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Guide to Couponing

My New Years Resolution was to stop super couponing. Why? Because I got so into it, I ended up spending way too much time on it. I also got some sort of mental block when I went to the store.

If it wasn’t on sale, super cheap, or free I couldn’t bring myself to buy it! We ended up with a pantry full of hundreds of items we use, but not the right mix of things to put together. That’s what happens when you are a Type A personality… everything to the max!

So last year I decided to get out super couponing. I did pretty good all year. I still use coupons on occasion and I still shop the sales, but I also feel free to buy things that aren’t on sale. And I’m not wasting so much time!

During my super couponing days, I learned a lot. Here’s a guide of the resources I used in order of involvement. Want to stay a casual couponer, stay near the top of the list. Want to go all the way, check out the extra credit at the end!

Super Couponing

Use coupons in the Sunday paper. Look through the ads, cut out the products you use and redeem them. It’s a pretty simple strategy. Buy two papers if you need extra coupons.

Use free coupons from the web. If you don’t have a Sunday paper handy, print free online coupons [1] directly from the web.

Use coupons in conjunction with sales. Get a copy of the weekly flyer for your grocery store and buy items that are on sale and you have a coupon for. If your store offers it redeem the coupons on a “double-coupon day.”

Learn the fluctuations in prices. Keep a price book [2] to determine when a sale item is truly a good buy. After tracking the prices for awhile, you’ll learn to spot a great price without your book.

Stock up on rock-bottom prices. Using your price book, when a product hits it’s lowest price, use all your coupons for that item and stock the pantry. The rule of thumb is to buy about 12 weeks worth, as that is the typical time before the item will hit a rock-bottom price again.

Use a service to tell you what to buy. There’s sites that specialize in putting together lists of the above information for you. They match the sales, coupons, and rock-bottom prices:

Trade or buy coupons. Need more coupons for that terrific sale? Use a coupon trading site or clipping service to purchase multiple quantities of the coupons you need.

Visit forums to discuss good coupon deals. Divided by store, find free items each week and strategies for spending the least amount of money on hot sales.

Photography: grocery aisle [13] by The Consumerist [14]