Coupons 101: How to Make the Most of Your Coupons, Offers and Deals
-by Jeanette Pavini, consumer and investigative reporter
If you were walking down the street and saw a $50 bill lying there, would you just walk right past it? Please. Stupid question, right?
Now, imagine finding that $50 every week for a year. Can you say “free money?” That’s exactly what using coupons can save the average family of four every week.
Using coupons has become almost effortless. You can now find offers that you want when you want them, 24/7—no need to wait for the Sunday newspaper. And think about this—if you typically buy one box of cereal a week and you start using a “$1 off” coupon each time, you will have an extra $52 in your pocket at the end of the year, and that’s just for one item. Easy!
Coupons aren’t just for groceries anymore. You can find coupons on everything from baby food to pet food, medications, personal care items, cleaning products, office supplies and baby supplies.
So learn the basics, set aside about 30 minutes each week, and you’ll be well on your way to earning literally thousands of extra dollars a year. Think of it as giving yourself a raise, and here is the class to teach you how: Welcome to Coupons 101.
START AT THE BEGINNING:
- Set up a separate email account just for coupons and manufacturer newsletters. This way you can keep your savings separate from your personal or work email.
- Visit the websites of your favorite stores and manufacturers and subscribe to their newsletters. You can also subscribe to the Coupons.com’s SuperSaver newsletter.
- Save all the grocery store ads that come in your mail every week.
- Once you have all your materials, set aside 30 minutes each week to sit down and plan meals around store sales and coupons. Ideally, you should do this on the day store ads come in the mail.
- Visit Coupons.com and print out coupons or save them directly to your store loyalty card. This is also the time when you can check your savings email account for any good deals that week. Also, check local papers and magazines for additional coupons.
- The ultimate goal is to find coupons that you can use on sale items because that means you are optimizing your savings. Try to work as many of these double deals into your weekly menu.
- Keep your eyes open for additional offers when you are shopping like “peelies,” which are on the product packaging, or coupons that you get at the register.
- If an item is on sale but out of stock, stores will usually give you a rain check to buy it at a later date. Some stores will also offer you a rain check for coupons. If your coupon is about to expire, but the item is out of stock, ask a store manager if they can stamp or sign it so you can use it later.
TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL:
- Register your loyalty card at Coupons.com and “clip” coupons directly to it. When you swipe your card at checkout, store sales and coupon savings will automatically be applied. Click on the Save to Card tab to get started.
- Organize your coupons in a binder using plastic holders and dividers. Make sure you check for expiration dates.
- Identify sale cycles. A lot of stores rotate staples like paper goods, cereal and bread at rock bottom prices to draw you into the store. Follow the store cycles and you may start to see patterns—often cycles last 12 weeks.
- If your coupons won’t scan or a cashier is reluctant to accept it, don’t be afraid to speak up or ask for a manager. It can also be beneficial to have a store’s coupon policy with you when you shop.
- If you really love a particular product or manufacturer, let them know. Send an email telling them why you love their product and ask if they have any coupons. It can’t hurt to try.
BOOST YOUR SAVINGS EVEN MORE:
- Optimize your savings. Say you print out two of the same exact coupons for peanut butter, but they each say, “one coupon per purchase.” Generally that means you can’t use both coupons on one jar of peanut butter, but if you wanted to buy two jars, you may be able to use one coupon for each in the same transaction.
- Whenever you make an online purchase, always check for a coupon code. At the very least you will often find free shipping. You can also stack coupon codes at certain online stores, but it usually has to be for different types of deals. For example, you could apply a free shipping code in addition to a 20% off code, but you could not apply a 15% off code on top of a 20% off.
- Coupon doubling is when a store doubles (or even triples) the value of a single coupon. Usually this is offered as a special store promotion or customer appreciation event. Manufacturers reimburse the store for the face value of the coupon, but the store pays out of pocket for the additional double or triple savings. Other than this exception, coupons can only be used once because a store is losing money if they scan a single coupon more than that.
SEE IT WORK IN REAL LIFE:
Always look at the payoff: At the bottom of your receipts, you’ll see the amount saved. Keep your receipts and tally up how much money you are saving. Remember, coupons are like free money—and why would you ever pass that up?
We have a new website designed to help our customers with coupon printing questions and other helpful tips. Please visit http://help.coupons.com?pid=13306&nid=10&zid=iq37&cid=37021_2!