Six months ago, I didn't know that the term "couponing" existed.
Leatrice started me on couponing through CouponSense.com. It's a website that lists all the sales at the grocery and drugstores, and lists coupons that match the sales items. The idea is you buy items on sale WITH a coupon, so the items are deeply discounted or even free! Couponsense costs $15 a month, plus the cost of a newspaper subscription.
Then a few months ago I came across some websites that do the same thing as CouponSense, but for free! I wish I had known there were all these free websites out there, because I never would have paid for CouponSense. So now I use http://www.thecentsableshoppin.com/ but there are lots of good sites out there. I like this one because it allows you to populate your own grocery list to print. It also has all my local stores. I "liked" them on Facebook so I stay updated on all the deals it posts and free sample offers. You can google your state or city and the phrase "coupon matchups" and hopefully you will find a good blog in your area.
It is easy to get obsessed with it, but if you follow these tips hopefully you will be able to do it sensibly and save yourself money!
Some tips for those of you interested in trying this out:
1. Get more than one Sunday newspaper delivered. I get 2, and I use the Arizona Republic because the Arizona Daily Star doesn't send out as many coupons. It costs me about $15 bucks a month but I make that back in one week easily. Or, find someone you know that doesn't use their coupons, and ask them to save them for you...even better!
2. Start by filing your coupon inserts from the newspaper by date. I have an accordian file. The websites tell you which coupon insert you need for a particular item, so you can go to your file and pull out the insert, then find the appropriate coupon. If you get more serious, you can get a coupon organizer and clip coupons and organize by category or by alphabet.
3. Don't buy an item that is deeply discounted if you're not going to use it or don't need it. It's tempting to buy extra stuff when it's super cheap, but you'll end up spending money you don't need to spend. However, if an item you don't normally buy is cheaper than an item you would normally buy, go ahead and buy the sale item if you can substitute the cheap item for what you would otherwise pay full price for. For example, if you normally buy Hunt's spaghetti sauce for $1, but the Prego is on sale and you have a coupon, go ahead and buy it if the final price is less than a dollar, if you're okay using Prego!
4. DO buy whatever is FREE, because if you don't use it, you can find someone who does or you can donate it!
5. Don't drive out of your way to go to stores just for deals, especially with gas prices as high as they are. Just pick one grocery store you normally go to, look up the deals, gather your coupons, and go once a week. I also usually take one trip to a drugstore each week, but I try to go when I'm nearby rather than make a special trip just to get free stuff. It's also best to go to the drugstores early in the week (Sunday or Monday) because they sell out of free and cheap items often. You can get rainchecks, but I find that to be a pain.
6. Read through each store's coupon policy before you start couponing, so you can be educated when you go to the stores. Sometimes clerks will tell you the wrong thing, so if you know the policy (or print it out and carry it with you!) then you'll avoid spending extra or not getting items you were hoping to get.
7. I also recommend reading a "how to" on one of the websites before you start couponing. I like this one by TheKrazyCouponLady.