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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Couponing 101: Basics of Couponing

Amy Hannold, 247Moms Frugal Living Editor
Defined goals, review/revision of your goals, networking and organization are the keys to getting the most from couponing. 
For those new to couponing, there is a time of learning and transition.  Realize that you may be learning a new “language” and changing some habits. Approach couponing with a positive, open mind; you’re embarking on a new adventure which will improve your family life for years to come.
As with any new habit, you want to measure the positive impact resulting from your efforts – otherwise, how would you know if you were making a difference?   Total your receipts from the past few weeks.  Determine a spending amount that is less than before, but still reasonable given your routine.  Additionally, you can identify a goal which would have an immediate, encouraging effect on your progress.  For example, “I want to spend less on diapers and baby food.”  In whatever system you use to organize daily activities, create a space to track your progress.  Review your goals at a specific time each month or week, whatever is your preference.  Are you saving money?  Revise as you need improvement or are ready to expand your goal to other areas of your spending.
Everything is more fun when you have a social circle to encourage you. Find and network with others who are coupon savvy – or “coupon-interested”.  Partner with a friend, and challenge one another to save money.  A team effort multiplies the amount of money you will save.  Think of how many more eyes and ears will be out there finding the good deals – so keep in touch!
Your network of couponing resources should include a “Money-Saving Blog” from your area.  Because coupon distribution and stores are regional, you need a region-specific website.  Most money-saving blogs/sites offer a “kaleidoscope” view of both in-store and online “Good Deal Alerts.  I usually suggest that new couponers follow one “national” and one local money-saving website.  Don’t overwhelm yourself at first.  Video or written tutorials, coupon databases, and other features vary – many of the sites reference other sites’ information – find one that meets your needs and interests. 
Basic Coupon Purpose and Strategy:   We seek to get more of what we need, for less, when it’s on sale.  Grocery store sales rotate in an average 13-week cycle.  When items you use often are on sale, use coupons and buy enough to have them hand at home until it will likely be on sale once again. You’ll avoid multiple (more expensive) trips to the grocery store. 
Things to Look For This Week:
Coupon Exchanges or Clubs:  Either in-person or online, you can create a group which meets to share successes in saving, coupons, and local info on where the best deals can be found.  Create a Facebook page for shoppers in your area, or for folks who want to begin changing their spending habits. 
More Coupons:  Begin spreading the word at work, school, church, and with neighbors that you’re using coupons.  Perhaps this will be a step toward finding a “frugal friends” playdate or coffee group! 
Meal planning, shopping preparation and coupon efficiency will help. 
We’ll explore those during July’s “Frugal Living” Thursdays. 

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