Thrifty Tips

Know how to coupon
Spring 2013: Couponing

Saving money everywhere possible is a necessity that most families have to contend with to make ends meet. Learning how to use coupons and vowing to never pay full price for items that you know you can get for free or pennies on the dollar is a great way to keep money in the bank (and even get the whole family involved).

If you’ve ever had the chance to catch an episode or two of “Extreme Couponing” on TLC, you already have an idea of the kind of money you can save when you clip coupons. Granted, televisions shows like that are highly dramatized, and if you ask anyone of those coupon queens, they will tell you that their normal trips to the store are a mere fraction the size of what you see on the show. The point is to start with small trips and watch the savings pile up.

I started “extreme” couponing about a year ago, and I can honestly tell you that I will never pay for toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, Thermacare patches, or razors ever again. During my year of couponing, I have built up a stock pile that consumes my spare bedroom’s closet and proven to myself that I won’t let the cost of consumable items control my budget. Going to the grocery store (or the drug store in many instances), should not be the most dreaded part of your week. When the deals start to fit together and it starts to make sense to you, you will look forward to the rush of leaving the grocery store having saved a lot of money on items you used to dread purchasing.

On that note, here are 10 tips to get started saving money with coupons.

  1. Extreme couponing really clicked for me when I read the book, “Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey,” by Joanie Demer and Heather Wheeler. The authors were both on a season of “Extreme Couponing” and the way they explain it can really help you get started.
  2. When you get your Sunday paper, you want to get your paper(s) from the biggest market available in the area. For example, if you live in Springfield, look for the Kansas City Star (which is available at Dollar Tree, Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy). The coupon inserts for the papers with the bigger region will have the better coupons.
  3. Clip your coupons as soon as you get them. You never want to let coupon inserts pile up on you unclipped. It becomes a monster of a task if you have a big stack of coupon inserts to clip. This is where you can recruit the kids, the man (or woman), the dog—really, anyone who can use scissors—to clip coupons and turn it into weekly family bonding. Teaching the kids how to save money is a skill they will thank you for when they are grown. (Thanks, Mom!)
  4. Know what kind of organization system you want to have before you start to clip. Anything from an accordion folder, index card box, binder or whatever else you can think of. I found that a five-inch binder with baseball card protectors and tabs was the best way for me.
  5. Get the sale ad from every store in town and don’t be afraid to price match at Wal-Mart. This is a great way to get the best deal, especially on food, without driving all over town.
  6. Know the coupon policy for every store you intend to frequent. It’s always a good idea to print it out and keep it with you so you can reference it if you have trouble with the store accepting your coupons.
  7. Read the details on the coupon. Make sure you know any size restrictions, if it’s good for a particular variety, etc. By reading the coupon, you can make sure that you aren’t committing coupon fraud.
  8. Any time you go to a store with a travel-size section, take all of your coupons because you never know when you’re going to find something for free. Coupons without size restrictions can be used on the travel-sized items and most of the time this will make the item free!
  9. Especially in the beginning, do your best to focus only on shopping when you’re trying to coupon. That means that while you’re getting the hang of it, pick a time when you can leave the distractions at home­—you know: the children, the husband, anyone who likes to pick up random things off the shelves and sneak them into your cart.
  10. Have fun! If you get too serious about couponing, it will consume your life and you won’t want to do it anymore. Enjoy it and don’t try to bite off more than you can chew in the beginning.



Cris Swaters
About author:

Cris Swaters is the communications coordinator at White River Valley Electric Co-op and a lover of extreme couponing, frugal living, social media and healthy home cooking. Get more tips and healthy eating recipes from Cris at

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