Couponing 101

If you are new to couponing please read the info that I have gathered here! I have taken bits of info from several of the greatest sources on the web and compiled it here for you to read! Not sure of something that you have read? Please contact me, I am more than happy to explain a concept or give you more info on a certain topic!

Why Coupon??
If you’re like me, you never want to pay full price. These virtual classes will discuss how we use coupons, why and many other aspects of couponing. But right now, we are addressing an age old question: Are coupons worth it? You will find many people who will tell you, it simply takes to much time and energy. They say time is money, so spend your time making money. They may be right, but that doesn’t negate that fact that Coupons CAN be a very effective tool in lowering your grocery bill. Coupons must be used effectively in order to have an effect on your bottom line. 
You’re probably wondering what I mean. Let’s take a look at some reasons people think coupons are a waste of time. Number one, people buy products they normally wouldn’t buy. If you’re getting a product for 50% off, lots of people will buy it! They are spending money they won’t have spent to buy a product they don’t need. With people who start couponing, this is a common problem. We have to be reminded that the manufacturers don’t really care about our family budgets. They know that coupons are a marketing tool that helps place their products in the hands of the consumer. 
Number two, coupons are difficult to organize, clip and use. I hear all the time, ‘I forgot my coupons at home!I think to myself, ‘gosh it would be like forgetting my wallet!’ You have to look at coupons as if they are part of your budget. Getting organized and creating a good system that works is one of the only ways to make coupons work. 
Number Three, you only save a little. I am a believer in pennies. In other words, little things add up quick. 
Coupon success boils down to three things: Organization, Usage & Timing
 You’ve got to be organized. Read on this site about organizational strategies. My binders are infamous! I’ve even had news anchors joke about them. Binders work for me, something else might work for you. 
 You’ve got to learn to use coupons. We talk a lot on about the quantity of coupons we use. If you only clip out one coupon, what’s the use? I buy ten papers. Many people look at me strange, but you’ve got to realize why. In order to save a lot with coupons, you’ve got to use a lot of coupons. It’s a very simple concept. 
So now that I’ve got my coupons, and I’m organized the last step is the most important: timing. Don’t just go to the store and use your coupons…..wait! Wait until the item goes on sale. Often with the additional coupon savings you will get items for nearly free. It’s an amazing concept!!
In following the three very basic steps above, I have lowered my grocery bill around 60-65%. I am very disciplined, I go with a list, I do intense planning, I never buy something I won’t use unless it’s free. (Oh by the way, I have a whole garage full of things I don’t use, but got for free!) Using coupons can be quite addicting, and sometimes we all tend to want to use them on items just because they are a good deal. 
Remember, come to this site, ask questions, learn and really get involved here. We can help you, and will help you save hundreds every month!! 

Now I do have some "homework" for you! 

On Sunday buy at least 5 papers (make sure the coupons are inside)
Get organized. Read about organizational strategies.
Use one coupon on an item that is on sale that you buy normally.

Where do I find Coupons?

Coupons are found everywhere!!! I have found that most people know that coupons are in the newspaper, but most have no idea where to look. In this lesson we are going to take a look at where we find coupons

Number One: The Sunday Newspaper. Every Sunday your local newspaper should have the coupon ‘inserts’. An insert is a book of coupons. The 4 common inserts in the Sunday paper are SmartSource (SS), RedPlum(RP), General Mills(GM) and P&G Saver(PG). Let’s start with the P&G Saver. This comes out once a month on the first Sunday of the month. Many people look forward to this insert because it can have very valuable coupons that make many items free or nearly free. SmartSource and RedPlum usually come out every week with varying quantities of coupons in each. The General Mills Insert varies, and usually is seen every two months and only has a few pages of really good coupons. The only exceptions to these timelines are holidays. Holidays interrupt the schedule, so be aware of that!! I usually check the paper before I buy it to make sure the coupons are inside. 
On a frugal note, the newspaper is generally more expensive on Sundays, so find a store that is selling it for a dollar. Usually stores like the Dollar Tree or even your local grocery store sometimes have newspapers for $1.00. I usually buy 4 or 5 papers every week because if something is free, I can buy it five times to maximize my savings. 
Number Two: The Internet.We do not have internet coupons on!!! We are able to direct you to some internet coupons, but internet coupons are found on sites like or!! These and many others have online coupons that you can print. You are usually allowed to print two copies of these coupons but no more. The first copy is intended for you to use; the second copy is allowed in case of printer malfunction. The second copy must be obtained by hitting your back button on your browser after you print the first one. If you try to print more usually the screen with say, “Sorry, you have printed the maximum number allowed.” If you really want to print more, go to a different computer. Many people go to libraries because there are many computers all of which will give you a yield of two each. Retailer’s websites like Food Lion, Target, and others have online coupons. They put out new coupons every week for you to print and use only in their store. Many stores like Albertson’s will honor their competitor’s coupons. Other stores like Kroger are starting to allow you to load coupons onto your Kroger cards. Ask your retailer to find out if they have any special programs, and don’t forget to register at your retailer’s website. 
A word of caution: Many people have been scanning coupons or copying them on color photocopiers. Because of high fraud rates, many stores are now refusing to take internet printablesIt is illegal to copy or scan coupons. Don’t do it because it hurts everyone when stores crack down on coupon usage.
Number Three: Tearpads. Have you ever seen coupons in a pad form at the store usually in one of the aisles? That is a tearpad. When I go to the store I keep my eyes open for them because I have found some of the best coupons there. When I see a good tearpad, I usually take 5-10 coupons, always making sure to leave many behind for others. Always be kind and leave some behind! Remember, if you find the tearpad in Walgreens, you can use those coupons anywhere (as long as they are not store specific)!! So if Walgreens has a .50 coupon, take it to Kroger, because they double and you get more bang for your buck!
Number Four: Peelies/Blinkies. Peelies are coupons you peel off boxes. Blinkies are machines that spit out coupons and are usually situated around the product featured on the coupon. These are always found in your stores and never anywhere else. Blinkies are not very controversial. I stand at the machine and wait for it to spit out 5 or 6 coupons and go on my way. Peelies which are peeled from boxes are a little touchier. Many people will say that it is unethical to take peelies off a product without buying that product. Others will tell you to take as many as you’d like as long as you will buy that product in the future. Do what you feel is right. I have read that over 35% of people still do not use coupons even when they are taped to the boxes. These often can be great coupons, and remember, as long as the coupon is a manufacturer’s coupon, it can be used anywhere. 
Number Five: Sample Displays.Many stores will have a sample day, usually Saturday or Sunday. Many times there are very good coupons at those displays. Make sure to ask the person attending the table if you could take a couple extra coupons. 
Number Six: By Mail. Contact the manufacturer of all the products you buy. Check the back of the boxes and bags to find the 800 number. Tell them how wonderful (or terrible) their product is, and ask if they have any coupons or coupon booklets they send out. Often the manufacturer is eager to put these in their customers’ hands. 
Number Seven: Manufacturer’s Website. Go to the websites of large manufacturers. Often they will have coupon booklets they will mail to you totally free. These are some of the best coupons because the manufacturer wants you to try the product. These often will contain free product coupons. The manufacturers are very eager to get coupons into the hands of consumers!
Number Eight: EBay or Coupon Clipping Services. Many people swear by these. I have in the past been purchasing coupons on eBay. Usually these are the most effective if you have a specific coupon you are looking for. Buying non-specific coupons on eBay doesn’t usually help much. For example, I purchased 60 Green Giant Steamer Coupons on eBay a while back. They were for $1 off one bag. Meijer a local grocery store near me had them on sale for $.89!! They were free, so I spent $8 and got 60 coupons. That works out to be around $.13 a bag. For me that is a steal!! It’s definitely worth looking into. Some coupon clipping sites are 
Number Nine: Trading Coupons or Coupon Trains.On WUC you can join coupon trains and trade coupons with other members. We often have many people that are trading with each other by checking the wish lists of other members and making offers. This is one reason you should always clip and save every coupon! You never know if someone may want it, and if they do, you could reap the rewards. Coupon trains are very simple to join as well. Check out our Trading and Trains section to learn more!
Number Ten: Dumpster Diving.I think by far the most fun!! This is a very unorthodox way of getting coupons. Of course during the winter months this is not a viable option, but during the spring, summer and fall, you will be amazed at what people throw away. I am a big proponent of dumpster diving for coupons. I would suggest reading some of the articles posted about this if you’re interested or checking out some paper dumpsters near you. I visit this website to locate paper dumpsters:

There are so many ways to get coupons. It’s incredible once you open your eyes, you’ll start seeing them everywhere!! The homework for this lesson:
- On your next trip to the grocery store find a tearpad
- Go to or click one of the banners and print a few coupons. 
- Join a coupon train or start one.
- Keep your eyes open for blinkies and peelies!!

Organizing and cutting coupons can be one of the most challenging tasks to do in saving money.
There is no right way as long as you are organized in your own way!

Here are a few great ways:
  1. Bins - use index cards as labels for each product type
  2. Binder - similar to bins but coupons are placed in baseball card size sheets
  3. File Folder - don't cut any, just organize inserts by date -must be really organized for this one as you will need to know which insert the coupon came in to find it!

Things that don't work:
  • Tossing them in your purse/wallet - bad plan you will forget
  • Cutting them - putting them in drawer - again you will forget

I use the bin method as I have a lot of coupons. Every Sunday I sit down with all the ads I am interested in. Then, I have a zipper pencil folder for each store I shop in. Each zipper folder is a different color and see through. The zipper folders are stored in a 3 ring binder.
I then determine what is on sale at each store and put it in the appropriate zipper folder. I only bring that zipper folder into the store (so I don't lose all my coupons. (things happen).
Of course if I find something on sale that maybe was not listed in the ad, I just run out to the car to get the rest of my coupons!
Works like a charm. I have tried all the ways above and I have found this is what works for me.
Try a few of them out and see what you think!

Double Coupons...and Why It's So Confusing

The Basics
Did you know that if you have a $.50 coupon in many stores it will double to a dollar? That’s right, that little pathetic $.50 coupon becomes a powerful dollar and often times if you buy the item at the right time, that coupon can make the item free or darn near close. 
Let’s talk about doubling. In principal this seems like a very simple concept, but in practice it can be very confusing. In my personal experience, coupons that have a face value of $1 or higher never double. This means that if you have a coupon with the face value of $1, it will always stay a dollar. If you have a $2 coupon it will always stay $2 and so on. 
Many grocery stores across the country do what’s called a true double. Any coupon that has a face value of $.50 or below is doubled. So if you have a $.20 coupon, it becomes $.40 at the register. If you have a $.50 coupon it becomes $1 at the register and so on. 
So what about a $.55 coupon? What happens to it? Well that’s the tricky part of doubling. Coupons with a face value between $.51 - $1 are subject to your local stores policy. Many stores will do an incomplete double, that is to say, if you have a $.55 coupon, they will give you $.45 thus “doubling” it to a dollar. This varies wildly. I have stores that honor the face value of a $.75 and stores that will give me a bonus of $.25. 
Do Why do Stores Double Coupon?
One word, incentive. When stores double a coupon, that specific stores eats that double. But that store also knows that when your in the store, you will likely buy eggs, milk and other essentials along with that item on which you used your coupon. Stores also want to build brand loyalty, so the more you are in that store the more you feel attached to the brand. Have you ever found yourself at a different Wal-Mart then the one you usually shop at, and you are unable to find the things you need? Doubling is about that incentive to get you into the store so you become a loyal customer.
So Which Stores Double?
This also varies from store to store, region to region. In my experience one thing remains constant, drug stores never double a coupon, neither does Wal-Mart or Target. Usually the stores that double are slightly higher priced grocery stores like Kroger, Publix, Meijer and Safeway. 
Finally, How Many Coupons are Doubled in a Single Transaction?
This again varies wildly from store to store. Lets say I have ten $.50 Tide coupons. I want to buy 10 tides because they are on sale. If I go to my local Kroger, they will double the first 8 coupons that are identical. I have many other coupons in that transaction that will double, but only the first 8 of the tide coupons will double. That means that 2 of the tide coupons won’t double, and I’d be wise to separate the transaction in order to maximize my savings. At my local Meijer, they only double the first two coupons, so in order to maximize my savings; I’d have to split up the tide coupons into 5 different transactions. I could use other coupons that are different, and they would double fine, but only the first two identical tide coupons would double. Some stores have unlimited doubles! My best advice, test each store, find out what their double limit is, if they double and what face values double. Ask the customer service representative, although in my experience they often have no idea, it never hurts to ask!!

Basic Math Skills and Coupons want to learn couponing?
Well like everything else in life, you cannot just jump right in and expect to have an understanding of what you are doing. Feel free to ask questions if you do not have an understanding of any concepts we may talk about.

To do couponing and to do it well you need to have a basic understanding of math.
This mini lesson is going to take you through coupon usage for a sample item.
Scenerio #1
1. The store you are shopping in does NOT double coupons of any value
2. You want to purchase 2 bags of lettuce at $1 per bag
3. You have 4 coupon to use
  • .55/1 Any Bag Dole Lettuce
  • .55/1 Dole Lettuce
  • $1/2 Dole Lettuce
  • .75/2 Dole Lettuce

4. Which coupon(s) do you use for scenerio #1
5. What is your out of pocket costs for 2 bags of lettuce using the coupons you have selected?
Scenerio #2
1. The store you are shopping in doubles coupons up to $1 Limit 2 like coupons
2. You want to purchase 4 Pillsbury Refrigerated cookies at $2.50 each
3. You have the following coupons to use:
  • .75/2
  • .50/1
  • .60/1
  • $1/2
  • $2/3
  • .60/1
  • .60/1
  • $1/1
1.       Which coupon(s) do you use to get the best deal?
5. What is going to be your out of pocket cost for the cookies using the coupons you have chosen?
The answers..given out later today.
Doing the math above is very valuable, especially when you need to follow not only the rules of the store, but the rules of the coupon.
Scenerio #1
Best scenerio is using .55/1 & .55/1
Dole salad will cost you $1 each for a total cost of $2
You can use $1/2 which will bring the cost down to $1 for both.
However, if you use the .55/1 and the .55/1 (you have 4 coupons, 2 of which are the same) your total out of pocket cost will be .90. 2nd option is a better deal.
Scenerio #2
Mr Coupon your first set does not work as they only double the first 2 coupon (you had 3 .60/1 in there). You can still do it, but the 3rd coupon won't double.
Your second scenerio did not double all coupons..It doubles all coupon up to $1, meaning a $1 coupon is worth $2 (maybe that was unclear) 
So math:
4 Pillsbury = $10
use the following
$1/1 Pillsbury = $2 off
.60/1 Pillsbury = $1.20 off
.60/1 Pillsbury = $1.20 off
.50/1 Pillsbury = $1 off
Total out of pocket = $4.60

So let's take a moment and forget about coupons (yes, you heard me!)
If a store has an item on sale B1G1F, who is eating the cost of the free item?
Your receipt may ring up something like this: 
Halls Cough Drops $2.50
Halls Cough Drops $0.00
Now let's forget the store is having these on sale for B1G1F, and you have a B1G1F coupon. If you use that coupon who is eating the cost of the Free item?
THE Manufacturer of the Coupon
Now, let's take the best of both worlds. The store is having Halls on sale B1G1F and you have a manufacturer coupon for B1G1F
If you want to use your coupon how many do you have to buy?
Here is the logic:
The store is eating the cost of the first FREE item to get you in the door. The manufacturer is eating the cost of the 2nd item via a coupon. You get both for free, but tax if appropriate.

Now here comes the fun part. In most stores you may use the same number of coupons for each set(s) of items you buy. (by sets I mean you may have 1 coupon of more than 1 item).
So in the above scenerio of buying 2 bags of Halls, you may use 2 coupons, even though one of the items is free.
So your receipt would be something like this:
Halls Cough Drops $2.50
Halls Cough Drops $0.00 Free sale from store
B1G1F coupon -$2.50 B1g1F coupon 
-$1.00 $1/1 Coupon any Halls product
You are now owed $1
Now they are not going to give you $1 back, so purchase something to eat the cost of that $1. Some stores may not allow you to put that additional coupon on, but most will.
If not, during a b1g1f sale and a b1g1f coupon, you will still get both for free, but not make the extra.
I hope this clears anything up!
Ask if you have questions 

Why the Value Size isn't really a Value.

This lesson will discuss the "myth" of buying in large sizes vs buying smaller sizes. While it is true in some cases it is a better deal to buy the larger size, this is only true if you are not using coupons.
You have a recipe that requires 16oz of Sour Cream
16oz of Sour Cream cost $1.99
8oz of Sour Cream cost $1.09
You do not have any coupons for this item.
For this example it is better to buy 1 of the larger size of Sour Cream.
Example #2
You have a recipe that requires 16oz of Sour Cream
16oz of Sour Cream cost $1.99
8oz of Sour Cream cost $1.09
You have 2 Coupons good for .50 off 1 any size Daisy Sour Cream. Your store does NOT double coupons.
In this example it is better to buy 2 of the smaller size sour cream.
Here is the math:
2 80z Sour Cream @ $1.09 = $2.18
Subtract out 2 coupons @.50 each = $1.18 for 16oz of Sour Cream
If you were to buy the larger size - you would pay $1.49 for 16oz.
In this example buy 2 of the smaller sizes.
Need to purchase a Family Size Bottle of Shampoo around 16oz.
1. You can buy a twin pack of this shampoo at Sams for $3.99 (32oz in total)
2. The same Shampoo at Kroger is $2.49 for 1 bottle (16oz)
3. Kroger also has trial size bottle of the same shampoo (4oz) for .99
You have coupons for .50/1 any size shampoo. Kroger doubles the first 4 like coupons. The rest are at face value.
What is the cost breakdown for #1 #2 #3?
Which scenerio is the best deal?
Hint - Sam's does not take coupons.

Here is the answer:
1. Because Sam's doesn't take coupons, you pay $3.99 or around $.13 per oz of shampoo. 
2. Kroger's 16oz bottle of shampoo is $2.49. I can use one $.50 coupon which double to $1 and makes the final price of the bottle $1.49 or around $.09 an oz.
3. Kroger's trial size bottle of shampoo is $.99. I have four $.50 coupons all of which will double to $1. The trial size bottles are free before tax. 
The answer is obvious. Sam's because it's doesn't accept coupons it not a savings at all. Kroger wants you to buy the bigger bottle. Their profit margins are alot better there. The Smallest bottle is the best deal, which when using coupons is very often the case. Often we forget that perception and reality are two entirely different things. The value size isn't always a value!! Coupons are powerful...and learning to use them effectively can really help your bottom line!!!!

Understanding the Store Pricing Models
When you start couponing one of the first things you will realize if you haven’t already is that at Wal-Mart prices are generally constant. They rarely have sales and they occasionally have a ‘price drop’ but for the most part their prices remain the same. Stores like Kroger, Meijer, CVS and others have sales! 
So why is this important? Well if I told you that I haven’t set foot in Wal-Mart in over 3 months would you wonder why? Their ‘everyday low price’ isn’t all that low. Stores like Kroger and CVS want you to come into their stores, so they have sales. They will lure inside with great deals, and often those deals can be paired with a coupon making those items extremely cheap or free!!!
Let’s talk about something called ‘High-Low Pricing’. The high price of an item is essentially the shelf price. If I walk into Kroger and buy an item off the shelf not on sale, I’m a retailers dream. Kroger’s shelf prices are generally higher than Wal-marts. This is common knowledge, and is one big reason Wal-mart is perceived to be the cheapest. 
BUT let’s say I’m paying attention. 
I see in Kroger’s ad that they are having a sale. I know from shopping at Wal-mart, that the sale price of that particular item is less than Wal-marts price. I’m doing well. I’m finding something cheaper at Kroger and I’m saving money!!! But wait, its gets even better. Kroger doubles coupons, Wal-Mart does not. (We will talk about this in another lesson) When I check out, I can get an item on sale at Kroger, cheaper than I can get it at Wal-Mart, AND because I have a coupon and it DOUBLES, I’m getting this item for almost nothing!!! Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.
Let’s take Cheerios
Wal-mart’s Everyday Low Price: $2.50
Kroger’s Shelf Price: $3.29
Walmart is Cheaper by $.79

Now let’s say Kroger has a Sale on Cheerios:
Wal-mart’s Everyday Low Price: $2.50
Kroger’s Shelf Price: $2.25
Kroger is Cheaper by $.25

So let’s also add in a coupon and see what happens. Let’s repeat the example and say you have a coupon for $.50 off one box of cheerios. 
Wal-mart’s Everyday Low Price: $2.50 (Minus $.50 Coupon Savings) Final Price is: $2.00
Kroger’s Shelf Price: $3.29 (Minus $.50 Coupon Savings) (Minus $.50 BONUS DOUBLE Coupon Savings) Final Price is: $2.29
Walmart is still Cheaper by $.29 but its close!

Let’s see what happens when you have a cheerios sale at Kroger. You still have your coupon for $.50 off one box of cheerios:
Wal-mart’s Everyday Low Price: $2.50 (Minus $.50 Coupon Savings) Final Price is: $2.00
Kroger’s SALE Price: $2.25 (Minus $.50 Coupon Savings) (Minus $.50 BONUS DOUBLE Coupon Savings) Final Price is: $1.25
Kroger is still Cheaper by $.75

Even without the coupon, Kroger still beat Wal-marts price. But you can now see that combined with the power of doubling, Kroger temporary lower price, along with the coupon savings beats Wal-Mart’s everyday price substantially. If you had never used a coupon and had been paying the $3.29, your savings, when using a coupon and buying the item on sale, is roughly 62%!!! Imagine that savings across the board.
Pricing methods are important to your overall strategy of saving money. If you’re a keen and aware shopper, you will be able to take advantage of sales. By using coupons on the store’s low price, you can get many items for free or extremely cheap!