A free beginners and Resource Guide that teaches you how to Extreme Coupon, Couponing 101, and provides Free Printable Grocery Coupons as well as Coupon Policies, Coupon Lingo & much more! Even experienced couponers may use this as a refresher course and/or to learn new techniques. Using coupons will save you tons of money on groceries, and I’ve got the information and the resources to get you on your way. Whether you just want to purchase 2 newspapers each Sunday and do it on an average basis; or you’ve been watching Extreme Couponing and you’re ready to stockpile to the extreme; or something in-between the two, the techniques are basically the same. By the end of this course, you will know how to start extreme couponing or regular couponing and you will begin to put a major dent in what are most people's second highest expense... Groceries! Ready to go? Let's learn how to coupon and save!
How to Extreme Coupon DECIDE WHAT STORE(S) YOU’LL FOCUS ON
Only you know what stores are in your area and closest to your home. Once you see how much you can save, you’ll be on a Shopping High! You might want to scoop up every deal at every store, every week. Uh uh uh… Slow your roll, cowpoke! It can’t be done. Many of us in the beginning have tried and failed. It would consume your life to try and do this at 3 Grocery Stores and 3 Drug Stores. You must limit yourself to one Grocery Store and 1 Drug Store and master those first. Then you can branch out. Pick ones that you’re comfortable in, near your home, where the staff is not too harsh about couponers. After a few trips to different stores, you’ll find the right ones. I’ve narrowed mine down to Walmart (because they have great everyday prices); Publix (because they offer BOGO deals weekly, they’re extremely coupon friendly, they accept competitors coupons, the store is clean and near my home, and the employees are friendly); CVS (because they have SO many ways that you can save money, the staff is friendly, the stores are clean, and I like their ExtraBucks program); and Dollar Tree (because I love Dollar Tree and they now accept Manufacturer's coupons). I confess that I would shop at Target more often, but they are not close to my home.
How to Extreme Coupon FIND OUT THE STORE’S POLICIES
Find out if your store has a written Coupon Policy. Check our listing to see if your store has a written Coupon Policy. If it is not listed, visit their website. If they do not have one, send an email or letter similar to the one shown at the bottom of this page asking specific questions regarding their policy.
Find out if the store has a Price Match policy.
Ask if they accept competitor's coupons, and if so, which stores.
You can even ask the Customer Service Desk at the Grocery Store if they can provide you with a layout of their grocery isles.
How to Extreme Coupon SIGN UP FOR THE LOYALTY PROGRAM
If your store offers a Loyalty Program and/or program card, we suggest that you sign up for it in order to get the additional product savings that it will provide. Also, some coupons, such as with Cellfire, can be loaded to your store's loyalty card. Check our listing to see if your store is listed here. If it is not, visit their website.
How to Extreme Coupon PRE-EDUCATION
First, you need to know that there are two types of coupons:
Manufacturer Coupons: issued by the company that makes the product.
Store Coupons: issued by a store (Supermarket or Retailer) that sells the product.
Depending on the store's policy, these coupons can either be used alone, or together (which is called "stacking"). You'll often hear couponers/myself (in the blog) say "stack" such-and-such coupon with such-and-such coupon. This means that you would use 1 Manufacturer's Coupon + 1 Store Coupon (i.e., 1-Del Monte Corn Manufacturer's coupon + 1-Walgreens Del Monte Corn Store Coupon). Most stores allow this type of stacking. You cannot however stack 2 Manufacturer's coupons, or 2 Store coupons.
This is the basic formula and strategy that will lead you to savings. This in itself is easy to learn, so read it over two or three times before proceeding and MASTER IT!
Formula for Savings
Purchase the item when it’s on Sale -or- BOGO-buy one get one free
+ Coupon(s): Manufacturer and/or Store Coupon –AND- doubling, tripling and stacking of coupon(s) if your store allows!
This is the basic transaction and the formula shown above (less the cash back coupons). It also happens to be the transaction that you will use most often as a couponer. Yes, the savings are better with Formula's 2 and up (below), but if these deals are not available, this is your go to formula. You will save so... much more money than paying full price!
The store will double the value of a Manufacturer coupon, and some will only double up to a certain amount. Only some grocery stores in some States offer doubling, so you will need to check their Coupon Policy and/or inquire at your store.
To use a Manufacturer’s coupon AND a Store coupon for the same item.
DOUBLING & STACKING COUPONS
This is if your Store will double the value of a Manufacturer coupon AND will allow you to use a Store coupon (either from them or a competitor) for the same item. Love this Store, because you’ve found a gem!!!
BUY 1, GET 1 FREE STORE OFFER & COUPONS
Your Store offers a BOGO special (one of the best deals) AND you use two Manufacturer’s Coupons (one for each item is allowed).
FREE AFTER REBATE OFFERS
You will usually find these offers in with the Sunday coupons, but you can also find some of these online at Manufacturer's websites (see our Mfg'rs & Coupons section). You will have to wait to get your money refunded to you, but the only things that you end up paying for are the sales tax and the cost of a postage stamp. You can still use a Manufacturer's coupon on these items and still usually get refunded for the FULL purchase price, so this may basically cover the cost of the tax and stamp. I suggest that you get a separate receipt for these items (apart from your other groceries).
CASH BACK COUPONS
The recent introduction and popularity of Cash Back coupons is a wonderful thing! There is no one formula for using cash back coupons, because, here's the sweetest part... you can use cash back coupons with EVERY formula that I've listed above! That's right. Most cash back offers simply require that you upload a copy of your receipt to show that you purchased the product in the offer. They don't care if you paid .25 cents or nothing at all for the product - you will still qualify for the cash back. It's a beautiful thing! So, if you haven't yet signed up for programs like Checkout51, SavingStar, Snap by Groupon or ibotta, don't wait any longer. There's cash to be had!
How to Extreme Coupon LOOK AT THE STORE'S WEEKLY AD/CIRCULAR
As shown in the formula, it’s important in your savings strategy to combine sales with coupons.
Grocery Stores: Most Grocery Stores have mid-week sales circulars, so a lot of them do not arrive in your Sunday Paper. You may receive them mid-week in your mailbox, but many couponers prefer to look at or subscribe to the circulars online. Check out this thorough listing of Weekly Supermarket Ads on our website to find your stores.
Retail/Drug Stores: Many of these circulars/sales can be found in your Sunday paper, but they can also be found online at their websites.
How to Extreme Coupon TAKE TO THE STORE WITH YOU...
Loyalty Cards/Store Cards
Cell Phone/Tablet if you plan to use an App(s)
Gift Cards (if you have any)
Store Coupon Policies
Patience (at the checkout counter), or if you're at Walmart :-) (the aisles are always so crowded)
How to Extreme Coupon ADDITIONAL TIPS
Don’t go by the photo on the coupon, because manufacturer’s often show the largest or most expensive item in the photo. Go by the description, because you can get away with purchasing the smallest, least expensive product, and thereby save the most money, or even use it on a trial size (if not excluded).
You'll be visiting blogs and possibly Chat Rooms to find out about specials and deals at stores. Well, couponers have developed their own language of sorts to abbreviate many of the words that we use on a regular basis. I have created a thorough listing of this Coupon Lingo . You don't need to learn or even memorize this list. Just reference it when you need to. The abbreviations that you see repeatedly, you'll easily get to recognize.
Be willing to try new products, because manufacturer's typically offer higher value coupons for new products. They want to entice you to try it and hopefully like it enough to continue purchasing on a regular basis, so you typically save much more money with new product coupons!
If you plan to purchase in very large quantities of any particular item, call the store and pre-order the quantity you need. This ensures that they have the amount that you need on hand and held for you when you arrive, and it keeps you from being a shelf-sweeper (a term used for couponers who clear all the products from the shelves, leaving none/few for others).
Learn the layouts of the stores that you frequent, so that you have your coupons ready-to-go in the order of the store’s isles, by category (1) bakery, (2) deli, (3) fruits, (4) seafood, etc.
Look at unit prices on the labels. It shows you which item is the lowest price per unit.
I say, wear comfortable shoes, but if you wanna be a diva, be a diva – it’s not my aching feet and corns (hee hee).
How to Extreme Coupon COUPONING FAQ
Over the years, I have found out which questions tend to be asked the most, so I've put together a list of Frequently Asked Couponing Questions that may be of help to you. Please visit the page here. This page will open in a separate window, so that you can continue the How to Coupon Course with ease.
AT THE STORE
How to Extreme Coupon INTRODUCE YOURSELF
If you shop there regularly, and you shop around the same times each week, try to get to know the Manager(s) by first name. It’s good to do this before you run into an issue with your coupons (AND YOU WILL!), so that they will be more friendly and receptive to helping you with the issue. Ask to see them to ask a question or two about their Coupon Policy and then introduce yourself. Ask about their Buy 10 for $10 specials or something and ask if you only purchase one, will the register still ring it up for $1.00, or must you purchase 10 to get the sale price? Or, ask if they can special order products in large quantities for you, so that you don’t empty their shelves for other shoppers? Ask if they accept competitor’s coupons, and if so, which competitors? Tell them that you’re an avid coupon shopper and that you’ll be in regularly and that you’re happy to meet them.
How to Extreme Coupon DRAG SOMEONE WITH YOU
If you have someone available to go shopping with you (other than small children) on really large shopping trips, drag them along! This is mainly important at the Cash Register. Sometimes stores have a limit on the amount of coupons you can use in one transaction, or a maximum dollar amount of coupons you can use in one transaction, so you’ll need to split your purchases into 2 transactions with possibly 2 people. Some Cashiers and Stores will let you get away with doing multiple transactions/receipts by yourself. But, there’s another reason to have someone else with you on larger trips… while they’re loading the items onto the belt, you can be watching the Cashier and the Screen. Make certain that Sale Items ring up at the correct price, that BOGOs ring up correctly, and make certain that the Cashier rings up ALL of your coupons. Cashier’s have skipped some of my coupons when I wasn’t watching, or when I asked my husband to watch, and he later (after we got home) told me, I saw her put that one to the side – I WON’T YELL NOW (by the way, it was a $5.00 coupon)! If they have a problem scanning a coupon and put it to the side, and you aren’t paying attention, more than likely, they may not come back to it. Needless to say, now HE loads the belt and I watch the Cashier (lol).
How to Extreme Coupon PEOPLE IN LINE BEHIND YOU
If you’ve got a large haul and a stack of coupons and you know that it’s going to take the cashier some time, be polite and let anyone who comes behind you in line know that you’ve got a lot of coupons and it may be awhile. Usually, they’ll go find another line, but some folks choose to wait it out, until they finally get frustrated and leave. Hey, at least you forewarned them, right! I’ve had a few smart cashiers at Target that will close the register by cutting off their light temporarily until my transaction is finished, because I show them upfront that I’ve got a lot of coupons.
How to Extreme Coupon RAIN CHECKS
Is there a great sale on one or several items, but when you get to the store, the shelf is empty? Darn couponers beat you to the deals! :-) Don’t fret my babies…(as long as your coupon doesn’t expire that day.) All hail the Power of the Rain Check! Make note as you’re shopping of everything that they’re out of. Then before you leave the store, head over to the Customer Service counter. Tell them that you need Rain Check(s) for item(s) that were out-of-stock. They’ll ask you the specific item(s), the sale price and the quantity that you want. I usually ask them what their maximum quantity is, then have them put down that number, because you can always get less. But if the item is free or near-free with coupons, you’ve just bought yourself some more time to get more coupons if you’d like. Most stores limit the amount of items that you can get a Rain Check for, per person. For example, if you want 20 Lysol Hand Sanitizers, they may tell you they can only give you a maximum of 10. If you need more than they will give you, and you have your spouse or other person with you, have them get a separate rain check for the same item (that’s how you work around that system).
Some stores also put an expiration date on their Rain Checks, so be certain that you get back to the store before the Rain Check expires AND before your coupons (that you should be using along with this sale to maximize your savings) expires. Note: Stores will not give you a Rain Check on Clearance Items. When you redeem your Rain Checks, either put the Rain Check on the belt before the item, or verbally let the Cashier know, because she/he will need to manually enter the price for this item. And WATCH to make sure they do, or you might be charged the regular price!
How to Extreme Coupon AT THE 1ST OF THE MONTH
After the 1st of each month, go through your coupons and remove all coupons that expired at the end of the previous month. If you wish, you can donate these expired coupons to Military Families overseas (see instructions here). Also, most coupon companies, like Coupons.com load the majority of their new coupons at the beginning of the month, so come back here between the 1st and 4th and print the new coupons each month.
How to Extreme Coupon THE EXPERIENCE
You will have highs and lows during your shopping trips. Here are just a few:
The lows: the time it takes, the various and ever-changing Coupon Policies of each store; the Cashiers who don’t want to deal with coupons or don’t know how to deal with coupons; the sore feet (especially if you wore them dang high heels, diva); the missing items from the shelf, and lastly, the long check-out times.
The highs: The sheer joy, excitement of getting $300 worth of groceries for less than $100.00, or $100 worth for less than $25, or $30 worth of products for $5. Sometimes I walk out of a store, look to my husband and say, “It’s like I’m stealing!” But I did it all legitimately, and you can too! If you’re in a State that allows doubling of coupons, the deals can be even sweeter! Even with the lows, and the occasional nasty Cashier, I walk out of those stores doing the happy dance with a basket full of food, health and beauty items, cleaning products, over-the-counter medications, snacks and more for my family at 50 to 100% less than what it should have cost me! I’m doing the happy dance and no-one can tell me a thing!!!
FROM EXTREME COUPONING TO HOARDING Okay, let’s face it, this can become addictive! Saving money and getting all of these things for free or nearly free is A TOTAL RUSH!!! I mean really! We all could become a Television series if we don’t keep things in balance. Let’s not go from Extreme Couponing to Extreme Hoarding. Saving money is one thing, and running our families out of our homes because they’re filled with stuff is another! Keep it in check people. Stay fanatical about saving, not hoarding. When you’ve got 5 years worth of Spaghetti Sauce and the Spaghetti Sauce is vibrating on the shelf because it’s way past its expiration date, you’ve gone too far – lol. Rotate and Donate so you can Navigate – I came up with that on my own -- genius, right?! ☺
How to Extreme Coupon REAL VS. FAKE COUPONS
Stores must try and make certain that they only accept authentic coupons from customers/consumers, because they will not be reimbursed by the manufacturer for fraudulent, fake coupons.
It's pretty easy for Retailers to identify a newspaper-printed coupon, but computer-printed coupons are what is causing the majority of the problems. There are a number of counterfeit coupons being circulated on the internet. This is a criminal offense, and offenders can be prosecuted.
There are ways to identify a legitimate industry-standard format internet coupon, because they will have the following details:
- Copy detection and anti-copy technology is built-in. - Contains a product image. - A watermark taken from the product shot - shows through semi-transparent behind text (behind the dollar amount of coupon, i.e. Save $1.00). - Nonstandard fonts discourage alteration. - A pattern behind the expiration date reveals alteration (on Coupons.com coupons). - Encrypted unique serial number in 2-D barcode (on Coupons.com coupons). - Unique coupon info including print time stamp repeated throughout coupon (on Coupons.com and SmartSource coupons). If you look closely, this is used as the border/frame of the coupon. This greatly increases effort needed to alter or deface.
As a new couponer, you must know that there are some no-no's or Commandments in the coupon game!
- Though shall not copy a coupon (in order to make additional copies). If you try, these coupons will likely be rejected as fake.
- Though shall not scan a coupon (in order to make additional copies).
There is also an industry watchdog group, called The Coupon Information Corporation that keeps a list of fraudulent coupons on its website located at: Coupon Information Corporation
How to Extreme Coupon THE VOYAGE OF A PAPER COUPON
Have you ever wondered about the voyage a coupon takes from inception, to redemption, and where it goes after you hand it to a Cashier? Well, I'll try to provide that answer without boring you into a coma ☺.
Manufacturer wants to run a coupon for a product.
A Marketing Company distributes that coupon via either newpaper insert, printable coupon, ecoupon, in-store coupon, tearpad, product packaging, etc.
We, the consumer, gobble up these coupons to save money on the product.
When we purchase the product, we hand the coupon to the Cashier.
The Cashier scans the coupon, then puts it in the drawer. Then the coupons go to the "Beyond" section of Bed, Bath & Beyond, never to be heard from again. Sike!
Coupons have a "Consumer" section, and a "Retailer" section. The Retailer section includes an address for the Retailer to mail these coupons to for redemption/reimbursement. But stores receive so many coupons that this would take too much time and staff, so they use a Retail Clearinghouse to process the coupons for them. The Clearinghouse sorts coupons by Manufacturer, sends the invoices to the manufacturers, and then either collects the reimbursement for the store, or has the funds forwarded directly to the store. The Clearinghouse in turn gets paid for their labors. The manufacturer pays the store "above" face value for the coupon to cover the costs associated with processing that coupon (including Clearinghouse fees).
Congratulations! You have completed the majority of the Couponing for Beginners course, and you are well on your way to couponing!
Here is how to proceed next:
Your next section should be our "Couponing Resources" section (see the left column of the site).
Some sections, like the "Coupon Insert Schedule" and "Sunday Coupon Preview" are simply for glancing at (for now), and will take you no time at all - they are for your later use, but you need to know what they are, and that they are there. Many couponers find them useful - especially extreme couponers.
In the"Grocery Loyalty Programs" tab, you will check to see if any of your local Grocery Store's offer Loyalty programs, and if they do, you will use the link provided to sign up.
In the "Store Coupon Policies" section, you will use the links provided to print the Coupon Policies of all of the stores that you intend to regularly coupon shop at.
If you're interested in using Cash Back coupons, and I highly suggest that you do; also in the Learn How to Coupon section are "How To" pages for several Cash Back Coupon programs. Learn to use these on your computer and/or cell phone, and you'll save much more money!
When you've completed the series, you can go to the "Free Grocery Coupons" section and get free printable grocery coupons, eCoupons and Cash Back coupons anytime! You can also access the coupons from the Coupon Center below. This Coupon Center will appear on most coupon-related pages of this site, for your easy access.
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As the Founder and Publisher of Sunday-Paper-Coupons.com and Discount Fanatics LaTiahna Nelson shares her money saving techniques and knowledge to help you to save money in everyday life. In 2014, she was named an America's Smartest Shopper Finalist by "All You Magazine", and has saved countless individuals money with her advice over the years. She is also an Artist and jewelry-maker with a store on Etsy.