All of my couponing posts will probably 100 levels just because I am just starting out. I am LOVING saving money though and this will help me toward my goals of frugality, hospitality and purposefulness. Here are my starting tips:
1. Collect Coupons
I do not get the paper but fortunately my mom does so I clip coupons weekly from the local paper. I also visit Target.com and Kroger.com usually about twice a week to load coupons onto my shopping card (Kroger) or print them (Target) so I am ready to go.
I think it is REALLY important at this stage NOT to save coupons for things that you won't ever buy. For example, I am brand loyal when it comes to toilet paper (I don't know why, I just am) so clipping coupons for other brands is a waste of time because I KNOW I won't buy them. I also won't ever buy dog food, cat food, things our family won't eat, etc etc so there is no point in organizing or storing these coupons.
2. Organize the Coupons
I started with a "wallet" size expandable file which I really liked (and may end up going back to). My categories were Baby, Boxes, Cans, Dairy, Fridge, Cleaning, Health/Beauty, Paper, Staples, Other. Pretty much everything fit into one of those categories so it was clipped, logged (more on that in a minute) and filed.
I have since moved to a binder style with sports card protector pages but I don't like the bulkiness of it as much although it is easier to see what I have without shuffling through individual coupons. We'll see if it sticks around. Since I have a plan going in I tend to pull the coupons I plan to use so the wallet style is still fine for that since I generally won't flip through it. Just when I see mascara on the super clearance rack and know I have a coupon for it too - then I'd have to flip. We'll see. I'll keep you posted on my methods as I go.
3. Log the Coupons
I like to be able to reference things quickly and I type quickly so it is worth the time to me to punch the coupons into an excel spreadsheet. Then I don't have to compare the ads and flip through individual coupons, I can just run down my list to see if anything matches up. I generally log expiration date, what the coupon is generally for (soap, soup, laundry soap, baby food), the brand and if it has to be used at a particular store and what the deal is. (So something like 2/19/12 , body wash, Old Spice, $2 off any 1 exc. trial size).
To me those are your first three basic things you'll need to do to get started with coupons. Again, I am not looking to get everything I buy free or to save tons and tons of money, I just want to shop smarter.
$1 Old Spice and Suave deodorants at Kroger ($1.99, save $4 with purchase of 4, .99 final price)
I also had some coupons that matched up with this so they ended up taking the $7.96 price off my bill PLUS an additional $1.04 (part of this extra off was an overlap of Kroger Plus Card savings and coupon savings that shouldn't have technically been allowed - I don't think either of us realized it happened)
$1 Toothpaste (I think Crest) at Kroger ($1.99, save $4 with purchase of 4, .99 final price)
Again, had some matching coupons, took $5.38 in toothpaste off the bill plus $1.68
Duracell batteries at Kroger, $8 in batteries for $1.73 (again with P&G $4 off 4 and some coupons)
Old Spice Body Wash ($3.69, $4 off 4 for final price of $2.69 with $2 coupon) paid $0.69
Target dryer sheets for $.36 using a web coupon
Flinstones Vitamins originally $5.52, used a $2 manufacturer coupon and $2 store coupon - $1.52 final price
Suave body wash...on sale for $1.79 for 12oz...had some promotional bottles with 50% free for same price (18oz), coupon for buy two get one free so total I paid 3.58 for 24oz and get an additional 34oz free.
Baby stuff...Aveno lotion (on sale for 7.99 plus $2 off = 5.99) and two Johnson's baby wash at (5.99 x 2 -$2 Coupon = 9.98) for a total of 15.97 but I also got a $5 target gift card for buying three items so $10.97. I would probably stick with store brand usually on this stuff, but when you know that my kid needs super strong lotion for a skin issue and I usually pay $12 per bottle that makes this deal a bit sweeter :)