When I first started couponing, I was COMPLETELY overwhelmed. It was hard to know where to start. I made more mistakes than I can count and often walked out of the store flustered. I stuck with it, eventually learned the correct way to use coupons, and gave my family the proper balance between healthy meals and more money in the bank.  I want you to learn from my mistakes so that your transition from “regular shopper” to “smartest shopper in town” can go a bit more smoothly.

My Top 5 Mistakes

  1. I only bought the free, or close to free items. This is fine to do except that my family was hungry. I remember my husband complaining that we didn’t have any food in the fridge. My response was, “Well, it was a slow week of sales.” I didn’t have enough of a stockpile to save the 90% on my budget that I was aiming for. Instead, I should have picked a few deals a week to buy on top of my regular grocery list and aim for a more realistic 10% savings.
  2. I thought I needed a coupon for EVERYTHING.  This is absolutely wrong! Although there is the occasional coupon for fresh produce, milk, and meat, more often these items do not have coupons. My family still needs to eat these foods, so I price match at Walmart to get the lowest price.
  3. I tried to get every deal that was posted.  I found myself going to the store for every new deal that popped up throughout the week. It was not uncommon for me to go to Walgreens several times a week. I burned myself out fast! I only go to about two stores a week now. I usually make one trip to Walmart and then pick one other store if there is a deal I can’t pass up. Other than that, I don’t chase every deal because sales will come around again
  4. Just because it is cheap doesn’t mean you have to buy it.  I bought about 25 boxes of Pop Tarts one time because they were $0.50 a box. Great price, right? Ha! I hate Pop Tarts! My kids don’t eat them, either. They take one bite and the rest ends up smashed into the carpet. I spent $12.50 on a bunch of garbage we didn’t even want to eat. So, even if it is cheap, I only buy it if we are going to use it. However, I will occasionally buy things we don’t need so I can to donate them to various organizations.
  5. Use coupons for what they are intended.  I bought some Chocolate Special K cereal when the coupon was for regular Special K. I didn’t realize there was a difference, and I really wanted the Chocolate Special K. You must buy the exact item, size, etc. as the coupon states. Even if the coupon doesn’t beep and the cashier lets it go through, this is still considered coupon fraud.

To summarize, start off with just a few deals every week. Add a couple of sale items to your regular shopping list so your stockpile can gradually grow. Within weeks, you will start to notice that you have more food in your cupboards and more money in your bank account. Because you are saving money on the coupon items, you can “splurge” on fresh produce, meats, etc. Try to pick one store a week to get their deals. This way you can learn each store’s coupon policy. Don’t buy things your family isn’t going to use unless you intend to donate them. Even if it is cheap, it still adds up. Finally, use a coupon for the specific item, size, etc. that the coupon states. Read the fine print carefully so that you don’t accidentally commit coupon fraud.

This has been a guest post by Mary from Hickory Creek, TX
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My Top 5 Mistakes as a Coupon Virgin & What I've Learned Since