• How to Coupon


    (Click on the video above to watch How to Coupon for Beginners)

    Welcome to Coupon 101! We will go thru the 5 basic steps on How to Start Couponing for Beginners! This article is the show notes for the accompanying video on youtube for How to Coupon, you can watch it here.

    Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below or on the video page. I’m here to help. Also, subscribe to my YouTube channel for more beginner tips, and videos diving into in-depth couponing & money saving topics.

    Step #1: Understanding the Goal

    The goal to couponing is to buy items at the lowest price (or very low price), and to buy enough until the next time you can score the item for the lowest price again.  We do this by taking advantage of sales, and combining them with the usage of coupons and cash back offers.

    This”very low price” or “lowest price” is known as a “Stock-Up Price”.

    A Stock Up Price is a price point that is low enough that you want to buy multiples of an item. We buy multiple units so that we have enough to use until the next time it goes on sale again.

    In this buying pattern – of buying low, waiting, and buying low again – you never have to pay full price for common household essentials. Examples of common products that we see deal on regularly are: Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, Laundry Detergent, Toothpaste, Shampoo, Lotion, Diapers.

    Step #2: Understanding Types of Coupons

    There are two types of coupons. Manufacturer Coupon (MFQ for short) and Store Coupons.

    Manufacturer Coupon – Issued by the product brand. They say “Manufacturer Coupon” at the top of the coupon. These coupons are paid for and issued by the product brand. ie. Tide laundry detergent coupon is paid for by P&G.

    Store Coupon – Issued by a store or retailer. ie. CVS or Walgreens. They will have the store name printed at the top of the coupon. For example, “Target Coupon” will be printed at the top of a Target Store Coupon.

    What is Coupon Stacking?

    A common question I hear from newbie couponers is “How Do I Stack Coupons?

    The most important rule to remember is that you can use 1 Manufacturer coupon per item you are purchasing. You cannot use 2 Manufacturer coupons on 1 item.

    However, when you have a Manufacturer Coupon AND a Store Coupon on the same item, you can use both coupons at the same time on that 1 item. Essentially using 2 coupons on the same item. This is called Coupon Stacking.

    Coupon Stacking is when you are allowed to use multiple offers and coupons on the same item, creating additional ways to save even more money.

    You can stack Manufacturer Coupon, Store Coupon, Store Rewards (if any), Store Sales & Gift Card Promotions, and Cashback Offers – on the same item!

    Step #3: Getting Coupons

    Now is time to get some coupons. You’re probably wondering, “Where do I get coupons?

    There are 3 major forms of coupons:

    • Insert Coupons – From the Sunday Newspaper in most regions
    • Printable Coupons – Printed from a computer or your phone
    • Mobile Coupons – Coupons you can access using just your phone

    What Are Insert Coupons?

    Inserts are little booklets filled with coupons. You can find these booklets inside Sunday edition newspapers in most regions of the country.

    Insert coupons are the most common source of coupons for extreme couponers and coupon hobbyists. Insert coupons are not required, but if you are serious about diving into couponing, I recommend starting to collect inserts every Sunday.

    There are 3 types of inserts. Couponers refer to them by their acronyms:

    • SmartSource (SS)
    • P&G (PG)
    • RetailMeNot (RMN) – This used to be called Redplum or RP. Some regions do not receive the RetailMeNot inserts in their Sunday papers, since in those regions, the RMN insert is included in the mail with weekly circulars.

    The inserts that are included in each week’s paper is on a pre-determined schedule. You won’t find all 3 inserts every week. P&G inserts come out on the first Sunday of every month.

    We publish this schedule every year in January on the blog at FreeStuffFinder.com – You can find the insert schedule linked under “Coupons” or “Coupon DB” site menu. Here is the 2019 Sunday Coupon Insert Schedule.


    We refer to each insert by their acronym and the date from the Sunday when they came out. For example “SS 1/20” is for the SmartSource insert from January 20th. And the little “x” means the expiration date for that coupon. So “x2/28” means the coupon expires on February 28th.

    I recommend writing the date on the front page of the insert with a sharpie. If you are ever unsure which date an insert came from, you can find the date written in very tiny font along the spine edge of the insert.

    Where to Get Inserts?

    You can start collecting inserts by purchasing Sunday newspapers. Please make sure to open up the paper (if you can) to check if there are inserts inside before you buy. And keep the receipt, in case there are no inserts and you need to return the paper.

    Do not spend more than $2.50 per newspaper. Ideally, we want to keep this cost to $1.50 or lower.

    Here are some places you can get Sunday Papers:

    • Dollar Tree for $1 – The cheapest place to get the Sunday paper is at the Dollar Tree, assuming your Dollar Tree carries Sunday papers. Some regions even have Sunday Edition papers that are released on a Saturday, called Early Edition. Call your store or visit a DT on a Sunday morning.
    • Friends, Neighbors, Family – If a friend or neighbor has a newspaper subscription, including Sundays, ask if you can have the inserts.
    • Starbucks, McDonald’s, Restaurants – My starbucks also has a little newspaper stand, where you can find papers for $1.85. I’ve heard of similar with some McDonald’s. I’ve also seen abandoned newspapers at Sunday breakfast restaurants around town. Keep an eye out.
    • Hospitals 
    • Convenient Store – I haven’t tried this but I heard that convenient stores toss their papers after midnight. If you know if this is true or know more, please let me know in the comments below.
    • Long Term Solution – For the long term, I like to get a Sunday Only paper subscription. Look for promotions in your region. For example, in Southern California, LA Times will run their $10 promotion, where you can get a year’s deliveries for just $10 per year! Limit 5 per household. They deliver as far south as San Diego.
    • By Bulk – I don’t recommend buying inserts by bulk from insert sellers, especially if you are just starting out. Most people won’t know what to do with that many inserts. And the math usually works out to be more expensive if you just bought the newspapers each week.

    Start with collecting 2 papers each week.

    Printable Coupons

    The quickest and easiest way to start couponing is by using printable coupons. As long as you have a printer, you can get started. You can browse and print coupons here.

    You can find deal ideas with printable coupons under “Coupons” menu on FSF.

    If you are in the market for a new printer, I highly recommend getting a Wireless Laser Printer. I prefer HP brand, and I recommend getting a B&W printer to save on ink. Keywords are: Wireless and Laser. Laser printers cost slightly more to buy the machine initially, but you will save a lot more money in ink in the long run. Plus they print much faster and do not smudge.

    Step #4: Find a Deal

    Now that you have coupons and know where to find them, it’s time to find some deals.

    One way to find a deal is looking thru a store’s weekly ad to see what’s on sale, and then checking the coupons you have. If you see an item that is on sale, and you have a coupon for that item, you can match the two together to stack your savings. This is called a “Matchup”.

    You can also find Coupon Matchups and Deal ideas posted daily on FreeStuffFinder.com and my (Upcoming) Mobile App. We also post an extensive weekly matchup list for major stores like Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid. It lists everything on sale that week, and we’ll also list any known coupons or cashback offers you can stack with the sale.

    You can find the weekly matchup pinned at the top of each store category (Click on Stores from site menu, and then clicking on the store name. ie. Target). Weekly matchups are updated through out the week.

    Step #5: Go Out & Try! 🙌

    When learning anything new, there is truly no substitute for practical experience. You will learn so much when you are out doing and practicing.

    Pick one or two deals that you understand and then going out to try them. Pick easy deals. I highly recommend you start at an easy store, like Target, if possible. CVS is also a friendly store if Target isn’t an option.

    NOW… Go here for the followup video, where I share the Top Top 10 Tips for New Couponers to have a successful first couponing trip! Make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified of updates.

    332 good-looking people commentedLeave a comment
    1. 61

      Hi Tina,
      I know you can only print 2 coupons per computer. But how often are new coupons added to coupon.com?

    2. 62

      I tried using more than one of the manufacturer coupon at cvs to get the deals and the cashier told me I can only use one per transaction. How can I purchase all these and still be able to use the coupons? I don’t understand how to fully… :(?

    3. 63

      Can I print and use a pdf coupon twice?

      Can I use it on the same product, like a “buy 2” promo (knowing the pdf coupons are exactly the same)?

      Can I use one pdf coupon at CVS and the other pdf coupon at Target on the same day? (is this illegal)

      I just want to be responsible on using coupons. I hope you can enlighten me. Thanks.

      • 63.1

        Hi Kay. Yes, it is ok to print multiple pdf coupons. However, there is no guarantee that they will be accepted and/or scan at the register. Always make sure the coupon comes from a reliable source such as the products own web page. Hope that helps. 🙂

    4. 64

      Hello Tina,

      Im quite a new bee with this coupon stuff, and watching your videos/posts has me in a daze with all the savings i can have. my question to you is , which sites are best for printable coupons? I see your breakdowns which include previous coupons from Redplum,smart source, and i have no luck finding them on their site, or are they only found on weekly inserts ? and id like to say thank you for your genius couponing ways , you are quite fantastic ! thanks again.

      • 64.1

        Hi Marjorie. I’m glad you enjoy the videos. I have a lot of fun making them. The best sites for printing coupons are coupons.com, SmartSource and Red Plum. If you go to our homepage and click on “coupons” you’ll see all the links to the best sites. Hope that helps. 🙂

    5. 65

      I just saw this and I’m glad that you have made videos for couponing and NOT a class where I have to show up in a specific building at a specific time and place. I followed a different blogger and she, too had coupons’ classes but you had to go to her. At the time I lived in Minnesota and she lives in Oklahoma so that was not going to happen. LOL. Thanks, for putting these videos together. I’ll start soon now that I know they are here.

    6. 66

      Hi Tina,

      For the printable coupons, I know that you can print 2 per device, but does this mean having multiple computers, or multiple printers as well? I tried to print coupons on two different computers, using the same printer, and it doesn’t allow me to. Please help!

    7. 67

      Hi Tina, I just read and watched your couponing videos. I’m going start to buy the Sunday paper, also to follow you to se the items you posted and see the breakdown. Thank you, for your honesty for teaching us how to save money. Your sure are a wonderful person

    8. 68

      Hi TIna,
      I wrote to you before on how two local Targets would not accept more than one coupon reading “one coupon per purchase” on an order that I would try to combine with the $5.00 gift card. Target’s policy does state that it is one coupon per item, however I contacted their office and they said they could not do anything about it. That local management had a right to limit the use of coupons or make any exceptions from policy.
      Also just found out today that our local CVS (Chicago area) is also limiting the number of coupons and will only honor one.
      The store manager said too many people were taking advantage of the sales and clearing out their shelves.

      Anyone else experiencing this?

    9. 69

      Hi Tina,
      I was wondering what the average upfront cost is for someone who’s just starting out. I bought 5 of last week’s Sunday papers, got my printed coupons and signed up for all of the rebate apps. My first trip cost me about $100 even though I know that I will get a lot of money back in rebates and saved a lot from the coupons, at what point do you “really” start to see those savings come in (aka- go into a store with $20 and come out with $80 worth of merchandise)?


      • 69.1

        Hi Tia. When you very first start your up front costs are a little more. What most couponers like to do is earn rewards at each of the stores and then use those rewards to make their purchases. This is called rolling and it saves you a lot of money in out of pocket expenses. Hope that helps. 🙂

    10. 70

      Hi Tina, I’m new to this whole coupon thing and I’ve already tried it out and I’m loving it!!! Except it does take some time to get used to this and my kids don’t have the patience when I shop. Can you please let me know if you have an app available that I can use for a quicker scroll when I enter a store so that I don’t have to scroll through the web page. Or what do you recommend I do? Thank you for your hard work, it is really well appreciated! 🙂

      • 70.1

        Hi Veronica. We don’t have an app right now, but it’s something I’ll have to look into. I recommend planning out your trips before you shop and getting all your coupons ready so that things will go smoothly when you are there. I have to be super organized if I take my kids couponing with me. 🙂

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