In essence, "couponing" is learning how to match coupons with sales at your local store(s) to get items that you need for the lowest possible price. You can make the transition to savings easier and quicker by laying some ground work before you get started; here are a few things to consider:
- Goals - Why do you want to save money? Are you saving for something big? Something small? Trying to get out of debt? If you take some time to consider your financial goals, it's much easier to stick to your decision to save money (and avoid "impulse buys"). With our debt settled we are now saving for a down payment on a house and for a newer family car.
- Coupons - Where will you get your coupons? There are websites where you can add digital coupons to store savings cards, websites that allow you to print out paper coupons, and Sunday newspaper inserts with coupons. If you decided to purchase newspapers, which paper in your area contains the best coupons? How many will you get? (Several gurus suggest 1 paper per person in your household.) We purchase two papers on Sunday mornings and supplement those with coupons we find online.
- Organization - How will you organize your coupons? How much time can you spare to coupon? Where will you keep your couponing "stash"? We keep the inserts from each Sunday in a single slot of an expandable file folder; loose coupons are kept in a small index card organizer (more on this later). We typically go to 1-3 stores a week, typically on our way to other places, and we keep a very small stash of items in our spare closet.
- Base Price List - What is a "good price" on items? How much are you paying for items that you buy now? By taking the time to make a list of the items you frequently purchase and the prices you regularly buy them at, you'll better recognize when a sale or a coupon or both is actually benefiting you.
- Brand Loyalty - Why do you buy the brands that you buy? Do they really work/taste better? The fewer items you are brand loyal to, the greater savings you can have. Note: Just because you have to use a specific brand of one or more items does not mean that couponing will be no use to you. We will buy the cheapest just about anything.