everyone who knows me, knows i'm cheap. i pick up pennies off the ground, am a frequent thrift store shopper, only shop clearance racks at department stores, and am addicted to groupon/living social. i get a rush from getting a great deal! so, it's no surprise that i coupon.
i'm not the "extreme couponing" type, though. that takes too much time and is unrealistic. the people who go on that show typically buy excessive amounts of crap that they have no use for and break all the grocery store coupon rules (with the permission of the stores just for the show). yes, stores have coupon rules.
instead of hoarding boxes of animal crackers just for the sake of getting free stuff, i have a goal to save $100 each month with couponing...and every month, i do!
i have a list of tactics that i implement with everything from groceries to clothing to dining out and i've decided to start a series to allow me to share them with you! so, for all of you who think that couponing is too time consuming and confusing, this is for you.
the first thing you need to know is how to gather coupons...
part 1: where to find coupons
i get most of my grocery coupons from the sunday newspaper. i get the major area paper, because it has more coupons than any of the smaller local ones. most papers offer coupons on wednesday & sunday papers, but mine almost always puts the sunday coupons in the saturday paper. weird, but at least i get them. so, i get the wednesday, saturday, and sunday papers for $1 a week. this is totally worth it to me, because i can get that money back in a single coupon.
if you don't want to pay for your paper, try checking out your local grocery/convenience stores that are open late. most will give you their leftover sunday papers after midnight.
another great place to find grocery coupons is online. there are lots of coupon printing services where you pay a few pennies per coupon. i don't personally use this service, but it is becoming increasingly popular among serious couponers.
besides the online printing services, there are lots of sites that offer free membership, which entitles you to select and print coupons at your discretion. here are some sites that i use:
a lot of stores offer their own coupons, as well. to get these look for the store circulars in the newspapers or check their websites to see if they allow printing. it varies from store to store. most will also have the circular right next to the door as you're walking into the store, so don't be afraid to stop and pick it up on your way in. it's a great visual way to see what's on sale and match coupons as you're shopping. some stores, like walgreens, will even have their own monthly coupon book at the entrance, which is filled with coupons for name & store brand products. always keep an eye out for these!
department stores are a little bit different from grocery stores when it comes to coupons. many will plaster their coupons all over their home page, while a few others can be a little bit sneakier. the sneakiest thing of all, though, is that many offer different coupons for the different ways of contacting you. what i mean is, they have some on their website, different ones that come in the the paper, different ones that they mail directly to you, and different ones that they email to you. so, to cover all your bases, i recommend signing up to receive their coupons via postal and electronic mail. if you have outlet stores near you, be sure to check to see if the coupons for the outlets are different than the ones from the regular stores. (children's place recently separated the two.)
restaurants offer lots of coupons, too, so date night doesn't have to be a thing of the past when you have kids. some restaurants, like red lobster and ruby tuesday, will offer coupons in the sunday paper, but many (including local chains) have printable coupons on their websites. always check before going out, because i've seen lots of "buy one entree, get the 2nd free", which can be a huge savings.
the best advice i can offer for restaurant coupons is to join their e-clubs. not only will they send you their regular coupons, but most also send special coupons for your birthday and/or anniversary. i've gotten lots of free meals and free desserts from this!
last, but not least, check out sites like groupon and living social, especially for dining out and special activities. lots of restaurants and stores like to use them to help bring in new business and you're likely to save an average of 60% on your purchases.
so, now that you know where to find the coupons, start clipping! and stay tuned for part 2 of couponing 101!