Couponing 101 For Beginners: Everything You Need to Get Started

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Woman looking at her coupons in the store in the canned food asile

Have you ever wondered about how you can get started with couponing? Our Couponing For Beginners Guide can save you big money.

If you’ve ever watched an episode of The Learning Channel’s Extreme Couponing, you know what I’m talking about.  The guys and gals featured on the show often walk out of a grocery store with a cart full of groceries, and practically for free.

While you won’t learn extreme couponing from this article, you can watch episodes of the show via the link above. In the meantime, we’ll tell you everything you need to get started with couponing.

Couponing is definitely an art, but it’s an art that can save you some serious cash. By following the tips below, you can decrease your grocery costs by a look-worthy noticeable amount. Ready?

Here’s what you need to know to get started saving money with couponing.

Where to Get Your Coupons

If you know where to look to get your coupons, you’ve got an important head start.

It used to be that you could mostly only get coupons via Sunday paper delivery. However, paper delivery isn’t as popular as it used to be. That fact caused coupon manufacturers to realize that they had to get coupons out via other avenues.

Now there are several places where you can find coupons. Here are a few of the more well-known places you can get coupons for your favorite grocery and other items.

Get Coupons Through Apps

Apps make it easier to do a lot of things, and coupon companies have taken notice of that fact. Here are two of the most popular couponing apps.

1. Ibotta

ibotta homepage

When I first downloaded the free app, Ibotta, I’ll admit I was skeptical. However, I saved over $30 in the first two weeks alone!

Using the Ibotta app is simple. First, you download the app onto your smartphone. You can also tell the app which stores you want to search deals for. Next, you search via store for coupons on things you want to buy.

After you shop, you scan your receipt’s bar code into your phone. Ibotta automatically connects the coupons you’ve checked on the app with your receipt.

When it finds you’ve made a coordinating purchase, the savings are credited to your Ibotta account.

You can draw your savings out (once you reach the $10 minimum) via a PayPal transfer. Ibotta works with many major retailers including Walmart, Target Sam’s Club and more.

2. Rakuten

Rakuten is another awesome (and free) couponing app.

Although Rakuten is a similar app to Ibotta, it works a bit differently. When you sign up for Rakuten, you can save in one of two ways.

You can save when you do your online shopping through the Rakuten portal. Or, you can save in-store with the Rakuten app.

As you do, you get a percentage of your purchases back in cash.

Rakuten works with over 2,000 different stores, including the following:

  • Walmart
  • Amazon
  • Target
  • Safeway
  • Macy’s
  • JC Penney
  • Best Buy

And thousands more. You might be wondering how Rakuten is able to give you cash back for shopping through their portal. It’s simple, really.

The stores that Rakuten connects shoppers to gives them a referral percentage for sending you their way.

Rakuten splits that referral percentage with you, the customer. As your savings from shopping through Rakuten grows, you can get your cash.

They’ll either allow you to request your savings through PayPal, or they’ll send you a check if you’d like.

And like Ibotta, Rakuten will give you extra cash for referring others who make purchases through Rakuten. More money savings!

Online Sites that Have Coupons

There are many online sites that have coupons. Here are some of the more well-known sites.


I love using They just make it so easy to save money! Here’s how it works.

As soon as you get on the site, you’ll see coupons right on the front page.  Check the coupons you want by hitting the plus sign checkbox in the lower right-hand corner of the coupon.

When you’re done checking coupons, simply hit the red “print coupons” button on the right side of the top bar. Your coupons will print and you’re ready to buy and save.

It doesn’t cost anything to join and you don’t even have to join to print the coupons. It couldn’t be easier!

4. Retail-Me-Not

This is another site that has printable coupons and coupon codes. Just go to the Retail-Me-Not website. Hit “Explore” on the top bar.

The left sidebar that populates will show categories including “In-Store coupons” and “Online Codes”. You’ll find savings on everything from groceries to clothing and more.

5. Groupon

Groupon homepage

You’ve probably shopped on – or at least heard of – Groupon. Groupon features deals on everything from travel getaways to restaurant discounts.

But they’ve also got a “coupons” section on their website. Their “coupons” section features coupons and discounts for specific stores.

Searching for coupons online is easy because you’re probably doing a lot of online work (or play) anyway. Add some savings into your online time by checking out coupon sites on a weekly basis.

Getting Coupons Through the Mail or Your Sunday Paper

It used to be that you could only get coupons if you subscribed to the Sunday paper. If you still get the Sunday paper, you’ll find dozens of coupons there on a weekly basis.

However, if you don’t subscribe to the paper you’ll be happy to know that coupon manufactures got smart. Now, the three main coupon suppliers (Smart Source, Red Plum and P&G) often mail coupons.

In many areas, you’ll find coupon books from these three suppliers in a weekly mail delivery. Go through them and use what you can.

Finding Coupons on Manufacturer Products

Many manufacturers place coupons directly on products. Some coupons are actually a part of the product and need to be cut off of a box.

Other coupons are attached via some kind of peel-off method. Or, bottled products may have a coupon attached to the bottle or hung around the neck of the bottle.

Look for these in stores and use them where you can.

Getting Coupons Directly from Stores

Many stores mail out weekly coupon savings as well. Look for these in your mailbox and set aside some time each week to go through them.

Or, check the customer service counter at your favorite stores. They almost always have coupon books or newspaper ads available for you to get coupons from.

Hint: if your favorite grocery store has a loyalty program, consider signing yourself up. Grocery store loyalty programs often have coupons that are only available to program members.

Finding Coupons on Manufacturers’ Websites

You may also be able to find coupons on manufacturers’ websites. Check the makers of the products you use most often and see.

Note: If you sign up for their email lists, you may be privy to additional “members only” savings via email coupons.

How to Organize Your Coupons

Organizing your coupons in a way that works best for you is important. If they’re just thrown in a box or envelope, you may never use them.

There are several ways you can organize your coupons.

Here are the three main topics you should take into account:

  • The expiration date
  • The product
  • The store

Most all coupons have expiration dates, so you’ll want to organize your coupons accordingly. If you organize them according to date, you’ll know which ones you’ve got to use the quickest.

Put the ones that are expiring soonest in the front of your folder or envelope.

Also, approved stores are important. Most manufacturer coupons are usable at any store. Therefore, you may want to keep manufacturer coupons in a separate folder or binder.

However, some coupons are good only at certain stores. Keep these coupons marked separately as well.

Organize Coupons by Products or Categories

You may or may not want to organize coupons by product too. Or at least by category. For instance, your coupon organizer could look like this:

  • A folder for each store and for coupons that don’t have to be used at specific stores
  • Within each folder, you’ll organize with separators by date
  • Within each separator, you’ll have smaller envelopes naming categories, such as Household and Cleaning, Food, Beauty Products, etc.

Then, you can check folders each week to see what coupons you want to use. Personally, I organize only by date. As an unorganized person by nature, this is easiest for me.

I have less piles to look through each week. I know that the coupons nearest to expiration have to be used quickly. The others can wait if I don’t need the product right away.

While this “organization” method may take more time, it’s better for me than having a complex system I won’t use.

There are also many coupon organizers for sale or free printouts to help you label coupon envelopes. Keep looking for systems and working to organize coupons in a way that works for you.

This task may take some trial and error, but that’s okay. The more you work at it, the more streamlined and easy to use your coupon system will become.

How to Maximize Your Coupon Savings

There are ways you can maximize your coupon savings as well. Although all ways may not work at all stores, you’ll get to know which options are best for you with trial and error.

Take Advantage of Double Coupon Days

Some stores have Double Coupon Days. This means they’ll double whatever the dollar amount on the coupon is. If your store offers double coupon days and you can shop on those days, do so.

Combine Store Coupons with Manufacturer Coupons

Another way to maximize coupon savings is to combine store coupons with manufacturer coupons. Use them both if they’re available.

Buy Coupon Items on Sale

If you can buy coupon items when they’re on sale, do so. Then you get the automatic store discount the sale provides, plus the additional savings via the coupon. After all, the more you save, the better.

When is a Coupon Not Really a Savings?

One thing you need to know about couponing is that a coupon isn’t always a route to savings. Coupons can end up costing you more money instead of saving you money IF:

You Use Coupons to Buy Things You Normally Wouldn’t Buy

Try to only use coupons for things you normally buy or things that might become something you normally buy. Don’t use them for items that don’t bring a better quality of life to your family.

For instance, let’s say you don’t normally buy processed sugary snacks such as cupcakes or candy bars. Don’t start purchasing them simply because you have a coupon for them.

Why? Because in the end you’re spending more than you’re saving.  An occasional treat is fine, but if you make it a habit then you’re only costing yourself more money.

You Use Coupons to Buy Things You Probably Won’t Use

It can be very tempting to buy products simply because you’ve found a great deal via a coupon. However, if the product is one you’ll never use, you’re simply wasting money again.

Be careful to make coupon purchases on products you’ll use and avoid food and other waste.


Using coupons can be an amazing way to save some serious cash on your grocery and other shopping. By using the tips above, you can make the most out of money-saving coupons.

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