Most people make a shopping list each week while glancing at the weekly ad and coupon inserts from their Sunday paper. They use that week’s coupons to buy the items on sale that week. Then they toss the coupon inserts along with the weekly ads and do the same thing next week. Most people do not realize that the best way to use coupons is to save the inserts and use them a few weeks after they come out.
If you take the time to learn the sale cycle of items, you can be saving 50% or more on the items you purchase every day. Most things run through a 6 week sale cycle and the longer you coupon, the more familiar you will become with what goes on sale and when. I have created a basic Buy-Now-Price-List list to use as a beginner. When you see these prices, you know it is time to stock up!
The reason couponing works so well is because you can save coupon inserts to use on an item when it goes on sale at its “stockpile price”, or the lowest price it will reach during that 6 week sale cycle. If you buy enough of the item to last you until it goes on sale again, you will not have to buy that item at retail price. Let’s look at an example.
Let’s use “General Brand” mustard with a retail value of $1.79 for our example below. We will say it runs on a typical 6 week cycle and your family will use 3 bottles of mustard in those 6 weeks. See the diagram below to show how you will save money by stockpiling that item at its rock bottom price.
So, by waiting until the item reaches its lowest price in the 6 week sale cycle and buying a larger quantity, we saved $4.77 on our 3 bottles of “General Brand” mustard – that is 89% off the retail price! I use 3 in the example, but another thing to keep in mind is that next time the item goes on sale, there may not be a coupon out for it. That is why you see couponers out there buying 10 mustards. As long as you will use those items before they expire, you will save money in the long run. That is why a stockpile works!
This is a completely new way of shopping for most people, but once mastered, has the potential to save you hundreds to thousands of dollars each year!
It will take a couple weeks to get a nice supply of coupons together before the real couponing can begin, so let’s talk about how to find coupons.
Sunday Paper Inserts
You can find them in your weekly Sunday paper, which is the most common way. There are also many sites where you can “buy” clipped coupons from different sites online. I buy 4-6 papers each week and if there is a really good coupon that I know I would like more of, I will purchase that coupon online. I buy my inserts in increments of 2 to take advantage of BOGO deals which will make more sense a little later on in the bootcamp.
Printable Coupons from the internet
It’s All Frugal provides you with an easy way to print coupons, right from my site here, using the 3 most commonly used sites. Most sites limit you to 2 prints per computer and there are also limits on the total prints per coupon. If you see a coupon you like, you should print it immediately before it is no longer available.
*There are tons of other ways to find coupons, and the more experienced you become, the easier they will be to find. There are coupons on products (called peelies), you can write manufacturers and they will send you coupons in the mail. There are also digital coupons that can be loaded directly to your shopper’s cards for certain stores or even sent to your phone via text or app. I like to use only inserts and printables in my instructions since these are the easiest ways for people to acquire coupons (not everybody has a smartphone).
I started out with the binder method and it worked great for me as a beginner. As I developed and began acquiring more coupons, the filing method just seemed easier. I simply file my inserts in my filing cabinet by week and pull them as I need to clip. I write the last expiration date on the front cover and about once a month I purge my file cabinet of any expired inserts. I keep envelopes in my couponing tote/purse for coupons that I clip and do not use or for high value coupons I print or clip immediately (this comes in handy since you cannot file printable and clipped coupons in a file cabinet).
Some people like to have all their coupons in front of them at all times to take advantage of clearance and store closeout deals. I started out that way and loved my binder for that reason. My only drawback was that it seemed to take a lot of time to keep up with clipping and I hated lugging around that binder. But ….each person is different so try one or both. You will find a way that works for you.
Once you have decided on the storage method you would like to try, decide on where you will be keeping your coupons and set up a “base of operations”. It is nice to have an area, just for you, where you can go to get some “coupon time”. Kids, and even husbands, can be a distraction. I do get more accomplished when I am working at my desk, but I am often cutting coupons at the kitchen table, so if that is where you like to work, then go for it.
Now would also be an ideal time to start thinking about where you will be building your stockpile. You do not need a large space immediately, but it will grow faster than you can imagine, so just keep that in the back of your mind when picking a spot.
Read through my Getting Started guide here to find out what to do when you are just starting out couponing. This guide will complete your beginner’s knowledge needed to learn couponing.
Week One Wrap Up