Coupons 101

Get the Most Out of Shopping with Coupons

Coupons 101
May 5, 2015

People are sometimes reluctant to use coupons – but why? Perhaps they don’t want to appear cheap, or fear the reaction of checkout clerks, store managers, and their fellow shoppers and are turned off by the concept.

However, many people use coupons and you can, too. Why would you refuse free money on materials that you already plan to buy? With smartphones and computers, you may not even need to clip them or remember to take them to the store anymore.

Coupons may be found in a variety of places, such as:

  • Newspaper Inserts – Sunday papers generally have inserts that are loaded with coupons, but you may find them sprinkled throughout the rest of the paper. Individual grocery stores often have coupons included in their own inserts at the start of the sale week.
  • Local Flyers – Many communities have a smaller local flyer or paper with free distribution that contain local coupons. They are often available outside grocery stores or near traditional newspaper racks.

  • Printable Coupons – Sites such as Coupons.com, Red Plum, and Savings.com allow you to access multiple product coupons after registering with an e-mail address.

  • Grocery In-store Coupons – These include coupons on tearsheets mounted near the sale item, or coupons that are printed along with the receipt (or on the back of the receipt) for future redemption.

  • eCoupons – Some stores have apps that allow you to store and redeem coupons on your smartphone, or by scanning a loyalty card if you do not have a smart phone.

  • Online Offers – By registering your e-mail address or liking their social media profiles, stores may offer special deals that are not listed in the store or in newspaper inserts. Coupons may be targeted based on past purchases, just as with printed in-store coupons.

Once you have compiled your stash of coupons, you can make the most out of them with a little extra planning.

  • Don’t Reach For Bargains – Stick to your shopping list. A good deal on a product you will not use is not a good deal at all. Only save coupons for products that you normally buy or are legitimately interested in trying out. You can reach out to other couponers who may want the coupons that you do not use.

  • Combine With Sales – Check the expiration dates on coupons and, if you can, wait to combine the savings with sale prices. You can also wait for double-coupon days if your grocery store still offers them. Make sure you understand each store’s dollar-value limits on doubling, and whether they apply to all coupons or just certain types.

  • Stock Up Strategically – Printable coupon sites typically allow two coupons per computer, and you may be able to get multiple newspaper coupons from friends that subscribe. Redeem as many coupons as you can, but make sure you are not purchasing more items than you will eventually use (especially for perishables).

  • Check Store Policies – Some stores may allow you to stack coupons (combine store coupons and manufacturers coupons on the same purchased item), or they may accept competitor’s coupons. Take advantage of any of these policies that result in a better deal.

  • Track Expiration Dates – Set up a system to track expiration dates. Use whatever system is the most convenient for you, whether it is an old-school coupon wallet, a spreadsheet, or something completely different.

One note of caution – you cannot use photocopies of coupons, and some vendors may reject printable coupons based on the appearance of a photocopy. You need to make sure printed coupons contain the bar code and some form of identifier. Check this with your store and the sites you prefer to save hassle and embarrassment at the checkout line.

Many communities have couponing clubs and groups that can help you get started with local coupon resources and assist you in avoiding common couponing pitfalls. You can likely find them through social media searches or the old-school bulletin boards at grocery stores and libraries.

With focus and moderation, you can enjoy the savings afforded by coupons without sucking up large chunks of time, being banned from local stores, or being surrounded with four-year supplies of deodorant and salad dressing. Good luck and happy couponing!

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