If you want to start couponing and don’t know where to start, here are a few suggestions for a smooth beginning.

Start with a couponing buddy and do your homework. Getting the experience and learning about the DOs and DON'Ts, the store coupon policies, and the methods on how to do it is purely hands on. Classes are essential however, the information given to you is as valuable as you actually use the tools you have been provided with,

Mistakes will happen, consider them a learning experience. There’s a lot involved when trying to save money.

Coupons and inserts: You can buy all of these newspapers at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy and gas stations: Killeen Daily Herald (Wednesday, 50 cents, Sundays, $1; Austin American-Statesman, street vendors, $1, stores, $2.50; Dallas Morning New, $3; Temple Daily Telegram, $1. You also can print coupons from Coupons.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com. Until you know exactly what you want to print, stick to products you already use. Don't clip the coupons. Leave them as whole inserts. Do you notice that when sharing a deal, most couponers state what date the coupon inserts came out? On the edge of the inserts, on the folded end, in fine print, the date is typed in the crease. So, storing the whole coupons inserts in a large version of an accordian style folder, arranging them by dates makes it so much easier to pull out and look for the coupon in the insert than to clip every coupon out. Did you know that you only use 20 to 30% of the coupons in EACH insert? Think of all the time you wasted cutting out coupons that you end up not using at all!

Coupon swaps: These free gatherings are a great way to meet other couponers with different levels of experience: beginner, intermediate and advanced. At these swaps, although you are not required to bring coupons, there are plenty of coupons that will be available to take home.

Check out local couponing pages for more information. I highly advise that you go to various couponing classes from different groups because each person that teaches, offers many different ways of saving and organizing their coupons. Even though I discourage paying for classes, it would be worth it if you wholeheartedly plan on dedicating time and effort to saving money.  I do caution that some "teachers" are not ethical and teach bad habits so definitely ask questions and know the risks involved. Anyone that teaches the wrong way will spend more time convincing you why they do it rather than help you save money the right way.

Also attend Savealotmom group shops. This is an awesome way to get firsthand experience with couponing in stores. Check the EVENTS tab on the Savealotmom page for updates.

Stress-free couponing tips: Shop later in the week. Usually during the first part of the week, many couponers clean out the shelves to get the best deals, but if you shop later in the week, the stores restock from a new shipment.

If an item is not available in stores, get a rain check, which guarantees the sale price of the out-of-stock item.

The major perk of rain checks is that you have plenty of time to use them. Depending on the store that issues them, some rain checks guarantee the price up to 60 days, and some never expire.

Coupons come and go: If you don’t get an item in time, there’s always another coupon that will come out again soon. Coupons and sales come in cycles, generally every 4-6 weeks so if you missed a sale, it will come back. Just make sure you stock up.

Do not shop the first or the 15th of the month, when many people get paid. Weekends and holidays are another bad time to shop with coupons. There are lots of customers in stores at those times who may distract and overwhelm you, and it can sabotage your savings.

It also doesn’t help if you have a cashier who is frustrated. It’s hard to make a cashier understand when there’s a conflict with your purchase when they are like that. If you do have to shop at these crazy times, try to go early in the morning or at night after dinner. It will be less crowded, and stress levels won’t be as high.

Review your favorite grocery store’s coupon policy and ask questions. Do your research before you shop.

Print off the store’s coupon policy and take it with you when you shop. If an issue arises, you’ll have it with you as a guide. Even though the coupon policy is a set of guidelines, managers and cashiers do have the right to limit and refuse your coupons so if your coupon(s) are denied, be respectful and don't give them a hard time. Remember, you represent a couponing community...be nice!

And check out these specialized store deals: TotallyTarget, WildforWags and IHeartCVS.

Now you’re ready to start saving!

Jennise "Savealotmom" Colin-Ventura | 254-501-7515 | jennise@kdhnews.com | facebook.com/savealotmom | instagram @jensavealotmom

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