How to Start Couponing: The Ultimate 2018 Guide

Woman grocery shopping with cart

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Have you ever left the grocery store and thought, “I just blew my monthly grocery budget….and it’s only the first week”?

Maybe you’ve even seen the TV show “Extreme Couponers” and wished you had the time (or the energy) to get those kind of savings?

Just last month, I took the kids to visit my parents while Phillip (the hubby) had a busy work month.  While there, my dad asked for help. He and my mom still have four kids living at home, and they’re spending almost as much on food as they do on their mortgage.

{Okay, maybe not quite that much, but it sure feels like that sometimes!)

We (Phillip and I) totally get that.  We’re in that boat, too. Phillip has a full-time job, and I homeschool our two kids.  It’s part of the reason why we started our blog. A few years ago, someone showed us how to start couponing, and we were amazed at how easy it was to save!

Now, before you run away and bury your head in a pillow at the thought of couponing, let me reassure you that this is not your mother’s couponing!

You may have memories of your mom spending hours cutting out coupons from the Sunday paper each week, then spending hours pouring over grocery store ads to see the sales, and then spend more hours going to several different grocery stores, probably hauling along three or four kids.  (Although in those days, you could leave the kids in the car with the windows down.)

It makes me want to take a nap just thinking about it.

BUT there is good news!  The invention of a little thing called the internet has made it so that someone else (like Phillip and me) do all the work for you!  All you need to do is spend maybe an extra 20-30 minutes in prepping, and you’re good to go!

Let me explain what you need to do:

How To Start Couponing

First, pick a grocery store.

If you’re just learning how to start couponing, just stick with one store.  Otherwise, it’s going to quickly spiral out of control. Take a couple of minutes and download the app for that store.screenshot of coupons

Stores like Kroger (and its affiliates, like Smith’s or King Soopers), Safeway, and others provide digital coupons on their apps.  You just sign in, load the coupons to your rewards card, and they’ll come off automatically at checkout! You may also get special digital coupons just for you based on your shopping habits!

Related: How To Save Money On Groceries

Second, get a Sunday paper

The majority of coupons still come in the Sunday paper.  If you can afford it, sign up for a Sunday newspaper subscription to be delivered to your doorstep!  We recommend signing up HERE, because you can get discounted newspapers (save up to 92%!).

In each paper are booklets with coupons in them, called inserts.  Just pull out these inserts and write the date with a Sharpie on the front.  Keep them in a filing cabinet (or even a stack in the corner) for future use.  We’ll explain what to do with them later.

Third, get some more apps

There are three apps that we really want you to download for your phone.

Flipp – this app has a scan of every single weekly ad that comes out!  If you need to get milk at the store, you can search Flipp and it will tell you all of the local stores that have milk in their ads!  If you’re a person that already shops at multiple stores, this is a great tool. (If the idea of going to more than one store has you weeping in the corner in terror, then you can skip using Flipp.)

screenshot of coupons

Favado – this app is the holy grail of couponing.  It contains coupon matchups for pretty much every single store in existence.  What are coupon matchups? They’re what your mom used to do for hours each week, only someone else has already done it for you!  Some blogger (like us!) has gone through the store’s ad, and matched every single item in the ad with any available coupons!

screenshot of coupons

Ibotta – this is a rebate app.  When you purchase any item listed on the app, you can scan your receipt and they will give you a rebate (we cash it out to Paypal) for that item!  (Bonus: if you download it here, you can get an extra $10 when you redeem your first rebate!)

screenshot of shopping account

Fourth, look at the coupon matchups to make your list

Now it’s time to make your shopping list!  You have the grocery store you want to go to.  Open your Favado app and look at the store’s matchup for the week.  You can scroll through the list of the top 10 deals for that store, and add any items you want to your shopping list.

With each item, it will show you any coupons that go with it.  If it’s a coupon from an insert (from the Sunday paper), then it will tell you which week the insert came out!  You can go to your stack of inserts in the corner and just cut out the one you need. If it’s a printable coupon, it will give you the link to where you can print it from!

Even cooler, if you make an account, then you can email this list to yourself!  You can also head over to our website to look at the full matchup (instead of just the top deals), and it will sync any items you choose there, as well!

screenshot of matchup coupons

You now have a shopping list that you can access on your phone, email to yourself, and even print out!  All with exactly which coupons go along with those items! Isn’t that so much easier than scouring the ads.

Related: 10 Things To Stop Buying To Save Money

Fifth, look for coupons for all items on your list

Now for the final question, we know you’ve been dying to ask: what if I need to buy something that isn’t in the ad/matchup?  Are there any coupons I can use?

The answer is yes!  And no, you do not have to go through every single insert in the corner, looking for a coupon that may or may not exist.  Instead, you can use this coupon database that we have on our website!

For example, let’s say you’re out of mayonnaise and need to buy some more.  Just search “mayonnaise” in the database, and it will list all of the currently available coupons!  If there are insert coupons, it will tell you which week they came out.  If there are printable coupons, there will be a link to where you can print it from!

You can also search the coupons in your store’s app to see if there are any digital coupons to download.

screenshot of digital coupons

Some rules when learning how to start couponing

Before you run off to the grocery store, we just want to go over a couple of rules real fast.  These are rules that apply to pretty much every single store. (If you want store-specific rules, we have posts on our website HERE.)

  • You can only use one coupon per item.  Even if there is a digital coupon for $0.50 off mayonnaise and an insert coupon for $0.75 off mayonnaise, you can only use one or the other (unless you buy two).  This is written on every coupon as, “Limit one per purchase.”
  • Some coupons will state how many of each kind of coupon you can use at once (the term for this is “like coupons.).  You will see something like, “Limit 2 like coupons per transaction per household per day.” This means you can buy two items and use two of that coupon.
  • If the coupon doesn’t have a limit, some stores will have a limit.  Target limits you to 4 like coupons per day, and Kroger limits you to 5 (although only 2 if they are printables).

If you aren’t sure, just ask a cashier!  If you tell them that you are new to using coupons and want to make sure you use them correctly, they will be more than happy to help you!

Step it up a notch

Now, if you’ve followed all these steps, you’re going to eventually realize that there are a ton more ways to save with coupons!  If you get to that point and want to learn more, we have a FREE ebook on our website that will take you in-depth into couponing.  Or feel free to email us from our website – we love to reach out and help people individually!

Have fun!

When you are learning how to start couponing it can be nerve-wracking.  At least, it was for me. I was terrified that I was going to do something wrong and a cashier would yell at me.  But it went great! And you know what? It was a rush!  As I watched the price tick down with each scanned coupon, I felt a little thrill go up my spine.

I still feel that way, even though I have been using coupons for three years now!  There is something so satisfying about ringing up all your groceries, then watching the cost go down by 50-75%.

Phillip couldn’t believe it the first time he went for me (right after I had baby #2).  He came home extremely excited and had to show me everything he purchased. Every. Single. Thing.  It was kind of like listening to a replay of a football game – every coupon was analyzed, every *ding* at the register was explained.  (Don’t worry, he laughed at me when I did this to him after my first coupon trip!)

Taking the extra 20-30 minutes each week to find coupons for the items on your list is worth it!  You may not feel like you’re saving much at the beginning, but as you get used to it, you’ll be able to go quicker and save more money!  Those savings add up, trust me!

Do you have any unanswered questions about how to start couponing?  Let me know in the comments!

Social media graphic of woman shopping for produce with text how to start couponing and save big money

headshot of smiling woman

Tiffany is a former math teacher and SAHM who loves finding good deals! She and her husband, Phillip, who is an engineer, work together on The Crazy Shopping Cart. They enjoy spending time with their family, geeking out over sci-fi together, and saving money.

1 thought on “How to Start Couponing: The Ultimate 2018 Guide”

  1. Let me just say that I’m loving your site thus far! I am in DESPERATE need of coupons. I’ve purchased the Sunday papers, downloaded Ibotta but still fall short. I’m going to try the methods outlined in this blog post and hopefully I can walk out of the grocery store with a smile on my face knowing that I’ve saved $$$.

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