Alright! So you have became interested in couponing but have no idea where to start? Don’t worry! We have all been there, yes including me! I know all the crazy verbiage and rules of coupons can leave you scratching your head and then you hear or see about people leaving grocery stores with free or insanely cheap items, even getting PAID for stuff and you are thinking to yourself there is no way this is true. Well, I am here to tell you it is 100% true and this article is going to be a brief tutorial on the basics of couponing. I am sure you have all used a coupon before a time or two, but there is a big difference between using a $.50 coupon on a pack of chips just one time and then using coupons consistently and correctly to save your family the most money. Of course there is so much to the coupon world out there to learn and it would be impossible for me or anybody else to explain it all in a written article, but after reading this you should have a clearer picture on just how exactly couponing works. So, let’s get started!!


First thing to learn is about couponing lingo. The commonly used abbreviations or phrases you will hear or see couponers say.


BLINKIES = Coupon that comes out of a machine on a display in store.
BOGO = Buy One Get One
BR = Balance Reward (Walgreens Rewards)
CAT = Coupon that prints from the Catalina machine next to the register)
DEAD DEAL = Deal no longer valid
ECB = Extra care bucks (CVS rewards)
HANGTAGS = Coupons hanging on a product
IP = Internet Printable
IVC = Instant Value Coupon (Walgreens)
NLA = No longer available
OOP = Out of pocket
OYNO = On your next order
P&G = Proctor & Gamble insert
PEELIES = Coupons on products that can be peeled off (manufacturer coupons)
PM = Price match
Q = Coupon
RC = Rain check
RP = Red Plum insert
RR = Register Reward (Walgreens Rewards)
SS = Smart Source insert
STACKING = Using both a store coupon and a Manufacture’s coupon on one item
TEAR PADS = A pad of coupons on display in a store (manufacturer coupons)
TQ = Target coupon
WYB = When you buy
Wags = Walgreens
YMMV = Your mileage may vary, meaning what is on sale at one store may not be on sale at that same store elsewhere.


Alright, so now you are familiar with the lingo we all use so let’s talk a bit about where you can get coupons. Coupons can be found nearly anywhere, a lot of places you wouldn’t even think about. Newspapers, grocery stores, online printables, digital coupons, magazines, books, in the mail, on the product themselves, etc. Every Sunday (except major holiday weekends) the newspaper releases their new insert booklets. There are 3 inserts that the newspaper will release, which varies, and those are SmartSource (SS), Redplum (RP) and P&G (Procter and Gamble) Each company has dedicated name brand products they release coupons for.

As mentioned above, you can also find coupons on the product themselves, these are referred to as “peelies” as you “peel” them off the product to use. I am sure you have all seen the little black SmartSource blinkie machine at grocery stores next to items, inside that box is coupons that are referred to as “blinkies”

If you feel you are never lucky enough to find any of those coupons, don’t worry because another great resource to find coupons are printing printable coupons from online. Online sites such as, Redplum and Hopster are all really great and free printing sites.


Now you know a little bit about where to find coupons let’s get into understanding exactly what a specific coupons means and does. This will help you with a successful shopping trip and help you feel more confident walking into the store.


  • Manufacturer coupon – A manufacturer coupon is what you will typically find in your weekly newspapers. This means the coupon was directly issued from the manufacturer.
  • Store coupon – A store coupon is different then a manufacturer coupon. This means that the coupon was issued directly from the store. (Target, Kroger, HEB etc.)
  • Expiration date- This tells you the last day you will be able to use your coupon.
  • Per transaction – This means you can only use one coupon of THAT specific coupon in that transaction.
  • Per purchase- This is very important to understand. A lot of people will get per transaction and per purchase confused. Per purchase means you can use one coupon PER item you purchase. If you are purchasing 4 packs of goldfish, you can use 4 coupons (1 on each pack) assuming that the coupon does not have any other exlcusions. Example: Limit of 4 coupons per purchase per day. 
  • Barcode- these will be the same on all coupons as these are mass produced.
  • Exclusions on the coupon- Most coupons will have an exclusion on it, meaning you couldn’t use the coupon on the item it excludes. Example: not valid on 10 oz bottles, not valid on Crest mint toothpaste, etc.
  • Wording on coupon VS Picture on coupon- This is another important part to understand. Just because something is pictured on a coupon does not mean that is the ONLY item you can use it on.


For example: you have a coupon for $3/1 ANY Covergirl makeup product. Now, think about ALL the products Covergirl has in it’s line. Do you think a retailer could picture all items shown on a tiny coupon? I don’t think so. The keyword in that example is ANY.  You can use it on ANY one of their items, not just what is shown on the coupon.


Once you have gotten your coupons and have them all cut out, find a way that works best for you to organize them. There is no incorrect way to organize your coupons. Some people prefer the binder method with baseball card holders to separate. Some people prefer the accordion pouch method and some just like basic envelopes. You can separate them by categories such as frozen foods, canned goods, feminine products, baby items, candy, hygiene, etc.


Another key part in couponing is learning each local stores Coupon Policy. Every single store that accepts coupons is going to have a coupon policy. What this means is that what is acceptable at Store A may not be acceptable at Store B. Make sure to familiarize yourself with all the store’s you shop at coupon policy. For a list of commonly shopped at stores polices, click here.


Now I know the main question all newbie couponers have in their minds is how the heck do they get stuff for FREE and get paid for stuff? Who doesn’t love FREE?! It is actually not as hard as you may imagine. The answer is overage. 

  • Overage – aka every couponers best friend. This is where a store will pay you the difference in the form of cash, gift cards or money towards your carts balance, when your coupon value exceeds the price of the item it is for.

For example: Walmart sells the Men’s BIC disposable razors for $2.82, you have a coupon for $3/1 ANY Bic Razors (notice there is that keyword ANY again) This coupon does NOT have any exclusions on what I can use it for. So, I pair my $3 off BIC coupon on top of the razors priced at $2.82 and BAM! I got that pack of razors for FREE plus I made $.18 overage/profit.


***Walmart is one of the few stores that does allow overage, be sure to familiarize yourself with their coupon policy.


So! We have now gone over the main basics of couponing. Feel ready to concur on couponing and start saving some money?


As stated above, there is so much more depth to couponing but for the most part it is extremely easy you just have to have confidence in yourself and once you get started you are instantly hooked! I know I was and look where I am at now. My own website teaching amazing readers like you all how to learn to do it too. Make sure to always check back in to watch for my deals I post to help you score awesome deals at the stores!


As always, you are welcome to share this article but please give credit to Deal Hunting Momma.


Updated December 2017