Getting started

1. Start collecting coupons
See HERE for where to look.  And if you are planning on being a serious couponer, keep all your coupons!  You never know when there will be a sale or a rebate that can get you an item for free or even "make" you money!  Even if you have coupons for items you wouldn't use, you can always give those away to friends, family, or charities!

2. Organize your coupons
This has got to be one of the top reasons so many great coupons get unused!  How often have you clipped a coupon then not had a clue where it was or forgotten to bring it with you when you headed out to shop?  There are quite a few different ways out there to organize your coupons.  I have found that each person just needs to find a system that works for them.  Some people choose to clip out every coupon and put them all in a 3-ring binder, some keep the coupons in whole inserts in a filebox, some clip them out and put them in a box to carry into the store.  I, personally, do a combo of a couple methods. 

Here is my binder:

Its basically just a large zipup 3-ring binder with baseball card holder pages inside to hold each coupon.  In addition to my binder, I have a few file folders, each labeled according to the type of insert they are (SS=Smartsource, RP=Redplum, PG=Procter & Gamble, GM=General Mills)  When I get the paper (or papers) each week, I put the date on the top corner of the insert itself and then file it away.  It keeps me from spending a lot of time having to clip everything out every week, but allows me to keep all of my coupons.  When its time for me to shop, I simply cut out the coupons I need and bring them with me.  The binder I use to both put coupons in that I cut and didn't use from an insert and to put all other types of coupons in that I come across.  This system seems to work the best for me.  I like the binder because I can see each coupon that I have and have them sorted according to category.  And I like the inserts in files to save me some time on clipping and because a lot of money-saving sites also have coupon databases now that can help you find the coupon you are looking for based on the type and date of the insert it was found in.

3. Know your stores' policies
-Most stores will allow you to use one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon (if they have them) per item.  This is called stacking coupons.  Some grocery stores will double or even triple the value of certain coupons.  These are some of the ways you can really save big on groceries or other household items!
-Be sure to read the fine print on your coupons.  Sometimes you can use a coupon on a travel-sized item; sometimes you can't.  There is nothing worse than getting to the checkout only to realize you can't use the coupon you thought you could and now the cashier is looking at you like you're trying to scam them (even if you weren't!)  Also, coupons will usually say one per purchase.  This means one per item purchased.  For example, if you are buying 3 packages of diapers, you can use 3 coupons for diapers in the same transaction.  Once again, here is where you need to be sure to read the fine print, though, because occasionally, it will say one per transaction or one per person, so you can only use one of that coupon in that sale.
-Carry your store's policy with you!  These can usually be found on their website or sometimes by emailing them if they don't have it listed online.  I have one printed off for each store I shop at and just keep it in my binder in a protective sleeve.  This may seem a little overboard, but I've found that it really does help to have a copy of the store's coupon policy in hand in case a cashier/manager doesn't want to take a coupon that you know you can use.  As disconcerting as it may be, this happens quite often to some people.  I myself mostly run into grumpy cashiers that don't understand coupons and think I am ripping them off, when in fact I am paying them, just with coupons.  Stores get reimbursed for the coupons you give them (as long as you use them correctly) and even get a handling fee in addition to their reimbursement, so please do not ever feel bad for using coupons! You are making your money stretch further and being a wise steward of your money!

4. Stockpile
Now that you have all of your coupons organized and ready to go, you are ready to stockpile.  Basically, stockpiling is finding items at the cheapest price possible and buying enough to last you until the next great sale.  It all starts with a sale.  Here's an example of a stockpiling purchase I recently made:  Nature Valley granola bars were on sale for $2 at my local grocery store.  The store had printable online coupons for $.50 off each package of them and I found a manufacturer's coupon for $.50 each (which doubled to $1 at my store.)  So my total after coupons was only $.50 a box!  I had enough coupons to buy 8 boxes! ...and I did.  This was such an amazing deal that I bought them to add to my stockpile and now will have enough for my family to enjoy until the next great sale price comes along. 
A few things to remember when stockpiling:
- Note expiration dates on items.  If you won't use them by the time they expire, then for obvious reasons, it isn't a good idea to purchase so many.  But I will say that sometimes I get some great deals on items like meat that can be frozen and stockpile them regardless of expiration, within reason.
- Don't clear the shelves!  Couponers sometimes get a bad rap for buying a ton of things they don't need.  I'm all for buying things and stocking up or giving them to the troops or to charity, but there is no reason for me to go to the store and buy 30 boxes of cereal and leaving none for anyone else trying to get a deal or something to feed their family.  This isn't really a rule, just a common courtesy.  Although, some stores do limit the amount of items you can purchase at a time.
- You will need lots of coupons!  I actually purchase multiple newspapers each week and/or get inserts from nice family and friends who don't use coupons (gasp!)  This way, when I find an item I can get for an amazing price or even free, I will have plenty of coupons to clip and bring with me to get that great deal.  Also, note that most online printable coupon websites only allow you to print two coupons per computer.  If you have more than one computer to print from, lucky you!  ...I only have one, so I'm stuck with the two limit.  :)
- To get the best deals and save the most on your overall grocery/household purchases, only buy items that are on sale and you have coupons for.  Yes, now you really think I'm crazy for this, don't you?  Seriously, that's how I'm saving at least 50-60% on my groceries each week!  Once you have a stockpile built up, this is definitely easier to do.  And there are a few exceptions to this... some produce, dairy, & meat items.  Although, there are sometimes coupons for produce and deli meats and eggs and milk, they are not as common and they aren't items that are as easy to stock up on (with the exception of meat and some fruits or veggies that can be frozen) so in those cases, look for the items that are are on a great sale that week at least. 

And finally, here is some common coupon lingo so I hopefully won't confuse you too much:
BOGO - Buy one Get one
MQ - Manufacturer Coupon
SS - Smart Source
RP - Red Plum
P&G - Proctor & Gamble
VP - Vocal Point (great site to sign up and get great samples/coupons from)
OYNO - Off your next order
ECB - Extra Care Buck (part of CVS' deal program)
MIR - Mail in rebate
TMF - Try me free
IP - Internet Printable
OOP - Out of pocket
MM - Money Maker
Cat - Catalina (these are the coupons that print off sometimes with your receipt)