Getting Started

We’ve broken down getting Started into 7 days.

Day 1

  • Adopt a system.

There are two main types of keeping organized while couponing.  (And you will want to stay organized!)

  • Category
    • Keeping track of coupons by Category, be it product type, product name, isle in the store.  Make sections in a binder, box, card file and file coupons accordingly.
      • Advantages:  You will know the coupons you have, because you’ve cut and filed them.  Easier to find coupons while in store for clearance, end cap, and special sales.
      • Disadvantages: Time consuming.  This type of filing demands time clipping, filing, sorting and dumping.
  • By Insert
    • Keeping track of coupons by the method and date of arrival.  Can file in binder, box, or hanging file.
      • Advantages: Quick filing and quick dumping.  Websites tell you where to find the coupons.
      • Disadvantages: You might miss coupons because you haven’t handled them, or couldn’t find them in the store.

Whichever method you chose, we recommend adopting it early.  Get the basic items in place before the coupons start coming so you have a system to handle them.  Newspapers and inserts can pile up quick and cause stress, disarray, and mess, taking away the advantage of couponing.

We use the By Insert method at Couponing Kalispell.  We’ll try and report each month on what to dump.  We’ll be following the smart source coupons included free in the Flathead Beacon.  If you are interested in ordering a binder all ready to go, drop us a line at (496) 212-0730, or email

  • Make a Couponing email address.

To really bring in the savings there are several types of coupons you will be using.  One is printable.  Product websites sometimes request your email address in order to print the coupon.  Couponing Kalispell recommends setting up a free email account to “catch all” this junk mail different than your primary email address. You can check it from time to time to catch deals, but really, it is there to keep your real email address clutter free and safe.

Some of the free email services are:

Follow their prompts and come back to us when you are done.  We’ve still got more to get ready.

  • Install Online Printers for coupons.

In order to prevent limitless coupon prints, manufacturers offer coupon printer applications that must be installed on your computer.  To install the two main printers, go to:

  • Sign up for area store coupon mailing lists & Shopper Cards

There are many stores in the area that will send coupons to your door.  Some will even send coupons for the very items you buy from the information they have gathered from your store cards.  In order to take advantage of these savings sign up on their websites:

Smiths                        Target
Albertsons                Shopko
Kmart                         Safeway

  • Gather & Prepare Supplies
    Supplies that you will use with our system include:
  1. Printer Paper -to print coupons
  2. Printer – I like to set my default printer settings to Black and White.  No use spending extra money on color coupons when the scanner doesn’t care.
  3. Scissors- I like to have both one large pair of scissors at home, and a small child’s set in my purse.
  4. Stapler

Day 2

  • Find the Inserts

Coupon Inserts are one of the many ways to get coupons.  These inserts are distributed through certain newspapers (but not all) and are regional.

  • You can find FREE Smart Source inserts in the Flathead Beacon most weeks.
  • The Missoulian carries the same Smart Source, but also features the Proctor & Gamble (usually monthly), the Red Plum (most weeks), and occasionally the General Mills (about quarterly).  We have started seeing the Albertson’s Twice the Value Coupons return on occasion in the Missoulian Albertson’s ad.  Ask for the Couponing rate when you call the Missoulian.  If you are in a location where they can do a carrier drop (usually inside most city limits) you can get multiples at an even steeper discount.
  • Learn the Lingo

You’ve got a binder and newspaper ads and you’ve prepared your system.  Now it’s time to learn the talk before you walk the walk.

There are many words that are unique to the world of couponing.  You will begin to use them daily, and soon they will be second nature.  But until then use our Lingo List, that you can find below the Couponing Class tab on the left navigation bar to help you decipher the words you don’t recognize or understand.  To get you started, here are a few essential in the beginning:

Matchup: Matchups are when a product at a certain store and at a certain price and a coupon for a like product are paired together for savings.

Scenario: A scenario is a specific step by step shopping guide to a good deal.  It takes a Price, and Coupons and Discounts and puts them together in a way that will get you the most for your dollar.  They differ from a matchup in that they require specific steps to attain the final price and are usually more involved than simply matching a coupon to a price.

Insert: Usually refers to the coupon ads that come in the Sunday paper.  The two main inserts you will find nearly every week are Smart Source and Red Plum.

SS, RP, PG, GM, what are all of these codes?:
Often in a scenario following a coupon a two letter code will be listed alongside a date.  These two letter codes represent specific coupon inserts that come in the mail.  The date is the Sunday paper they came in.
SS= Smart Source
RP= Red Plum
PG= Proctor and Gamble or P&G Saver (which are the same)
GM= General Mills

ex) $1 off Scrubbing Bubbles PG 10/31
is $1 off coupon for Scrubbing Bubbles, which you can find inside your Proctor and Gamble, P&G Saver that came in the Oct 31st Sunday Insert.

Stack:  Is when you use two coupons from different entities (like a store and a manufacturer coupon) together on the same product.  You may not stack two manufacturer coupons or two store coupons, only when the discount is coming from different sources.

Day 3

Types of Coupons

In the days of old, I use to think there was only one type of coupon, and only two sources.  Manufacturer Coupons, and you either got them in the newspaper or on the product.  Not so anymore!!

One of the keys to couponing success is to understand there are TWO main types of coupons.

Manufacturer and Store Coupons

These differ in who is offering the discount.  A manufacturer coupon is offered by the maker of the product in order to push more of that specific product.  They reimburse the store for the discount you will get at the register.  Store coupons, on the other hand, are offered by the Store in order to push that product and to get you into their store.  The store itself is giving you the discount, and they are not reimbursed the amount of the coupon.

What does this mean?
Well, it means great things!  Because the discount is being offered by two different entities sometimes on the same product, you can put them together or “stack” them. (See definition of stack above.)  This can mean wonderful savings.

How do I tell which is which?
On the top (or sometimes bottom) of the coupon you will find written

In addition to these two types of coupons are different sources of coupons:
Newspaper Coupons– These are coupons found in the inserts in your weekly newspaper.

Printable Coupons-
These are coupons that you print off the internet.
Did you know?  You can usually print two of every coupon.  Just return to the coupon page and hit print again.  You can do this from every computer in your home!  Sometimes the coupon printed will have a unique barcode in the upper right corner.  If the bar codes are different, you know it is for sure a legit coupon and not a copy! 

Loadable Coupons– Many of the stores now have store saver cards.  Some of these stores allow you to “load” coupons from their site on to your store card, and then when you go through the line with that product it automatically deducts.

Mobile Coupons-
One of the rapidly growing types of coupons are mobile coupons.  Target is especially grabbing hold of this idea.  They send a unique barcode to your phone that you can show at the checkout, which automatically deducts the coupon.

Day 4

When and Ways

Go Prepared:
I do my shopping at home.  Learn how to prepare your binder and your store list, BEFORE you get to the store.  When you get there you can quickly and easily make your way through the store.  You will be more alert to the deals around you, and you won’t be as easily swayed into sticking items in your cart that you don’t want there.  Did you know – statistics show that for every additional minute shoppers spend in the store, they spend between $0.50 and $1 more? (beyond the initial half hour)  That means your end goal should be about 30 minutes tops!

Try to avoid stores when they’re likely to be busiest — after work hours (weekdays between 5 and 7 PM) and weekend mornings, for example. The best time to shop is early in the morning or weekend evenings.  But try not to hit the stores when they are dead, either.  You might not see many other customers at 10pm, but you won’t find many checkout lanes or quality help, either.

Know Your Numbers:
Keep the When to Buy Price Sheet in your binder.  When you are going down an isle and tempted by a price, double check if it is a good price.  If it’s below your When to Buy Price, go ahead…and if it’s a great deal, share it with us!!  As you build your pantry you will be able to simply shop the sales, and get rid of all that nasty last minute spendy shopping!

Day 5

Build Your Binder –

This is geared towards those who are following our insert system.  You can buy the supplies yourself, or get one ready-stuffed from us!

Has your binder arrived?  If not, email us, so we can make sure you get it!

Here is a video tutorial
How to Set up Your Binder


Mini Pocket on Slash Sleeve

This pocket is where you will put your coupons once the item is in the cart.  When you get to the checkout, simply pull out the coupons from this sleeve, and hand them to the cashier.

Slash Sleeve
Here is where you will keep your shopping list and scenarios you will be shopping at the store.  I like to staple my coupons directly to my list, and as I put the item in my cart, tear it off and put it in the mini pocket below.

Back of Slash Sleeve
This is where you will put coupons you need to file, etc.

Top Load Clear sleeves with tabs

These are your filing system for your newspaper coupons.  Rotate the sleeves from back to front as the inserts expire.  Watch the Binder Coupons tab on the left navigation bar of this site.  It will keep you updated on which sleeves to toss (usually the first day of the month)

the sleeves
Each of these sleeves will hold one week’s newspaper coupon inserts.  Do NOT cut out the coupons in the inserts.  Just slip them whole right in the sleeve.

the tabs

You will write in pencil the date of the newspaper coupon ex) 11/14.  This will be how you find the coupons from the matchups.

Rear Slash Sleeve

This is where you will store loose inserts where only one page still has an active coupon, or coupon brochures that you find in stores, etc.

Back of Rear Slash Sleeve
This is where I put the Smiths and Target mailers that come with coupons.

Baseball card Sleeves
You will label these sleeves with the white labels you find in your binder. (Cut them in half.)  Each of these sleeves will hold single coupons that you have picked up from the blinkie boxes in stores, the “Catalina Coupons” that have printed from the register when you make a purchase, or coupons that come on products.  In other words the loose coupons, but not the insert coupons.

I start with one ea. for these stores-

  • Albertsons
  • Smiths
  • Super 1
  • Target
  • Walgreens

These stores often give you printer coupons that are good at that store only.  Store them here.

Next I label by category:  You can do the same categories, or choose your own

  • Baby
  • Baking
  • Canned/Boxed
  • Cereal
  • Drug
  • Freezer
  • Fridge
  • Household
  • Meats
  • Personal
  • Pets
  • Produce
  • Snacks

Maintaining Your Binder
To keep your binder fresh and uncluttered it just takes a few minutes a week to update.
On Sundays
Rotate a top load sleeve with tab forward
Place the Newspaper Inserts inside
Label the tab with the date of the insert

At the first of the month
Check out the Binder Coupons link on the site and see if you need to dump any sleeves of inserts.

After a shopping trip:
File any coupons that you picked up in the store, on products, or in the mail.

Before a shopping trip:
See Day 6: Put together your first list.

Day 6

Put together your first list.

coming soon

Day 7


To shop you should have your binder, your printed list of matchups and scenarios, and your coupons stapled next to them.  You can go into the store with your whole binder and be ready to hit unmarked sales, or just take the front/sleeve with the Coupon Pocket attached.  (if you really don’t like it that big, you can pull the coupon pocket off the sleeve and take that and your list.)

If you printed your list from the store page, it should be organized by category.  Simply shop the isles.  When you come to the product, place it in your cart.  Once the item is placed in your cart, carefully pull the coupon from the staple and slip it in your Coupon Pocket.  Repeat with each item.

See a deal that wasn’t on your list and wonder if it’s a good price?  In the front of your binder is a list
When to Buy.  Any price at or below the price listed is a good price.

When you are finished placing items in your cart, head to the checkstands.  When you get to doing this every week you will get to know the checkers that work well with coupons, and those who don’t.  But for now, just pick someone who looks friendly and doesn’t have a long line.  You can always tell the people behind you that you are couponing and give them the friendly suggestion that another line might be faster.  But then again, this should be smooth and easy.

Place your items on the belt.  Scan any store card.  Slip all of the coupons from your Coupon Pocket and hand them to the cashier.  That’s it.  If a coupon “beeps” you can check the product, date, etc. Cashiers and the computers do make mistakes.  If something didn’t match (it said buy 2 and you only bought one) you can simply tell them you don’t want that product right now, and ask for the coupon back.  It is simple, friendly, and fast.

Remember, don’t get upset.  Checkers are usually as excited as you are for you to get the great deals.  There might be the rare cashier that hates couponers, but I’ve been shopping a long time and I’ve only run into one.  Usually I am greeted with smiles and excitement.

Did you have a great run?  Can’t contain the excitement?  Email us and brag.  We’d love to post your success stories!!  If you run into problems, give us a call.  We’re here to help.

Ready to Learn More?


4 Responses to “Getting Started”

  1. Susan Wightman September 21, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    Hey, my name is Susan, we moved here a couple of months ago from the East Coast. I was very sad that they don’t have a kroger. I know that Smith’s is the closesest thing to it but…… not really. One thing I don’t understand is why they don’t send out the same coupons in the Sunday paper that we get back East. Almost in every Sunday paper we got all three sets of coupons not every once in awhile. I almost gave up. Hopefully I can get back into it with you.

    • couponingkalispell September 21, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

      Couponing in Kalispell is different than other regions. It might not drive as big as discounts as you’ve found in the past, but we believe you can make it work for your budget. Hope you enjoy the site. Be sure to check out Jennifer Turner’s classes at the Zone Family Fun Center and keep track of,, and, each dedicated to coupons and sales in this area. Don’t forget to get on Smith’s mailing list so you can start receiving your personalized coupons as well.

  2. M Sauer September 19, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Will you be sharing local deals and coupons?

    • couponingkalispell September 21, 2011 at 10:25 am #

      Yes, we will. 🙂 Sorry I was gone for a week. We had a wave of strep throat pass through our family, and were down for the count. Hope you enjoy the deals this week!

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