When I was in high school, my mom came home with probably $70 worth of items at CVS and had the family guess how much she spent. My siblings and I guessed around $30-40, and were floored when she said her total was only $8. She had always used coupons and been frugal, but I remember this as the day our lives totally changed – I think this was the day that How to Shop for Free was truly born, even if mom didn’t create HowtoShopforFree.net until years later.
I know some of you might be thinking “Can you really save that much with coupons?” I totally get that -I’ve always admired my mom for saving so much with coupons, but I never really got into doing the deals myself until I moved into my first apartment, and couldn’t easily dip into her stockpile. Since then, I’ve become a full fledged couponer – I even had to buy my own freezer recently because the number of awesome deals outweighed the amount of space in my freezer! So why do couponers buy so much? To build their stockpile of course! Have a stockpile (multiples of items) means you don’t have to pay full price when you run out of an item – just grab another from your stockpile!
You might also be thinking “Who needs 30 boxes of pasta? I want to save money on fresh fruit and veggies!” Me too, girl, me too. Once in a blue moon, you can get awesome couponing deals on fresh fruit, veggies, and meat – but not always. However, the amount of money you’ll save on non perishable items will give you more money to spend on the fresh stuff. I personally have built my stockpile to the point where I currently only need to buy fresh things, so I can budget $20/week for that instead of the $100/week I spent on groceries before couponing.
Jumping into the coupon world can be tough – there’s a whole new language to learn, it involves a lot of math, and sometimes the deal is gone before you have a chance to grab it. This is why I’ve broken down a few tips to help you get started and send you on your way to becoming a coupon pro:
#1 Start with One Store.
The amount of coupons and deals can be overwhelming, especially if you try to get every deal at every store. When I started couponing, I found myself spending hours driving all over – from Target, to Stop & Shop, Shaw’s, CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and more. I just couldn’t keep up with all the deals, so I took a step back and decided to focus on Stop & Shop, since that was the closest store to me. Pick a store you are comfortable with and is nearby, and master the deals at that store before moving on to the next. Trust me, you’ll save yourself from pulling out your hair trying to figure it all out.
#2 Get Coupons from the Sunday paper AND online.
Now that you’ve picked a store to start couponing at, you’ll of course need coupons. “So I need to buy the Sunday paper for a couple measly coupons?” Wrong. No. Couponing has evolved. Yeah, sure, you could spend $3.50 on the paper and not get very many coupons. Or you could find a free newspaper in your area that has coupon inserts. Or, you could join the Couponing World of the 21st century, and print your coupons right from your computer. Seriously. You can just click whatever coupons you want, print them out, and head to the store. If you don’t have one already, you should invest in a printer – the amount you’ll save with your printed coupons far outweighs the cost of the printer. I personally use this printer – I love that it connects to my laptop through WiFi, so I can print from anywhere in the house:
#3 Use Store Apps.
Many stores have mobile apps with coupons you can download right to your phone – less slips of paper to carry around means less mess in your purse, and less to keep track of. Stop & Shop’s app often does “Freebie Friday” where they will give you a coupon for a free item – just “clip” the coupon in your app, grab the item at the store, scan your phone at checkout, and boom! Free stuff. Target’s Cartwheel app even lets you scan items in the store and tells you if a coupon exists for that item; if there’s a coupon, you can just add it to your card right there. I love Cartwheel because you don’t need to prep before going to the store – just shop and scan.
#4 Use Rebate Apps.
There are dozens upon dozens of rebate apps; the biggest and best players in the game are ibotta, Checkout 51, MobiSave, and BerryCart. Once again, I recommend choosing just one rebate app to start so you don’t get overwhelmed. My personal favorite, and most often recommended, ibotta – you just select which items you bought, take a picture of your receipt, and boom – money in your account. You can cash out the money through PayPal or pick a gift card. As I mentioned in Ways to Earn Money as a Stay-At-Home Girlfriend, this is how I fund my Sephora addiction.
#5 Follow a Couponing Website for the Latest Deals.
Okay, so you’ve picked your store, you’ve found some coupons, you’ve got a rebate app.. now what? How do you know what a good deal is? You follow a couponing website, of course! My personal favorite (and owned by my mom, so how could it not be the best?) is How to Shop for Free. On the HTSFF site, you can just go to the “HOT DEALS” tab, select your store, and voila! – all the latest deals at that store are posted. Each post includes a step by step breakdown of the deal, including where to get the coupons and when the deal ends. All of the work is literally already done for you. The How to Shop for Free website also has a price comparison tool that lets you know if there is a better deal at another store. The coupon database is also a great resource – just type in the item you want to by and you’ll see if any coupons for that item exist and where to find them.
#6 Join Facebook Groups.
Probably one of the best tools you can use when beginning to coupon is joining a couponing community. There are tons of freebies and deals groups for every store you could possibly want to shop/coupon at. Personally, I’m super active in Stop & Shop Freebies and Deals, since Stop & Shop is my couponing destination of choice – but you can pick whichever one looks best to you. In these groups, couponers share deals, answer questions, and are welcoming to people who are just joining the couponing world. They might not necessarily hold your hand through all the steps, but they will encourage and support you on your journey to becoming a couponing rockstar.
Couponing can take a lot of dedication and many who jump in without a plan end up giving up due to how overwhelming and time consuming it can be. However, now that you have the secret knowledge on how to start couponing and doing it the right way, a lot of the time and stress people associate with coupons will be removed. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll earn the title of Coupon Queen (or King)!
Just kidding, that will always be my mom. But you might come in a close second. 🙂
All views and opinions expressed in this post are mine. This is not a sponsored/paid post. This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting SAH GF.