Personal Finance

The Money Corner: Couponing 101 -- the basics


One of my favorite things to do is shop with coupons. Save the fireworks for the fourth of July because nothing excites me more than saving money a little bit at a time and watching it add up. This week, I want to share my couponing tips for beginners. And don't worry, this advice is easy to follow and won't land you on any of those “Extreme Savers” shows.

Adjust & Conquer

To start couponing, you may need to change some of your old habits. For starters, it’s tough to use coupons without being organized. Envelopes and binders are great ways to save your clippings. Using this method, you can separate physical coupons by store, date or even aisle. For those of you who are attached to your phones, there are apps like Passbook or Cardstar that can store all your loyalty cards and coupons. Apps like Cellfire will even add e-coupons to your loyalty cards, saving you both time and money.

Another adjustment you’ll want to make is how you shop. Start by making a list of your essentials and supplement it with items and ingredients that you know come with a discount. A mad dash into the grocery store won’t suffice. Plan your visits for less busy times of the day or evening so you don’t feel rushed and make an impulse purchase that negates your savings.

Stock Up

With three small children, my family goes through cereal like crazy but as a rule, I will not pay more than $1 for a box of name brand cereal. When I see one of my kid’s favorites on sale for $1.49 a box, I buy as many as I have coupons for, even if that means I am buying 5 boxes of Cheerios. Chances are high that I’m really buying each box for $.49 when these kinds of prices come along.

The same goes for pantry staples. During the holiday season, ingredients like sugar and flour were on sale for as low as $.99 a bag. These items are usually about $2.50 a bag or more! I stocked up enough to last my family for the year because I know it will go on sale for that price again during the next holiday season.

Make The Match

Rest assured that as you pay more attention to prices, you’ll more easily decipher what qualifies as a good deal. From there, you will want to start price matching. The Sunday newspaper has multiple weekly ads. Use them to narrow down the best deals your local stores are offering. This will also keep you from having to travel to several different stores to get these low-price products. The Internet can also be very handy when it comes to price matching. Online, you can find everything from weekly ads to your favorite stores’ price matching policies.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you cannot be a brand loyal couponer. You may have your favorites when it comes to toothpaste, yogurt, and cereal, but if you want to save a buck here and there and really make it add up, you have to be willing to try new things. Don’t think of this as a restriction.

Instead, think of it as a resolution to try new recipes and products. You never know, you may find a new favorite (for half the cost).

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Tina Mapes is an assistant branch manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union and a mother to three children. For more financial chatter, click