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Using Coupons- A Beginners Database

Getting Started
So you have decided that you want to save money by using coupons- what next?  The first step is to learn what they are, where they come from, and how you can use them effectively.
What are Coupons?
The first step to using coupons is learning a little bit about how they work and how they can benifit you.  Learning how coupons work can also give you a little more confidence at the check-out stand.  Here are a few common questions & misconseptions:

There are never coupons for items I actually want.
I used to think this, but now I totally disagree.  There are constantly coupons for cheese, yogurt, lunch meat, toilet paper, shampoo, and other every day products.  Once you begin using coupons, you will learn where to look for coupons for the items you need.

Coupons take money away from the stores.
Many people do not realize that coupons help stores, not take away from their income.  A manufacturer's coupon is just like cash to a store.  Store coupons (vendor coupons) are taking away from the stores income, but they put them out there to be used!   They want you to shop at their stores & buy their products, so they generate coupons.  If you have more questions about how stores are reimbursed for the coupons, here are a few great posts:
Sassy Saver- What the Stores Do with the Coupons
Bargain Blessings - The Coupon

I am following several blogs, but I can't understand the coupon language!
When I first started couponing, I was very confused by the acronyms used in the coupon world.  RP, P&G, SS- are you wondering what all of these mean?  Here are a few of the basics, and some links to more posts about the couponing language.

RP= Redplum  This is one of the main newspaper inserts.  There is also a Redplum website with printable coupons.
P&G = Proctor Gamble This is one of the main newspaper inserts.  Proctor Gamble is the company behind Crest, Oral B, Clorox, and many other well known household brands.
SS= Smart Source This is one of the main newspaper inserts. Smart Source also has a website where you can print coupons.
RR= Register Reward This is a coupon program at Walgreens.  Register Rewards are coupons that print out at the register after you purchase specific items which can be used on future purchases.
CAT= Catalina A Catalina is similar to a Register Reward.  They are coupons that print out after you purchase a certain item or a certain quantity of a certain item.  These often give you $x.xx off your next purchase.  Catalina printing machines are found at stores like Smith's & Albertsons.

Learn more about the Couponing Language in these posts:
Saving a Bundle- The Couponing Language
Bargain Blessings- Where to Find Coupons
Sassy Saver- The Coupon Lingo

Where do I find Coupons?
I am often asked, "where do you find the coupons you use?"  This can be both a challenge and an adventure. Here are a few tips and pointers.

Follow Blog Deals
One of the quickest & easiest things to to is read a weekly blog post about the deals at your local store.  Find a blog that posts about the weekly deals at your favorite stores.  Each week you can check the blog post & make a list of the best deals for the week and where to find the coupons.

Newspaper inserts
One reliable source of coupons is the Sunday newspaper inserts.  Many couponers get multiple coppies of the sunday paper in order to have a larger stash of coupons to use.  If you have a large family, you might want to look into this.  However, I would research other options before paying for extra inserts.  Here are a few options:
- Ask friends & neighbors if they are using there inserts.  Many people just throw away the coupon inserts & would happily save them for you.  This is how I get my sunday coupon inserts.  I don't have a subscription yet.  This has worked great for my husband and I.
-Sunday Coupon Preview: There is a website that posts a sunday coupon preview every week.  You can see on Saturday what coupons will be in the Sunday paper.  This is a great resource.  If I see that there are a lot of coupon inserts with a lot of coupons that I know I will use, I buy a Sunday paper at the store so that I have double inserts that week.

Printable Coupons
Printable coupons are one of my favorite sources.  Manufacture's websites often have high value coupons to accompany product promotions.  There are also several reputable coupon printing websites.  For more information about where & how to print coupons, read my Hints & Tips to Printing Coupons post.

Coupon Forums
There are several online coupon forums that have a lot of helpful resources.  My favorite is A Full Cup.  You have to sign up, but there are a lot of useful resources on the site.  There is a coupon database where you can enter a brand name into the search menu & it brings up a list of available coupons for that product or brand.

If you shop at stores llike Albertsons & Smith's, there are e-coupons that you can load onto your store card! Read more about how e-Coupons work & where to find them in Saving a Bundle's post, How to Save Money using E-Coupons.
Here are more great ideas from other bloggers about finding coupons:
Bargain Blessings- Where to Find Coupons
Saving a Bundle- Collecting Coupons
Sassy Saver- Where to Get Coupons

Organizing Coupons
An important part of couponing is organizing your coupons.  You must find a method that works for you.  Honestly, I am still working on this.  My current & developing method of organizing is a mix of the three main methods- the coupon binder, the box method, & the non-clipping method. 

As a beginner, I recommend keeping your sunday coupon inserts whole & writing the date on the front.  This is how you will recognize the location of the coupon from the blogs.  For example, SS 02/28 is the Smart Source newspaper insert that was distributed February 28th.

Here are a few links with coupon organization options that other bloggers like:
     Binder Method (Saving a Bundle)
     Box Method (Give Me Neither)
     Non-Clipping Method (Bargain Blessings)

Of course, it is important to find a method of organization that works for you.

Hopefully a few of your questions have been answered!  There is a lot to be learned about using coupons, but don't be overwelmed.  Take it one step at a time.

Here are a few helpful couponing posts for beginners from other bloggers:

Saving a Bundle- Coupons
The Thrifty Couple-How Do I Start?
Give Me Neither- Getting Started
Spend Less Save More- Couponing for Beginners
Bargain Blessings- Couponing 101
Sassy Saver- Be a Sassy Saver