Coupon Basics

Using coupons is kind of like playing a game of cards.You want to hold on to them until you find the best possible deal, and then play them.
The key for getting the most out of your coupons is using them when a store puts an item on sale.  This way you are getting a discount from the store and the manufacturer.  If cereal is typically $3.00 a box and you use your $1.00 coupon you are still paying $2.00 for cereal.  If you wait to use your $1.00 coupon until your store puts it on sale for $2.00 you now only have to pay $1.00 (this is my personal "stock-up" price for cereal).  This is where stockpiling comes in.  When an item reaches that rock bottom price you should buy as many as you can afford or have coupons for.  A good rule of thumb is to get enough to last your family 6-8 weeks because stores generally put items on sale in 6-8 weeks cycles (when you run out it will be on sale again!).  You might be wondering why you should buy so many items if you don't need them right away.  If you are going to need this item before the it goes on sale again you will end up paying full price.  If you "stockpile" while the item is on sale you will never have to pay full price again!  Think about it this way.  If you buy one box of cereal a week at full price ($3.00) you will pay $12.00 in 1 month.  If you buy 4 boxes of cereal with your coupons when they are on sale you will only pay $4 on 1 month!  Thats $8 in savings because you stockpiled!
***Check my blog for the best weekly "stock-up" deals at your favorite stores***
Coupon Tips
I'm going to give you a few tips and tricks for using coupons
Tip #1:  Pay attention to the wording on the coupon not the picture!!Most coupons will put the most expensive item on the picture so that you will be more likely to buy it.  For example if you have a coupon that states "$2 off any Shick Razor" it will likely have a picture of the most expensive $10 razor.  You do not have to purchase the pictured item, the wording of a coupon is what counts!  Because the coupons states that it can be used on any Schick razor you can use it on a package of disposables.  Wal-Mart has disposable Schick razors for $1.97.  You can use your coupon to get them for free!!
Tip #2: Always buy smaller packages!!We've always been taught that buying in bulk is cheaper right...wrong!   It took me a long time to be convinced that smaller packages, with a coupon, are actually a better deal.  Here is an example: you can buy a big bottle of shampoo for $4.50, after your coupon you pay $3.50 and feel like you are getting a lot for your money.  The smaller bottle of shampoo (probably half the size of a big bottle) costs $2.50.  If your coupon has no size restriction and you use it to buy the smaller bottle you are paying $1.50 after your coupon.  If you have 2 coupons and buy 2 small bottles for $3 you have bought the same amount of shampoo as the bigger bottle (just in smaller containers) and have spent $3 instead of $3.50.  These savings add up quickly!  You now have enough shampoo to last you until it goes on sale again!
Tip #3: Check the travel/trial size aisle!If your coupon does not state that it excludes travel/trial size items and does not have a size restriction it can be used on travel/trial size items.  Companies often put out $1.00 coupons for body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and laundry detergent.  Most of these items have travel sizes that are $0.97 - $0.99 each.  If you use your $1.00 coupon you get the item for free!  I usually hold on to these coupons until a few days before they expire, just in case a deal comes along.  If I don't have them set aside for another deal I use them to get free products! :)  These are great if you want to try a new item.  They are also great to take on trips or to donate.  If you know any college students I am sure they would love your travel size laundry detergent (you can get travel Tide free almost every month).  It is nice to have once less thing to carry when you have to haul your laundry to the laundromat!

Coupon Myths

Coupon Myth #1: There are never any coupons for the items I useThere are coupons out there for almost everything! Not all coupons are for unhealthy foods! There are coupons for meat, cheese, fruits and veggies.  There are also tons of coupons for toiletry items.  Some of my best deals have come from coupons for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, detergent, deodorant, cleaners, toothpaste, paper products, and medications.  I don't believe for a second that you don't use at least some of these items (at least I hope you use them)!
Coupon Myth #2: I don't have time to use couponsLearning to coupon can take a little bit of time but it is well worth it. If I can do it while chasing my 2 little ones around the house you can do it.  Just sit down with your favorite cup and coffee while you read my blog and you will be a coupon pro in now time!
Coupon Myth #3: It is cheaper to buy generic items than to buy name brand items with couponsIf you follow you sales and use your coupons right (this includes stockpiling great deals) it will almost always be cheaper to buy name brand products with coupons!  Keep up with this blog to make sure you don't miss out on any great deals :)

Types of Coupons
There are actually 2 different types of coupons available.  There are manufacturer coupons and store coupons.  Manufacturer coupons can be used at any store that accepts coupons but store coupons are limited to the store specified on the coupon.  If you are wondering what kind of coupon you have look near the top of the coupon next to the expiration date.  If your coupon doesn't state manufacturer coupon or store coupon you can tell by looking at the coupon barcode.  The barcode of a manufacturer coupon will always start with a 5 or a 9.  If it starts with any other number it is a store coupon.
The great thing about manufacturer coupons and store coupons is that you can "stack" them.  Stacking coupons is when you use both a store coupon and manufacturer coupon on the same item.  For example I want to buy 1 box of Always Liners.  I can use the manufacturer coupon and the store coupon on the same box - doubling my savings (this is even better if the store also has them on sale)!  Stacking is one of a couponers secret weapons for scoring great savings!
Here is an example of a Target store coupon and a manufacturer coupon for the same item

Making Money With Coupons
Sometimes you will see deals listed as money makers (MM).  We also refer to this as "overage"  You might be wondering how this is possible since stores con not give you cash back for a coupon.  I wanted to take a minute to explain in a little more detail how this works.  Money maker deals usually come along at drug stores like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens.  Sometimes you have to purchase items you may not need in order to make money couponing.  If you can't use it, donate it to someone who can.  Click on "Read more" to find out how to make money using coupons and store rewards.

Occasionally one of the drug stores will offer and item that is FREE after store rewards (ECB, UPR, or RR).  For example CVS might offer Crest mouth rinse for $4.00 and offer $4.00 ECB when you purchase the item.  This makes the Crest mouth rinse free after ECB.  Money makers happen when you also have a coupon to go along with the free after ECB product.  You could turn the above scenario into a money making deal when you use a coupon.

Your transaction would look like this :
Buy 1 Crest mouth rinse $4.00
-Use $1 coupon
-Pay $3.00 (either with cash or ECB from previous transaction) Get back $4.00 ECB
Final Cost FREE + $1 MM (after coupon and ECB)

Basically, you get back more in store credit than you pay.  So, what do you do with the extra $1?  There are a few options.  One option is to keep the extra $1 in ECB to use (or roll) at your next visit.  Another option is to purchase $1 more worth of merchandise and essentially get it for free.  You can also think of it as applying your $1 Crest coupon to another item in your order.

If you did this your transaction might look like this:
Buy 1 Crest mouth rinse $4.00
-Use $1 coupon
Buy 1 Stride Gum $1
Pay $4.00 Get back $4.00 ECB
Final Cost FREE after ECB

Another way to turn sweeten the deal is to use dollar off store coupons such as the $4/$20 you can get by registering your email address and CVS Extra Care Card.  If you have this coupon you want to get your total to $20 and then use coupon to bring the total down.  For this example I am going to pretend that the Crest deal mentioned above does not have any limits on the number you can purchase.  Usually the deals have limits at CVS (but not Rite Aid), but I think this is the best way to explain it.

Your transaction would look like this:
Buy (5) Crest mouth rinse $20
-Use $4/$20 Store coupon
-Use (5) $1 Crest coupons
Pay $11 Get $20 ECB
Final Cost FREE + $9 Money maker!

In this situation I would probably buy diapers to absorb the extra $9.  If you buy additional products to absorb the overage you aren't technically making money, but you are getting more items for FREE!  I love using overage to buy diapers.  Because of money making deals and overage I haven't paid more than $4 for a pack of name brand diapers in a long time!

I hope this all makes sense.  Sometimes it is hard to write out exactly how all of this works in a way that makes sense to someone who has never done it before.  If you have any questions or need something explained please leave a comment an I will do my best to explain it better.

Coupon Lingo

Sunday Coupon Insert Abbreviation:Proctor & Gamble: PG
Smart Source: SS
Red Plum: RP
General Mills: GM
**Hint: You can find the date of the insert in tiny print on the spine**

ECB = Extra Care Bucks – CVS money
RR = Register Reward – Walgreens money
UPR= + UP Reward

Other Coupon Abbreviations and Terms
B1G1 or BOGO = Buy One, Get One Free
B2GI = Buy Two, Get One Free
DND = Do Not Double
EX or X = Expires On
FAR = Free After Rebate
FILLER = Item Purchased to Reach a Minimum Total in Order to Get a “Deal”
GC = Gift Card
HTH = Hope That Helps
IP = Internet Printable
MC or MQ = Manufacturer’s coupon
MIR = Mail In Rebate
NED = No Expiration Date
OOP = Out of Pocket
STACKING: Using Both a Store Coupon and a Manufacturer’s Coupon on One Item
TMF = Try Me Free Offer
UPC = Universal Product Code – Those black straight lines with numbers under them
YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary – Deal may work for someone else, but it may not work for you.
CATALINA/CAT - coupon on back of store receipt or printed after receipt
BLINKIE OR TEARPAD – coupon from a small blinkie machine or pad – typically near the relevant product
PEELIE – coupon on product itself

Thanks to Lindsey at Simple2Save for helping me learn the basics!