Sunday, July 26, 2009

Couponing 101

It all started sometime in March. I'd never pictured myself as one of those people at the checkout stand with a whole stack of coupons. I just didn't get how it could save you any money. After-all, isn't it cheaper just to buy the store brands anyway? I did price-matching at Wal-Mart (even though their quality isn't always the best) and I thought that was good enough.
Then, I started hearing from different people how they were getting stuff for FREE by using coupons. Wow! How is that possible? I decided to learn more.

Now, I'm officially a coupon fanatic. I've started using them and have been saving LOTS of money this way. I thought I'd pass on what I have learned to whomever wants to read this. Maybe you can start saving money too!

Keep in mind that I am in Arizona. Some of these things may be different depending on where you are located. I can only tell you what I know.

Lesson One:

Where do I GET coupons?
There are actually several different places.

1. The most obvious one is the Sunday paper. The Arizona Republic does have a deal that you can sign up for just Sunday delivery. Some people have multiple subscriptions so they can get more coupons. I only have one right now, but I might get more in the future. It doesn't cost that much and you can get your money's worth by using just one or two of the coupons you get!

2. There is a FREE option for coupons if you live in the Phoenix area. There is a weekly, Spanish newspaper called . This comes out every Friday and is free for the taking. You just have to find one of the boxes and grab them! There is a box in front of my Post Office, so I make sure to stop by every week. There aren't as many coupons in there as in the Sunday paper, but for FREE you just can't beat it!

3. I also get a lot of coupons online. There are a few different places that you can download coupons and print them at home! Most of them allow you to print two each, so after you print them once, be sure to go back and print again!
There is an easy link to ALL the online coupons at

Lesson Two:
Get Organized!

This is a very important, sometimes overlooked step. Coupons don't do you much good if you don't know which ones you have!
Everyone has their own organization methods. This is what works for me:
Lesson I learned - DO NOT cut out the coupons when you get them. I did that the first few weeks, and found that it was just wasted time, and actually made it MORE difficult to find them when I needed them.

I have a big 3-ring binder that I keep all the newspaper inserts in. I have a sheet protector for each week, and I put a sticky note on it so I know which day it is. This makes it easy to find the coupons when I am ready to cut them out to use them.

I also keep a separate folder for printed coupons that I try to keep organized by expiration date.

Keeping track of what you have and what you use is important. I have a background in computer programming, so the easiest way for me to keep track was to start an Access database. I know that may sound intimidating if you aren't familiar with Access. Really, what you need to keep track of is the following: Date the coupon was issued, What insert the coupon was in, product, discount, number of items required, expiration date and how many coupons you have

The easy way to get all this information is by using the database at Select your state, and there is a list of ALL the coupons in your area! I import this list in to my database, but you could easily keep them in Excel, Word, or even print them out and keep track manually.
But, the important thing is to keep track. Every time you use a coupon, make sure you take it off your list. It's no fun to try to find a coupon that isn't there!
(At some point I may use my amazing computer programming skills to make an easy to use program for my Arizona friends to use to track coupons... When I find the time...)

That's it for this lesson. Next time, I'll tell you how to use the coupons once you have them! Good luck!


Miss Kris said...

Thanks, Alayna! Keep these posts coming. I just started with coupons a couple of weeks ago, and I appreciate the advice of the experts :)

debra g said...

I've been couponing for years! A few weeks ago I saved $85.00 just in coupons. Combined with buying stuff on sale and the coupons it was a $270.00 savings (it was a really big shopping trip!).

I keep my coupons in a small file card organizer by category (ie. paper, dairy, frozen, etc.). That's been easiest for me. I look at the ads, make my menu for 2 weeks worth of meals based on what's on sale, make my list, then check my coupons.

I have a huge stack of coupons downstairs that I need to clip out right now. It takes time but it's totally worth it if you use them every time.