Here's a few "how to's" to get you started into couponing:
1) Find out what your local stores' policies are.
Do they double or triple coupons? If so, what/if any restrictions are there?
Do they accept competitor's coupons?
Some stores - usually the higher end, more expensive stores (ex: in my area - Shaw's) - will double or triple. Usually this means they will double the value of a coupon up to a certain amount. For example, my store will double coupons up to 99 cents. Many times, these stores will put their coupon policy in small print on the back page of their weekly flyer, but sometimes you have to ask at customer service.
Another place to check coupon policies is at the A Full Cup Forums. You will find a forum for just about every store here and most have coupon/store policies posted at the top.
Also, what other stores are near you? Do you have Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid? All of these stores have very high prices without sales, but with sales & additional store deals (Register Rewards at Walgreens, Extra Care Bucks at CVS, and Single Check Rebate programs at Rite Aid), you can get some fantastic deals, where you get things for free and extremely cheap.
Of course there's Walmart and Target too. Did you know both stores will now price match if you bring a current flyer from another store in? You can also combine manufacturer's coupons with store coupons. Target often has "Target coupons" in the Sunday paper now. Combine that with a Manufacturer's coupon and you get even more savings.
2) Clip coupons from the Sunday paper and get familiar with coupon clipping services online.
To really get into some savings, you'll probably want more than one of each coupon you might use. Clipping coupons from the paper is great, but you will only use a certain number of those coupons and you will only get one of each coupon unless you buy multiple papers, which isn't often worth it at $2-3 a newspaper.
It's much easier and more efficient to buy coupons online. You can buy coupons from ebay or from a coupon clipping service. These people clip hundreds, even thousands of coupons, and sell them online for a small fee. Technically they are not selling the coupons (it's illegal to sell coupons) but are selling their time to cut, sort, & mail them to you. Generally you'll pay anywhere from 5-10 cents a coupon and if it's a really valuable, popular coupon, it might be a little more.
Beginner couponers usually balk at the idea of paying for coupons. But when you consider that spending 10 cents for a coupon will enable you to get a free tube of toothpaste or even make money off it, it's absolutely worth it.
Here's one example: My store had Skippy Peanut Butter on sale for $1.50. I bought (30) 75 cents off 1 coupons @ 8 cents a coupon. That cost me $2.40 for coupons. However, the coupons doubled and I was able to get 30 jars of peanut butter for free, or $2.40 if you factor in the cost of the coupons. See?
On average, I spend $5-15 a week at online coupon services. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of coupons. But then again, on a typical week I only spend $50-60 for groceries/Walmart/Target items for my family of 5. You can do the math there. :)
Once you start acquiring coupons, you'll need something to store them in. In the 7+ years I've been couponing, I've gone through many different storage methods - everything from basic coupon binders to actual folders filled with baseball card organizers. I finally settled on my favorite -a simple Rubbermaid photo storage box with file folders that I cut to size and labeled.
You probably won't need something that big quite yet, so I recommend one of the basic coupon binders - you can find a nice selection here: The Coupon Clippers.
Back to the coupon clipping services:
I've listed my three favorites on the side bar and here they are again:
*Coupons and Things by Dede
*Coupon Clipping Crew
*The Coupon Clippers
One thing to be aware of in coupon shopping is that to get the best deals, you need to be willing to shop at multiple stores. If you do all your shopping at the high end grocery store that doubles coupons, you might not be saving as much as you think. Do some of your shopping there - just the sale prices/with coupons - and do you the rest of your shopping at the lower priced store down the road, and you will see a difference.
It's the same thing when it comes to shopping at Walgreens/CVS/Rite Aid. These stores often charge double, sometimes even triple, what Walmart or Target does. I practically never buy anything full price at these places. But use your coupons for the sales and then combine that with the individual rewards programs, and you will see your savings begin to soar.
3) Be Careful..
...that you don't fall into a trap, where you get so excited about saving money that you buy things you wouldn't normally. I did this myself when I first got started. If you buy something you wouldn't normally buy - even if it's a good deal - you're not really saving money, but spending extra. So just be careful.
4) Get your coupons ahead of time.
Just about every week, I buy coupons online. I don't always use every coupon I get. If I wait until there's a sale, it's often hard to find the coupons I need, and I run the risk of not getting the coupons in the mail in time. So buy ahead. I know what products my family uses and I also know what products are likely to go on sale.
Some websites will get store flyers ahead of time, sometimes a week or more in advance. Obviously, this is very helpful, because it gives you more time to plan your agenda and get any coupons you might need. Here's a list of some of my favorite websites that feature these flyers and help to put together good deals for you:
A Full Cup Forums
A Full Cup Target
A Full Cup Walgreens
A Full Cup CVS
I Heart CVS
I Heart Walgreens
I Heart Rite Aid
You can also see this list on the right column, under "Favorite Links"
5) Take advantage of Buy One, Get One Free Deals.
Example: Cheerios were on sale for B1G1F. You can use one coupon for EACH box of cereal. Cheerios are normally approx. $3.50 a box. $3.50 / 2 = $1.75 each. I had $0.75 off one coupons. These doubled at my store. $1.75 - $1.50 ($0.75 doubled) = $0.25 a box. That's not a bad deal for name brand cereal.
6) You can combine store coupons with manufacturer's coupons.
Store coupons are often in store flyers or in an extra coupon booklet available in store or can even be found online or in the Sunday coupon inserts.
Couponing is actually pretty easy and a lot of fun. All it takes is a little organization and planning ahead and you can save TONS of money. It is so fun to watch the cashier's eyes get huge, not to mention the people in line behind you, when they realize you are getting $100 worth of groceries for less than $10!
I hope this helps. If you have any questions, feel free to comment or email me and I'll do my best to help.