Extreme Couponing Tips for Real People Part 1

About two and a 1/2 ago, I googled the word "coupon" for the very first time and my family's life changed dramatically. I thought we'd be just saving a few bucks a week at the grocery store, and those few dollars in savings quickly grew into hundreds of dollars in savings every month. My husband and I have had so many questions from family, friends, co-workers --- and even onlookers at the store, we started this blog to share tips with others on how they can do this too.

If you're just getting started with coupons, or even just thinking about it. Here are a few tips we've learned along the way. 1. When it's free or dirt cheap -- stock up! If you're read very many coupon or frugal sites, you've probably heard the term "stockpile". Basically for really big savings, you need to build up a stash of non-perishables when they are at rock-bottom prices, and then wait to buy those particular items until they are free or dirt cheap again. One week you might buy pasta and razors, the next week toothpaste and toilet paper. In between, you use items out of your stash for big savings. Once you get your own stockpile built up, many people see savings on their grocery and household expenses of 50%, 60%, 70% or even more.

2. Don't kill yourself for every deal. Some of the folks on Extreme Couponing spend 30 hours or more a week doing coupons. In reality, you only probably need an hour or 2, and if you don't have a chance to do the big deals, don't sweat. If it's on sale now, it will also be on sale again soon.

3. Don't cut or print every coupon. In the beginning, I killed a lot of trees and spent a lot of quality time with scissors. Yes, you'll want to be brand flexible and try new things, but only print or cut the coupons for the items you will realistically use.

4. Print 'em While You've Got 'em.  Just found a high value printable coupon for a product you love and use regularly? Print it NOW. It might not be there later, or even a few minutes for now. Most printable coupons have national print limits, that means once a certain number is printed nationwide, that coupon is gone -- most likely for good.

5. Don't be Afraid of Rebates. How would you love to regularly get checks in the mail without picking up a part time job? Rebates can be a great way to multiply your savings big time. Yes, you have to fill out a form, and often attach a receipt and/or UPC codes, but if it's products you're buying anyway, why let these dollars go to waste? You can actually get paid to buy certain products at the right time to buy product on sale, use coupons -- and still submit for rebate and get back the FULL purchase price.

6. Don't be afraid of the drugstore games. While overall prices may be higher, if you work the right deals – drugstores can be a huge source of hot deals, freebies and often even moneymakers.  It is a little bit of a merry-go-round, since you have to keep going back to use the new Register Rewards, Extra Care Bucks, etc. but the huge savings are very worth it and I only wish I had started doing these deals sooner!

7. Most stores WANT you to use coupons. Although you may run into the occasional unfriendly cashier who gives you grief, most stores are happy to accept coupons. Using coupons is not stealing or cheating the store. The store not only gets paid for the full value of the coupon, they also receive a processing fee – plus they are selling you product -- so they win and you save! The coupons are just an additional form of payment like checks, cash and credit cards.

8. Two important words in couponing? Price match.   Many major retails and supermarkets do price match including Target, Walmart and most Hy-Vee stores. Other than saving money (obvious of course!), why do you want to price match? Use price-matching to simply your shopping by being able to get all your deals at one place, or to be able to use the most coupons. For example, many couponers will price match at Target so that they can use both manufacturer & Target store coupons.

9. Stack those coupons. Many retailers such as Walgreens, Target and Hy-Vee allow you to use BOTH a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon – on the same item. This means big savings – and often free items and sometimes moneymakers. This is absolutely allowed and great way to big savings. When you see people with cart loads of groceries for just a few dollars out of pocket, this is how they are doing this. As long as it says that is a store coupon, you can also usually use a manufacturer coupon too – and you can still get any gift card deals, Register Rewards & rebates that are available too!

10. Share the Wealth.  OK, you just got 25 or maybe even 250 boxes of cereal for free. Wondering what the heck you're going to do with it all? One of our favorite parts about smart shopping and using coupons is sharing all of our freebies with our family, friends and donating to charity. It's fun, feels great and helps others-- a great thing all around!

Watch for more tips coming soon. Have a question about coupons or ways to save? E-mail us at 2kidsandacoupon@gmail.com.