If you are a seasoned coupon-er, this post is not for you. This is aimed at those of you have been wondering about coupons but don’t have a clue where to start.

I recently started couponing and I am really happy I did. I am usually the type of person that gets excited about something, does it for a month and then gives up. I can honestly say that after learning the tricks of coupons, I will never go back!

The Sunday Paper: You need to start getting a Sunday paper. This is where the coupons are at and therefore step #1. The coupons are in the middle of the paper along with all the weekly ads. These go hand in hand. The first thing I do when I bring the paper in is to compare the weekly ads with the coupons. For example, you may see that one of the deals this week at Walgreens is ‘Pantene products 2 for $6’. Then you notice that there is a coupon for $2 off, 2 Pantene Products. You can now use that coupon at Walgreens and get 2 for $4! It is very exciting and it happens every week.

Manufacturers Coupons vs. Store Coupons: At the top of every coupon it will say either ‘Manufacturer Coupon’ or ‘Store Coupon i.e. Target Coupon’. For example, you may have a General Mills Manufacturers coupon that is 50 Cents off 1 item and a Target coupon that is $1 off 3 General Mills items. You can use these coupons together at Target and get $1.50 off of 3 boxes of Cheerios. You usually cannot combine 2 Manufacturer or 2 Store coupons, but if you have one of each- you’re golden. *Tip: check the Target website before you leave the house. They have printable coupons on their site. I usually can find a coupon for upandup diapers/formula.

Buying when it’s on sale: To get the most out of your coupons, you want to use them when things are on sale. You want to always be on the lookout for the deals on the stuff that you already buy and buy it when it’s at its best price. If you wait until you need razors- you will pay full price for razors. If you buy them when you have a coupon AND they are on sale at CVS, you will save a ton of money.

Buy the smaller size/quantity: I know it has been drilled into our head that the best deal is the biggest size. Penny for penny it is cheaper to buy 25 paper towel rolls than it is to buy 1. This rule is NOT true when using coupons! If you have a $2 off coupon for Viva paper towels, it is a better deal to buy the smaller size. You get a bigger percentage off per roll. If you have a $1 off Jiffy peanut butter and you buy the small container that is normally $2.50, you are saving more money per serving. *The only problem with this is the increased amount of waste and packing material which makes me crazy. The way I justify this is that I recycle everything I can and commit to no waste!

Buying what you don’t need: This is what the companies that market thru coupons hope you will do. Once you start couponing you will be very tempted to buy something just because you can get a really good deal. It’s addicting! It feels good to get 30 vitamin waters for 30 cents! But, if you don’t like vitamin water, you are just wasting. Ignore the coupons on products you don’t use or haven’t been dying to try. Don’t get too caught up in the excitement of saving, or it will consume you. Have you seen the show Extreme Couponing? Those people are crazy. You don’t need a 3 year supply of laundry detergent no matter how cheap it is. *Exception to this rule is if it is free and you plan to donate it.

Things to never buy again without a coupon: These are things that you can almost always find a coupon for. Also, these are things that I almost never buy at the grocery store. They are way more expensive at Jewel, Dominicks than at Walgreens, CVS— Razors, deodorant, make up, soap/body wash, shamp/cond, feminine products, diapers/formula, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, and lotion (even the expensive face products).

Websites: There are a thousand coupon websites that will do a lot of the work for you. These sites will tell you where the deals are this week and what you can get for free. Here are two that I like: www.krazycouponlady.com and www.couponmom.com . They also have links to printable coupons all over the web.

Dont be overwhelmed at the idea of using coupons. Start small and learn as you go. I promise it is worth at least 30 min. a week to go thru the paper. Once you start, you will not go back.