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How to Start Couponing for Beginners Guide

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how to start couponing for beginners
How to Start Couponing for Beginners Guide

Updated on January 25, 2024

Couponing has become such as a prevalent phenomenon that there is an entire TV show dedicated to it.

You must have heard of the TLC show named ‘Extreme Couponing.’

If not, here is an overview. It is a scripted entertainment series that demonstrates how avid shoppers, especially discount lovers, make extensive and focused use of coupons to get ‘more for less.’

The show is aired across the U.S.A. and Canada, and it has made ‘couponing’ quite the star.

In the simplest terms, couponing refers to the practice of using coupons and buying items at rock-bottom prices.

But that is not all, and it is never that simple.

The process involves knowing the actual cost of a product, the best available deal on it, and how much of the product to purchase and hoard until the next sales cycle. So, essentially couponing is practicing to stockpile necessities.

You will be surprised to know how much you can actually save by exercising extreme couponing.

If you are a beginner at couponing or have recently made up your mind to give it a shot, this comprehensive guide will come in handy.

It covers all the major sections that you need to know before you get aware of all those amazing deals. So, let’s begin.

What You Need


To begin couponing, you need to get the following items ready:

  1. A laptop or computer
  2. A printer (to print coupons from online venues)
  3. A plastic binder
  4. Store flyers
  5. Local newspaper/Mail subscriptions that come with coupons

Once you have gathered these essentials, you are all set to kick-start your journey into the world of couponing, or as people like to call it the easiest gateway to buying more for less!

Where to Find Coupons

The next step is to find venues where coupons are easily available. This section is probably one of the most essential ones, which you cannot skip and move to the next. So, read it carefully because there are more than a few places from where you can get amazing discount coupons, but you ought to look closely. Here are 10 places that will get you the coupons you need to save cash on every grocery store trip:

coupons spread out

1.  Coupons.com

This is one of the best places to get amazing coupons. On coupons.com, you get coupons for everyday essentials such as beauty products, toothpaste, cleaning tools, and razors. All you need do is log on to this website, choose a coupon according to the grocery items you have on your shopping list, and start clicking on relevant coupons. There are no sign-up hassles on this site. Once you select a coupon, it needs to be printed. That’s it!

2.  Sunday Newspaper

Everyone comes across coupons in the Sunday newspaper and turns a blind eye. If only you knew at that particular moment what that coupon could do for you! Well, this is one of the easiest options to get coupons, that too with amazing offers. Another fun fact about newspaper coupons is that the newspapers that are being delivered to your homes tend to have coupon inserts from newspaper proprietor. Such coupons may not be available in the newspapers that you buy from stores. So, you get bigger savings as well as convenience in a single package.

The three major names that you ought to get familiar with for coupons in your Sunday newspaper are SmartSource, RedPlum, and Proctor & Gamble.

3.  Online


Manufacturers are nowadays using Internet printable websites to share coupon deals with existing as well as potential customers. A few of these online websites may require sign-up whereas others allow access to a bunch of coupons without sign-up. So, you can check out websites such as RedPlum, Retailmenot, Save, and Klip2Save and get the coupons of your choice.

Also, keep in mind that all of these online venues may not be entirely free of charge. A small price or handling fee may be a prerequisite. However, the handling fee does not make up the entire cost of the coupon worth but is just a small portion of it.

Moreover, when purchasing coupon online, you may also be provided with an option to subscribe for receiving coupons via email or through the post. By this, you will have a lifetime access of coupons, without having to check for latest deals online regularly. However, make sure to estimate the shipping and handling cost of the coupons that you are signing up for because it sometimes exceeds the coupon value. Moreover, you could face a scam.

4.  Magazines

All types of magazines have product ads that carry coupons. So, you can search magazines for coupons and also have your friends and relatives send you their magazines when they have finished reading. By this, you will be surprised at how many coupons you can get from magazines, and for how many amazing products. Another fun fact is that you can get the best deals through coupons form high-end fashion and beauty magazines too. So, ladies, you are in for a treat!

5.  Tear-Pads

Most grocery stores have tear-pads for coupons placed on the product shelves that you can tear and use at the checkout. These tear-pads and blinkies are usually found across grocery stores during the festive seasons, for instance, in December for Christmas and New Year discounts.

6.  Weekly Store Ad

Your local store sends out weekly ads about the special ongoing discounts, and these ads are most often accompanied by coupons. So, make sure to check you weekly mail for these special coupons/discount offers. Moreover, stores have coupon baskets placed inside of the store for customers to check out and use while finalizing their payment at the checkout.

7.  Samples

Many of the free samples that you are given within stores or through direct mail promotions have coupons attached. You may miss out on these if you simply throw the sample in your trash can. Hence, make sure to check for coupons that you could use to buy products similar to the sample from the manufacturer.

8.  Coupon Apps

Nowadays, the excessive use of smartphones has led to a plethora of applications that have been made simply for coupons. One of the most liked and recommended application is Ebates. It enables customers to get cash back on daily purchases, similar to how a coupon works. The best thing about these apps is that you need nothing but a smartphone to access coupons and use these within a store, without having to download or print.

9.  Products

The products that you buy from your grocery store have coupons attached that may be used to buy the product for less than its original list price. These are all promotional stunts that the store uses to sell a new product or have the old stock sold ASAP. So, make use of these coupons and save your dollars.

10. Manufacturer

At times, manufacturers provide coupons directly to customers either through websites, emails or by post. So, you can either visit the store’s official website to get these coupons or navigate to the specific manufacturer such as P&G to avail these coupons.

Now you know that you can get coupons from various sources as mentioned above while keeping a lookout in places that you visit regularly such as grocery stores and local shops.

Getting Organized

how to start couponing for beginners

Once you successfully find coupons, it is time to get organized with all of the coupons you have collected. This section will help you with tips that you may use to organize all your coupons. All you need do is spare some of your precious time to make this work. Do not be lazy.

Here are a number of ways you can organize your coupons. A few of these have been mentioned below:

1.  Coupon Binder

coupon Binder closeup

You can either get a ready-made zipper binder or make one on your own. However, you will be required to update the binder regularly. A binder helps to keep all coupons organized such that you can access each one easily and keep them sorted in a safe place. If you use a zipper binder, buy one that has pockets in the front to keep store inserts, pen, scissors, and a calculator. So, when it is time to use a coupon, you will have everything you need in one place.

2.  Spiral Notebook

If a binder is an effort for you, use a spiral notebook instead. This one is easier to update and contains all the general categories that you may need to add coupons. You can buy a spiral notebook that is specifically made for organizing coupons and keep these in one place.

3.  Digital Organizer

Next, you have the option to maintain a coupon organizer in digital form. This is particularly useful for coupons that you get via apps or online. This applies to a few store coupons as well that you may not be required to print and present for every purchase. Keep all of these digital coupons in a separate folder. You can access these anywhere with ease.

4.  Wallet

If you are not sure about other organization options, you can simply keep all of your coupons handy in your wallet. Just keep a separate pocket for coupons and keep all of these there. However, if you have already been practicing couponing for a long time, you may find that keeping all of the coupons within the wallet could be harder. Still, it works well for beginners.

5.  File Folders

use a Digital coupon Organizer

You might have spare file folders lying around in your house doing really nothing. Make use of these if you do not want to spend money on buying a notebook or preparing a coupon binder. You can keep coupons bifurcated into categories using colorful separators or clips as you like. Be as creative as you possibly could with your coupon organizing file folder.

In addition to these, there are several other methods that you can use to organize all your coupons in one place, for instance, in a wall organizer, within magazine boxes, or a zippered pouch for safe-keeping.

How to Make a Coupon Binder

coupon Binder closeup

If you have set your mind on keeping a coupon binder, then you can make one at home using this simple method.

Step 1

Since you need a zipper binder that can carry your coupons as well as other essentials such as a pair of scissors and a calculator, choose a good quality binder from the nearest bookstore.

Step 2

Next, you need to organize your binder with care. This is one of the most essential steps in this process. You must segregate coupons in one of the following ways:

  • Put the coupons in alphabetical order.
  • Organize according to product category.
  • Put the coupons according to the expiration
  • Finally, organize the coupons according to the manufacturer or store.


Step 3

Now that coupons have been segregated, it is time to use the dividers. The dividers have sides that generally pop out. These must indicate the category name of the content. Add your category names to the dividers according to the segregation type that you have chosen in the preceding step.

Step 4

Purchase baseball card sleeves from the nearest bookstore or sporting store. These transparent sleeves come in 3 x 3 format, so you can keep nine coupons in one sleeve facing one side. Similarly, you can insert nine more within the same sleeve, facing the other way. You can also simply use page width sleeves. Choose ones that you like the most.

Step 5

Now, you need to add these sleeves to the binder after each divider. Make sure to organize coupons category-wise within each sleeve and insert it in its respective position to avoid confusion. Once you are done, your coupon binder is ready. Update accordingly.

You have successfully organized your coupon binder. Now, do not forget to update it on a timely basis. Plus, you may want to keep the binder in your car because you may need it on the go.

Common Couponing Terms & Abbreviations

Woman In Grocery Aisle Of Supermarket With Coupons

Now you have your coupons and you are done with organizing a binder. Wait, are you well-versed with the entire couponing lingo? If not, it is time to learn about various terms and abbreviations that you will come across when exercising extreme couponing. Make a note of the following jargons. You will need it.

CAT – Catalina Coupon

These coupon machines are located alongside cash registers and are used to dispense coupons. Some of these Catalina coupons are advertised, while some may be generated based on consumer behavior.

BOGO – Buy One Get One

This is one of the most common abbreviations used, and most people are aware of what BOGO means. If you buy any one pair of a product, you can get another one from the same category for either half the price or free of cost.

B1G1 – Buy 1 Get 1

This is another way of writing BOGO. B stands for Buy and G says Get, while the digits represent the quantity of product. The digits may vary, depending on how much of a quantity has been put on promotion by the store or manufacturer.

ECB – Extra Care Buck

This refers to the CVS pharmacy program which has now been renamed EB: Extra Bucks.

EXP – Expiry

Most of you already know what EXP stands for. It is one of the most important abbreviations. Checking the expiration date on the fresh dairy and beauty products is mandatory, and everyone does it.

MFR – Manufacturer

Whenever you come across coupons issued directly by a manufacturer, it might say MFR indicating that it is a manufacturer coupon.

MIR – Mail in Rebate

Rebates that are to be submitted by mail are referred to as MIR in the world of couponing. These rebates require a receipt and a proof of purchase such as UPC barcodes.

OOP – Out Of Pocket

The money that you pay out of your own pocket at a store is called OOP. It is exclusive of after-purchase savings, coupons, and rebates.

OYNO – On Your Next Order

Promotions such as these call for spending a certain amount now and receiving a discount on the next order. OYNO applies to every next purchase.

PG/ P&G – Proctor & Gamble

The company uses P&G as an abbreviation to send out coupon inserts for various brands, but their coupons are not authorized for printable internet format.

Q – Coupon

This abbreviation of the coupon is used on the popular coupon website TheKrazyCouponLady.com.

RMN – Retail Me Not

This coupon can be found in the Sunday newspaper coupon insert and is one of the manufacturer coupons.

RR – Register Rewards

The Walgreens Drugstore uses RR for one of its reward programs. This is one of those Catalina coupons that have been discussed above.

SCR – Single Check Rebate

This one refers to a monthly rebate program by the Rite Aid Drugstore.

WAGS – Walgreens Drugstore

Now that you are in the business of couponing, you would want to avail the discounts from drugstores as well. You will find this abbreviation in many places.

WYB – When You Buy

Some of the coupons come with a condition that multiple transactions are necessary for availing discount. So, you may be required to purchase more than a few items to get a discount on the final price.

UPC – Universal Product Code

This one is a barcode printed on products that have to be scanned electronically.

YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary

This is a common phrase that is used to describe an experience and how it differs from another shopper’s experience.

Understanding Overages

understanding coupon overage

Another important thing to understand with couponing is the concept of overage and what it entails. An overage occurs when the number of your redeemed coupons exceeds the total cost of a product(s). In such a situation, you are essentially owed money by the grocer or shopkeeper. This remaining amount can either be added as credits to your bill or you may be asked to buy an additional item to make up for it.

Here is an example to explain the phenomenon of overage. Suppose that you go to a local store with a coupon on toothpaste for $1. Now, the toothpaste is discounted and available for $0.75, so you get an overage of $0.25, which may be used to add another product to your shopping cart.

Other Possible Scenarios

There are other ways as well in which overage may be created. A few of these are listed below:

1.   Applying Catalina Coupons

Catalina coupons can be used to avail overage. So, if you owe $2 on your current bill at Walmart, you may use a Catalina coupon issued by Walmart claiming ‘$5 off,’ and get an overage worth $3.

2.   Combining Coupons

Another method to create overage is by combining a manufacturer coupon with a store coupon. By this, you get to enjoy double the savings.

3.   Price-Matching Products

You can also create overage by price-matching products. Here is how. Let’s suppose a comb sells for $0.99 at Walmart which you can price-match at Kohl’s. Apply the coupon that says ‘buy 2 combs, and get $3 off.’ So, you buy two (2) combs and get an overage of $1.

4.   Reduced Prices

Lastly, another scenario that lets you create an overage is when you use a coupon on products that have been placed on clearance price. If you apply a coupon worth $3 on an item that has been reduced by 50 percent, you can buy it for $1 only, instead of $2. Here, the coupon gives you an overage of $1.

What Is Price Matching?

Price match guarantee speech bubble.

Price matching is one of the easiest ways to get greater savings. This section will explain how. But wait, for how does one price match? Here is how! Any store that offers price-matching provides a guarantee to all its customers. Based on the advertised price of a certain product, if the customer can bring the same product from any rival store for less than the advertised price, they will get a difference in a refund.

Price Matching & Coupon Savings

In order to be successful at couponing, you ought to understand how to price-match and the essentials you need. The first thing you need is the competitor’s advertisement. Many large markets such as Walmart and Target offer amazing price-matching opportunities. So, stay updated with each company’s advertisements. You will need the advertisement to provide proof of a lower price for products being sold at a nearby store. Price-matching can get you the following benefits:

  • You can compare prices given online with those offered in the store. In order to do this, you can simply download the Amazon app and use it to price-match.
  • If a product that you have already purchased sells for a lower retail price now, you can ask for a refund within the specified time period.
  • The same product can be price-matched at a relatively convenient retail store located nearby.

Retailers That Price-match

You are able to exercise price matching at Target, Walmart, and Staples. Here is a list of useful price-matching tips at these popular stores:

1.   Target

Target displays a product on sale in an active advertisement, which then becomes valid for price-matching. The offers made online must either be presented to the store operator in hard copy or via phone to avail them.

2.   Walmart

Walmart has been practicing this concept with local competitors’ advertisements only. The matched product must be exactly what the consumer is buying at Walmart, and you cannot decide who falls in the category of ‘local competitor’ of Walmart.

3.   Staples

Staples offers price-matching within 14 days of purchasing a certain item. The item has to be identical to the one you have purchased and the guarantee applies when placing an order to Staples.

Common Hiccups

If you ever thought that couponing is like a bed of roses, then think again. It does come with a few drawbacks that have been identified herein.

Overage in Cash

One of the most common hiccups you ever encounter with couponing is the store operator’s refusal to return the overage in cash. If you do not intend to use the overage on another product, you may have to wait until your next purchase to avail the credits that have been transferred to your account. This can get frustrating for a few shoppers.


Another issue that you frequently face with overage is the need to add fillers in order to add up to the overage amount. This is also a common phenomenon at stores where the operator refuses outright to return overage in cash or transfer credits.

Let’s suppose you get an overage of $0.21 and there is nothing in the store that you need and that is available for that overage amount. You may be forced to buy irrelevant and more than a few small items to make up for the overage amount. This can get really strenuous especially after a long and hectic day at work.

Store Policies

Another problem has to do with the various store policies. If you are not well-versed about the coupon, overage, and price-matching policies of a certain retail store, you could end up with a few squabbles at the checkout, for sure.

Each store has a different policy and keeping tabs on each one could be a daunting task, especially for those engaged in extreme couponing.

Hidden Costs

There are definitely a few hidden costs involved in extreme couponing since you live and breathe coupons. You may be buying extra copies of the Sunday newspaper and magazines. Plus, avid shoppers drive to various stores for hot bargains and to grab the best deals possible. This adds up to the fuel cost. Moreover, printing of all those coupons costs you a cartridge.

These are a few hidden costs that you fail to incorporate in your couponing adventure. So, if you end up paying more of these than the total savings achieved in a month’s period, double-check are you really saving anything!

Unhealthy Products

The coupons that you get do not always apply to the unprocessed, healthy, and fresh products. These are majorly for the processed and unhealthy type of food items because these tend to last a long time. So, what is it that you are bringing home in bulk and hoarding? Unhealthy food, definitely! Are these savings worth putting your family’s health at risk?

Restriction on Use

You may not be allowed by a certain retailer to use two coupons at once. The store may simply refuse to allow you to double your savings, as per policy. Moreover, you may not be able to use a certain coupon if the physical store does not have the product for which the coupon has been issued. It is disappointing, right.

Couponing – Essential Tips

couponing essential tips

If you wish to make the most of couponing, follow these useful tips that will allow you major savings and fewer hiccups on the way.

1.  Set a Couponing Goal

Couponing is not something you can just start haphazardly. It requires setting up of a goal and committing to it. So, what is it that you are trying to achieve with coupons? Here are a few sample questions that one must ask as part of the goal-setting exercise:

  • Do you want to stock grocery?
  • Want to cut down on your monthly grocery budget?
  • Help the homeless by buying low-cost grocery items, and donate for a good cause?
  • Are you saving up to buy something, for instance, a car or house?

Make sure you have a goal for couponing before you get your hands dirty in the process. Couponing is an activity that requires your time, effort, and commitment.

2.  Enlist Friend and Family

Another great tip on couponing is to involve your close friends and family members in the process. You can have these people to save coupons for you and give them to you every time you meet. This way you can share the workload and have more coupons as well. Make sure to be grateful for their help and pass on gifts as a thank you gesture as well.

3.  Make Friends at the Store

Next, another essential tip is to know your store employees and develop friendly terms with them. Not only will they share some inside information about the hottest ongoing deals but they might also be willing to share their collection of coupons with you. They might already be enjoying employee discounts at the store, so coupons might not be very handy for them. Try your luck!

4.  Use the Store’s Loyalty Program

Stores often use loyalty programs that you can avail. The sign-up process is usually free of cost. You get to receive special discounts and become a part of the ongoing deals at the store. These cards may be used at the checkout every time you make a purchase to avail discounts. For instance, Target has its very own loyalty app named ‘Cartwheel.’ This enables its customers to use ten (10) of the available coupons at any particular time.

5.  Use the Overage

It is always a good idea to produce and make use of overages. You can use the overage phenomenon to stock up on items such as toothpaste and brushes. The best way to use overage is to apply it to your shopping cart items.

6.  Get Multiple Copies

When you are at it, try to get more than one copy of a coupon. This may be done by either buying more than one copy of a magazine or Sunday Newspaper or buying a couple of the same products that offer a certain coupon. That is the whole point of couponing. Isn’t it!

7.  Know the Store Policies

It is very fundamental to know all of your store policies on discounts, coupons, overages, and price-matching. A lot of times, the store has a set of policies that are not prominently advertised. So, it is best to ask about such policies in advance to save effort and money later on. For instance, Walgreen issues rain checks for non-sale items.

8.  Use Rebates

A few of the stores also offer rebates in addition to store coupons and manufacturer coupons. These may be used for in-store items to accumulate greater savings. Usually, if you are unaware of the rebate policy at a convenience store, try asking a clerk for assistance. It is best not to let go of any opportunity that can benefit you just as coupons do.

9.  Stockpile & Stack Coupons

Essentially, these are two different tips made into one. By stockpiling coupons, it means to get coupons from as many sources as you possibly could. Look through newspapers, magazines, websites, stores, and other venues identified in one of the preceding sections.

Stacking coupons refer to the process of using more than a single coupon for making purchases at a grocery store. You can stack a store coupon with the one provided by the manufacturer to double your savings. So, look for ways that can get you everything more for less.

10.   Alternate Stores

Another drill that comes in quite handy while couponing is to visit a couple of stores and use coupons everywhere you go. If you choose one grocery store, let’s suppose Walmart, you can only get your hands on a few coupons and rebates that Wal-Mart has to offer. But, that is not what couponing is about. It is much bigger than that. You must visit alternate stores and gather coupons from each one if you really want to make those major savings.

Couponing – FAQs

FAQ writing with white chalk on blackboard illustration

Let’s discuss a few commonly asked questions that might still be bothering you about the entire process of couponing. Hopefully, you will be more convinced to try couponing by the end of this read.

1.  What is a money-maker?

Money-maker refers to a situation when the value of coupons totals more than the price of the product. It is another term used for overage. Different stores have their unique ways of dealing with money-maker or overage situations. Check out how your grocery store takes care of it.

2.  How to save money on meat and produce?

The best way to save up on meat and similar products is by constantly looking for ongoing offers. Coupons are usually offered on processed products, so you may not find the fresh produce being sold through coupons. However, that does not mean that you cannot save a few dollars. It is possible if you look up the products that are constantly on discount. Try price-matching for a few of these products as well.

3.  What is the premise for multiple transactions in a drugstore?

The popular drugstores such as CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens feature their weekly promotions that comprise Extra Care Bucks, Register Rewards and +Up Rewards. The idea behind multiple transactions is to get the most out of your purchase in every transaction to spend minimum OFP (out of pocket) money. It is the drugstore’s way of insuring future sales, and yours to capture more savings per transaction.

4.  How does a physical coupon differ from the online one?

A physical coupon is one that you can either print or fetch from the store. It is tangible and can be redeemed at checkouts. On the contrary, an online coupon is one that you get via a website or through email. These are applicable to the online stores and often feature a coupon code that you must enter while checking out.

5.  What is a coupon code?

This refers to a string of numbers or letters that you get with online coupons, mostly. The coupon code has to be entered at checkout to avail the discount. It is basically a proof of the coupon discount for online purchases.

However, not all online coupons feature a coupon code, as you might simply be redirected to a link for coupon redemption.

6.  How long does a coupon last?

Both online, as well as physical coupons, tend to have an expiration date. So, you may be allowed to use the coupon till midnight on the expiration date, but not beyond that. All coupons have different expiration dates. Some may last as long as six months while a few last for a couple of days only. If you are lucky, you might end up getting coupons that last for as long as a year.

7.  Can coupons be combined with other promotions and sales?

Yes, you can do that but only if your store allows. As already mentioned and reinforced time and time again, store policies differ and not all policies are publicly advertised. So, consult a store specialist or clerk about this combination. If you are going to be lucky enough, you may be allowed to combine online coupons with ongoing promotions and sales.

8.  Is coupon fraud for real?

Yes, coupon fraud is real. It refers to the creation, possession, and use of illegal coupons. As a result of coupon fraud, retailers have lost quite a sum of their hard-earned money. If you wish to avoid such scams, try to get physical store coupons from authorized distributors to avoid falling for the trap.

9.  What does ‘limit 1 per purchase’ mean?

This is not the same as ‘limit 1 transaction.’ It refers to the quantity of purchase of a particular item. For instance, if you have two coupons for ‘$2 off 4 Doritos,’ each packet of Doritos counts as a purchase. So, you get to buy eight packets using the two coupons at hand.


If you have enjoyed the read, you may want to start with subtle couponing before jumping straight onto the extreme version. For sure, you need the practice to get there. Moreover, the point is to stick to what has been advised to you in the article to avoid hiccups and make the most of this adventure. You may end up saving a major chunk of your grocery budget each month, for all you know. Good luck!

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