Sunday Savings: Couponing 101

Posted by Liz McCoy Sunday, January 18, 2009


I'm back! Hopefully you were able to get some good deals this week. Just a heads up, the Walgreens Pepsi deal continues into this week. So, be sure to get your really cheap soda! Also, if you did the deal, there is a Pepsi rebate you can complete as well (thanks Kim L).

This week I'm going to start by giving you a good understanding of basic couponing. It’s Couponing 101.

As with any new subject, we have to get a grasp on all the vocabulary. Let’s begin with the types of coupons that are out there.

Peelie – stuck to a product like a sticker
Blinkie – from SmartSource machine on the grocery shelf
Catalina – prints at checkout from the coupon machine
Tearpad – from a pad usually attached to the grocery shelf
Hangtag – hangs from a product
Winetag – a hangtag that hangs from alcohol
Internet printable (IP) – printed from online
Cash register tape (CRT) – coupon on store receipt
Mail-in-rebate (MIR) or Try Me Free (TMF) - rebates
Store – coupon only redeemable at a specific store
$/$$ - coupon that takes an amount ($) off of a higher total amount ($$) – ex. $5/$35

Now that we understand the different types of coupons available there are few general terms we need to be familiar with.

Doubling – store takes off twice the value of the coupon
Price match (PM) – when a store matches the price of another store
Raincheck – guarantees a sale price at a later date when an item is out of stock
$1/2  - way to write the vale of a coupon
DND – Do Not Double

Last, but definitely not least is to understand the terminology on a coupon.

Per purchase
10 items, 1 transaction = 10 coupons allowed
Per transaction
10 items, 1 transaction = 1 coupon allowed
Per customer
One customer = one coupon
Per household
One household/address = one coupon

Now, it’s time to begin our five steps to couponing.

Step 1: Know Your Stores

You need to begin by making a list of stores that are in your area. Be sure to include grocery stores, drug stores and big box stores (such as Target & Walmart). If you are in Atlanta, the following stores take coupons:

Grocery: Ingles, Kroger, Publix, Whole Foods
Pharmacy: CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens
Other: Target, Walmart, BJs

Once you have your list of stores in you area, it’s time to call them up and ask some questions:

Does your store double coupons?
What is the maximum value that you will double?
How many ‘like’ coupons will double?
Do you ever have triple coupon promotions?
Do you take Internet printed coupons?
Can I combine store coupons with manufacturer coupons?
Does this store take expired coupons?
Do you accept competitor coupons?
Do you offer a senior citizen discount?

Be sure to record the answers to these questions for your reference.

Step 2: Get Weekly Ads

You can either get the weekly ads from the newspaper, or you can view them online. Your goal when viewing the ads is to match the sales with coupons you have in your possession. Keep in mind, when couponing, you really can’t be brand loyal. You’ll need to buy what is on sale. Also, remember that if an item is on sale 10 for $10, you don’t have to buy 10 items. It’s always wise to write down everything on your shopping list. Include item descriptions, prices, coupon amount and more. Lastly, you may want to begin keeping a Price Book. Get a small notebook to keep with your coupons where you’ll record regular prices for items you normally purchase. This way, you’ll know how much an item normally sells for. When it goes on sale, you’ll be able to better determine whether or not the sale price is actually a good deal.

Step 3: Get Coupons

What’s couponing without coupons?!? It’s time to start collecting. It is suggested that an average household obtain at least two copies per member of your family.

The easiest way to obtain coupons is to get them out of the Sunday newspaper each week. There are three companies that put coupons in the newspaper; Smartsource (SS), Redplum (RP; formally Valassis), Proctor & Gamble Brand Saver (P&G). Please keep in mind that there are no coupon inserts on major holidays. To see how many inserts will be in the paper each week, check out the 2009 Coupon Schedule.

You don’t have to pay for your multiple copies of your paper each week. There are many ways to get coupons for free. Be sure to ask your family, friends & coworkers for their coupons if they don’t plan to use them. Another great resource is to check your local recycling center (yes, go dumpster diving!). Many hotels remove the coupon inserts from the papers they distribute to guests, so you may be able to ask them to hold them for you each week. If you are unable to get them for free using the methods I listed, you can purchase your coupons from various clipping services (The Coupon Clippers, The Coupon Master, Clip and Ship, Coupons & Things by Dede). I have personally ordered from all four of the clipping sites I listed and I haven’t had any problems. You can also purchase from ebay; so check it out!

Lastly, begin collecting non-insert coupons. These include, tearpads, blinkies, peelies, booklets, store coupons and home mailers. Keep your eye out online for Internet printable coupons, but don’t print them until you need them! Internet printables have a “rolling” expiration date. This means that they expire either 15, 30 or 60 days after you print it. So, if you print a coupon today, it’ll expire 30 days from today. If you print it tomorrow, it’ll expiree 30 days from tomorrow. So, it’s better to wait.

Step 4: Stay Organized

Organization is key! You’ll have a very difficult time couponing if you don’t begin organized. There are a few different methods for organizing your coupons.

Whole Inserts – You can keep the inserts in tact and file them in envelopes or file folders. Then file them by date. Each insert has a date on it’s spine, so it’ll be easy to identify which week the insert came from.



Clipped Coupons – You can clip all your coupons and then put them in a binder (with baseball card pages) or an expandable organizer. You can organize alphabetically or by category.



I prefer to keep my inserts whole. I feel that clipping all of my coupons is a waste of time. I usually don’t use enough of them to make it worth all the work involved with clipping them all. I file my whole inserts by date and store them in file crates. Then, I clip the coupons only when I’m ready to use them.

Don’t throw away any coupons until they are expired. Seriously. You never know what you might buy or what deal might come along. But, once coupons expire, be sure to clean them out of your files. You can donate them to military families (who can use coupons up to 6 months expired) or just toss them.

Step 5: Stockpile

Stockpiling and couponing go hand in hand. If you can get an item really cheap that you will use, then why not get 10 of that item? You should only buy multiple of items that you have room to store and if they are non-perishable. I personally have at least 6-12 months supply of toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, shaving cream, razors, paper towels, napkins, paper plates, cups, laundry detergent, dish soap, frozen foods and much more. Many of these items I’ve gotten for free or nearly free.

When stockpiling, be sure to remain organized and only buy what you have room to store. Also, be sure you only buy what your family can use. A family of 6 will need more toothpaste than a single person.


Courtesy of HCW member RosieG


Courtesy of HCW member stalkermagnet

You should now have a good understanding of how to get started with couponing. Coming up next week will be more advanced couponing techniques and how to utilize my favorite site Hot Coupon World to help you coupon!

Check out the handouts that I’ve put together as well as my pocket sized coupon guide (for Atlanta).

Feel free to post any questions, comments or concerns in the comment section of this post. 

*The above post was adapted from All pictures are from

New Team Member - EISOR|ROSIE
Sunday Savings: Introduction
Sizzlin' Savings Alert

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