Have you ever been in line at the grocery store and seen someone break out a bunch of coupons? Couponing is more than just using a coupon here or there. It takes planning and dedication. While it may seem a bit troublesome, couponing can actually save you hundreds of dollars on your grocery bill. Want to give it a try but you do not know exactly where to start? Here are the ins and outs of couponing.
For those who have never used a coupon before, there are some general rules.
-Coupons may be used only once. If you have one coupon for a dollar off, you can only use that coupon once. That means the cashier can only scan it one time, and will not give it back to you.
-You may not use 2 coupons on one item. You cannot buy one pack of toilet paper and use more than one manufacturer coupon on it. However, some stores will allow you to use a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on one item.
-Copying coupons is illegal. You can obtain more than one of the same coupon in legal ways, such as buying more than one paper, asking friends and family if you can have theirs, or buying them online.
-Always read the wording on the coupon. Often times, manufacturers will put a picture of the most expensive product on the coupon. But reading the coupon carefully might tell you that the coupon is really for ANY brand product rather than that specific one that is pictured.
-Coupons apply to sale and clearance items too. Do not think that just because something is marked down, that you cannot use a coupon on it. You can. This adds up to more savings.
-Coupons are not always a good deal. Sounds contradictory doesn’t it? In some cases, the generic version of a product can cost less than the name brand even with the coupon. Be sure to check prices. When combined with another deal or a sale, the name brand with the coupon can come out cheaper than the generic version.
Now that we know the basic rules, let’s get started clipping coupons.
-Check the Sunday newspaper. There are always coupons and inserts in the Sunday newspaper. You can also choose to purchase more than one newspaper to get extra coupons.
-Ask friends and family for coupons they will not be using. Some people get the newspaper but can’t be bothered with the coupons. Rather than them throwing out all the inserts, ask if you can have them.
-Look online. There are many sites that have printable coupons. Start by checking cheap-buys.com, smartsource, redplum, couponloco and couponbug. Manufacturers also offer coupons for their products on their websites. There are also many sites that offer online coupon codes. Google up retailer names plus the word “coupon code” or “promo code”. For example: orbitz promotional code or norton coupon codes.
-Buy coupons online. If it is a great coupon and you know you will definitely use it, you might consider buying multiples. The Coupon Clippers and ebay both sell coupons. You can usually purchase them for a few cents. As long as you are sure to use the coupon, it is worthwhile.
-Check your stores. Stores usually offer a variety of coupons. Some also offer online coupons on their store’s website.
You have all these coupons; let’s keep them organized.
-Envelope. You can simply put all your coupons in an envelope. This is cheap and works to hold all your coupons, but the more coupons you accumulate, the harder it will be to keep track of what you have.
-Coupon file or binder. You can purchase a coupon file. Some will have the tabs marked for you with alphabet, and some might have blank tabs and you can choose to organize the spaces however you want. You could do it by letter or by date. A coupon binder is even more elaborate. Using a regular sized 3-ring binder, file all your clipped coupons in baseball card holders. With this method, it’s easy to flip through all your coupons when you are at the store.
Now that you have coupons for items you want to buy, be sure to know your stores’ policies.
-Make sure they do accept coupons. Some warehouse store such as Costco does not accept manufacturer’s coupons. They do publish their own coupon book each month.
-Doubling and Tripling coupons. Some stores have double or triple coupon days, where they will take your coupon and double or triple the value automatically at the register. If your store does do this, find out the maximum value, and how many coupons will double or triple.
-Stacking coupons. Some stores will accept one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon per item.
-Internet coupons. Most stores will accept coupons printed from the internet. Some will only accept them if they are printed from a reputable site. Some stores will not accept them at all, so it is best to check with the stores you frequent.
-Expired coupons. Not all, but some stores do accept expired coupons.
-Pricematching. Check with the manager if they will price match other store ads.
-Loyalty cards. Does your store have loyalty or reward cards? If so, be sure to get one. Some stores will give the sale price to card holders only, or offer additional discounts and coupons to the card holders.
You have the coupons, you know the policies, now start using them!
-Check the weekly ads. The best way to use your coupons to effectively save money is to start by checking the weekly grocery ads, either in print or online. Compare prices from more than one store if you are able to get to either one.
-Matchup coupons. Match coupons that you have to the sale items to save even more money. Remember, to actually save money: if you wouldn’t buy it normally, do not buy it.
-Make a list. Never go to the store without a list. A list will remind you what you need, and will help keep you from buying things you do not need. You can also note what coupons you have for certain items so that you do not forget to use them.
-Pricematch. If you want to go to just one store and that store does pricematch, make sure you bring the other ads with you when you shop.
-Get a raincheck. If your store is out of a sale item, don’t cut your losses, get a raincheck. They will give you a piece of paper with the items details and price. You can use it later, usually within a certain time frame, and you will get that item at the sale price even after the sale has finished.
-Always check your receipt. Sometimes products can ring up wrong or they can miss your coupon. If there is a mistake, take your receipt to customer service.
So now you know all you need to know about couponing. It may be a little time consuming at first, but you will be surprised at how quickly the savings can add up.