The first time I saw a show about couponing I was in shock. I could not believe that the people on the show were literally getting their groceries for free or almost free. It seemed almost too good to be true, but I decided to find out if it really was possible. I started reading as much as I could on the topic and each Sunday morning my husband or I would run out early to buy several Sunday papers. I made a coupon notebook and began my journey into the world of couponing. I learned a lot along the way so here are my top five tips for beginner ‘couponers’.
Take Time to Learn
There is always a level of excitement when I decide to take on a new challenge. The thought of getting the groceries and toiletries that my family needs at a deep discount is exciting. Money is always tight, and there is always another bill I can put that money toward. In my excitement, the first thing I wanted to do was go get some coupons and run to the store. I did that, and was disappointed at the meager savings. I learned the hard way that each store has a different coupon policy. Some double coupons and some do not. Others only take a certain number of the same coupon. A little bit of research on the topic quickly revealed this information along with a lot of other useful hints and tips. There is a wealth of free information on this topic online through websites and blogs, take time to learn now and it will save you time and frustration later.
Do not try to do everything at once. You will get overwhelmed and discouraged if you expect your very first shopping trip to be as successful as what you see on television. Set aside time for a specific couponing shopping trip. I found that combining regular grocery shopping with a couponing trip is too much to think about at once. For your first trip, try and concentrate on just one store. Several of the big stores do price match based on ads but do not have a lot of special offers. Some of the smaller stores and regional stores offer more special promotions and store specific coupons. The store choices is up to you, but concentrate on one and do not run all over town from store to store searching for the best deals. If you do it that way, you will quickly burn out and wonder if the savings are worth all the effort.
It is an amazing feeling to get something that your family will use at a deep discount. When you are just starting out, focus on the best deals. Small victories will motivate you to keep trying and learning about the process. Another reason to start small is because it is easy to make mistakes in the beginning. If you have two or three shopping carts full of products, it will be extremely difficult to keep up with what each item is actually costing. If you miscalculate or misunderstand the coupon policy of the store, it could mean hours of wasted time with nothing to show for it. On the surface, couponing seems straight forward but it can actually be a complicated process. There are several elements that effect what you will ultimately pay for each item. When you start small, the victories will be small, but so will your mistakes.
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Find a Partner
Everything is more fun with friends, and couponing is no exception. If you work with a partner the two of you can divide the tasks and get twice as much done in the same amount of time. Play to the strengths of each partner. For example, I like the preparation part of the whole process such a looking online for new coupons and researching which stores have the best deals. I am not in love with the actual shopping part of the whole experience. It makes me nervous to take up a lot of time at the cash register and it bothers me when the cashier seems to disapprove. However, my sister loves the shopping part of the process. She is so distracted by the thrill of the deal that she does not notice the people in line behind her or the disapproving looks of the cashier. We make a good team because we can divide the tasks and each one of us gets to do the part we enjoy the most.
Having a friend to work with will also help with your motivation. If you get discouraged a partner can encourage you and even pick up the slack if you need a break. There is also a deeper level of commitment to the process if you have another person involved. It is easier to quit anything when you are the only person that is involved, but when there is someone else counting on you it automatically increases the commitment level.
If you are serious about saving a lot of money through couponing you need to set some goals. Why did you want to do this in the first place? Does your family need the extra money for other expenses or is this something you are doing for the challenge? How you answer these questions will determine how much time you spend couponing and how seriously you take the process.
You should also set monetary goals. For example, let us say you spend $100.00 per week on groceries, for a total of $400.00 per month. If you set the goal to spend a total of $25.00 per week, or $100.00 per month on groceries, you can focus your efforts on the tasks that are most likely to help you achieve your goal. This also helps you stay focused on your reasons for couponing. A savings of $300.00 per month can make a big difference.
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Let Others Do the Work for You
Using the expertise of other, more experienced couponers, is the most important tip for new couponers. There is an overwhelming amount of information to consider when you first start this process. However, there are a lot of amazing and free resources available to help you get started. I do not live in a metropolitan area, but there are blogs about couponing specific to my area. I can go to the blog, compare the sale circulars from the local stores, and see the coupon match ups for each store. The creator of the blog has done a huge amount of the prep work and willingly shares the information with others. This will save you time and frustration as you start learning about the couponing process.
I learned most of these tips through trial and error as I embarked on the process of couponing. There is no need to do everything the hard way when there are free and easily accessible resources available. Couponing at an extreme level requires learning, preparation, and determination. If you have the determination to take the time to learn and prepare, you will succeed in saving money for your family through couponing.