First, I would strongly suggest subscribing to the Sunday paper. A lot of times it's cheaper (or the only option) to get the weekend newspaper. I get the newspaper Friday - Sunday. I started couponing without getting the newspaper and although you can still get some coupons (e.g. store coupons, Internet printable coupons, etc.) it was really frustrating to see all of these amazing free or even for-profit deals that I couldn't get because I didn't have the manufacturer's coupons from the Sunday inserts.* Another option is to find someone (a family member, neighbor, coworker, etc.) that subscribes to the paper, but never uses the coupons. Lastly, you can uses Freecycle to request Sunday coupons.
Second, subscribe** to couponing blogs. There are a lot of websites that will post upcoming deals at stores around Provo (like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Target) as well as stores in other areas of the country that we don't have here (like CVS and Publix). You don't have to go into couponing on only your own wisdom. There are people out there that make couponing a full-time job and are willing to share their wisdom for free with everyone. Take advantage of it. Pick a couple (I'll list some of my favorites at the bottom), read through the weekly deals that they post, decide which deals you want to do (or the ones that you can do with the coupons you have acccess to), then try it out. Start small. Build your confidence. Most importantly, don't be scared off if you make a mistake. There have been a few times that I bought the wrong thing for a rebate, or even worse, the wrong size. By making mistakes, however, you get better, because you remember what to check in the future.
Third, read through your weekly grocery ads. They often come free in your mail every Tuesday or Wednesday (depending on the store). I've definitely been guilty of getting the mail, pulling out the actual mail and tossing the newspapers without even glancing at them. If you take the time to actually look through them, you'll start getting ideas of what a good price is on various items and help you decide where to do your weekly shopping. My favorite thing the last several weeks has been to see who has the cheapest milk. It's something I constantly buy and is easy to price check in the grocery ads. Before I started couponing, I thought that finding milk for $2/gallon was a fantastic deal. Now I'm not happy unless I get milk for $1.50. Smiths, for example, has been offering milk for $1.49 for the past 3-4 weeks. (I'm hoping this isn't a fluke that just happened to start after I started couponing and will end now that I've told you all about it.) Also, pay attention to store promotions. Don't get sucked into them and end up paying for things you don't need in order to save money on things you do, but look for deals on things you actually will use. For example, Smiths ran a promotion where if you bought 10 items marked under this promotion (which were varied and across the entire store), you'd get $5 off instantly at the register. This worked out fantastically with pasta. I ended up getting 10 bags of pasta for only $4.90. That's only 49 cents each, my friends. And it's definitely something we'll eat at my house. Also, Albertsons will randomly double coupons up to $1. Look in the ads for those promotions. (Basically that means that if you have a $1 off coupon, they'll give you $2 off. This is a great way to get things for really cheap, free, or even make a profit off them!)
Fourth, don't be afraid to buy items that you won't use if you make a profit off of them. That's basically free money to put towards an item that you will use. For example, earlier this month I bought a box of Sambucol Cold and Flu Relief. Oh sure, I have a cold right now (again) but because I'm pregnant I'm twice as careful as to what medicines I take, meaning, I probably won't use this box. But look at it this way, it cost $10. They had a $10 off coupon in the EasySaver booklet, meaning it was free. Even better, I had a $4 off manufacturer's coupon, meaning that by buying it, I made $4 that I was able to put towards something else in that transaction. And now I have a box of Sambucol that either my husband can use, or I can give away to someone who will use it. Consider it an extra step to get a $4 coupon for anything you want.
Fifth, learn the terminology. I'll write another post about this and link it here once I have it written. If you find some terminology that you don't understand, ask. Couponers tend to be ridiculously nice about helping other people understand how to coupon.
Sixth, have fun. Make it a game to see how much money you can save. See if you can make a shopping trip spending less than $X. See how much you can get for a small amount of money.
Now, as promised, my favorite couponing blogs:
- Money Saving Mom
- Frugal is Fabulous
- It's Hip to Save
- Common Sense with Money
- The Coupon Game
- Mommies with Cents
* There are websites you can use to buy just the coupons you want if you don't want to buy the Sunday paper, or if you want multiples of a specific coupon. If you do it right, you can save money by not paying for all the newspapers and coupons you won't use, but it requires even more time and dedication and I've never really looked into it.
** If you have an email client downloaded onto your computer such as Outlook or Mail, you can often subscribe to RSS feeds directly in there. Another option is to use an online RSS feed reader. My favorite is Google Reader. By using an RSS feed reader, you don't have to keep checking every blog to see if there is anything new. Instead, you only have to check your reader (or email) and anytime something new is posted, it will automatically update.