A simple google search brings you to a mass collection of links and images all saying they have free this and that. I was once an overwhelmed beginner too. Here are my 10 tricks of the trade for beginning couponers.
1. Don't try and get every single deal from every single store when you are first starting out. Pick one or two and then as soon as you become more experienced, then you can move on to more. Making mistakes is embarrassing and stinks. If you over whelm yourself when you first start out, you are going to double your mistakes not to mention waste a ton of gas going back and forth.
2. Memorize your store's coupon policy & keep a copy on you every time you shop. I have a smart phone, so I will just pull it up on there. Sometimes cashiers don't know, if you think they are wrong, always ask to get a manager. Sometimes even they don't know their own policy, but give them a break, they have a million and one things to remember, but every time I have shown them the policy, they were very nice.
3. If you think a cashier or manager is wrong, be kind and considerate. This goes hand in hand with number two. What if the off chance you were the one that was wrong, but you made a HUGE scene last time you were in there? How could you show your face in there again? This rule is a general rule in business period. Be Kind and Considerate.
4. Get Organized! Whether you file your coupons whole insert or clip as you go, this was the number one mistake I made when I first started Couponing. I use the whole insert filing system now, mixed in with a binder for my Printables and other none insert coupons. I use to miss so many deals because I would LOSE the coupon! That's like flushing money down the drain. So figure out an organizing system, keep them filed, and use a coupon database to get rid of expired coupons. And if you don't want to just throw away your expired coupons, consider mailing them to families of troops. :)
5. Don't print every new coupon ever in existence. Print what you might use, of course, but you are going to waste a TON of ink if you print every coupon you come across.
6. There are three main printable coupon sites:
If you see any banners enticing you in with promises of thousands of printable coupons, they are just trying to get your contact info and then usually take you to one of these sites anyways. Don't fall for it, like I did. (UPDATE: Coupon Network went out of service.)
7. Make sure to print a list of the ecoupons connected to your card so you aren't surprised at check-out. Online coupons are AWESOME, but if you have any connected to a store card, you don't want to be surprised at check-out. This happened to me at Kroger when I first started out. They said I couldn't use one of my coupons and then explained it was because an ecoupon had already been applied, I was really embarrassed and almost cried even though they were really nice about it. Other online coupon sites I like (because you can use paper coupons with them) are ibotta, SavingStar, and Checkout51. I HIGHLY suggest checking out these sites which you can read about HERE.
8. Figure out YOUR stock up price on items you regularly need/have to be brand specific on. We HAD to use Tide or Dreft because my daughter would break out with anything else, a quality detergent but can be pricey (she also could only use Huggies or Pampers for the same reason), but I had to figure out that $2.99 for 32oz bottle was a great price, and that no you aren't going to get everything for free.
9. Don't trust coupon buying sites. Why might you ask, since they are so convenient and everywhere on the web? Because companies are cracking down on them. I suggest using coupon TRADING sites like AFullCup, or TheBump (Swap Spot board for the Mommas). I have had a lot of success working with other couponers this way PLUS it's a great way to find out more deals. Be timely and respectful and you can too.
10. No you aren't going to get everything for free. I started my Couponing Journey when TLC's 'Extreme Couponing' first aired. You'll notice now they have a massive amount of disclaimers. And the reason is because that show not only allows unethical couponing practices to take place but also doesn't show realistic couponing, that's why it's called extreme. If you slowed down the tape and actually paid very close attention to what they were buying, then you'll notice that they buy a lot of crap and toothpaste. Where is the meat? Where are the fresh veggies? Where are the eggs? Or the gallon of milk? These are things that most of us buy but there are no coupons out for them. Yes overage helps with that but there isn't always enough to cover everything. Saving 50% on your groceries, cutting your grocery bill in half, this is more realistic and completely possible. It is also an amazing accomplishment to be proud of!