The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Coupons

Cheryl Lock

Love them or hate them. Take them or leave them. The truth still stands—using coupons can save you a lot of money … if you know how to use them correctly.

Let’s face it: No one wants to spend hours clipping coupons just to save a couple of bucks.

But if it’s done right, couponing shouldn’t take more than an hour a week of your time–and it could save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a year.

At least that’s what couponing looks like for Andrea Deckard, author of She saved $6,500 in her first year of couponing—and she’s willing to share her secrets with you.

What’s the Best Way to Start?

Deckard points out that printable coupon sites, like CouponNetwork, are particularly convenient for grocery coupons, along with newspapers. “I encourage people to subscribe to the newspaper,” she says, “because if you purchase one in-store, you may not receive the same coupons, and a weekly subscription tends to be cheaper than subscribing to just the Sunday edition.” For online shopping, she likes, which constantly updates coupon offers for hundreds of retailers.

Andrea also advises looking at your spending over the past three months. Set a small goal to reduce your expenses by 10 to 20% in three months, and aim to spend no more than one hour searching for coupons each week. “In the beginning, it could take a little longer to scope out where the good deals are for your favorite stores,” she says, “but setting a goal for one hour, once you figure that out, is realistic.”

After three months, challenge yourself to spend 10% less, and continue to set small challenges for yourself in this way until you reach your desired savings. According to Deckard, focused efforts could realistically save 50 to 75% on your grocery bill. “Whatever you do, don’t compare yourself to others,” she adds. “Your family’s situation is unique, and your goals will likely be different. Make only small changes that you can stick with for the long haul.”

5 Fool-Proof Tips for Successful Couponing

Before acting on the below five steps, start with Andrea’s rule for beginners: If a store doesn’t have a minimum of five sale items that you need, don’t bother going. You’ll waste both time and gas money if you’re driving around to different stores for just one or two items.

  • Anna Leath

    If you buy mostly store brands are coupons really worth it? I buy mostly at Kroger and have their discount card, but can never find coupons online or in the paper for anything other than national brands – which I don’t buy. I do get coupons from Kroger for some of their store brand items because I have their discount card.