Everything you need to know about becoming a first-time couponer

Okay, maybe it’s not the most glamorous hobby in the world, but saving money is saving money.


CW / Hannah Saad & Leah Goggins

Being a college student is all about being smart with your time, energy and, of course, money. We all know students love a free T-shirt, but what about a few free (or almost free) groceries? Couponing provides the perfect opportunity to save money on essential items all while creating a new, practical hobby.

Shop your pantry first.

A great place to start is by shopping for your own fridge and cabinets, or writing down a list of your regular grocery items. Those are your starting products. Now that you know what products to look for, you can begin your hunt for the deals.

Your phone is the new Sunday paper.

College students might not always have access to this week’s Sunday paper to raid the coupon section. Luckily for you, we live in the age of technology — coupons are everywhere! Odds are, your favorite grocery store has an app, where coupons are free and at your fingertips. There are also cash-back apps, like Ibotta, that are totally worth the download. The University even has its own money-saving resource, Bama Perks, for your convenience.

Keep it practical.

Just because you see a killer deal on an item doesn’t automatically mean it’s worth it. Remember that list we talked about? Keep that handy as you browse, because the last thing you want to do is buy food that goes bad before you get the chance to eat it. 

However, items like toilet paper and cleaning products may totally be worth it in the long run. Just think to yourself, “Will I actually use this item? Or am I just justifying it?” before it goes in your basket.

Start in your comfort zone.

Whether you’re a Target shopper or an Aldi regular, it’s a good idea to stick with familiar stores while you’re just getting started. Some stores have different policies regarding coupons, like how many you are actually allowed to use per purchase. Learning how to navigate one store at a time is definitely in your best interest and will lead you to the best savings.

Scope out the entrance.

More often than not, stores will have a stack of coupons near the entrance or have a bulletin board with this week’s deals, especially craft stores. These are great for that random art class you forgot you registered for. Keep a special eye out for “% off” coupons as well, as these can be applied to any item or your total purchase. Score!

Think beyond the newspaper.

Have you checked the back of your receipts recently? We all like to poke fun at CVS for having six-foot long receipts for a $5 purchase, but they may actually be doing us a favor. Next time you go to the drug store, check the back of your receipt before crumbling it in your pocket.

Know the lingo. 

Once you really dive into the couponing world, you’ll begin to see a few key phrases popping up here and there. Some of the most common ones are OYNO and BOGO, which stand for “on your next order” and “buy one, get one” respectively. Being familiar with these common terms makes your life as a baby couponer so much easier and far less intimidating.

Keep it organized.

This is probably one of the most important steps a beginner can take. If you’re primarily an app-based couponer, make a designated folder on your phone for those. If you like the old-school clippings, get a physical folder or binder to keep all your deals in the same place. 

You’re more likely to actually use a coupon if you know exactly where it is. And if you’re feeling super ambitious, you can always make a spreadsheet with expiration dates and store locations to keep things extra easy on you in the future.

Work hard; save hard.

You have to remind yourself that the only way you’ll save money is by putting in a little work. The more time and effort you put into couponing, the greater the reward. Think of it this way, taking an hour or two this week to scope out new deals is totally worth it when you end up shaving $20 off next week’s grocery bill. This is a lifestyle change, so it isn’t going to happen overnight, but the outcome is oh-so worth it in the end.