How to Save Money With Coupons: A Realistic Approach

How to Save Money With Coupons: A Realistic Approach March 9, 2012

You’ve probably seen the show on TV that follows extreme couponers as they save hundreds of dollars at the grocery store by purchasing 100 bottles of BBQ sauce and 50 bottles of soda.

That’s not realistic.

Is it possible?  Sure, but who really needs 100 bottles of BBQ sauce.

My wife and I have saved thousands of dollars over the last few years by couponing, but we’re not extreme about it.  Our shopping trips are much more realistic and very small scale compared to that show.  But at the end of the day, paying less than ten bucks for three bags of items worth over $80 is a huge savings no matter how you look at it!

How To Save Money With Coupons

Whether you’re just starting with coupons or haven’t every clipped one in your life, these quick tips will help you to start couponing the right way.  For an even more in depth summary of how our family saves thousands of dollars each year, take a look at our coupon eBook.

1. Learn How to Find Coupons

Once you start to actively look for coupons, you’ll start to notice coupons to show up almost everywhere.  The Sunday paper is still the best place to find the most valuable coupons, but you have plenty of other options to find coupons as well.  The most common places to find coupons are: on products (stickies), online coupon databases, facebook, manufacturer websites, tear off pads at the store, and even at the dentist office.  You can even buy coupons on eBay!

How to Get Free Coupons

We spend about $2-4 a week on buying a few copies of the Sunday paper so that we can clip multiple copies of the same coupon – more on the reason why below.

While I do recommend that you buy the Sunday paper for good coupons, here are some good ways to get free coupons.

  1. Ask your friends and family to save the coupon inserts from the paper.
  2. Join the P&G Brand Sampler program for free and get free samples and coupons right to your door.
  3. Use coupons.com to print your favorite coupons.

2. Learn How to Organize Coupons in a Binder

When we first started couponing, we used a small folder with accordion-like sleeves for our coupon categories.  We would just keep all the coupons in a stack and sort through them before we’d go to the store.

We quickly learned that to save time, it would be helpful to have a coupon binder. A simple 2-inch 3 ring binder works perfectly.  Buy some baseball card sleeves and store your coupons in the sleeves – this makes it much easier to sort through the coupons that you’ve been saving.

coupon-binder

You don’t need to be fancy to be organized – but your binder does need to have some structure.  It’s helpful to break down the coupons into categories like snacks, baking, fruit, deodorant, shampoo, etc.  If you’re looking to get organized with your coupons, you can download the coupon binder dividers that we made to stay organized.

3. Learn How to Stack Coupons

In order to save 50-80% or more with coupons, you need to know how to use coupons effectively.  The secret to finding the best deals with coupons is to ‘stack ‘ coupons.  Stacking coupons is just another way to say that you’re using multiple coupons on a single item.

Most people only think to apply one coupon to an item.  The truth is that you can actually apply one manufacturer’s coupon along with one store coupon to maximize your savings.

Coupon Stacking Examplehow to stack coupons

Here is an example to show how you can stack coupons.  Let’s say that Crest toothpaste is on sale at Walgreens for $3.29 each.  You have a manufacturer coupon for $2.00 off of 2 tubes of toothpaste.  While that’s a good 30% savings, you can do better if you apply store coupons.  If Walgreens has a $0.50 coupon on Crest toothpaste, you can apply one store coupon for each item.  You’ll be using a total of 3 coupons when you get to the register, but you’ll be saving 50%.

For more examples and pictures of how we maximize coupons, watch this video:

4. Know How to Find Deals Online

One of the most time consuming aspects of couponing is finding the deal.  It can take hours and hours to sort through store papers and newspapers in order to match the deals for that week.  The good news is that you can find the coupon deals already outlined on coupon blogs.  We spend an hour or so on just a few sites each week and get the deals from these bloggers.  It’s saved us all sorts of time and money!  Why would anyone try to figure out the deals on their own when these blogs will highlight the best savings for you each week!  Here are a few coupon blogs to follow: TheKrazyCouponLady.com IHeartWags.com IHeartCVS.com

5. Build Your Coupon Stockpile Gradually

You’ll find that most store sales have a 3-4 month cycle.  You don’t need to go crazy and buy every last bottle of shampoo in the store just because you’re getting a great deal.  That can lead to waste, and seriously, who needs 20 bottles of shampoo?  Buy as much as your family will use for a 6-month period and store it in your coupon stockpile.  There will be more deals in the future, so don’t get caught up in the excitement of a great deal.  Keep your cool and stick to your list.

Hopefully these tips will help you to get a better grip on how to save money with coupons.  If you want even more guidance and to see exactly how we save thousands of dollars with coupons, download our free eBook How to Coupon: Learn to Cut Your Grocery Bill by 50-80%.

how to coupon

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I’m a coupon user also. They are definitely worth the time as long as you don’t start buying stuff just because you have a coupon for the item. I also study the sales papers so that I can plan my menu around what is on sale and what I have coupons for.

    • Tim

      Buying stuff just because you have a coupon isn’t smart and definitely doesn’t fall in the category of ‘realistic shopping.’

  • PK

    Did you ever calculate your ROI? It’s something my wife discussed – if she is going to save $1000 a year for 100 hours of work, she doesn’t want to put in the work (for example), and I agree with her math. She did mention trying to get something going… spending an hour a week, perhaps, and tracking the results. I have no idea if it will add up.

    • Tim

      I wrote an article called Is Couponing Even Worth Your Time over at ChristianPF.com and figured that we saved about $15 an hour. For some people it’s worth it, but others it might not be.

      Nevertheless, that’s a great question to ask because you have to know what your ROI is before you dedicate so much time to it. I plan on writing a similar article for this site soon.

  • I’m gradually starting to use coupons more, but it will be a long time before I am this organized. I just clip coupons I would use and put them in my junk drawer. If I’m lucky I’ll remember to use it before it expires. Following some coupon blogs sounds like a great way to get going. PK does make a good point about ROI though. I’d only follow through with more aggressive couponing if it didn’t take up too much time.

    • Tim

      I hope you were able to download the coupon book and dividers – it’ll save you a bunch of time when it comes to staying organized.

  • We don’t buy a Sunday paper, so we probably miss the best coupons. I thought the grocery store we shop at was not a great place for an extreme couponer, but just tonight a young friend who works there told of a recent example of one showing up, who got $400 of groceries for $8.00.

    • Tim

      Usually when that happens, they’re buying a lot of one item. I’ve heard of people donating large purchases, but we’re not that extreme :)

      We have donated extra toiletries and boxed food items to our church’s food drive. It’s nice to hand over $40-$50 of goods that you found for a fraction of the price.