A Lesson in Couponing...


Basics:
Create a second email - Do this FIRST! It will help you now before you get overwhelmed. In the long run it will be nice to have personal emails in one place, and the other thousands of emails from every company on earth in another.
Be a coupon hoarder - Coupons are like cash. The more you have the more you can buy.
Shop sales ads - To get the best prices match coupons with weekly sales ads.
Know the policy - It is important to know the policy of each store. Keep a copy with you in case you have trouble with a cashier.
Stay organized - You will save so much time and will find more deals if you are organized and know where everything is.
Be loyal - If there is a membership or loyalty card (for free) then you want it! It's free so what will it hurt? You will find these to be very valuable.

Get prepared:
Organization - Find a method that works for you and keep it up!
Match up - There are a lot of websites that match up coupons with sales ads. Find one that you like best and stalk it!
Printing - Internet printable coupons are like gold, but don't print them all! Wait until you need one and then print it. It will save you time, space, ink and paper.
Database - Coupon databases can be your best friend. They will be vital if you have a sales ad that you can't find a match up for, or if you need an item that isn't on sale.

At the store:
Be prepared - Organization is important at home, but is probably even more important in the store. The more prepared you are, the more efficiently you will be able to shop.
Stick to the list - Make a list and stick to it! The more random things you pick up the more you spend.
EAT! - This may have nothing to do with coupons, but may be one of the most important. Eat before you shop! DO NOT go shopping on an empty stomach. Everything will look good and you will end up buying a lot of things you didn't plan on.
Be friendly - Get to know the employees at your store and be really friendly. The nicer you are to them, the nicer they will be to you. Having a good relationship with your store will make your shopping trip run much more smoothly.

Etiquette:
Cashiers - I said it earlier, but being friendly to your cashier will get you a long way. They will be more pleasant about taking your coupons, they will be patient, and they will be more willing to help. Nothing is work than having a cranky cashier and having a big coupon mix up and paying more than you should have.
Read your coupons - Every coupon has its own guidelines. Be sure to read them! If you get to the check out and have one wrong coupon it can throw you off and mess up the rest of your transaction.
Follow the rules - Along with reading your coupons make sure you do as they say! If you try to buy more than they allow that is coupon fraud! Also follow the policy of each store! Don't be known as the annoying coupon lady at each store.
Leave some behind - Don't clear the shelves. There are times when it is understandable, but you don't NEED 100 bottles of ketchup! Leave some for others. If you really do want it then get a raincheck!
Be a coupon fairy - If you have coupons you don't need leave them in the store by the items. If you've ever found coupons left behind by someone else then you'll understand why this is so great.
Shop at random - Times that is. Don't go during the busiest time of day. It will be harder to concentrate, harder to get around and find your things and in the end you will end up with a long line behind you annoyed because they have to wait on another chick with coupons.
The truth about extreme couponing:  
Extreme coupon is not realistic. Even the people on the show will admit on their blogs and websites that its not something that normally do, its just a specially planned trip for the show. They have days of planning and the store is expecting them.

Stock - Have you ever been to the store and noticed hundreds of bottles of mustard, thousands of toothbrushes or bundles of pasta? I haven't either. In fact if the sale is really that great things I want the most are sold out. If a razor goes on sale and becomes free with coupons you better bet they will be snatched up the day the sale starts. This is what rain checks are for, so in the end you will get what you want, but more than likely you won't leave with nine carts full.
Coupons - Where do they get them all? Chances are they pay hundreds for them. Most coupons will come from the newspaper. If you buy 100 of one item with a certain coupon that will mean you would need 100 newspapers. Pretty unrealistic when newspapers today cost around $2 on Sunday. I usually buy inserts online to save time going to the store to buy papers, a bundle of six inserts cost me $18 when there are four inserts included in that week's paper. Less of course if there is just the normal 2. I found six to be reasonable. Some days I consider buying 10, but never more than that. What would I do with more than that?
Space - Who has 3 extra bedrooms or a garage that you are willing to give up to store extra groceries? I do have an extra room, but I use it as a guest room and I'm not willing to part with that. Nor am I willing to part with my garage or space. I'm lucky enough to have a big enough pantry to keep what I buy, and an extra refrigerator in my garage. I had first decided to get a deep freezer, but we were able to get a free refrigerator and I'm happy with how it has worked out so far. Honestly though, you won't need thousands of anything. Most items run on a sales cycle, meaning if something is on sale today, it will more than likely be on sale again in about 10-12 weeks. I buy about 3 months worth because I know when I start running out it will probably be on sale again. I've noticed that pasta is on sale a lot, so I don't stock up on as much of it unless it is free.

Things to remember:
1. Just because you have a coupon for it doesn't mean you need to buy it. I have a coupon for just about everything in the store, but I only buy what I feel I need or would use. Also what I would donate. If you buy everything just because you have a coupon you will end up spending way too much money.
2. You can buy something that's not on sale or doesn't have a coupon. To save money I buy things when they are on sale, even if I don't have a coupon for them. Or if I really need or want something I will search a coupon database for a coupon.
3. Don't expect everything to go just right every time you go shopping. Sometimes they'll run out of stock, sometimes you'll find there was something wrong with the match up. Just roll with the punches and stay focused.
4. You don't have to shop at every store in town to get the good deals. Find one or two good stores. Once you have that down maybe pick a drug store. My weekly routine is to shop at Publix, and if there is a really good deal I will stop by Winn-Dixie. I only go to Winn-Dixie if it is a GREAT deal. Our area has a Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS so I check all three ads each week. I only go to whichever store has the best deals or has a great deal on something I really want. If I get lucky and have a bunch of time I will make a day of it and go to a few. Target also has good deals so I occasionally go there too, and sometimes, but rarely, I'll go to Wal-Mart. For me to go to Wal-Mart I've got to get something for free. Now that I write it out it sounds like a lot, but its not. Short story is, I go to Publix, maybe one drug store, and occasionally Winn-Dixie, Target, and other drug stores.
5. Know when to stop! It is so easy to want to get every deal, but it is OK to miss something. We all miss something every now and then, but you'll have other chances. Sales will come back around in a few weeks. You will get so burnt out and discouraged if you are constantly stressed about going shopping, cutting coupons and finding every single deal. 
6. It helps to have a shopping buddy. It is fun to have someone to go shopping with. You will have someone to share deals with. They may find things that you don't. You can also swap coupons, and share ideas. One of the funnest things to do is compete. See who can save the most and spend the least.