couponing for beginners
Frugal Living Mom Life

Couponing in the Real World: How to Make it Work for You

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We’ve all seen those extreme couponing shows where women cart a ridiculous amount of groceries out of stores for a mere $10.00. Who wouldn’t want to be able to manage that kind of budgeting?

There are a few problems with going “extreme” with savings, though.

  • Many coupons available are for unhealthy food items such as candies, cookies, and other items that are ultimately bad for you in bulk.
  • Coupons can be for items that you wouldn’t otherwise buy, making you spend more money than you would in the first place.
  • Buying in bulk can lead to waste when you buy more than you need and items go bad before you can use them.
  • The level of dedication needed for “extreme couponing” can be “extremely” time-consuming.

Grocery shopping on a budget can be done, though. All it takes is a little planning and organization! This quick little couponing 101 discussion will show you how to organize what you already have, plan your grocery shopping, and maximize your savings in no time! 

Related: How to Save Money at the Grocery without Clipping Coupons 

 

Take Inventory for Couponing

Knowing Where to Start

Take the time to really think about what items your family uses on a regular basis. Are there items that you use frequently enough to buy in bulk? Good examples of these could be lunch box snacks, juice boxes, meats, or even bath products such as soap or toilet paper. These items are a good place to start when you first start couponing for beginners.

One way to know exactly what items your family uses frequently, and to consequently know what you need is to keep a constant stock of what you have. It can be a daunting task to catalog everything the first time, but once you have a running list it becomes easy to keep track of everything. When you use something from your pantry or fridge you simply mark it off your list.

This is also helpful for meal planning on a budget! When you know what items you have on hand you can go to the grocery to buy the items you will need for your meals without buying anything extra. You can also use it as a fun way to get creative and make meals from items you have on hand rather than buying more groceries. There are lots of great sites like Supercook that will help you create recipes based on what you have available, or just combine things on your own for your own unique blends. 

 

Grocery Inventory for Coupling

 

Finding the Right Coupons

Sometimes the number of coupons out there can be a little overwhelming for someone who is just looking for the basics of couponing, or couponing 101. However, there are a lot of them that can just be avoided. Always search for coupons with a plan of action.

Have a list of exactly what you are looking for and search for that rather than browsing. Often, when just browsing we can fall victim to “ooh that’s a good deal” syndrome and end up grabbing something we didn’t really need. (No, no matter how cheap you are nobody will ever use that much barbeque sauce so just don’t do it!) 

Coupon List

 Where to Find Coupons

There are various sources for finding coupons available these days. One of the most well-known sources is the Sunday newspaper. However, the internet often provides more targeted resources. There are multiple sites available for searching coupons. Many brands also offer coupons from time to time if you sign up for their newsletters or Facebook pages. In most instances, they will allow the coupon to be printed twice so be sure to get two copies!

Coupon Websites:

  • Coupons.com – Most of the best-known brands will be found on this site. However, be cautious to read the details on each coupon such as locations where the coupon can be used, the amount you must buy to use it, etc. In some instances, there will be certain circumstances that need to be met to use the coupon.
  • RedPlum.com – Red Plum is an online version of one of the long-time newspaper inserts. They offer a variety of coupons for the larger brands.
  • SmartSource.com  – SmartSource is another online version of newspaper insert coupons that offers a variety of coupons from larger brands. I have personally found that SmartSource tends to offer more coupons from natural brands.
  • P&G EveryDay.com – These are printable coupons for Proctor and Gamble brands.

There are other sites that offer coupons, however, I have found them to be less secure and spammy. Therefore, I personally do not recommend them.

Related: How to Start Your Own DIY Herb Garden 

Coupon Databases

Some sites have created searchable databases of coupons that take all of the legwork out of finding what you are looking for. There are a few that I prefer and personally use on a regular basis.

  • CouponMom.com  – Coupon Mom has a searchable database and a variety of money saving tips and offers.
  • AFullCup.com – A Full Cup is my personal favorite. I have found their database the easiest to use and the most complete. They also offer a variety of other money saving tips and offers.
  • CouponSherpa.com – Coupon Sherpa offers printable coupons and promo codes for saving online.

Buying in Bulk

Do you still find yourself fighting the urge to buy items in bulk when you find a good deal? There are a few great options you could implement when it comes to avoiding waste. 

  1. Try to find a local food pantry, women’s shelter, or lunch program that accepts donations. When you are getting items for a discounted price you are able to donate much more than if you were paying full price. Many of these services do have guidelines on what they accept though so be sure to call ahead to find out what will be allowed. 
  2. If you find yourself with a lot of coupons on toiletries and non-perishable snacks it may be a good idea to consider setting up a free locker for the homeless in your community. Many cities have groups that work together to keep one running. There are laws and ordinances that differ in every state and community so be sure to find out your area’s laws before deciding anything. However, this can be a great way to help those in your community that have no money for basic needs. 
  3. Do you find yourself with coupons that expire before you can use them? Many overseas military bases accept expired coupons for military members and their families to use at the commissary on base. There are a variety of online programs that can help set you up with a family to send to, or you can contact your local military base to inquire on an overseas location to send your expired coupons to. 

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27 thoughts on “Couponing in the Real World: How to Make it Work for You”

    1. Yeah, it can be so hard. I prefer a lot of organic items which can be almost impossible sometimes. Sales racks are my kryptonite… I LOVE them. Glad you liked the post! 🙂

    1. I am the same way! My grandma grew up during the depression and more or less raised me so I think saving money is just ingrained in me, so many of my values come from her. I am also such a scatterbrain ( I always have 80 tabs open in my brain, seriously) Having a plan of attack has made my life so much easier in so many areas.

  1. Your organization inspires me to set goals for myself. Great suggestions. Looking forward to how to coupon without paper coupons as these always just end up at the bottom of my purse.

  2. This was great information. I tried couponing once and I ended up with 10 bottles of hot sauce and that was all she wrote. 🙂 Maybe I’ll give it another go.

    1. hahaha yes, I have totally been there. For me it was ramen. I think we still have some of it sitting around from when I went through a stockpiling phase.

  3. I use coupons from time to time but not like the extreme couponers that we see on TV. It’s a great way to shop when you’re trying to follow a budget!

  4. It’s all about finding ones that work for you. No use using ones for things you won’t use or stocking up on things you won’t use by expiry dates x

  5. Such a great idea – who wouldn’t want to save money on things you were going to buy anyway. Coupons can be great for that reason but you’re so right – sometimes you end up buying things you don’t need/want just because they’re on offer!

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