturer coupons are coupons put out by the company that makes the products. These are the types of coupons you will find in your Sunday paper as well as most couponing websites & databases.
Store coupons are issued by a specific store. Since the store is creating these coupons, they are basically reducing the price of the product on their own dime.
These coupons are typically found in store circulars, and at the bottom of store receipts. They can also be found on your store’s website or even a facebook page.
Catalina coupons are coupons that print out on a small machine at checkout. These coupons could be either store coupons or manufacturer coupons.
Many times Catalina coupons can be stacked on top of store coupons as well as manufacturer coupons, but not always. Which is why it’s best to know the store couponing policy before planning a shopping trip.
How do you find out a stores couponing policy? Well, most stores will have a link to their policy on their website. You might want to print it out to keep at hand when you are planning your shopping trip.
If you can’t locate the store’s coupon policy on their website, you can grab a copy at the service desk the next time you visit that store.
There are a few coupon stacking scenarios that you will run into from time to time. When you are able to use these, you end up paying very little for those products.
Sometimes you can even get them for free depending on the sale price and value of coupons you have.
Coupon Stacking Strategies
The most common coupon stacking strategy is stacking a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon. Most stores allow this without any issues but again check the policy first.
Another one you’ll run into is using a manufacturer’s coupon with a Catalina coupon. This is where things could get a bit iffy. Since Catalina coupons are typically considered manufacturer’s coupons also.
Many stores do allow you to use both types together, but others will not. Again, refer to the store’s policy before shopping to avoid disappointment.
Lastly, you can stack your savings even more by adding coupon apps to the mix. You can find cashback offers with couponing apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Saving Star.
It is totally ok to stack cashback app savings with any other coupon you have available to use.
I’m sure you are starting to see how much money you can save using coupons. Think about this scenario for a minute.
You find a great deal on a product, say buy one get one free. You have manufacturer’s coupons for the products that are on sale. This is a good deal, right.
But what if you had a store coupon that saved you $5 off when you purchase $20 worth of products. Pretty sweet right!
Now you do a quick check and find a cashback offer on Ibotta or another coupon app. You’ve got yourself a recipe for free or very cheap products.
These are the types of deals that extreme couponers live for. There is no need to take it this far to be able to save money with coupons.
Then again, if you do stumble upon this while planning a shopping trip, why not take advantage of it.
Let me show you an example…
Example of a couponing shopping trip
Just to give you an idea of the possibilities… let me give you an example of a small everyday trip to the drugstore I took today to see how much I saved.
The items in the image above would have cost me $77.88 had I just walked into the store and bought them at regular retail price.
Now, look at what I paid…
I paid $29.44 OOP (out-of-pocket) for everything above. That is 62.2% savings!
That’s not all; I earned 1300 store loyalty points worth $13.00 and $15.00 dollars added to my Saving Star balance because I stacked cashback to my coupons.
That is an additional $28.00 in saving; bringing the total for this trip to $1.44, which equals .12 cents an item!!!
Final Words on Couponing
Now, I’m not going to lie to you, couponing this way does take time and you need to be organized. You might not reach this level of savings all the time either.
The longer you are coupon and more coupons you acquire, the easier it’ll get to realize some really good money saving deals.
My advice is to start slow and learn the ropes. Once you get comfortable, look for more ways to save.
Then again, if you don’t want to or simply don’t have the time, simply matching coupons with sale items will still give you some decent savings. Give it a shot, you have nothing to lose!