ouponing can be hard, but it doesn't have to be. Find out the best ways on how to coupon to save money on groceries and other essentials. You'll learn the best websites to earn cash back, tricks to make extra money from coupons, etc.
You've seen the shows or heard someone who has bought everything in-store for zero dollars.
Believe it or not, it's true. I've done it several times, and it felt good.
That said, learning the tricks on a coupon isn't easy. I know this is what you feel right now.
But there's light at the end of the tunnel. This is where this post comes into play.
I'll be straightforward and say that saving a lot of money from couponing takes hard work, and, sometimes, trial and error. If it were easy, then, a lot of people would be saving a massive amount of money.
Truth be told, clipping these small pieces of paper can be a day job (at first). But once you get used to it, it will become second nature and gets easy over time. This 31-year old even saves over $8,000/year.
If you are ready to learn how to extreme coupon, read on!
What is a coupon?
Coupon is a discount that can be used to reduce the price of products. In a more formalized definition, it is a ticket that can be redeemed for a discount or a rebate when a product is purchased.
Last year, I saved more than $3,000 using the them I got from SavingStar.
What’s better is that it provides valuable information on grocery shopping, cooking, healthy eating, coupon clipping, saving money, and more. I find a lot of them here that I don’t find in other sites like Coupons.com.
What is a couponer?
A couponer is simply the person who uses the coupon to get product discounts.
Now that you know what these two terms are, we can now go to the meat of this post. Here's a story of how one didn't believe about couponing, but changed her view.
Couponing: What you need
You can get a lot of them from newspapers to online sites. But here are the basic things you need for couponing.
- A printer to print online coupons (or just use the best rewards apps on your phone like Ibotta and Swagbucks)
- A laptop/computer/iPad
- A binder with plastic dividers/labels (you can even use the plastic inserts you use for trading cards)
- Store flyers
- Local newspapers (you may even want to consider a paid subscription to get extra discounts)
Interesting fact: More than $476 billion worth of coupons were distributed in the U.S. just last year alone.
How to coupon: The beginner's guide
When you have the basic things you need, it's now the time to learn how to become an extreme couponer.
Here are the steps:
1. Set aside time
Learning how to coupon and finding these little bit pieces of paper aren't a walk in the park at times.
You need to dedicate time just to doing that especially when you're just a beginner and want to learn as much as you can.
On the light side, doing it doesn't take a long time – that's a good thing to know especially for those who want to learn how to coupon. You can easily set up an hour at a time or maybe per week that could be enough.
Just think about this:
If you set up an hour each week, and are able to save $30 per week using your those, you're basically earning $30/hour.
That's not bad at all.
2. Find coupons
Typically, people who want to find them will start searching online, going through newspapers, etc.
While this is helpful, you could do better than this and get more/better results.Be strategic or organized. Lay out a plan as to where you want to go first, second, third, etc.
It's because it's easy to get into the rabbit hole of finding them or be all over the place at a given time and not get any better results.
Instead, you start with one platform, for example, local newspapers. Once you've exhausted your time finding and clipping them from newspapers, then, go to the next option.
Depending on where you live, they can be found in 4 different places:
- Local newspapers
- Store flyers
- Coupon websites (e.g. Shop At Home)
- Best coupon apps (Ibotta and Swagbucks are our favorites)
3. Use cash back sites
Sometimes, you can even use cash back sites to earn extra money or save money.
The truth is:
You aren't always going to buy in-store. Many times, you'd buy something from Amazon, Target.com, and the likes. See ways on how to extreme coupon at Walmart.
Good thing is, some of them can be used online. When you include cash back sites in the mix, you'd be getting more savings.
Here are some of the sites you can use to earn extra cash back:
The concept behind free cash back sites is simple:
- Login to your chosen site.
- Find the retailer you want to go (and you'll be redirected there).
- Once there, you shop and % of your purchases will be sent back to your site account (e.g., if you use Ebates, your cash back will be deposited to your Ebates account).
4. Start organizing
If you've tried meal kit services or are in one already, you'll find that organization is key.
The same thing goes with couponing. It is one of the first ones you need to do to learn how to coupon effectively.
Let's say you don't want to find yourself flipping them to see if you have one for a specific product.
There's really no hard and fast rule on how to organize them.
The best way to do it is to organize them in a way that works well for you. Just make a note that those that expire the earliest need to be in front of your stack (if there are ones for the same items but with different expirations).
Make sure you go through one source at a time. For example, use the local newspaper inserts first before moving on using another platform.
5. Learn the art of taking advantage of overage
Overage is where you can make money. Overage happens when your coupons' worth is more than the cost of the product.
That's where most people or extreme couponer make a lot of money (i.e, money hacks).
Here are some ways you can make money from these little pieces of paper:
There are many scenarios that create overage:
- Combination of manufacturer and store coupons together. You can combine both types of coupons in a transaction. For example, there's a manufacturer's coupon for XXXX snack and your local grocery store has one as well for that snack. That means you can combine the two and get substantial savings.
- Price match plus coupons. Some stores will do a price match if you find another store selling an item that's priced lower than what the store you are in offers. For example, YYYY store matches the shampoo for $3, and you have manufacturer and store coupons totaling to $7, then, there's an overage of $4 (i.e., you make money from your coupons).
- Discounted items or items on clearance. You can use coupons for discounted/clearance items. For example, you see XXXX snack at a discounted price of $2, and you have one for $3. That means, there's an overage of $1, which some stores will give you money and some will give you a gift card worth $1.
- Catalina. When your receipt prints out, sometimes, there's a one that prints out along with your receipt. That's called a Catalina coupon, and that works just as well as a manufacturer one. For example, if you get a $5 off for your next purchase, and you make $3 off your next purchase, then, there's an overage of $2.
Here are recommendations or general facts about overage and how stores view it:
- Different stores have different policies on overage. Some stores give you money back, some store credit, and some don't even give you anything at all. Always check the store's policy for overages.
- Trick to getting that overage to work for you. In cases when the store doesn't allow cash back on overage, you might as well fill your cart with more items so you can get that overage (in a subtle way). For example, if you have an overage of $1, get something that's worth a dollar or a little bit more (before taxes), and you'd be getting that item for like free.
5. Stack as many as you can
Since you know the tricks on how to get the most from coupons and how to make money from them, it's now the time to put everything into action and combine as many of the following as possible:
- Store sales
- Double coupon days
Tip: Sometimes, some grocery stores partner with gas companies to give extra savings. When they do, make sure to take advantage of these grocery stores. See here for cheap gas near me.
Other important factors to consider on how to coupon
These are some of the factors that will help you make your couponing journey as easy as possible (when done right) and even make you money online with coupons.
1. Pick a couponing goal
Don't just start just for the sake of saving a buck here and there.
If you want to be successful at doing this, defining what your goal is important.
Do you want to save money? Do you want to get free items? Do you want to stock up your pantry (see pantry challenge here)? Or something else.
By defining your goal, you'll have an easier time figuring out what steps you need to take or not take.
2. Get as many inserts (the same ones) as much as possible
You'll find that extreme couponers tend to use a ton of the same inserts to get a ton of the same coupons.
Some of them will go to the extreme like dumpster diving, knocking at people's door to see if they're using their newspaper inserts, etc.
You don't have to go that far.
You can simply get multiple copies of your Sunday newspaper. For best, money-saving results, subscribe to a Sunday-only subscription for each member in your family.
This way you can get as many newspapers as allowed per household without going to the extreme to get those inserts.
3. Be in a couponing group
For sure, you're not the only one who's into saving money.
Believe it or not:
There are a ton of people who use coupons all the time to save money, and they are everywhere. Be on the look out for those groups in your area.
When you join them, you'd be able to give them the ones you don't need but some other people may need and vice-versa.
4. Use your loyalty-rewards card program
When you sign up for a rewards program for the stores you always shop, you'll find that they will send you discounts from time to time. You can also check the weekly circulars.
These are store coupons you can use alongside the manufacturer's ones.Signing up is free, and even allows you to receive special discounts only applicable to their signed-up participants.
In some stores, you only need to scan your key tags or rewards cards, and the discounts will be applied automatically.
Some are even more advanced like Target. Target has an app called Cartwheel, which pretty much operates the same way. You can easily load up to 10 discounts in the Cartwheel app at a time, and use those at the checkout.
How to extreme coupon and stay motivated with it
This is the fact:
Learning how to coupon can be easy, but getting a lot of discounted items may not always be easy.
When you're doing everything to lower the bill but you can't seem to do that all the time, don't beat yourself up. There's learning curve in learning how to extreme coupon.
It takes time to be great at this one. Here are some things you need to know to get motivated in what you're doing:
1. Don't get frustrated
Don't get upset or frustrated if you don't walk away with 95% savings, for example, on your first trip.
Getting that kind of savings takes time, practice, and, sometimes, luck.
If you're the type of person who buys fresh produce and meat, chances of saving much are pretty low because there aren't a lot of coupons designed for those.
If you've watched shows about extreme couponers, just take a look at what they have in their carts. I bet you most of them aren't your normal produce and meat products.
2. Create your own rules
There aren't hard and fast rules regarding these coupons (aside from the store policies). That said, you need to create your own rules for you and stick with them.
Along that line, you need to create your own strategies. Try strategies here and there and tweak the ones that don't work or change them completely.
If you're trying to combine both manufacturers and store coupons and it doesn't always work for you, try other strategies.
The moment you find the right strategies for you and find your momentum, you'd be doing it like an extreme couponer, and even make money from home without putting a lot of effort.
3. Be aware of when sales happen
Believe it or not:Sales typically occur every 12 weeks. Use this knowledge to your advantage. This cycle is especially applicable for seasonal items.
Don't worry if you can't remember this trick. There are numerous websites that can show you when these sale cycles will happen, where, and how much the prices of the products will be.
4. Stay focused on what you need
Learning how to extreme coupon or even the normal way of doing it can be exhausting. I've been there and done that, and it's not fun at all.
If you have a Thanksgiving budget in mind, want to stick with it, and use coupons, then, let that be your focus or your goal. Find yourself those discounts that can lower your Thanksgiving bill.
There are so many deals out there that can make your head spin. You'll be tempted to clip coupons, and get those products. For example, if you don't have babies, don't buy baby formula even when you'd get a big discount.
Stay focused on what you need.
5. Just have fun
The whole experience should be fun – not exhausting.
You won't like doing it if you're not having fun. It's that simple.
Couponing for beginners: The other reality
I don’t quite often do it because it’s time-consuming and it’s almost a full-time job. But if you're a stay-home parent or mom, you can use this as one of your stay at home mom jobs.
The truth is it can also be a total waste of time (at times).
Just the other day, my wife decided to try couponing. I decided to let her do it all by herself from clipping coupons to price-matching.
I have to say that her couponing experience was kinda sorta a disaster. You will be like “What a bad husband?”.
You are definitely right. I wish I helped her so she didn’t have to feel frustrated.
The more you know about these challenges, the more you can better prepare yourself with the ups and downs that come with couponing.
1. Reading the coupons
When you want coupons, you either get them from RedPlum, Smart Source, P&G, or coupons.com.
I know the feeling of getting excited when you see them for the products you want to buy. Yehey! You went to the stores, bought the products, and tried to use them.
Unfortunately, they didn’t work.
Now, the question is, did you read the fine print or the inclusion and exclusions for those? A lot of times, newbies in couponing tend to be visual.
This means that when they see the images on the coupons, they think those products are what those are for. The answers are yes and no.
This is what happened to me when I first started. This is also what happened to my wife the other day.
Coupons are like contracts.
They have certain limitations and exclusions that you and the stores need to follow to make them work. If you use them for something that they are not intended to be used for, then, they will be unusable.
How to coupon the right way: Check the fine print. You’ll save time and headache when trying to buy the products using the ones you have.
2. Using coupons like they’re applicable to all stores
So you’ve got a ton of them with you. You go to the stores, purchase the products you have discounts for, use them, and pay your bill.
Unfortunately, the store only stacks a few at a given time. So, you went to a different store and go through the same process. Unfortunately, the cashier doesn’t allow you to use all of them.
It’s not uncommon to see these situations happen. Just because you get to use a lot of them in one store doesn’t mean you can use a lot of them in a different store.
I’m not talking about two different Walmarts. I am talking about one Walmart and one Harris Teeter, just for example.Your coupons may be valid but stores have a policy in place.
Some stores will let you use all of them, some will ask you to use them in batches of transactions, among others.
How to extreme coupon tip: Before you shop or get upset when you cannot use all them, always take time to read the store’s policy.
It is in your best interest to read it first before making any transactions involving their use.
3. Filtering the junk ones
Companies use coupons to market their products.
They use them as ways to entice you to buy the product that you think you really need and will save you money.
The truth is most of the products that have discounts for tend to be the ones you don’t need. They are products that you want or will want because of the enormous discounts.
I consider filtering out junk ones as one of the challenges in couponing in that you have to look through a ton of them to find what you really need.
Chances are you will come across with some for products that you don’t really need but you think you need them because of the potential savings.
For me, successful use of them is more than just clipping and using them. It takes skills to filter through the junk ones to find what you need.
Tip to make couponing work for you: Before opening the newspaper inserts or going to sites, determine what products you really need to buy.
Stick with them.
If you ever find ones that will help you get the products for free even though you don’t need them, still get them. You can always donate the products to churches and other charitable organizations.
4. Thinking you know how couponing works
I used to watch TLC’s Extreme Couponing. That’s where I got my idea to use coupons like crazy. I don’t know if it’s still on the air or not just because I have not had cable for at least 4 years. Click here if you want to get internet without cable.
If you have been watching this show, you probably have gotten an idea on how to coupon.
But the truth is it looks easy the way these couponers do. You think you know the ins and outs of couponing because you learned a lot from them.If it’s your first time or you are just starting with couponing, chances are you will make big mistakes even though you feel confident in what you are doing.
This is where my wife made some mistakes when she was trying to learn how to extreme coupon. Although she didn’t watch the show, she has seen me work my magic.
It’s my fault that I didn’t orient her or give her tips and tricks on better strategies.
This is also the reason that she got upset when we went to the grocery store and many of them didn’t work.
She did nail the preparation and thought she would do the same with the execution but it didn’t.
How to coupon effectively: Don’t beat up yourself when you make a bunch of mistakes once you get to the register. This is perfectly fine and common.
Learn from your mistakes and be better at what you do so you don’t have to undergo the same experience the next time you shop.
5. Assuming prices are the same for all locations
Before I go to the stores to buy the products I have coupons for, I always look at websites to see the final prices of the products. I love going to LivingRichWithCoupons, TargetDeals, just to name a few.
I made a mistake of not telling my wife to use the websites’ information as a gauge of the prices.
Remember, some stores may have different prices for the same products. In addition, stores have different prices and selections for clearance items.
This is the reason I say that couponers especially newbies need to use website information as a gauge. Chances are prices and selections will be different from one store to another.
Couponing for beginner's tip: If you look at coupon sites and see the products are on deep discounts once they are applied, do not always assume that you will end up paying the same cost as what you see there.
There is a chance that you’ll either pay more or less or exactly the same. That's one great trick for those learning how to extreme coupon.
Final thoughts: How to coupon the right way
Couponing can be easy, challenging, time-consuming, etc. all happening at the same time.
With practice and experience, you can learn the ins and outs of doing it in no time. Next thing you know, doing this is second nature to you.
Have you done couponing before? Are you still doing it? What have you learned from your that experience?