The hardest part of couponing can be finding the good ones.  Here’s a breakdown on where I do my coupon-hunting and some general tips on finding the best system.

1. Your local Sunday newspaper is the best and easiest place to start. I always go through all the coupons Sunday morning and clip the ones I want. Sometimes I don’t clip any, other times I end up with a stack. It all varies week to week, but after awhile you will get used to knowing which coupons to expect on a regular basis. For example, there a regular insert every few weeks of Protoc and Gamble products. So if you use any of those, watch for that insert. A Full Cup even has a coupon schedule so you can see what inserts to expect when.

2. Look online. There are many great coupon sites online to print coupons. Coupons. com. and Smartsource are two popular ones. The printable list at A Full Cup is great. The alphabetical list of coupons A Full Cup has is the best since you can easily search for printables by typing in what product you are looking for.

3. Go to manufacturer’s websites. Many manufacturer’s have websites where you can print coupons. You can also write to companies that make certain products you love and ask for samples and coupons. Just look for a “contact us” link on their website.

4. Sign up for newsletters from companies whose products you use. Betty Crocker has a newsletter that comes with coupons. Simple and Delicious is another site that offers a coupon booklet and e-mails with coupons. I’ve printed off several Healthy Choice entree coupons from there for example.

5. Trade with friends or online.  I swap coupons with my mom and mother-in-law so we each get more coupons for items we may buy, but the other person may not use. If you don’t have anyone to trade with locally, check out the coupon forums at websites such as Mommysavers to do some coupon swapping.

6. Develop a system for organizing your coupons. Whether you use simple envelopes, a mall plastic divided coupon organizer(what I use), or a 3-ring binder with baseball card pocket inserts to hold coupons, find a system that works for you. If you can’t easily find the coupons you need, they won’t do you much good.

7. Put the newest coupons in the back if you have duplicates of the same one. Always check and make sure you are using the coupon that expires first. If you have a coupon that expires soon and it is for something you regular use and will need, make sure to use it quickly. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a good coupon expire because you waited to long to use it.

8. Regularly go through and purge your coupon collection. Throw away all those expired coupons. Get rid of the duplicate coupons if you have too many of the same and its for something you rarely use. I try to clean out my organizer once every month or two.

9. Always check what the price will be after applying the coupon. It may not be worth it. The item may still cost more than the store brand or other brand you normally use.

10. While coupons can give you a chance to try something new, don’t buy something just because you have a coupon! It has to be something you need and will use! Otherwise you just wasted time, money, and storage space for something you may never use. I’ve heard some people say they spend more using coupons because they buy stuff they don’t need. Shop and decide carefully.

11. Watch for special double and triple coupon deals. Most of the stores around me only double up to .40. However, K-mart sometimes will double up to $4 and triple up to 0.75. My total at K-Mart went from $68 down to $28 the last time they offered that special. This promotion varies by region, but keep a lookout for good deals in your neck of the woods.

And those are my tips on where to find and how to use the elusive coupons. Happy hunting!

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