Basic rules of couponing
Coupons may only be used once. Let's say you have one off coupon for frozen pizza. You may not ring up ten pizzas and scan your off coupon ten times. The store is reimbursed only for the coupons they physically redeem with the manufacturer - they would lose for the nine additional times your coupon was scanned.
You can only use one coupon for each indicated item purchased. Your coupon will say, "One Coupon per Purchase." This means you can't use two off coupons on one single item. If you purchase two of the indicated item, you may use two coupons. You can, however, "stack" your coupons (more on that a little later).
Coupons cannot be copied. Copying coupons is illegal! There are numerous legal ways I will detail later. Printable coupons are not to be reproduced either - printable coupons contain a code unique to each individual printout. Do not reproduce coupons!
Option 1 - Clear boxes
Option 2 - Expanding file
Option 3 - Binder
This is the most popular option. Choose a large binder, clear baseball card holder sheets, binder dividers with tabs and full plastic sheet protectors (optional). The baseball card sheets allow you to see several items at once. You can also organize by month within each category. Full sheet protectors are great for full page ads when you don't have time to cut them all out.
Another benefit of binders is they usually come equipped with pockets and/or zipper compartments, where you can stash a variety of shopping tools: calculator, price log, pen, etc. This comes in very handy, especially if you are often rushed or tend to forget things. Everything is organized and ready to go!
Decode the fine print
What is your coupon really saying?
The first number on the barcode is most commonly 5 or 9. These can be used to represent a number of things. For example, a coupon that starts with 5 can be doubled, while a 9 indicates it cannot.
The next 5 digits identify the manufacturer. After the manufacturer code is the family code, the next 3 digits in the bar code. Manufacturers often sell a variety of products, and break these down into "families" for organizational purposes.
The last 2 digits on the barcode are called the value code. These represent how much money to take off.
How to find coupons
Great, now you have newspapers, and you found 3 products with coupons you could use. How do you get more, and what do you do with the leftovers? Simple - start or join a coupon exchange group! Trade those unwanted coupons for some you can use. If you're a stay at home mom, this is not only a great way to save extra money, but a fun way to get out.
Printable coupons are all the rage. Sites like Coupons.com offer printable coupons, customizable to your region. You can print up to two per computer. Check these sites when you are getting ready to head out and score last minute savings.
You can also get coupons direct from manufacturers. Check your favorite brand's website and sign up for coupons. Don't forget to check your purchase too - sometimes manufacturers print coupons directly on the package.
There are plenty of online options. Auction sites like eBay and Listia are great places to look. You can search for Facebook groups in your area, or even coupon clipping services like The Coupon Clippers. With all these ways to get coupons, nobody should be spending full price on groceries!
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Get the most for your money
See Grocery Smarts for a printable, customizable store match up shopping list. Plan your meals around whats on sale. Learn your store's coupon policies. If possible, take a printed copy of these policies with you when you shop, so there's no confusion when checking out.
Don't expect "Extreme Couponing" results right off the bat. In fact, don't expect them very often at all. The cases you see on that show are very rare. If you save any money at all, celebrate your success! Don't be disappointed if coupons expire before you get a chance to use them. And above all else, don't buy items you don't need just because you have a coupon. Couponing is all about getting more for less. Using coupons grocery shopping should be a breeze with these tips.
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