Coupon Basics

I’ve been asked by several people to write about some easy ways to coupon so here are the basics (in my opinion).  Please note that everyone coupons the way that is easiest and best for them and there is no completely correct way to do it.  Here is what works for me!

1. Get the paper!  I was SO apprehensive about buying a subscription to a newspaper just to save money.  That didn’t make sense to me.  But, I was determined to try the couponing thing!  Since my paper is the News & Observer, I went to google and typed in “News & Observer coupon codes” and searched the internet for some code I could use to save on a paper subscription.  After about 10 minutes, I was able to located a code that brought my price to 26 Sunday papers for $26!  That’s just a dollar a paper!  At that price, it’s totally worth it!

2. Know the lingo!  It can be very frustrating to start couponing if you don’t know the terms.  So here are some of the terms you should know.  Manufacturer coupons: coupons put out by a manufacturer (these are mostly on products an in the paper) – they will say on them “Manufacturer coupon.” Store coupon: these coupons are put out by a store.  You can find these sometimes in the paper, or on a stores website.  These coupons can be used with Manufacturer coupons which is called “stacking.”  Catalina: these coupons print with your receipt at the time of checkout.  I almost always get catalinas at Food Lion.  Blinkie: these coupons come out of a blinking coupon dispenser located on a store isle.  OOP: Out of pocket.  This term refers to how much you paid for your purchase after coupons, sales, & discounts.  WYB: When you buy, for example, Get a quart of milk free WYB 3 boxes of cereal.

3. Organize your coupons!  This may seem like a “duh” statement but there are lots of weeks when I’m really busy and don’t have time to file away my coupons so I just bring the coupon insert with me to the store and that is ALWAYS a bad trip.  Being organized before you get to the store saves so much headache!  I even pull out what coupons I am going to use at what store before I get there and clip them all together so I’m ready!

4. Use coupon websites!  I can’t stress enough how much coupon websites help me!  At first, I didn’t know much about couponing and really needed help.  So I found a few trusted coupon sites that really walked me through the process and still help me.  I visit these sites once a day since they all share daily savings advice and deals.  My favorite sites are &  These are also the sites I use to show me where the best weekly deals are.  They also list out each store’s weekly ad and which coupons match up to the sales – it’s like they do most of the work for me!

5. Never use a coupon without a sale!  People get stuff for free all the time or items for just a few cents and people always ask how to do that.  The biggest way is to match sales with coupons.  Using a coupon on a regularly priced item might sound ok, but you won’t get your max savings until the item is on sale.  For example, Carefree lines are usually about $1.50 for a small package.  I almost always have coupons for $1.00 off.  If I used the coupon with the regular price, I’d get them for $0.50.  Not bad, right?  Wrong!  If I wait until they go on sale, they almost always go down to $0.99 so I can get them for free! Free is always better!

6. Learn to let it go!  This has probably been the hardest thing for me to learn.  Not every item on sale is something I need, and not every sale is a good deal.  I tend to want every deal and want to use every coupon.  But if we all did that, there would be nothing left – in the store or the bank!  So I have had to learn to just let some things go.  For instance, I bought Fiber One cereal on sale + coupon a few weeks ago because it seemed like a good price.  We haven’t ever had that cereal before and once I tried it…GROSS!  It was NOT good and the box just might be wasted.  I should have let that one go since I wasn’t familiar with the product first.  I also get upset when I go to a store for a great deal and they are all out.  Uhhh!  But, I have to learn to let it go.  That item WILL be on sale again and there WILL be another coupon for it later.

7. Stock up!  This is also a hard one for me.  Most websites say that products come in a 6 week cycle.  For instance, Yoplait yogurt goes on sale every 6 weeks.  So when I find it for a great price on sale, I should buy enough to last me 6 weeks, so I don’t have to buy it again until it’s on sale again.  This way, you never have to buy anything that’s not on sale because you’ll have it all on hand.  Honestly, I don’t always follow this rule.  I find that many items don’t necessarily follow that cycle, such as toothpaste (which is always on sale SOMEWHERE).  I purchase the items I need and if an item is free or just $0.05, then I’ll buy some extra, but for me personally, I’d rather have a lower receipt and then just do without once the item runs out.  Like Yoplait.  I’ll buy what makes the best financial and practical sense at the time, but if we eat it all before it’s on sale again, then oh well!    But then, there will have been something else on sale so our fridge won’t be empty and we won’t go hungry.

8. Know your prices!  Knowing what’s a good price for what item is important.  At first, you may have to watch those coupon websites for them to tell you since you won’t know.  But soon enough you will catch on to the best prices.  There are lots of items that you should NEVER pay for!  Toothpaste, toothbrushes, panty liners, & gum are always free for me.  And now that I have been doing it for a while, regular prices just shock me!  Of course, there are lots of items that never get coupons.  Meat & produce are perfect examples.  With those items, you will just have to look for sales or become familiar with your best priced store.  Around me, the best “no coupon store” is Aldi.  They have the best prices, hands down, on meat and produce.  So if I need something without a coupon, I check Aldi first to get the best price.

9. Don’t go to every store!  I don’t have to tell you that no one has time to drive all around town to 10 different stores just to get the best deals each week.  That takes up your precious time and gas money.  So, I have chosen a few stores that I visit each week that are close to our house and that I know always have good deals.  For instance, we don’t have a wal-mart near us and even though they have good sales and coupon match ups, I refuse to drive 15-20 minutes for those.  More than likely, those same items will be on sale at a store close to me or they’ll be on sale next week.  Just outside of our neighborhood, we have a great Harris Teeter, a Rite Aid, and a Food Lion so these are the stores I usually visit weekly.  Every now and then I visit Target.  Since I visit these stores regularly, I am fairly familiar with their coupon policies and I know how to get in and out quickly and what route to take through the store.

10. Savings doesn’t end with clipped coupons!  Part of couponing is knowing that saving money comes from EVERYWHERE – not just the coupons you have clipped from the paper.  Coupons can come from the internet, out of cereal boxes, from “liking” a company on facebook, etc.  Target even has a special section on their website just for coupons – pages and pages of them that are printable!  Keep a look out for coupons from everywhere!  But that’s not it either!  Stores offer lots of ways you can save with them other than coupons.  Staples & Rite Aid have “single check rebates” where you can easily go online, put in a qualifying purchase receipt, and get a check in just a few weeks.  I’ve done this at both stores and it’s super easy and fast!  Harris Teeter offers “ZVRs” which are coupons that load to your VIC card and come right off your receipt at the register.  And, the major pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens & Rite Aid, reward you for certain purchases.  For instance, in their ad, Rite Aid will say “Receive $2 in +Up Rewards if you buy Revlon Foundation.”  That means if you buy the product specified, you’ll receive the rewards on your receipt that you can use on your next purchase.  It’s like they are paying you to shop!

Well, I hope that helps a little!  If you’ve found things that work for you, I’d love to hear about them.  And I’m always more than happy to share more tips for anyone interested.


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