how to use coupons art of couponing

How to Use Coupons: Perfecting the Art of Couponing

Want to learn how to use coupons but not quite sure which strategies to use?  These tips will help you perfect the art of couponing and help you save big at the grocery store!  (View other ways to cut your grocery bill in half)

We’ve all heard about the coupon-savvy shopper who can feed a family of five on $50 a month.  What is her secret?  She’s perfected the art of couponing.  While the examples you see in the media may be the extreme end of the spectrum, regular shoppers can save a lot by learning how to use coupons.  I guarantee that if you follow the tips below on how to use coupons you will be able to slash dollars from your monthly grocery bill in a way that works for you.

Know when NOT to use coupons

When is a coupon not a good deal?  Knowing this can be as helpful to you as the coupon itself.  In most cases, the generic version of what you’re buying is cheaper than the more expensive counterpart even WITH a coupon.  You may be asking yourself, “So why even bother?  Why not just purchase generics?”  You will need to become coupon-savvy in order to recognize when coupons are a good deal and when they’re not.   Coupons work best when they’re combined with another deal or are doubled.  Carry a small calculator in your purse (or use your Smartphone) to help you calculate the price per unit when you’re shopping.

Combine coupons with in store-sales and two-for-ones 

I recently bought two boxes of Cheerios cereal.  They were on sale at the grocery store for 2 for $3.  I also used two $1 off coupons I had, saving an additional $2.  My cost per box: only 50 cents.  Normally, without the coupon, each box is at least $3.  Cool, huh?  A lot of grocery stores also offer “in-store” coupons.  Use your own coupons in addition to these to save even more.  Target and other stores even offer store coupons on their website which can be combined with manufacturer coupons.

Find a store that will double your coupons

If your town doesn’t have one, it may be worth a short drive to another town to a store that does.   Click here for a state-by-state list of stores that will double your coupons.  If making a special trip, be sure to call in advance to see if the store has restrictions on doubling coupons.  Some stores will only double coupons under $.50, some only double coupons on certain days of the week.


Buy the smallest size possible

Most people are under the impression that you will save more by buying in bulk.  After you’ve learned how to use coupons properly, you’ll find that this usually isn’t true and the smaller size is typically the better buy.  What you will need to consider is the price per ounce.  Here is an example of what I mean:

Without Coupon:
Diapers 28 count package: Price: $7.00 Cost per unit: $0.25
Diapers 56 count package:  Price: $13.00  Cost per unit: $0.23

With Coupon:
Diapers 28 count package: Price: $7.00 – $1.50 coupon = $5.50  Cost per unit: $0.20
Diapers 56 count package:  Price: $13.00 – $1.50 coupon = $11.50  Cost per unit: $0.21

While the price per ounce of the larger size is more economical without the coupon, the smaller size is the better buy with the coupon.  Keep a small calculator in your purse or coupon caddy to help calculate the best deal.


Trade coupons with friends and online 

Start a coupon group with women in your area.  Let them know which items you need coupons for; and offer to trade with them.  I have a friend who uses Pampers diapers, so whenever I see a coupon for that item I give it to her.  In turn, she looks out for the items I use. To get started, e-mail 5-10 of your “thrifty” friends to see if they’re interested.  Have each friend list 10-20 items that she always uses, and print out the lists.  Keep the lists handy when you’re clipping coupons, and then pass on the coupons to your friends.  Check out the Frugal Living Forums and join one a Coupon Train or Trade Coupons.


Other coupon sources

Some grocery stores have coupon bins within their store.  Look for them near the customer service counter, or in the front of the store.  Some libraries also have a coupon swapping bin.  If your local library or grocer doesn’t, it doesn’t hurt to suggest it.

Print coupons online

When you think of coupons, chances are you think of the kind that come as inserts in your Sunday paper.   With the invent of the internet all sorts of other kinds of coupons are now available.  You can download coupons from your computer and print them out. Click here for a listing of trusted sites where you’ll find printable coupons.

Organize your coupons

Make coupons easy to file and easy to use.  I used to have my coupons clumped together in an envelope in my purse.  I could never find the coupons I needed, and I ended up throwing out expired coupons I could have used.   I use a large plastic index-card box for my coupons now.  I have it divided by categories such as: canned goods, baby products, cereal, baking, dairy, etc.  After serious couponing for a few months, you will discover which categories work the best for you.

After a little practice, you can become a coupon queen in your own right (no extreme tactics needed).  Once you’ve mastered the art of couponing, you’ll never hit the grocery store without ‘em.

More on How to Use Coupons:

About the Author: Kimberly Danger is the owner/publisher of, an online resource for parents interested in saving time and money.  She is the author of Instant Bargains: 600+ Ways to Shrink Your Grocery Bills and Eat Well for Less and The Complete Book of Baby Bargains: 1,000+ Best Ways to Save Money Every Day.  Ms. Danger lives in Southern Minnesota with her husband and two kids.

  1. Apryl

    Great article – these are the tips that we were all hoping to hear on the tv shows instead they show us crazed organized hoarders stockpiling 100 yrs worth of deodarant! (ok yes there are a couple of good ones that donate to charity)

    Thank you for all the great deals you’ve turned me on to.

  2. Lisa Raab

    Hi, I have no idea where people are getting these coupons on-line, because I am not finding them. I found a few, but not enough to save a lot. I went grocery shopping with my coupons and spent more than I normally do. I had a lot of savings. Some things people have to buy every week whether they have a coupon or not. Can you give me some hints on how to accomplish these great savings.

    Thank you,

    Lisa Raab

    • Kimberly Danger

      Hi Lisa, You can try some of the links we mention above to find printable coupons. Some of the best printable coupons are short-term offers on manufacturer websites. We list many of them in our couponing forum.

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