Coupons 101

Coupons 101

Do you feel like this when it comes to couponing?

That’s how I felt when I first started using coupons.  I knew nothingZilch.  Zero. I assumed that as long as two coupons weren’t exactly the same, I could use as many as I wanted on one item.

That’s why when I found a good deal on diapers, I gathered every single printable, store, and manufacturer’s coupon I could find and plopped down about 12 coupons–to use on one package of diapers.

Ummm…that’s not how it works (as I quickly learned.)

In an effort to save you the embarrassment of such a situation, I thought I’d share a little tutorial on coupons.  It’s all quite simple, actually.

Here are ‘the rules’:

  1. You can only use one manufacturer’s coupon per item.  You will know a manufacturer’s coupons because  “Manufacturer’s Coupon” will be printed on it.
  2. Most stores will allow you to use a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon on the same item.  This is called stacking coupons.
  3. If the coupon value is greater than the item value, in most cases, the store will reduce the value of the coupon to simply make the item free.  The Walmart coupon policy states that if the coupon value exceeds the cost, they will offer the excess as cash or to be applied to the entire purchase.
  4. In most cases, if there is a Buy One Get One Free sale, you can still use one coupon per item.
  5. If you have a Buy One Get One Free coupon, you can combine that coupon with a Buy One Get One Free sale and get both items for free!  (This policy can vary from store to store.)

Where to Find the Best Sales and Coupons:


favado price comparison

First things first – if you are going to learn to coupon, you’ll need to know where to find the sales, so you’ll definitely want to click here to download the Favado app.

This app will be your secret weapon and save you tons of time as you plan your couponing trips.

Here are some of the highlights of the Favado app:

  • View what’s on sale at your favorite store and the coupons to go with those deals
  • Make your list from the app then email it to yourself
  • Print/Clip your coupons and head to the store
  • You can also compare prices at area stores and set up notifications so you’ll know when your favorite items go on sale

Coupon Lingo:

In the world of money saving blogging, you will discover another language you didn’t know existed.

  • ECB – Extra Care Bucks – CVS “money” printed on receipts to be used like cash in store on your next purchase.
  • RR – Register Reward – Walgreen’s “money” printed on receipts to be used like cash in store on your next purchase.
  • UPR – Rite Aid’s +Up Rewards coupon
  • IVC – Walgreens Instant Value Coupon
  • OOP – Out of Pocket – actual cash paid
  • BOGO or B1G1 – Buy One Get One FREE!
  • SS – Smart Source insert in Sunday’s paper
  • RP– Red Plum insert in Sunday’s paper
  • P&G or PG – Procter and Gamble insert in Sunday’s paper
  • V – Valassis
  • Peelie – Peelable coupon located on packages
  • 2/$5 – This means 2 items for $5, can be any combination.
  • $1/2 – This means $1 off of 2 items, can be any combination.
  • WYB – when you buy
  • MIR – Mail In Rebate
  • PSA –  Prices start at
  • mfr – manufacturer’s coupon
  • crt – cash register tape
  • cat or catalina – a coupon printed at the end of a receipt (often as part of a promotion when you buy certain items.)
  • mm – moneymaker

Organizing Coupons:

Learn more about my 20 minute Couponing System here

There are a variety of ways to organize your coupons.  I began with a simple coupon organizer from Walmart.  This worked well for a while, but I tired of clipping my coupons weekly and then doing the ‘coupon hunt’ every time I wanted to find one.

First, there are two things you should know:

  1. Sunday papers contain three basic sets of coupons: RedPlum, SmartSource, and Procter & Gamble. (Some regions also carry Valassis coupons, but mine does not. These coupons are the same as RedPlum.) Some weeks they carry all, and some just one or two.
  2. You will discover on this blog and any other money saving blog that other people want to do the work for you when it comes to finding deals and matching the coupons.  Therefore, you no longer need to do the ‘coupon hunt’.  We will tell you the exact coupon to use on a deal.  Sweet, huh?
  • For example, a coupon match-up for a sale on Colgate toothpaste at CVS might look like this:

    Colgate Sensitive Whitening Toothpaste, $3.99

    Get $3.99 ECBs (limit 2)

    $1/1 Colgate Sensitive printable

    $0.75/1 Colgate Adult or Kids Toothpaste, exp. 5-31-09 (SS 2/22/09)
    $0.75/1 Colgate Toothpaste, exp. 4-18-09 (SS 3/29/09)
    Moneymaker after coupon and ECBs!
  • The highlighted words are a printable coupon that, when clicked  on can be printed out right from the comfort of your own home (this one is just an example).  Typically, most printables can be printed twice if you hit the back button on your browser if it prints the first time.
  • Underneath the printable coupon are two coupons from past Sunday papers.  Most coupons are the same nationally, although some more rural regions differ occasionally.  Each of these coupons were from a SmartSource insert.  The first is from the February 22 insert and the second is from the March 29 insert.

My Organizational Method:

My new system saves me a great deal of time and is very simple.

I bought an accordion-type file folder like this.

coupon organizer

And I labeled it like this:

coupon organizer

(see above for abbreviation definitions)

Update: Eventually my collection outgrew my cute little folder and I graduated to this File Box method (still just as cute!):

Coupon Organization

Each week, I take the coupon inserts out of my paper and I use a sharpie to label them with the date. Then I file them away, without clipping them.

When you find a coupon match-up that you would like to use, simply find that week’s coupon insert, take it out and clip the coupon that you want.  How easy is that? It simply means that you need to plan your shopping trip before you head to the store, which is always a good idea.

Coupon Database:

If you are looking for a coupon that is not listed in a sale match-up, check out my Coupon Database.  It will help you find the latest printable and manufacturer’s coupons available and will save you lots of time and money!

Printable Coupons:

Keep in mind that some stores will not accept printable coupons.  If your store declines them, I suggest contacting their corporate office and asking for a coupon acceptance policy.  If the policy states that their stores accept printable coupons, you may be able show this to your local store next time you attempt to use them.
Where to find printable coupons:
Where to find Mobile coupons:

Earn Money by Scanning Your Receipt or Items in-store: 


Helpful links on my blog: 

My 20 Minute Couponing System that Saves Me Thousands

Weekly Store Deals

Latest and Greatest Coupon Deals

The Drugstore Game



The links in this post may contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link. Thanks for supporting Cha-Ching on a Shoestring. For more information, please see my Disclosure Policy.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy G May 1, 2009 at 3:59 pm

I have that exact same folder! Great site, Kaley!


sarah smith May 1, 2009 at 4:13 pm

i am a MOPS mom and i wanted to tell you i found they sell the syracuse papper at the kwik fill on hary l and it has the national coupons!! this week i bought both the local papper and the syracue and it has many more coupons including one for free cat food!!


kaleyehret May 1, 2009 at 5:37 pm

That is GREAT news, Sarah!!! Oh wow…I will be sure to spread the word. Thanks so much!


Myrah June 28, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Kaley I am a newbie and am a bit confused…I have noticed on the different sites I visit to see what the weekly CVS suggested items are, that a manufacturer coupon is used and also an SS and sometimes also one from redplum. Arent these last two considered manufacturer coupons also? I understand only one manufacturer coupon may be used per item purchased…


kaleyehret June 28, 2009 at 10:08 pm


Good question. You are correct that only one manufacturer’s coupon can be used per item. When several manufacturer’s coupons are listed, it is just a compilation of all the coupons available at this present time to be used on that item. The reason they are all listed is to give you options in case you have already used one or don’t have one.
Does that make sense?


Myrah June 28, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Thank You ! Yes indeed it does and it has cleared up a lot of doubts….Excellent site!! Keep up the good work…


stacy August 8, 2009 at 11:19 am

So, how do you remember which coupons you have loaded onto your card? I loaded them onto mine, made a trip to Kroger and used my card, but if I didn’t have a visual coupon, I forgot what I had available for me to use? Any tips? Thanks – I’m kinds new.


kaleyehret August 8, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Hi, Stacy!

Is there any way to print out a list? I am able to print a list when I load Upromise ecoupons. Unfortunately, we don’t have a Kroger, so I am unsure if they provide a list for the other ecoupon sites.


ANGIES September 15, 2009 at 12:50 am

i was wondering do you know if you use a coupon that’s says like buy 1 toilet bowl freshener and get 1 toilet bowl scrubber free. can you use a coupon for that free item you got ? love your blog by the way i’m from endicott,ny . just found you today heres my site it’s new and im still working on it, but its still excessable to the public if you sing up


kaleyehret September 15, 2009 at 6:53 am

In my experience, in most cases I have been still able to use a coupon for each item that I bought. In fact, you can also typically use a b1g1 free coupon with a b1g1 free sale to make both items free.

I’ve only had a couple stores give me a hard time about this. I usually just thank them and (if there is another store in the area) attempt to do the purchase at another location instead!


SCH September 21, 2009 at 11:31 am

Can you use 2 coupons when you are purchasing something that is Buy One Get One free???


kaleyehret September 21, 2009 at 11:44 am

In my experience, most stores will let you use two coupons with a B1G1 deal. I’ve only had a handful of stores not allow me to do so and I haven’t argued with them. But the general consenus amoung couponers is that this practice is allowed.


Heather November 8, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Hey, just wanted to say hi and thank you! I was sent over here from Deal Seeking Mom, I think, and am new into the world of couponing… I had my first “real” transaction today! How ironic that I stumbled onto your site and saw the word SYRACUSE. I don’t know which state, but I’m guessing NY, since I’m pretty egocentric and that is where I live. Small world, eh? Awesome site, I’m gonna RSS ya!


patty November 16, 2009 at 8:43 pm

This is a great help. I just started to really get into saving with coupons. I used to cut coupons from the Sunday paper once in a while….But now I have been saving so much money and getting alot of FREE samples..IT’S UNBELIEVABLE!! It is a little time consuming…but all worth it!!!
Thanks for helping.


Lisa December 6, 2009 at 11:10 pm

“crt – cash register tape, a coupon printed at the end of a receipt”

A “crt” is a cash register tape, but a coupon printed at the end of a receipt is generally known as a “catalina”.

Great website, btw. :)


Meckinzie December 29, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Most of the stores I go to never allow me to use 2 cpns on a B1G1 offer or give both items free when using a B1G1 cpn along with a B1G1 sale so bummer for me :(


Rebecca December 3, 2015 at 12:33 am

This has been my exact experience (and I’ve tried at many, many differnt stores)…I am an avid couponer & I think posts like this are made to try and promote a “great” savings and paying pennies or nothing for items, and that just isn’t always the case.


Cynthia Jenkins February 26, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Hi Kaley! It was nice meeting you at Calvary. I am trying the couponing- I had my hubby get another Sunday paper, and it had NO COUPONS!!! I will try again for that next week!


Bonnie Rague October 27, 2010 at 9:21 pm

You may have addressed this question before, if so please forgive me for repeating it.
In your experience is a trial size and a travel size concidered the same thing. Even though to me they are completely different , I would imagine I would get a hassle from most cashiers if I was to use a coupon that said “not good on trial” but I try it on a travel. I am not into confrontation if I can advoid it. Thanks for your help, Bonnie


kaleyehret October 27, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Trial and travel sized are the same thing, Bonnie. Not sure why they have two different names though!


Chicken Pasta November 9, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Pour into 3 quart casserole. Top with cornflake crumbs. Bake at 350 stages until hot, about thirty minutes.


Amber January 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Sorry, just to clarify…. when you transact a “money maker” deal, the cashier will literally hand you money?? Unless it is through Ibotta.



kaleyehret January 24, 2013 at 9:36 pm

In most cases, the money will be in the form of rewards that you earn. For example, CVS offers Extra Care Bucks, Rite Aid has +Up Rewards, etc. Walmart actually has a policy that they will give you cash back if the value of your coupon exceeds the value of the item purchased. However, in most cases I recommend purchasing another item that the overage can be applied toward since some cashiers may not be familiar with this policy.

Hope that helps, Amber!


L.L. November 11, 2013 at 10:18 am

I am new to ur blog and new to couponing. For the whole insert method how long do u keep ur own inserts for? since diff coupons in an insert have diff ex. dates. Also, if u want to buy stuff othar than the match-ups how could u do that?


Caiti November 19, 2014 at 1:38 am

Just FYI, Target has a few more rules. You can’t do multiple purchases using the same coupons. Also, if there is a buy one get one free sale, and you also have a buy one get one free coupon, you can’t use both. You have to do the sale, or use the coupon. At least, that’s what the official policy is, and that’s what we are supposed to do as cashiers. Hope this helps!!


Amy Jo January 31, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Hello Kaley..
I just wanna say that I really love your website!! It is going to help me so much as my fiancé died of a diabetic ketoacidosis. I’ve always used coupons, but not to a more extreme level. With my two daughters, I am going to have to really work on budgeting better and I believe the more extreme couponing will really help.. I just wanna say I have looked at quite a few sites, and fell in love with yours immediately!! So Thank you soooooo much for that!! =)


Kaley January 31, 2015 at 10:18 pm

Oh, Amy Jo – I am so very sorry to hear about your loss. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and I hope our community here will be a source of encouragement and help to you!


Judi November 5, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Hi, I really like your website. You put the entire coupon insert in your file box after putting the date on it. What I don’t understand is how do you know that you have a coupon to use on an item, when you haven’t cut it out, that comes on sale 2 weeks after you file the insert in your file box?


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