Message from Mom – After a long break because life happened, Mom’s DIY is back and we are hitting the ground running by posting over the next full seven days on cleaning tips, recipes and how to coupon so that we may be able to help you save some serious money. This couponing series will be followed up by breakdowns on how to coupon at specific stores, what coupons will be coming up on Sundays and a new feature on Mom’s DIY called “Mom’s Deals” where I will post the trips that I make every week, including the coupons that I used so that you can see what kind of money I am saving. Once we have been couponing for a while, I will also be posting recipes for frugal meals that I am making from the items that I am couponing with breakdowns of how much it cost me, after couponing to make these meals. So hopefully things will be calming down now and we will be able to keep up with the blog. In the meantime, let’s get started!

Before you jump in, I would like to break down for you what I consider the keys to couponing! This is kind of long today, but I feel that people need to understand a few things up front. We will teach you all the ins and outs, but for now, these are important things to remember to help you avoid coupon disaster or giving up too easily and too early. Don’t get discouraged. There is help out there! Use these things as a warning, not only for you to decide if couponing is right for you (who doesn’t want to save money?) but also as a warning for when you get frustrated in the beginning that these bumps are in the road and to keep going! It is work. But it does work, and pays more than any other job that can be done from home that I have come across. There are tricks and rules you need to learn and at first it is not as easy as they make it look on TV. But if you follow the steps I will put up this month, and ask questions, we can get you straight. No question is a stupid question and it is always better to ask ONline than find out IN line at the store. So, here we go!

There are 3 key elements to being an effective couponer. Those things are organization, stockpiling and most of all patience!

Organization

If you are not an organized couponer and cannot/refuse to become one, you may be lost from the start. I give you these warnings before you go out and buy the supplies to coupon because my point here is to save you money, not waste it. If you are not willing to work for it, you will not see the savings. I can not begin to tell you how important it is for you to have a place where you keep all of your coupons in one spot with all of your sales papers and that you stay on top of them, know your store prices and what you are buying before you get there and that you always make a plan when you are going out to try and save some money.

If you are not organized you will waste countless hours looking for coupons that you stashed in places other than your central coupon organizing location which will cause frustration. You could get to the checkout with expired coupons and then have to void items or pay full price, and you could miss out on good deals that you didn’t realize were right there in front of you for the taking. I recommend the coupon binder, but no matter what your favorite way to organize your coupons, just find a way to do it and make sure that it is a way that works well for you. No matter what others tell you about how it “has” to be done, doing it in a way that is easiest for you is the best way to go about things because then you can adjust as you go and make things easier by learning from your mistakes. Mistakes do happen. At first there is a lot of trial and error, but if you stick with it, the rewards are tremendous and you will learn how to avoid them or stop making them at all.

Stockpiling

Not only do you need to stockpile tons of identical coupons, but you also need to stockpile the items that you are buying. If you only buy what you need at that moment, the savings go by and then the next week you could need more of the item and end up having to pay full price. By stockpiling you can almost guarantee that you will never run out and can buy when the item is on sale or when you have a coupon instead of risking paying full price. There should be very little in your life that you pay full price for, ever. A three month stockpile will usually get you through the sales cycle so that by the time you need more the item is on sale again. There are cycles and you will see a pattern if you stick with it.

For example, one weekend I got a deal on Rotel and Hunts canned tomatoes. I could get the Hunts for .16 each (reg price .99) and Rotel for .06 each (reg price .92). So I got 18 cans of Rotel for a tiny bit over what I would have paid for one can and 15 cans of Hunts for a little less than what I would have paid for 3 cans. Granted, I will never use that many tomatoes quickly, but I would have purchased 3 to 4 cans anyway for the chili I was making for dinner, I make my own spaghetti sauce and now I won’t have to buy any for months (possibly even a year) because of the savings I got on something I would have spent that much if not more on anyway! Stockpiling goes hand in hand with patience.

Patience

In my opinion, patience is the most important thing that you can have as a serious couponer. Not only do you need the patience to wait for the right time to strike on a deal and use your coupons, but you also need the patience to make it through the first three months of couponing. It is after this 3 months (which may actually be as short as 6 – 8 weeks in your area if you are lucky) the real savings begin and you and your wallet start to see them. At first, you may see very little savings. This is because you are still learning the ropes and what the lowest prices are in your area for an item. It is also because your stockpile of coupons is probably small right now and not having as many coupons limits the number of items you have to choose from. On top of not having as many coupons, you probably also have no stockpile of products to speak of and draw from. This is what people need to understand when first starting out. You will not see the huge savings in your budget until you have built up a decent stockpile of both coupons and product on hand at home. Here is how it works:

When you first start couponing, you have few coupons and few items on hand at home, meaning that there are lots of things that you need to buy. Having few coupons, you have fewer choices on what you can get on sale and can not buy in a very large quantity to increase your stockpile. As you start to coupon, if you have the patience to stick with it you will start to increase the number of coupons that you collect. The more you have, the more of the different items you need now, or will need in the future you can purchase when they reach their lowest price. The more duplicate coupons you have for that item the more you can buy at that price. The more you buy at that price, the fewer of that item you will have to buy in the future. Every week, as you increase your coupon stash, you increase your options and the number of things you will buy. Don’t buy something because you have a coupon or because a coupon is going to expire unless it is a really great one, which you would have used already anyway. Don’t run right out with your coupon for something that is FREE and get it just because it is free. If you have a coupon for an item for free, try to wait until the item is on a Buy One, Get One sale. Then that coupon will get you 2 of the item for free instead of just one. And when you find a really good deal, buy a lot of it! This will not necessarily save you money right now, but instead will save you money in the future. Remember when starting out that you will probably spend more money than usual the first three months, but after that your savings will just continue to grow.

In addition, you have to have the patience to jump on a deal at the right time. Often a high value coupon will come out in the paper and the stores will mark the item down slightly. Then a few weeks later a low value coupon comes out and they mark the item down significantly. By saving your high value coupon from the beginning of the month you can often get this item for free or even make money with store rewards at drug stores after using the higher value coupon that week instead of the one they may suggest in the paper. Many times the best price on the item will be the last week before the coupon expires, kind of like a last ditch effort to get you to try it sort of thing. It’s all about patience and timing, stockpiling and being organized. Once you have those things down, you will never pay shelf price for anything again.

Tomorrow we cover “The Binder” and get into the beginning sets of coupons.

Do you coupon? What is your best piece of advice for newcomers?

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