The two main sources of coupons are in the Sunday newspapers (known as "inserts") and printable coupons. There are a few other ways to get coupons, which I will outline below.
There are 4 types of inserts that may come in your newspaper. Red Plum and Smart Source inserts come almost every week (except on holidays). P&G inserts come only once per month and General Mills inserts are sporadic. A tentative schedule for 2012 inserts has been put out, but things may change as it gets closer to the new year.
Spending a lot of money on newspapers will obviously lower the amount of money saved/earned through couponing. I usually want to have 3-4 copies of each weekly insert to ensure that I will have enough for a larger couponing deal. If this is your first time buying the Sunday papers, your first purchase should consist of a variety of newspapers. In my area, the Star Ledger has the best Smart Source coupons but does not carry Red Plum. I can get Red Plum inserts in the Courier but some Smart Source coupons are missing. Therefore, I find myself buying 6-8 newspapers most weeks to ensure that I have the most complete collection of coupons.
You can find out what coupons are supposed to be in each paper here. Once you've compared a few weeks worth of inserts to the lists linked above, you will have a better idea of which papers you should be buying. If there is a particular coupon worth $1 or more that I know I will use, I sometimes buy additional papers. When I know I'll be getting at least the amount of money I paid for the newspaper back, it makes it worth it to get extra so I have additional coupons I can use.
Look at your local dollar store to see if you can get papers there for cheaper than home delivery or at a food store. At my Dollar Tree the Star Ledger (usually $2) is $1 and the Courier (usually $1.25) is $1. When I purchase the papers at the Dollar Tree, I save $4-$7/week. The only drawback to purchasing your papers at the dollar store is that most only get a limited number of papers, maybe 50 of each, so you may have to try to get there when the store opens; if I get there after it's been open for more than an hour I usually cannot get as many as I'd like.
If making it out of your house on a Sunday morning is an impossible task, there are other places where you can "buy" your coupon inserts. I use quotation marks because it is technically illegal to sell or buy coupons. People/companies get around this technicality by saying that you are paying for their time to clip and organize the coupons.
You can buy whole coupon inserts several places but the main one that I use is Whole Coupon Inserts. They are fast to ship and you can buy single inserts or combo packs.
The two sites I use if I want to buy a specific coupon that I may not have gotten in my inserts are Coupons and Things by Dede and www.ebay.com. Ebay is better for getting the higher value coupons at a lower price. I recommend using the "Buy it Now" feature when possible so that you don't have to wait for auctions to end, especially if you want to use your coupon that week.
I keep my inserts whole when organizing them. I place one week's worth of inserts into a plastic sheet protector. Then, each week is placed in my portable filing box (similar to this one) in which I have file folders for each month. Some coupons expire in a week, some in 1-3 months, some don't expire for 6 months to year. When I have a chunk of time I will go through my inserts that are more than three months old and recycle any coupons that are expired. You can also send expired coupons to military families who may use them for up to 6 months after they have expired. For more info on helping out military families, visit http://thekrazycouponlady.com/coupons-for-military/.
Printable coupons are very easy to find and use these days. Before you start printing, create an email account for coupons and deals. Many websites require you to register before you can print and you don't want to clog up your personal inbox with company newsletters.
While there are many sites that offer printables, it would be incredibly difficult to scour each for the coupon you want. If you are looking for a coupon on a specific product, use a Coupon Database. Many couponing sites have this tool so here are the links to a few: http://www.southernsavers.com/coupon-database/, http://www.survivingthestores.com/coupondatabase, and http://www.livingrichwithcoupons.com/lrwc-coupon-database. They all have slightly different layouts so which you use is really just a matter of preference. Not only do these databases link you to printable coupons, they also show you when a coupon for that product is available in one of the newspaper inserts; no more flipping through inserts to find that coupon you are sure you remembered seeing at some point!
There are a couple of drawbacks to using printable coupons. First of all, you can usually only print a coupon twice per computer and it isn't always easy to get it to do even that. Once you click "print coupon" and the it does, most sites will either direct you to their homepage or provide you with a print summary. You must hit back on your browser, sometimes several times, and possibly hit refresh to get it to print another coupon. After the second time, it will often tell you that you have printed the allotted number of times (*Note: sometimes this message will come up even if you have never printed the coupon before; this happens if the company providing the coupon has reached the coupon limit). But, you can use more than one computer to get extra coupons, even if you have only 1 printer. Most coupons do reset monthly, which means you may be able to print them again at a later date.
You may have to download a coupon printer application or Java, but, you usually only have to do that the first time you try to print a coupon on your computer. One other issue with printable coupons that I have trouble with is organizing them. Occasionally there will be coupons labeled "Hot" that you will find posted if you are on other couponer's sites. Those are coupons you should print right away if you use that product or if they are matched with an upcoming deal because they are likely to run out fast. I organize those types of coupons (ones I won't be using in the immediate future) in a mini accordian file holder like this, although I got mine from the dollar store. I also put coupons that I cut out but couldn't use or for products I frequently use in mine so that I don't lose them or so I have them handy if I see a good deal. Others use something that looks like it holds baseball cards such as this. Again, it is a matter of preference as to which you should use. I like the one I have because I can throw it in my purse and it doesn't take up too much space but maybe you would prefer to see each of your coupons with a quick glance.
Other Sources of Coupons
- All You magazine often has up to $100 worth of coupons in it every month (in addition to having great tips on how to save money). Right now, SouthernSavers.com is offering a promotion where you can get a subscription for $1.25/month and get a $25 Restaurant.com gift card in return but this offer is good only until tomorrow, December 13th. Check out http://www.southernsavers.com/2011/12/all-you-magazine-subscription-fundraiser-thank-you-gift/ for more info.
- Vocal Point is a website for a community of mothers. They send out emails with tips on saving and recipes and will occasionally mail coupons to your house.
- P&G Everyday Solutions provides you with samples and mailers with coupons which you can request every 60 days or so.
- Cellfire gives you the opportunity to load coupons onto your store loyalty cards (i.e. your Shoprite card) and the amount automatically gets deducted from your bill at checkout if you buy a participating product.
- SavingStar eCoupons allow you to attach your store loyalty cards to your account and then load coupons onto it. Instead of the amount of the coupon getting deducted from your bill, it is deposited into an account. Once your account reaches $5 you can get your payout in the form of a bank deposit, PayPal deposit, or Amazon gift card. You can use a SavingStar eCoupon with a manufacturer coupon to double up on savings.
- Upromise eCoupons work very similarly to SavingStar but the money goes into a Upromise account and then can be paid out in a variety of ways (see my second post for more info on Upromise). Again, you can use a Upromise eCoupon with a manufacturer coupon to double up on savings.
THE LEAST YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Buy newspapers from the dollar store every week to begin your coupon stockpile.
- Use coupon clipping services like Whole Coupon Inserts, Coupons and Things by Dede and www.ebay.com to get whole inserts or individual coupons when necessary.
- Create an email address used solely for registering for coupons.
- Use coupon databases like http://www.southernsavers.com/coupon-database/, http://www.survivingthestores.com/coupondatabase, and http://www.livingrichwithcoupons.com/lrwc-coupon-database to find printable coupons or to figure out which insert has a coupon you are looking for.
- Sign up for as many sources of coupons as you can to get the best savings.
I'm sure after reading all this you may feel like I'm not being so realistic. I know it seems overwhelming but I wanted to provide you with as much information as possible in case you want to take advantage of all of the savings possibilities. In my next post, How to Use Your Coupons, I will try to help you prioritize your time to maximize your savings.