How to Coupon: 4 Simple Steps

By Discount Dame Terri Storelli for GalTime.com

Your guide to coupons! Your guide to coupons! your guide to smart couponing

Your first time couponing is a lot like your "First Time"-- it can either be a sweet memory you treasure for years to come... or an awkward spur of the moment disaster that makes you wince every time you think about it. Except this time it's all on you. Don't expect to be couponing at the equivalent of hanging from the chandelier right off the bat. Start off simple and work your way up to the more advanced coupon moves. There are lots of different methods on how to prepare for your first trip to the store, here is mine.

How to Coupon: 4 Steps

Step One: Get Your Coupons
What good is an empty binder? Don't have a binder? Check out my "Building your Coupon Binder" article and my "Coupon Resources" page to find out how to find coupons and what to do with them once you get them.

Related: 5 Coupon Myths: Debunked!

Step Two: The Match Up
I'm lazy. I don't want to spend hours and hours staring at ads and coupons and plugging away at a snail's pace. I assume you feel the same way and that is why I recommend the first thing you do is check out my match ups page. Grab a sheet of binder paper or open up a word document if you're really lazy, and copy what you like off of my match ups to start your shopping list. Make sure to create a totally separate list for each store! I write mine out and format it like this:

FoodsCo 8/20/12

QTY

Item

Size

Price

Disc

Final Each

3

Lawry's Marinade

12oz

$1.49

Sale .98

Q $1/3

$1.94

1

Ocean Spray Cran

64oz

$1.98

Q .50/1

$1.48

Now it's time to take out your sales ads from the saturday paper. I sit at the table with my binder and look at one ad at a time starting with my local grocery stores then move on to the box stores. I look at the ad and flip through my binder trying to match sales with coupons to get the lowest price. If I can find an item on sale with a store coupon and another coupon from the manufacturer then it is a great day! Add those deals to your list and any other necessities or dinner ingredients you need for the week.

*I make this into Me time by making sure I have my favorite coffee mug at my side, the lights slightly dimmed, and music playing… because just like your other "first time" it's all about ambiance and making the mundane marvelous!

Related: The Drought: Tips for Beating Rising Food Costs

Step Three: Forget Diamonds... Envelopes Are A Girls Best Friend
Now that you know what coupons you'll be using at what store, it's time to sort them into envelopes with the store's name on the front as well as the day you're going to be using them. Some stores sales start Sunday, some Wednesday and some are only one day sales events so it's important to date your envelopes. If you are advanced enough and want to do separate transactions at the same store, also throw on Trans 1 and Trans 2 appropriately.

Step Four: The Store, Where the Coupon Meets the Conveyer Belt…
With envelope ready, binder in hand, and kids at your mother's (don't take them with you to the store your first time couponing, just don't) it's time. Stick to your list, don't get caught up, as Oprah always says "be present" and take it slow. Make sure you have the stores coupon policy in your binder, if this is news to you please go read my binder set up article for info on being prepared.

I hope your first trip is a smashing success! Let me know how it goes in the comments!

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