I am not an expert couponer, but I do use them and enjoy saving a ton of money when I can. I will share what I do so that hopefully some of you who use them less will benefit from what I have learned.
When the coupons come in the Sunday paper, the mail on Tuesday or Wednesday, and the local newspaper on Thursday, I go through them and cut out what I will definitely buy. I have started cutting out coupons for brands I don't normally use because they are expensive, e.g., Pantene shampoo as opposed to Suave. Sometimes when you combine store coupons with manufacturer coupons at places like Rite-Aid and Walgreen's you can save more on an expensive product than a brand you would normally buy because it is cheaper. I now cut out most every coupon except for pet food, baby products, and food that I won't buy because it is just BAD for you.
Almost every store takes coupons. I just found out that the dollar stores will take coupons at face value (no doubling or tripling). Imagine a product at a dollar store that is $1.00, and you have a coupon for 75 cents off. How great is that to get a product for 25 cents? I shop at Giant Eagle, Rite-Aid, and Walgreen's most often. I sometimes shop at Shop 'N Save and KMart. I rarely shop at Wal-Mart. I just don't like that store for some reason, although they do have really good prices sometimes. If I have a coupon for $1.00 off of a product that is not on sale at Giant Eagle, I can be pretty sure it will cheaper at WM. So, if I really need that item, I will purchase it there. I once got Snuggle fabric softener for 97 cents at WM because I had a $3.00 coupon and it was cheaper at WM than GE. I felt like I was stealing it.
I drink bottled water. Most of the time you can't buy it cheaper than $3.50 for 24 bottles. I don't like paying this amount because I know eventually a store will sell it for under $3.00. Walgreen's this week has a coupon in their flyer for 24 bottles of water for $2.67. You can buy 3 of them at that price. They will substitute another product if they are out of the product that is on sale. Just ask them. They also had Gain dish washing soap for 95 cents with a coupon in their flyer. I also used a manufacturer's coupon for 50 cents and got my bottle for 45 cents.
There are some websites that help you use coupons and let you print out coupons (be sure your store takes printed-out coupons). Check out Coupon Mom which is free and The Grocery Game which charges every 2 months based on how many stores you choose to watch. I just signed up for Coupon Mom, so I don't know a lot about it yet; but The Grocery Game lists all of the items on sale for that particular week for the stores you choose and lets you know what coupons are still valid that have been in the inserts over the past few months. It then gives you a final price. You can create a shopping list as well. These sites are very helpful if you lack the time or know-how to sit and go through all the flyers and coupons yourself.
I recommend signing up for websites that sell things half off, like Groupon. I got a deal on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, $26 dollars for a year of Sunday and Thursday papers. If I bought the PG 48 weeks out of the year (no coupons in holiday-week papers), I'd spend $72 a year. This way, I get my coupons without spending an extra $46 dollars per year.
I will end here for today. My kids have learned that if it is not on sale and I don't have a coupon chances are I won't buy it. They know the mantra, "My favorite price is free."