How to Coupon

Step 1: Subscribe to the Sunday paper for coupons.

The Denver Post currently runs at $4.75 a month which comes out to about $1.19 an issue (much cheaper than buying it at the store). If you live near the Springs, they are running a promotion right now to receive the Post and the Colorado Springs Independent for $1.00 a week!

Step 2: Decide how you want to organize your coupons.

Method 1: Keeping Whole Inserts
This method is the quickest way to organize your coupons. Once you get a coupon insert, you write the date it was received on the front. Then, file it in a filing cabinet or 13-pocket expandable file folder. 

Then, when you see the coupon matchup on Mile High Savings, you know exactly in what insert to go hunting for the coupon. For example, if you see:
$1/2 Classico pasta sauce, SS 5/15 - you go to the Smart Source insert from May 15 and find the Classico coupon. 
The upside: You only clip the coupons you know you are going to use for your shopping trip. This makes for the least amount of time spent preparing.

The downside: You don't have the luxury of running into an unadvertised sale and using a coupon with it (since all your coupons are at home unclipped).

Method 2: Small Check File
This is how I started out. You clip the coupons you want from the inserts and organize them in this little expandable folder. Get one with 13 pockets. I bought mine at a office supply store - pretty rudimentary. You can also get fancy by buying a Coupon Wallet - these are cute and fabric as opposed to rigid and plastic.

I kept the front pocket empty - that's where I would put the coupons I was going to use on the shopping trip. The rest of the categories are up to you. Label them in a way that you understand - don't get too fancy. With only 13 categories, you could use something like:
1. Breakfast (cereal, syrup, coffee, anything breakfast)
2. Beverages
3. Canned Goods (can also include boxed foods)
4. Snacks
5. Dairy
6. Baking Goods (sugar, flour, dessert mixes)
7. Toiletries (deodorant, body wash, lotion, oral care)
8. Cleaning (laundry, bathroom, kitchen)
9. Medicine
10. Paper Products (plates, cups, foil, plastic wrap, toilet paper, Kleenex)
11. Frozen Foods
12. Baby (if you don't have children, you can make a Misc file or come up with your own)
13. Condiments

And that's it! You clip and then it has 1 of only 13 places it can go.  You can take this little organizer to the grocery store pretty easily.

The upside: You have all your coupons with you at the store.

The downside: It takes time to clip the coupons and organize them. It also takes time to look through each category when you are at the store looking for that ONE coupon you need.

Method 3: Small Box

This is a step up from the check file system because you can make as many dividers as you want thus making each stack smaller. Instead of having a stack of 40 coupons that cover "Paper Products", you can have 4 more dividers that break it down further into toilet paper, paper plates/cups, etc. You can use a 3x5 card file box, a shoe box, really whatever works for you. If you want to be able to take your box to the store with you, go small so it can fit in the front of your grocery cart.

The upside: You have all your coupons with you at the store and they are more organized for faster finding.

The downside: It doesn't expand. Once it's full, it's full. It also doesn't fit in your purse nicely like the check file. 

Method 4: Three Ring Binder

This is the system I currently use. This system is not for the beginner or the faint of heart. Start off small, and as your coupon system and love for couponing grows, the binder will probably be a good next step.

What you need to make a coupon binder:
  • A 1.5 inch or larger 3 ring binder that ZIPS - no lost coupons on the floor.
  • Baseball card holders (found at the front of the store at Walmart)
  • Section divider tabs
Label the dividers however you choose. Some people like to label by aisle, others by the same labels they used in the other filing systems. Place your coupons individually into the baseball card holders (if you have duplicates, you can use the same slot). Don't worry if you have to fold your coupon to make it fit - manufacturer's often are not thinking of us when they design their coupons. You just want to fold it so you can see what the coupon is for and ideally the expiration date.

Make as many labels as you want since you now have this huge binder to label to your heart's content.  You'll also want to have a pencil holder or some sort of fanny pack for your binder in the front to hold scissors, a pen, and any coupons you are using that trip.

Obviously, it takes time to set this system up. However, it takes the least time once you are the store the find the coupon you need or if you even have the coupon you want. If you don't want to build your own binder, there are websites out there who build them for you and ship them such as My City Mommy. Click here to visit My City Mommy.

The upside: You have all your coupons with you at the store and they are super organized. It takes about 3 seconds to flip and see if you have a coupon for a certain item at the store rather than rummaging through a stack. It also takes as many coupons as you have baseball card holders and dividers. The sky is the limit....within reason..

The downside: It takes the most time for the original set up. It also takes more time to organize the coupons into their little cubbies after you've clipped.

Sidenote: Since using this system, I can't tell you how many people approach me and ask "Are you like...extreme?" or "Have you seen that Extreme Couponing show on TLC?". Be prepared to answer these questions if you are going around the store with your 3 inch binder.

Step 3: Come to Mile High Savings to see how the coupons match up to the weekly sales.

Decoding the coupon lingo can be tough if you aren't used to seeing it. Here are some translations:

$1/1 – Save $1.00 off one item
$1/2 – Save $1.00 off two items
B1G1 or BOGO – Buy one get one free
B2G1 – Buy two get one free
BLINKIE – Coupon dispensed in store from a box by product (usually a red blinking machine)
Catalina – Coupon that prints after purchase; usually at a grocery store; money off your next purchase
DND – Do Not Double (caveat : if the bar code starts with a 5, it WILL double even if it says it won’t)
ETS – Excludes trial size
FAR – Free after rebate
GM – General Mills
IP or IPQ - Internet printed coupon
MIR – Mail in rebate
MQ or MC – Manufacturer’s coupon
OOP – Out of pocket
PG – Proctor & Gamble
Peelie – A coupon found on a product that can be peeled off
Q – Coupon
RP – Red Plum
RR – Register Rewards:  Rewards earned at Walgreens
SCR – Single Check Rebate – rebates earned at Rite Aid
SS – Smart Source Stacking – Using a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon
Tear Pad – A coupon found in store that can be torn off a pad
UN – UniLever
WYB – When you buy

Step 4: Go shopping!

Have a specific couponing question? Email me or leave a comment!