Coupon Newbie

Welcome! If you’re new to couponing, you’ve come to the right place! As a passionate couponer and lover of sweet deals, I have put together a Hip Couponing Guide as a way to introduce you to the world of couponing and saving money. For additional information, please check out the FAQ section.

If you’re a visual learner, be sure to check out my Coupon Newbie Video Series:

*Coupon Newbies Series: Part I
*Coupon Newbies Video Series: Part II
*Coupon Newbie Video Series: Part III

HIP COUPONING GUIDE

COUPON BASICS

Why coupon?

To save money, be Hip, and give yourself a financial and emotional boost in life.

What is couponing?

The art of matching coupons with stores sales, rebates, and other promotional offers to get the lowest possible price and to stock up on much needed supplies.

Where can you find coupons?

Everywhere!

  • Sunday newspaper – Coupon inserts (RP, SS, P&G, and occasionally bonus inserts depending on your area of the country: Parade Magazine, USA Weekly, General Mills, Target). Every Saturday night, Hip2Save posts favorite coupons to be found in the Sunday paper with link to a site which has the full list of coupons.
  • Internet: printable coupons – There are a vast array of printable coupons – on printable coupon sites and manufacturer’s sites. Here are my favorite sites: RedPlum, SmartSource, Coupons.com, and Cool Savings.
  • Coupon mailers from unsolicited companies or from a manufacturer with whom you have signed up in the mail or online.
  • In magazines – in particular, All You Magazine! All You Magazine is our favorite and is always jam-packed with manufacturer’s coupons! You can purchase this magazine at Walmart locations or by subscription only. Check out the coupons that were in the most recent issue here.
  • Inside products or on the box of a product
  • Loaded to your savings card, if available, or to your cell phone
  • Coupon trains – Circulate and swap coupons, through the mail or in person, with family and friends
  • Store Weekly Circular or In-store –

Catalina/CAT - coupon on back of store receipt or printed after receipt
Blinkie or Tear Pad – coupon from a small blinkie machine or pad – typically near the relevant product
Peelie – coupon on product itself

COUPON JARGON

  • Sunday Newspaper Insert Abbreviations:

GM = General Mills
PG = Procter and Gamble
RP = Red Plum
SS = SmartSource

*Date for insert is typically in very small print on the spine of the insert.

  • CVS & Walgreens Jargon:

ECB = Extra Care Bucks – CVS money
RR = Register Reward – Walgreens money
IVC = Instant Value Coupon – found in the monthly Walgreens EasySaver booklet

  • Other Abbreviations and Money-Saving Terms:

B1G1 or BOGO = Buy One, Get One Free
B2GI = Buy Two, Get One Free
DEAD = Offer No Longer Valid
DND = Do Not Double
EX or X = Expires On
FAR = Free After Rebate
FILLER = Item Purchased to Reach a Minimum Total in Order to Get a “Deal”
GC = Gift Card
H2S = Hip2Save
HTH = Hope That Helps
IP = Internet Printable
Jedi = The Cashier You Want!
MC or MQ = Manufacturer’s coupon
MIR = Mail In Rebate
NED = No Expiration Date
OOP = Out of Pocket
STACKING: Using Both a Store Coupon and a Manufacturer’s Coupon on One Item
TMF = Try Me Free Offer
UPC = Universal Product Code – Those black straight lines with numbers under them
YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary – Deal may work for someone else, but it may not work for you.

GETTING STARTED

1. Pick one or two stores; learn as much as you can about the store(s).

  • Join the store’s savings card program, if available.
  • Access the store’s weekly ad circular online or in-store.
  • Find out about the store’s rain-check policy and senior or military discount program, if applicable to your situation.
  • Get a copy of the store layout from customer service or make your own aisle-by-aisle map of the store – very helpful and a huge time-saver when you are organizing your coupons and making your shopping list.
  • Know the store’s coupon policy, if available, and keep a copy with you.
  • Use the stores guides below for helpful information on the most popular stores at Hip2Save:

Store Guides

Questions to ask store manager or customer service – if not answered in a coupon policy:

Does the store double coupons? If the answer is yes, what value will the store double up to? The total value of it – or only to a certain amount? Everyday – or on what specific days? Caution: If you have a coupon worth $1 but the store only doubles up to $.99, then the $1 coupon will not double. So you’re better off with a coupon worth $.75 since it will double to $1.50.

Is there a limit to how many of the same coupons can be doubled (in other words, if you have a stash of identical coupons, will the store let you double coupon on all the matching items)? If not, how many like coupons will double in a transaction?

Is there a limit to how many of the same coupons can be doubled (in other words, if you have a stash of identical coupons, will the store let you double coupon on all the matching items)? If not, how many like coupons will double in a transaction?

The total value of it – or only to a certain amount? Everyday – or on what specific days? Caution: If you have a coupon worth $1 but the store only doubles up to $.99, then the $1 coupon will not double. So you’re better off with a coupon worth $.75 since it will double to $1.50.

Does the store ever offer any promotions for triple coupons? On what specific days?

Does the store take competitor coupons? Expired coupons? Will the store price match (in other words, match the advertised price of an identical item from other stores in the area)?

Are store coupons available? If so, can a store coupon be combined with a manufacturer coupon?

Does the store allow for overage? Overage occurs when the value of your coupon exceeds the cost of the item you’re buying. The amount of overage is then applied to your other purchases.

When the store has a Buy One, Get One Free sale, is each item half-off? If the answer is YES, then you only have to buy one item to get the 50% off price. Will the store accept two manufacturer coupons – one for each item – on a Buy One, Get One Free sale? Will the store accept a Buy One, Get One Free coupon on a Buy One, Get One Free sale? If the answer is YES, you end up with two items for free!

2. Collect & organize your coupons for easy access at the store.

  • To build up your coupon stash, buy or get duplicate Sunday newspapers from friends and checkout the Internet for printable coupons. Some of our favorite websites for Internet coupons: RedPlum, SmartSource, Coupons.com, and Cool Savings.
  • Ask yourself these questions before clipping a coupon: Will my family use the product? Even if I snag it for free, will it get used? Can it be donated? Don’t save the coupon if you answer NO to all these questions.
  • Coupon organizers can be simple & economical: A standard white envelope or a homemade coupon box with index cards as dividers. A popular method and my favorite: A three-ring binder with divider pages for categories. You can check out my coupon organization video here.
  • You can arrange your coupons alphabetically, by category, or keep your coupons unclipped and file by date of the ad circular. The only downside to the “ad circular” method is that you won’t have all your coupons on hand to snag unadvertised deals or clearance bargains.
  • Coupons have varying terms which state what items qualify for the discount, what size(s) you need to purchase, and the date the coupon expires. Some coupons say “Do not double,” but most will double automatically at the register if the store doubles coupons. Check out Hip2Save’s post “Be a Confident Shopper by Understanding Coupons”

3. HIP Tips before you head to the store

  • Get a copy of the store’s weekly ad circular, or view it online, so you can match sale products with coupons – doubling or tripling coupon value if allowed by store.
  • Make a shopping list in order of the store’s aisles so that you can easily navigate through the store.
  • Decide on a grocery budget and bring cash – not a credit card or check – and a calculator to the store. With cash only, there is no temptation to put extra items into the cart. Use the calculator to check deal scenarios and to track the total of your items (if you have the time & interest!).
  • Plan to purchase only what is on your list unless you find a freebie.
  • Keep in mind that sometimes a smaller quantity item is a better deal. With a coupon, for example, you might be able to get a travel-sized item for free. With several coupons, you can stock up for free or super cheap – just go for the smaller size package.
  • Plan to look for unadvertised sales and clearance items. If you have a coupon for an already heavily discounted item, the cost can be free or very little.
  • Don’t be brand loyal.… Try new products and be open to purchasing products you wouldn’t normally use.
  • Consider buying products, which you don’t need, to get products you do need. To understand this backwards-sounding rule: Let’s say Walgreens has a promotion in which you earn a $5 Register Reward on your next purchase if you buy 10 Gillette shaving products. The least expensive Gillette product is shaving gel at $2 which you can buy for free by stacking a Walgreens $1/1 coupon with a Gillette manufacturer $1/1 coupon. With 10 Walgreens coupons and 10 Gillette coupons, you get 10 shaving gels for free plus a $5 Register Reward to use like cash on your next purchase! So you end up getting products for free and making $5.
  • Understand how coupon overage works: Overage can play a big role in reducing your grocery bill. Example: A product which is on sale for $1 is purchased with a $2/1 manufacturer coupon. Overage = $1. The overage of $1 is then applied to the cost of other products which are purchased. Note: Some stores do not allow overage. If you are military, you’ll be happy to know that the Commissary does allow overage and this is stated in their coupon policy.
  • Make couponing work for you: Clip at night in front of TV; get the kids involved as a fun activity; team up with friends & family!
  • Take baby steps, be positive, and remember: Every coupon you use is money you save! :)

Good luck & happy couponing!

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