Sounds like a lot of Sisters and Misters have included couponing as part of their New Year’s resolutions (or New Year’s Goals, as we’ve been talking about this week!). Obviously, we believe in using coupons to help you get the most out of your shopping budget. But if you’re just getting started or you’re re-committing to getting serious about couponing, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t expect to get $500 worth of stuff for free: When it first came out, the Extreme Couponing show got lots of people excited to use coupons. Inspiring, yes, but super aggravating too. My husband kept laughing at me when I watched the show, because I kept shouting at the TV about coupon policies, shelf clearing, and all kinds of other things that make that show’s hauls ridiculous, and impossible for the average couponer. It was even discovered after the fact that some of those people used coupons fraudulently. It’s just not realistic to expect a cart full of groceries for pennies (and really, who needs 95 mustards anyway?). That being said…
- You CAN get stuff for free: It might be free after the OYNOs that you get back, or after a rebate, which would mean putting out a little bit out-of-pocket, then receiving the cost back in coupons for your next order or a rebate check. Some items will indeed be free after coupons (but don’t expect to buy 50+ of them!) For instance, Giant Eagle frequently has free toothbrushes or toothpaste after a 75¢ coupon doubles, and you can keep an eye on our “top deal” posts for the drug stores to score personal care freebies.
- It does take some time: Clipping & organizing coupons, checking store matchups for the best deals, planning what you want to buy…it all takes a little time. It’s worth it though, because advance preparation makes your in-store experience much easier. Use our store matchups to create a printable list, and don’t forget the fantastic Favado app for your smartphone, which can help you find the best deals when you’re away from the computer. Click HERE to read another post about where to focus your attention whether you have 15 minutes or an hour+ each week to devote to couponing.
- Get Organized: Sara has shared her great post on the Binder Method for organizing coupons. This is a great way to go if you’re going to get serious about couponing and stick with it, and allows you to grab coupons when you come upon an unadvertised deal. There are other methods for organizing coupons too (by category in a file envelope or box, for example). Bottom line, find a method that works for you, and go for it!
- Pace yourself: Especially if you’re just getting started, focus on one or two stores–probably Giant Eagle and whatever’s the most convenient drug store for you. And remember that you don’t need to fill your stockpile in just a few shopping trips: it can (and should) take months to stock up on all the essentials, just grabbing a few extra things at their rock-bottom prices each week. If you have a busy week when you don’t have time to plan a big trip, just grab the essentials and try again the following week. Stay positive, and don’t feel like you have to do it all!
- Have fun! If you’re stressing out over couponing, you’re less likely to keep up with it. Snag a few great deals each week (our “Top Deals” posts are a great place to start), and make sure to celebrate your successes by sharing them with all of us in the comments of a store post or on Facebook! You don’t have to grab every deal, and you shouldn’t try or you’ll make yourself nuts. Prioritize the most important items you’d like to shop for, and enjoy getting those deals.
Any seasoned veteran Sisters or Misters out there with more tips to share for those just starting out? And if you’ve been off the couponing bandwagon for a while, now’s a great time to jump back on. Slow and steady wins the race–be reasonable with your expectations for yourself and your coupon deals, and you’ll be able to have fun and celebrate some successes as you work on your new couponing goals.