Coupon Basics & FAQ’s

If you are just starting out I know some of this can seem overwhelming–but there is no need to learn everything at once. I would recommend starting slow –saving a little is better than saving nothing at all.  It does get easier!  I will try to address many of the common questions that I get. If you have other questions feel free to ask!

  • Where do you get all of your coupons?  My answer:  anywhere and everywhere!  If you start to look around you will see that coupons are really everywhere.  There are several types of coupons including: insert coupons, blinkies, peelies, tearpad coupons, hangtags, home mailed coupons, magazine coupons, booklet coupons, flyer coupons and probably many others!  If you look below you will find an explanation of the various types of coupons (Lingo and Abbreviations section).  Having access to multiples of these coupons will be beneficial in helping you save the most money.  Ask your neighbors, friends and family for any unused coupons. Consider getting a subscription to your local newspaper.  My subscription is for the Sunday only delivery–this works best for me since I can access news from the internet but I need the coupons in the Sunday paper. You can also join a coupon exchange, visit your local recycling center, check your community paper, get coupons from clipping services, win them from Ebay or trade with other couponers!  There are so many different ways to obtain coupons–it is learning how and when to use them that will really stretch your dollar the farthest!


  • How is it possible that you spend less than $30 per week for groceries? I have been couponing for some time now and have built quite a large stockpile.  At this point I really only need to provide weekly perishables (milk, fruit & veggies, etc…) All the other things I purchase are done to increase my stockpile as I now ONLY buy things when they are super cheap or FREE.  I write my menus based on my current inventory AND what is the best deal that week.  So if peaches are not on sale but grapes are–then I will be buying grapes as one of our weekly fruits and not peaches! I use that same principle when writing my menus. My budget works for my family and our needs and may not be suitable for your situation.  We all want to save as much as possible but each person’s budget should be based on their specific needs.  If you have dietary restrictions or a larger family–you will have to take that into account when determining your target amount to spend.  If you decrease your weekly spending by even 5% …that is extra money that you can use for other necessities, bills or money to put away for a rainy day.  Just think what you could do if you decreased your spending by 25%, 50% or even 75%.  There is no magic number and you are not competing with anyone.  As you learn and build your stockpile–you WILL notice that your spending is much different that when you began.  Before coupons I EASILY spent $200 per week on groceries, health & beauty, cleaning, diapers, etc…I have reduced my spending by 85% and we eat BETTER than we did before I began using coupons. 


  • You can only buy junk food an processed items with coupons…this is COMPLETELY false!  There are coupons for pretty much anything you can think of at some point!  There may not be coupons for every item at all times–but these coupons do exist! This is  another reason stocking up when an item is a good deal is so very important.   If I am able to get Kraft Shredded Cheese for less than $.50 per bag–I don’t just get 1 or 2 bags–I will get 20 bags!  That way I am able to wait for the next sale/coupon match! As I write this, on my desk I can see $2 off fresh meat or chicken wyb Kraft product coupons, $1 off bananas WYB Cheerios coupons, $1/2 avocado coupons, $3 off a gallon of milk WYB cereal. There are also tons of coupons for organic items available.


  • Just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean you need to buy the item!  If you really want to see the full potential of a coupon–wait and use the coupon when the item is on sale! When I first started couponing I bought things just because it seemed like I was getting a good deal.  You know a lot of the things I bought expired or were really not things that I needed.  Now–unless it is free or I need the item…I just wait for it to go on sale.


  • Store Brand items are not always a better deal.  There are rarely coupons available for store brand items.  Being open to trying new and different brands can open up a world of saving possibilities and you never know you might actually find something you prefer!  I was one of those persnickety people who was very brand loyal. I would only purchase certain brands no matter the cost.  You know after I started couponing and began trying new brands I realized that I was buying things out of habit and often just imitating  my mom and what she bought when I was growing up.  Now, my family enjoys a huge variety of products and we have found new favorites that I might have never given a chance before coupons! 


  • Warehouse/Bulk Stores (Costco, Sams, etc) are not where you will find the best deals.  They may sell 10 packs of cheese for $15 dollars but if I can get 10 packs on sale for $2.00 and use ten $1/1 coupons I can get the same amount of cheese and save a bundle!  That was a made up example but you guys get my point.  Using coupons on a sale item will beat the tiny discount you get for buying in bulk any day! On the same line of thought…sometimes it is better to get many small packages rather than a few bigger packages.  If the small pack of Ritz crackers are on sale for $1 and the big box is $1.50–If I have a bunch of $1/1 coupon I would rather get 25 small boxes and pay $0 rather than 8 big boxes and pay $4.00.  I am getting the same amount of crackers but I will take FREE any day!


  • Remember to get rainchecks.  If a store is out of an advertised product they will usually give you a raincheck for that item so you can get it your convenience and you still get it at the sale price. You never know a better coupon may come out and you get an even better price!!  I like rain checks because they allow me to restock items at different times!  I can only get so many yogurts due to expiration dates…with a rain check I can restock after we have depleted our supply and still get them for the sale price!


  • Coupons–I could write a thesis on clipping, storing and finding coupons…my best advice is get as many coupons as you can!  Grab them when you see them even if you do not need that specific product at that moment.  You may pick up a blinkie and need it for a sale three weeks later.  If you had waited, that blinkie machine may have been removed!  Never throw out a coupon unless it is expired…you never know when a coupon make come in handy!  Even if you do not use or plan on using a specific product it may be helpful in saving you money on things you DO use!  Let’s use Benefiber as an example.  This is a product that I do not use or need.  I have a $3 coupon for Benefiber…it goes on sale at Publix for $2.50.  So now every time I purchase a box of Benefiber and use a coupon –I have $.50 in overage that will reduce the cost of my grocery bill.  If I buy 10 boxes that is $5.00.  Do I need that Benefiber–NO…but I bet I can donate it and someone will happily use it!


  • Why do you trade coupons? Trading is a critical component to my weekly savings!  Coupons can vary  in availability and value.  While California may get a $1/1 coupon for an item–here in Georgia we may get a $.55/1 and South Carolina gets a $.50/1 SO–I NEED the $1/1 or $.50/1 (doubles to $1/1) to maximize my savings!  Some areas may not even get coupons that other areas have in their inserts.  You will also notice that the match ups that I do for the ads include tearpad coupons, blinkies, peelies and the like.  Not all areas will be so lucky to get all of these wonderful non-insert coupons.  My area is quite lacking in the non-insert  coupons!  If I want these gems I HAVE to trade!!  I prefer trading coupons rather than buying them online since my cost is usually just a stamp!  I will pay a clipping site if I have to but I really prefer to trade!


  • I have coupons– now how do I organize them?  Some people use a binder or notebook and sort their coupons by category.  Some people prefer to file their inserts whole and only cut when they need a coupon. You will have to determine what works best for your needs.  I am a binder person.  I like to be able to access my coupons while I am out and about.  I never go to a store without a plan (and usually a spreadsheet indicating exactly how much I should be paying) so I have all of my coupons to be used for that trip sorted and ready for check out!  If you want to see more of my binder system you can go HERE


  • How do I know what stores accept coupons?  Most all grocery stores and large chain stores accept manufacturer coupons.  Every store will have different policies and you may even see variation from store to store within a chain.  I recommend familiarizing yourself with each of your stores’ policy.  If you are ever unsure–ask a member of management.  It may be a good idea to have a written copy of policy in case you receive conflicting information. Most stores will email you either general policy or direct you to the location to view their specific policy. I will post general policies under each store’s FAQ page.


 Here are some coupon basics:

 Lingo and Abbreviations

  • $1/2 (and the like) One dollar off two items.  The first number represents the discount and the second number indicates the quantity required to obtain that discount.  
  • BOGO (or B1G1) = Buy One Get One Free
  • B2G1 = Buy Two Get One Free
  • Blinkie= Coupon that you find on shelves in the SmartSource machine-usually has a blinking light.
  • Cat or Catalina. The coupons that print off with your receipt (usually from a machine directly beside the cash register)
  • CRT = Cash Register Tape (your receipt)
  • ECB = Extra Care Buck-(CVS cash)This coupon prints at the end of your receipts and can be used to pay like cash at CVS stores. Earned via a rewards card for specific purchases. Watch the expiration dates on these!
  • ES = Easy Saver. Monthly rebate and coupon book at Walgreens
  • FAR = Free After Rebate
  • FLIP-Food Lion Internet Printable.  Food Lion has weekly coupons that can be printed and can be used at Publix as a competitor coupon (if your store considers Food Lion a competitor)
  • Hangtag-coupon that is hanging from a tag around a bottle or jar.
  • IP = Internet Printable Coupon
  • IVC= Instant Value Coupon at Walgreens. Found in either the ES book and/or in the weekly ad.
  • MFR or MQ= manufacturer coupon
  • MIR = Mail In Rebate
  • MM-money maker…deal where you will make money after coupons are used
  • NWPN-No wine purchase necessary (applies to wine tag coupons) meaning you do not have to buy the wine to use the coupon
  • ONYO = On Your Next Order
  • OOP = Out of Pocket. The amount you actually spend.
  • Overage-This is money you earn when a coupon amount exceeded the purchase price of an item.  EX-a product is $0.75 and you have a $1 coupon…you now have $0.25 in overage.  Most stores will not give you this money in cash -but it can be absorbed to reduce the cost of other items you are purchasing. 
  • Peelie = Coupon found on the package of a product that can be peeled.
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble another insert that comes in your local paper.
  • Q = Coupon
  • (RC) Rain Check = When a store is out of a sale item, many stores offer a rain check that allows you to get the sale price whenever the item comes back in stock and at your convenience. Each store has different policies on expiration date-this will usually be listed ON the rain check!
  • RP= Redplum. Coupon insert that comes in your local paper.
  • RR= Register Rewards. Catalina from Walgreens. Watch the expiration dates-these often expire quickly!
  • SS= SmartSource. Coupon insert that comes in your local paper.
  • Tearpad -these are coupons that are on a tearpad usually located on a display or shelf near the item.
  • TMF-Try Me Free. Form that usually require you to mail in proof of purchase for a full refund.
  • UPC= The bar code that is scanned to determine pricing. Often needed to fulfill MIR’s.
  • WAGS= Walgreens
  • WT = Wine Tag. Coupon found around the neck of a wine bottle.
  • YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary-this means that it may or may not be the case in all instances.
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