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7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Couponing

Extreme Couponing Tips

Couponing Basics

I have been extreme couponing for 4 years now and I sure have learned a lot since my first time. Things that are so obvious to me now, but were not quite so obvious in the beginning.

Couponing is easy. Extreme couponing is not. I never thought I would be more than just an occasional coupon user, but look at me now. Never say never!

Below are 7 things I wish I knew before I started couponing.

1. It takes time to learn how to use coupons.

If you want to save the most amount of money possible, there is much more to couponing than just clipping a coupon, bringing it to the store, and redeeming it.

You have to get your hands on as many coupons as possible, organize your coupons, monitor the yearly sales cycle, read the sale flyers each week, plan your shopping list, go shopping, organize your stockpile – and those are just the basics.

It took me well over a year to “learn the couponing ropes”. If you are just starting out with coupons, don’t expect to learn everything over night. It takes time.

2. There will always be another sale.

When I first started using coupons, I would go crazy when I found a good deal. I would snatch up every free bottle of shampoo I could get my hands on. I would clear shelves of facial tissue, deodorant and feminine products.

Not only did I buy more than I could possibly ever need, I also prevented others from getting in on the deals as well. This makes me sad to think about now. I knew nothing about couponing etiquette and how my over-indulging was hurtning others.

3. Use coupons on sale/clearance items.

Thanks to that “can not be used in conjunction with any other offer” line on most coupons, I always used to think that you couldn’t use coupons on sale and clearance items. Wrong! That line is just a fancy way of saying you can’t combine coupons on 1 item.

The whole point of using coupons is to get a great deal. The best deal you can possibly get is to use your coupons on items that are already discounted. This is going to save you the most amount of money possible.

4. Organize coupons right away.

I use to organize my coupons by throwing them in a big pile on my desk and picking out the ones I wanted before I went shopping.

Big mistake.

Doing this prevented me from picking up unadvertised deals when I was out shopping.

What works for me now is clipping and filing my coupons as soon as I receive them. For times when this is not possible, I put the coupons in a bin in my office and clip them once a week while watching TV.

5. How to trade coupons to get extras.

I didn’t know that people traded coupons. I had no idea what that was all about. I thought everyone found their own coupons and either used them, or didn’t.

I wish I knew that there are coupon trading communities out there, and that I could actually trade the coupons I didn’t want, for ones that I did.

6. It feels good to be a coupon fairy.

I didn’t hear the term “coupon fairy” until I’d been couponing for over a year.

Paying it forward by leaving coupons for others is something I started doing as soon as I heard about this amazing idea.

I never knew how much happiness I would get from doing something as simple as leaving a few coupons on a store shelf.

7. It takes time to build a stockpile.

The reason I started using coupons is because I saw others getting things for free, easily. I also saw their stockpiles and when I learned how much they paid to stockpile the items that they had, I wanted a stockpile of my own.

Because I was eager to have an impressive stockpile, I went a bit overboard and bought many items that ended up expiring before my husband and I could use them.

I spent more on those items than I would today, simply because I did not know what a good deal actually was.

I have learned so much since I first started using coupons, and there are new things to learn all the time. Coupon policies change, new coupon rules are made, grocery prices are increasing… there’s always something new.

I have realized that although I do know quite a bit about couponing in Canada, I will never know everything. No one can possibly know all there is to know about coupons – and that’s okay.

The important thing is to keep learning.

What do you wish you knew before you started using coupons?

Comments

  1. Pamela @ FabulousSavings.ca

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m fairly new to printable coupons, so this helps ๐Ÿ™‚ One thing I definitely do now is only buy things when they’re on sale or always check for discounts / coupons before buying.

  2. Liz

    I still don’t get this whole free thing! I did it once, when I had a $1 off sour cream and it was onsale for $1! But I would LOVE free shampoo and body wash…I just never seem to get it together….

  3. Ashley Jordan

    I just wish I knew about couponing and getting samples over the computer. I always knew coupons were out there, but I always thought it would be 25 cents off something I don’t need. I didn’t know there were coupons you could order online or print off the internet. When we got a sample in the mail, which was very rare, I would wonder ‘why don’t companies give out samples more often?’ After years of useless internet usage and overplayed songs, I decided to type up ‘free stuff in Canada’ and BANG! I’ve been couponing and getting all kinds of samples in the mail for over a year now. I wish I started doing this years ago! Thanks mrsjanuary, for all the hard work you do to help us save every penny possible. You are truly an icon in the couponing world. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. Shelagh

    I have a firm rule of only using coupons in combination with a sale. Unless we are desperate for something (diapers seem to be the biggest!). I love using coupons, my DH was skeptical of my use of them, but he recently followed me on a shopping trip where I save 48% of my bill by PM and using coupons. Now when I come home from shopping he asks me what I saved. I also have him “trained” to scan shelves for coupons when he runs to the store to get stuff for us. Using coupons is also how I have tried new stuff out for free or nearly free. Free samples we LOVE them. I have friends and family who have accounts set up for me so I can request free stuff on them. I have successfully accumulated enough razors for men and women that I don’t need to buy one for at least the next yr and actually haven’t bought one for either DH or I in over 3yrs!! Also any free samples I know I won’t use I drop off at a local shelter, along with any excess from my stock pile.

    One question I have… how much time fo you spend a wk approx looking for coupons (either print or mail?).

  5. Cassie Howard

    Shelagh: I spend a few hours every day, but that’s because I hunt for coupons for a living. Before MrsJanuary was a job, I would usually only spend 2 hours or so each week looking for coupons.

  6. Jenn

    I love #2 I think clearing shelves is bad etiquette and unfair to others who can’t get there because of jobs, lack of knowing about the sales or illness or other things that keep them from getting to the store that very first day. And I like the pay it forward, I try to do that when I can, I also try to give people a coupon if they are looking at something that I have a coupon for but I don’t think I will use right away, I say hi, I have coupons would you like this one? There are a lot of old people in my area who are very grateful for the coupons. This is a great guide and I’m glad I found it on my groups Facebook site to pass along your knowledge to us is a great thing. It is great to share information all around the country and sites!

  7. teachermum

    Matching a coupon with a sale was the biggest thing for me. Also, making sure to be organized. You can’t take advantage of an unmarked (or even marked!) deal when your coupons are sitting at home on the table!

  8. Rebecca

    Thanks for writing this. I will pass it on to others that are thinking about starting their own stockpile.
    I too, made a few mistakes at the beginning. But Ive learnt ALOT from your site and I thank-you.

  9. Elizabeth

    I didn’t realize I’d become obsessed with stockpiling diapers. A fantastic deal on diapers can make me happy for a week.

    For me, the exception to shelf-clearing is on clearance rack items. They’re not advertised, so people wouldn’t know to be looking for them. If it’s something I’ll use, I’ll buy as many as I need (of course, I’ll share with other customers who are right there and interested in the same thing.)

  10. Alex

    Fyi for those of u that need swaddlers there are a fewpacks for clearance st the longos on glen erin for 12.97 in their clearance area

  11. Mrs B

    Cassie, great article! It’s nice to know that this is a skill that you can get better at with experience. I would love to see a future article on coupon trains and how they work. Thanks so much for your site – I have learned and saved so much from you.

  12. Tania

    Thanks for that great article and for all the useful things you share with us!!!
    Coupon fairies are great! I went to the store a little while ago and only had 2 coupons for a product I use a lot! I was so happy to find 2 more coupons on the shelve right nex to the product! I has actually happened a few times so thank you coupon fairy, whoever you are!!! I personnaly always give the coupons I don’t use to friends of mine who will use them or pass them on to others… I love knowing that these coupons didn’t just go to waste!!!

  13. Philippa

    I love leaving coupons for other people ๐Ÿ™‚ It makes me feel so good knowing that someone else will save money with that coupon! I do it all the time!

  14. Mary

    Organize! So many great deals passed because I didn’t have a system. I now use an accordian file with categories. My biggest tip for savings at Costco is: i shop Mondays when their sales have ended Sunday and they are discontinuing items that they no longer will carry, or if they have a few left of an item. The sale tag will have a .97 rather than the usual .99. The price of those items are about 30 to 70 % off depending on how long it’s been on sale. I shop for my usual staples but walk quickly through the store looking for .97. I’ll check it out and decide if it’s worth it. When you shop at costco, look for the lucky 7’s!

  15. christine

    I love being a “coupon fairy” it makes me happy to knew someone else is going to get a big surprise. I have tried coupon trading a few times but so far wasn’t very successful. I have been good at giving just not receiving.
    I love clipping coupons and get so excited when the item is on sale and you know you are getting a great deal. Thanks Cassie for all your advice its thanks to you i am so frugal and have learned so much about couponing.

  16. Rachel

    @lLiz – I am fairly new to couponing too but I must say most of my stockpile so far is cleaning supplies and beauty products such as shampoo, body wash, toothepaste, ect. I find the best way to get them for free is to email the companies and ask them to send you coupons, i then only use the coupons if the product I want is on sale, most of the time they are free – or pretty close to it!

  17. Linda

    My thought.. whether you buy an item on sale, and use a coupon, or buy the item on sale and save the coupon for another time, you really only save the face value of the coupon.. so yes, its nice when you can combine them and get things for free, but whether you get that shampoo on sale for 1.99, or for free because it is on sale for 1.99 and you have a $2.00 coupon, you are still only saving $2.00. Or am I missing something?

    • Cassie Howard

      I calculate my savings based on the regular price. If an item costs $3.99 regularly, and is on sale for $2, AND I use a $2 coupon, my savings would be $4. I’m not saying that’s how everyone should calculate their savings. That’s how I do it.

  18. Laura Bonnett

    The reason I coupon is to help my family. But I have a bigger reason. I can donate to my local food bank from my stock pile.
    I feel it’s as important to provide whatever we can for families in need as it is to provide for our our families.
    God bless the ladies who taught me how to coupon (the ladies from Suave Saver) and the ladies like Cassie who continue my education so we can spread the wealth.

    • Cassie Howard

      That’s wonderful that you are donating to your community. Good for you!

  19. A.

    Thank you Cassie! I really enjoyed this and appreciate you taking the time to write and share it all with us!

  20. kimmy

    I lost my job from walmart over 2 years ago, because of my disabilities I end up on BC Provincial Government disability, So money is tight but by couponing I am able to save money. I give my extras coupons to other people I know that on BC Provincial Government disability which those coupons help them save money too. Over the year the free items I get by couponing I make care packs for the home less with beauty products.I all so help Pregnancy Options as well by give cleaning supplies and any baby item I might get over the year as coupon for baby products. I continue educating about coupons to these on disability and stock pile small amouts of supplies and spread the wealth of coupons every were I can .

  21. Jean Cuillerier

    Hi mrsjanuary is the best!….you talk the yearly cycle… that i new of but learned more about the months they come on cause i read you… how can we keep coupons to get there when they expire so fast…

    • Cassie Howard

      You’re so kind, Jean! The key to using coupons before they expire is to mark down their expiration dates in your calendar so you remember to use them up!

  22. Angela

    I love the look of your stockpile . It is awesome. I need to organize it again. I noticed a lot of your products r from Shoppers r the sales always better there?
    Angela

    • Cassie Howard

      I do a lot of points redemptions there, Angela. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. brenda

    Hi, I have to say up front I just love you,In my day couponing was to use 1 coupon and stores didn’t match.So I lived like that going to each one to get a deal at that time.Today my kids all coupon and do have to say they do a very good job.Now cause I am old and don’t under stand this they get up set with me.And don’t share anymore. So if and a little luck if I could learn from your tips ,I can show them a thing or two. My dream is to.Go into a food store with a hand full off coupons and walk out paying under 10.00 bucks. Boy that would show them their old mom can still do this.So I am asking if you could please help me.Thank you Brenda

  24. Tanya

    Can you please post a little bit more about what you know on trading coupons? Where are some sites, or message boards that I can check out? How do you find these people that want to trade coupons? Thanks a lot!

  25. maryam rose

    this is the collest thing i have ever read, im starting to use and learn a lot:) THANK you your a sweetheart!

  26. mariposaman

    Frugalshopper.ca is all but abandoned and full of spam.

    • Cassie Howard

      You’re right, I haven’t gone there in a long while. I just use our Facebook group now.

  27. Wesley

    “2. There will always be another sale” for me was how I ended up spending more than I should at a particular store.

    These are some great tips!

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