Couponing is one of the smartest ways to shop and save money. You can actually save thousands of dollars. If you do this religiously like I do, you will not only save money but also discover a new way of leading a disciplined and planned lifestyle. I have been doing it for the past decade and have easily saved $2500 dollars per year by using coupons and shopping for products that are on discount.

If you have just started using coupons for your grocery shopping then I would like to share some tips that will give you a head start in saving money while avoiding the mistakes I made. Also once you have mastered this system for groceries you can apply it to other shopping too. So let's get started.

1. Expiration Dates And Restrictions

All coupons are printed with expiration dates. They have other terms and conditions of use too. These are printed at the bottom or back of the coupon. Check your coupons for conditions about the quantity, brands, size, make, number etc.

The coupon may promise $2.00 off some product in big print while smaller print says that it is valid only on a certain size of the product. If you carefully calculate the prices you might find that $2.00 off isn't such a big deal because it is offered on a higher priced product while the same product is available at a lower rate with different packaging and another coupon. So read your coupon carefully before jumping at an offer.

2. Apps And Websites That Aid Couponing

In today's world of Internet and tablets, a couponing lifestyle has become a lot easier to adopt as you can easily match sales to the coupons on the different websites and plan your shopping trip accordingly. I make use of cool apps like Checkout51 and Favado.com which match local sales to coupons, saving me around $50-$200 every month. Other sites that I regularly use include www.grocerysmarts.com and Krazycouponlady.com. Coupons at Checkout is also a useful app that brings you the coupon codes you need right at checkout so you don't have to go find them yourself.

3. Find Deals, Print Coupons - Use The Power Of The Internet

I print coupons from the websites and the best thing is I can print multiple copies of the coupons. I some times hit the back button and print it again or hit the refresh button to print the second copy of much needed coupon. If that does not work I print a copy from my desktop and another from my laptop. So I have several coupons to use for products that I need in larger quantities. I print coupons from Coupons.com, HotCouponWorld.com and other sites.

4. Newspapers, Magazines, Inserts And Mailers

I remember my mother sitting at her work table cutting out coupons from the local newspapers. Today I do that too. Every week, and some times twice a week ,I sit down with newspapers, magazines, fliers and newsletters picking up coupons that I might need.

I subscribe to 3-4 newspapers and magazines since using just 5-10 coupons for each shopping trip will soon pay for the subscription of the newspapers with the money saved on a single shopping trip. Coupons arrive in the mail and also as inserts in your daily newspaper. So I keep an eye on my mail and inserts for interesting deals and discount coupons

5. Learning The Lingo Of Coupons

Coupon Lingo

There are multiple abbreviations for the coupons such as:

  • BOGO for buy one get one free
  • Money Maker, where you get extra money to make another purchase
  • OOP—total Out Of Pocket money you need to use to purchase a product

Red Plum, Procter and Gamble and Smart Source regularly send coupons through newspaper inserts. Get familiar with the coupon lingo to take better advantage of them.

6. Stockpile Products On Sale

I usually buy multiple quantities of items that are on sale for which I have coupons. It makes sense to stock up on products that I use a lot (like toilet paper, oatmeal, and cans of tuna) when the prices are rock bottom. Check the websites and apps for these 5 star deals, which come only once in 3 or 6 months for products that you use often. You will save the most with such deals!

7. Organizing My Coupons

I keep my coupons in a folder that has dividers and pockets. I organize coupons in separate pockets. So all my P and G coupons are in one pocket, the SS in another and Red Plums in a separate pocket. I also organize my printed coupons, mailers, inserts and random loose coupons in labeled sections. I regularly weed out expired coupons and try to use ones that are about to expire first. Also to keep things organized I don't cut out the coupons that arrive in the mail unless I am going to use them.

8. Mastering Coupon System - Store By Store

Every store or company has their own system of issuing coupons, reward programs, clearance sales, regular sales and restrictions on coupons. Get familiar with these and once you have understood how their system works move to the next company. Soon you will become a complete pro when it comes to couponing.

9. Sticking To My Monthly Budget.

Some folks are so keen on taking advantage of every deal and coupon they see that they tend to overspend and end up buying stuff they don't need or will never use. It is important to be disciplined and buy only those things that you will use and never go overboard when spending on deals and coupons. Shopping can get addictive as you constantly scan for deals and sales. Keep a tight reign on such instincts and build up your stockpile slowly and steadily.

10. Planning Ahead

Get organized and plan your shopping well in advance. Shopping with coupons requires careful attention to detail. Presenting coupons for each of the items you have purchased can cause the shopping lines to hold up and irritate other customers too. So, go shopping in the afternoons, morning or late at night when the crowds are less and the cashier is less hassled making it a pleasant experience for both of you.

11. Shop Prudently When Stockpiling

Understand the principle of stock piling and shop prudently. I use plenty of tomato ketchup so if they are on sale I buy four bottles of ketchup to last me for the next 3 months. I have saved myself a chunk of money on tomato ketchup. However I also need to be very disciplined in what I purchase. For instance buying 4 bottles of ketchup just because they are on sale when my family hardly uses any ketchup is an overkill and a waste of money. Learn to ignore deals on products you don't need.