Beginners Guide to Couponing in 2023 – Your “How To” to Get Started
Coupons have been around for what seems like forever. Did you know that the first coupon issued in the United States was by Coca-Cola back in 1888?
Have you always wanted to coupon but didn’t know where to start? Had you started to coupon but became overwhelmed by all the different stores and policies and reward programs? We’ve got some great tips and tricks to simplify it and get you started on the road to couponing.
Couponing can change your life ~ honestly. How would you like to never have to pay for things like toothpaste, shampoo, cereal and so many other basic necessities? It would save you money and time. When you run out of something you can just grab another one from your stockpile. It’s nice to have a few extra dollars in your pocket but maybe even nicer to have a few extra minutes in your day. You could start saving for something special, maybe that vacation that you’ve been dreaming of. Maybe you’re struggling. Now you don’t have to worry about being able to afford a tube of toothpaste or a box of cereal. Maybe that money that you’re saving can go towards paying that electric bill that you have been struggling to pay. Couponing could change your life in small ways or in bigger ways. How much your life changes is up to you.
We’ve all seen those Couponing shows and have thought how cool would it be to get a bunch of shopping carts full of merchandise for FREE. Can it be done? Absolutely. Should I expect to do that my first day Couponing? Probably not.
The reason I say probably not is because it would most likely be too overwhelming for a first time and if anything doesn’t go as planned it may frustrate you so that you don’t try again. The most successful couponers pick one store at a time to learn and build up their stockpiles over time.
Here are some tips to get started Couponing
Pick your Favorite Store to Start
You don’t need to be an expert overnight. Pick your favorite store (or 2 favorite stores – 1 drugstore and 1 grocery store). Taking on too many stores at once can lead to frustration and stop you from couponing before you’ve even started. If you already shop at a store you’re probably familiar with the store and have some idea about their policies and reward programs. Print out the store coupon policy and read it. Keep that policy with you when you shop in case a question comes up.
Once you get started couponing you will find that there are some items that you should never pay for – Toothpaste is one of those items. If you have picked a drugstore as one of your stores to coupon at, I guarantee you won’t go more than 2-3 weeks without finding a FREE toothpaste deal and most likely, you will find a deal every week. That first FREE item will give you what we call the “coupon high” and it will fuel your desire and passion for couponing so maybe you can set a goal for yourself in week one or week two to get some FREE toothpaste!
Sign Up for Your Store’s Rewards Program
Before you start shopping, make sure that you have signed up for your store’s rewards program and an online account – that is your key to the kingdom. Signing up for your store’s reward’s program will allow you access to digital coupons and in many cases that is how you access the store sales. The process will be a little different for each store but most stores will allow you to sign up either in the store or online. Some stores will provide you with a card but more than likely you will access your deals and coupons while in the store by entering your phone number into the keypad at the store.
Once you have a store account you will be able to clip your coupons, do your shopping for pick up, delivery or online orders (availability of these shopping options will vary by store), and check out the current store promotion. The more you shop at a store using your rewards account the more likely you will start to see personalized coupons based on your shopping habits. If the store has a rewards program you will also be able to track your rewards.
Join the How to Shop for Free Facebook Group for Your Store
Facebook Groups are a great resource to ask questions, post shopping brags, and view deals. How to Shop for Free Admins are very active in the groups and monitor them closely. There is also a great group of couponers in each group always willing to step up and help by answering questions and offering advice. You will find the groups to be very friendly and very helpful. HERE is a complete list of our Facebook Groups. Make sure you join the groups for the stores you currently shop at. Maybe join the groups for the stores you’d like to shop at and “test the waters”.
Create a Wish List for Your Shopping Trip
The reason I call this a wish list is because you are just starting and may not have all the coupons required to do the best deals right away. That’s ok because deals come along all the time. You don’t need to get every deal every time. You can find the best deals each week in your store specific forum (or Facebook Group) at HowtoShopforFree.net. Let us and your fellow couponers do the work for you.
When you first start couponing you will want to change your shopping mindset. Instead of shopping for what you want each week you need to buy what’s on sale and/or what you have a coupon for. For example, when you put together your grocery list for the week, look at the sales flyer and coupons available and try to meal plan based on what is on sale and what you have coupons for. If you see an exceptionally good deal on something your family uses regularly buy some extras so that you have them on hand when the item is back to its regular price. Your goal is to build up a stockpile over time – you don’t need to get everything on shopping trip number one. This will reduce your overall cost when you look at your spending over the long term.
Gather Your Coupons
Now that you have your list created gather your coupons. The Coupon Database at HowtoShopforFree.net will tell you which coupon insert you will find the coupon in or provide you with the link to the printable coupon. Keep in mind that you can generally get two prints of each printable coupon per device.
Most stores also offer digital coupon that give you the ability to “coupon from your phone” instead of clipping or printing coupons. In addition to item specific coupons many stores will offer dollars off (i.e. $5 off $25 purchase) or dollars back (i,e, get $7 in rewards when you spend $25) coupons or boosters to save you even more money on your total purchase. Over the years, many people have switched to digital only couponing proving that you don’t need a paper coupon to get a great deal.
Check Your Rebate Apps
If you want to “coupon from your phone” to maximize your savings make sure you’re using rebate apps as well. In most cases, you can stack a coupon with a rebate app offer to double dip and maximize your savings. If you’re new to this you may be asking, “What exactly is a rebate app?” They are apps that you can use to get cash or other rewards for shopping. Some apps allow you to attach your store rewards cards and some require you to upload your receipt.
There are lots of rebate apps out there and it can become overwhelming if you try to use all of them on your first day of couponing. Take a look at the list of rebate apps that we’ve put together and pick one or two to start off with. Once you’re comfortable with those then you can add others until you’ve got a whole list of rebate apps in your savings arsenal. My personal favorite is Ibotta for its simplicity and ease of use.
Finalize Your Shopping List
Now that you have your coupons, finalize your list based on the coupons that you have available. Include the price of the items, coupons used, and any rewards points expected. This will help you verify the accuracy of the order while you are still at the register. I always know what my total will be before I get to the register. It definitely helps to make it a stress-free trip.
Now it’s time to get started and let couponing change your life for the better!
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