Do you ever find yourself sitting at your kitchen table, surrounded by a pile of coupons, newspapers, circulars and a smartphone with five newly downloaded apps -- and feeling completely overwhelmed?
I’ve been there. With so many different sources of discounts and ways to stack the savings, figuring out how to save the most money can be tougher than it looks. Is Costco actually cheaper than CVS? Do I really need three Kleenex six-packs? Which saving and coupon apps actually work, and which aren’t worth the time?
However, I don’t look at couponing as a struggle anymore; I’ve figured out how to organize coupons to make it a more efficient, enjoyable process that helps me save money while buying the things I need for my family. Ready to learn my couponing systems and strategies?
I remember going to the grocery store with my mother and watching her sort through a huge stack of coupons to find ones she could use that day. Instead of bringing all of your coupons to the store, wouldn’t it be easier to only bring the ones you’ll need that day? Manage your coupon inventory by creating an organized binder.
The first step is to find a binder, preferably a colorful one that’s easy to find on your shelf. Check your kids’ school supplies from last year for leftover binders, or look at your local thrift store or a garage sale.
Purchase coupon sleeves, and organize them by category using binder dividers. My categories are beauty, home goods, pet, food, medicine, cleaning supplies and restaurants.
Sort your paper coupons -- ones you’ve clipped from your local newspaper and circulars, or those you’ve received in the mail, like Valpaks -- into the appropriate categories. Ta-da!
This system makes it easy to coordinate your shopping list with your coupons. When you know you’ll need dog food, light bulbs and glass cleaner, you’ll only need to take a few coupons sleeves with you, rather than a big stack of random clippings!
Your local newspaper might share some deals, but it can’t compete with the number of options you’ll find online. Make sure you’re not missing out on extra savings by checking these websites for online coupon codes as well as printable coupons you can cut out and add to your coupon binder.
One of the biggest couponing sites around, Coupons.com offers printable coupons for useful, everyday items. The only drawback is that you can’t search for a coupon for a particular item; instead, you need to browse through all available coupons in a particular category, looking for one that meets your needs.
With both printable coupons as well as promotional codes to use online, RetailMeNot is a must-bookmark site for any couponer. You’re likely to find coupons for your favorite stores, and it’s expanding its options regularly. If you don’t see any offers for your favorite store, check back a few weeks later and you might be in luck.
This startup site lists tons of online coupons and also aggregates offers from daily deal sites like Living Social and Groupon. It also helps you stay organized and plan your shopping list by consolidating paper coupons and local store offers based on your location.
If you wanted, you could use the site as a digital version of the binder system I outlined above, since it even tracks coupons from your local newspaper. Use the dashboard to create a grocery list, manage all your coupons in one place and see your total savings.
Yes, the site you’re reading now! While it doesn’t focus exclusively on promo deals or online coupons, The Penny Hoarder shares special deals and tips for saving when they’re available. For example, right now, readers can save 50% on glasses through GlassesUSA if they use the code “penny50.”
Your biggest savings tool might be your smartphone. The best part? You can use many of these money-saving apps after you get home from the store, from the comfort of your own home -- no more juggling coupons in the checkout line.
Here's how it works....
Who doesn’t love Target? Love it even more with Target’s Cartwheel app that saves you money in store with no paper involved. Simply browse items or scan the bar code of the product you are interested in, then click the “Add” button. When you check out, the cashier will scan your mobile coupon, a personalized bar code that includes all the items you added.
Download Cartwheel for both iOS and Android devices.
Favado is less a couponing app than an aggregator. It pulls together all the sales in your area. Instead of going through all of the ads that come with your Sunday newspaper, select the stores you shop most at, including Trader Joe’s and CVS, and Favado will list all the sale items at each store.
Download Favado for both iOS and Android devices.
This app works just like Ibotta: You scan, send a picture of the receipt and save! The difference: Berrycart focuses on health foods, so it offers cash back on items like almond milk iced coffee or coconut water -- foods that aren’t often discounted.
Download Berrycart for both iOS and Android devices.
This is my favorite of the couponing apps. Created by Groupon, Snap includes offers on all kinds of items, from Robitussin to tomato sauce. Sometimes it even has deals on “any fresh salmon” or “any grapes” -- which means you can save money on your favorite brand without being restricted by a specific coupon.
This app works just like Ibotta, but you only need to scan the receipt, not the bar code. Another plus? Snap isn’t linked to any specific store, so you can shop wherever you like.
Download Snap on iOS and Android devices.
Don’t worry if this system seems overwhelming at first. Give it a try, and I bet you’ll figure out quickly how to organize coupons. You’ll keep your paper coupons organized in your binder and manage your online promo codes using Qponsr or RetailMeNot, so shopping trips will be simpler. Check your favorite app for deals while you make your shopping list, and then scan bar codes and take photos when you get home.
While the discounts may seem small at first, they’ll add up. You’ll eventually realize you saved the cost of a Starbucks latte or a movie ticket -- and celebrate your milestones! Couponing can be a fun hobby that yields even more enjoyable rewards, so take the stress out of managing your savings by trying these couponing strategies.
Disclosure: Here’s a toast to the affiliate links in this post. May we all be just a little richer today.
Jill Pohl is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia, by way of lots of other places (she’s a military spouse). You can find her on Twitter at @jillpohl.
When I first started tracking my budget, it never occurred to me that the makeup tutorials and fitness videos I was watching on YouTube on a daily basis could help me save money.
Then I realized that after months of subscribing to YouTube channels, I was spending about $200 less per month on clothes, beauty products, yoga classes and food.
To help you slash your spending too, I’ve put together a list of my favorite money-saving YouTube channels. The videos are entertaining, and you can easily watch them while you clean, cook or even pay your (now lower) bills.
Even better, many of these YouTubers periodically host giveaways for their favorite items, and some post coupon codes so you can get an even bigger discount.
Ready to start saving money with YouTube?
Angela’s tutorials, such as How to Give Yourself the Perfect Blowout at Home, professionally explain how to replicate salon-style looks. If you’re heading to a fancy event, her videos can save you a pricey trip to the hairdresser.
Jen’s videos help manicure-lovers save money without giving up their beautiful tips. Her nail art tutorials like this one for beginners make many of the fun nail-decorating trends much more affordable.
Emily has an entire series showcasing affordable alternatives to high-end beauty products: Makeup Dupes. She also helps viewers avoid wasting their money on a less-than-worthwhile product through her Try This, Not That series.
Want to save money while still living healthy? Lisa makes lots of gluten-free and organic products you’d find at Whole Foods at home. She also makes her own natural dry shampoo, and even a natural cleaning system.
Rachel shares tips from professionals so you can get spa or salon treatments at home, and often provides coupon codes and giveaways. One of my favorite tips I picked up from Rachel is her facialist’s advice to cleanse your face twice, once to remove makeup and once to actually clean the skin. In addition to beauty advice, she also shares home decorating and lifestyle tips!
Vy has an entire series called Get the Look for Less that appeals to a variety of personal styles: from Taylor Swift fans to those inspired by Angelina Jolie’s fashion choices. Vy looks at specific outfits that capture these celebrities’ signature styles, and then translates them to “real life” (a.k.a. a more reasonable price).
You already know you should be saving money, but Kate’s videos help motivate you and make the process a little easier. In one video, Saving Money: How To Make It Feel Good, she talks about how to start saving slowly by opening a free online savings account that you call “Money for Me.” The idea is to save a little bit every day in order to make a deposit into your “Money for Me” account, even if it’s only a few dollars at a time.
Kathryn’s channel gives an all-encompassing look into ways to save money, from advice on shopping at Dollar Tree for clothing, to affordably organizing personal spaces. Her thrifty skills help you create a beautifully organized home without spending a lot of money.
Brittany is a mother of five, so it’s no wonder budgeting has become a priority in her life. Her Thrifty Living series incorporates ways to save money on food, your electric bill, your water bill and baby items.
These videos are detailed and thorough, addressing a wide array of topics like finding bargains at stores like CVS and Walgreens, couponing strategies, and saving money during holiday shopping season. However, the food-related videos are my favorites, like the ones that share myths about saving money at the grocery store and tips for getting produce for less.
Saving money by making lunch at home instead of buying it during the workday is smart, but can be challenging in practice. Scrambling to put together a meal during the morning rush is a challenge! Nikki is a big advocate of pre-prepared meals, and provides some great ideas for simple, healthy lunches. In addition, she also shares beauty reviews and lifestyle advice.
Instead of shelling out for a gym membership or a workout class, try the full-body toning techniques shared by personal trainers Karena and Katrina. Most routines don’t require any equipment, and the ones that do are still simple, necessitating little more than a kettlebell or hand weights. These fun workouts are usually set in bright and sunny California, which makes them especially fun to do in the middle of winter.
You can go to a yoga class at a studio, but you can also do yoga for free at home -- all you really need is a bit of floor space! Yoga teacher Adriene offers a wide range of
workouts on her channel. She believes that yoga is a way of life, and she teaches basic yoga poses, power yoga, yoga for meditation, prenatal yoga, and so much more!
These sisters’ clothing hauls are always affordable. Why are they in the fitness category? While it can be tough to find great workout attire at a decent price, they created two excellent videos on where to find affordable workout clothes.
Hillary will help you learn how to make your home look great -- and more organized -- on a budget. She’s a stay-at-home mom who loves thrifting, cooking and shopping at IKEA, and shares her strategies on how to do all these things for less money.
Modern home decorator Kelly shows off her chops in her Zero Dollar Decorating Challenge. Yes, that’s right: $0. The idea is to reuse things from other parts of your home to give a room a new look -- without spending any money. Kelly often incorporates thrift store finds with decorations from discount retailers.
Want to update your dining room chairs? Cathryn shows you a fun way to give them a new look using only chalk paint and fabric. Instead of buying holiday decor next year, use her tips to DIY it. She’s full of fun ideas for decorating your home on a budget.
Your Turn: Do you use any YouTube channels to help you save money? I’d love to hear your favorites!
Jill Pohl is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia, by way of lots of other places (she’s a military spouse of five years). Her lifestyle blog features published articles as well as personal posts, and can be read at www.visionsofjillhanna.com. You can also find her on Twitter at @jillpohl.