The most important part of this whole thing is to collect coupons and keep track of them. This post will address the first part of that, and we'll deal with the organization in an upcoming post.
The idea of collecting coupons may seem pretty straightforward, and for the most part it is. The easy way to do it is to either subscribe to the Sunday paper or buy one every week. This will get you started with quite a stash over the course of several weeks. There are a few additional things that I've learned, though, that I thought it might be helpful to share.
Often, if one coupon is good, then having multiple of it is better. You can build your stockpile much more quickly if you can get 3 or 4 of an item when you find a good deal rather than just one. Some people do buy multiple copies of the paper to get more coupons, but I don't think it's necessarily the best way to do it. You can start by asking friends or family members if you can have any they are going to throw out. Just think about how many people you know who get the paper compared to how many save the coupons.
There are also places where you can pay a fee of a couple of cents for someone to find the coupon for you and cut it out. This is the way it's all handled since you can't legally sell coupons. Lots of people use Ebay. I think it can be good if you know of a certain coupon you need a lot of. There are also sites where you can get whole newspaper inserts such as Coupons & Things by Dede. The Coupon Clippers is also good if you need specific amounts of different coupons. I don't like to spend money getting coupons, but sometimes it's worth it to get multiples or specific ones.
I thought I'd share a few tips for collecting coupons that I've learned so far.
1. Not all newspapers get the same coupons. I learned this the first time I tried to start using coupons. We subscribed to the local paper at the time, and I wasn't getting all that many coupons. Often bigger city newspapers will have more of a selection, so now I buy the Raleigh paper. This gives me a much larger stack every week.
The coupons will also be different in different areas. My mom is kind enough to send me her coupons. Even though they are pretty close to Raleigh, their paper will have coupons that the N & O doesn't and vice versa. Also, different areas may get the same coupon but for different values. These are some of the reasons that clipping services can be of value because you can get coupons that aren't available in your area.
2. Keep your eyes peeled. I never realized how many coupons there are available in stores. There are blinkies (that's what we call the ones that are spit out by the little machines with the blinking red light), booklets, and tear pads in many stores. The All You magazine that's available at Wal-Mart is known for having lots of coupons every month. There are even sometimes coupons that print out on your receipt or with it at some stores. I've learned, too, that just because it may be a coupon for an item I don't think I'll buy doesn't mean I shouldn't take one or two. That leads me to the next tip.
3. Save every coupon you come across. At first, I only save the ones for products I knew I would buy. Then I saved the ones I might buy. Now I've learned to save every coupon I can get my hands on. Even if it's for a small amount, it can add up if the right deal comes along. There can also be coupons available in magazines. There are also times when coupons for things you wouldn't normally buy can come in handy as well. We'll talk about this in more detail later.
4. Don't forget the internet. Many stores accept internet printable coupons as long as they will scan. There are lots of sites that offer printables such as coupons.com, Smart Source, and Betty Crocker. Also, you can often sign up on a manufacturer's web site to get printable coupons or coupons in the mail. Some stores even offer their own printable coupons. Target is a good example of this, and they will even let you use one of their coupons along with a manufacturer's coupon for an item.