By Rita Cunha
Everyone loves getting good deals and saving money. If you’re already an avid sale-chaser, the next step in your savings journey has to be couponing. That’s because using coupons is a foolproof way to save money every month—while still enjoying all your favorite products, and then some!
Today, we will go over how to use coupons and how to give this thrilling money-saving hobby a try as a beginner. Relax, extreme couponing is much more fun and easier than it sounds. Keep reading to learn all about it.
Print Coupons vs Online Coupons
There are two types of coupons out there: print coupons and online coupons. There’s no reason to choose one over the other—they go together! When you compound the two you can often get even better deals.
For in-person purchases (for example, your groceries) you can take your printable coupons with you. The cashier will scan the store coupons’ barcodes or manually enter them and give you the deal.
When you order things online, all you have to do is enter a coupon code when you get to the checkout and you’ll instantly save money.
How to Read Coupons 101
Before jumping on your couponing journey, you first need to know how to read coupons. This applies to store coupons and online coupons alike. Soon enough, you will know what coupons you can use, when and where you can use a coupon, and if they’re worth it to you.
One Coupon Per… Purchase
Coupons that state this can be used once on one item. For example, if you have a coupon for 50 cents off a bottle of ketchup, you can only shop one bottle of ketchup at a reduced price.
One Coupon Per… Transaction
You can only use one coupon for your entire transaction at the store. Say, if you have three of these coupons for 50 cents off a bottle of ketchup and want to use them all you will need to split up the transactions. Make sure to tell your cashier to open three different accounts for you to scan (and pay) for each bottle separately.
One Coupon Per… Visit
This type of coupon is more limiting. This policy makes it so that you can only use one coupon every time you walk into the store. Thus, if you really wanted those three bottles of ketchup for a discount you would need to: pay for one, leave the store, come back to buy the other, leave again, come back one more time and pay for that third bottle of ketchup. Fortunately, this coupon policy isn’t all that common.
Offer Valid Until…
A coupon’s expiration date is pretty inflexible (although there may be some exceptions, which we’ll look at in a bit). Basically, you won’t be able to redeem that offer past midnight of the expiration date written on the back of your coupon.
Where Can I Use Coupons?
You can use a store’s online coupons any time you make an online purchase. Easy peasy.
When it comes to store coupons, though, there’s one thing to keep in mind. Who issued the coupon? Was it the manufacturer (say, Heinz, for those sweet deals on ketchup bottles)? Or was it a grocery store (such as Walmart)? If you have a manufacturer’s coupon, you can redeem that offer pretty much anywhere that brand is sold. But if you have a store coupon, you can only cash in the coupon at valid stores within that chain. Don’t worry, this information will be clearly written on the coupon.
How to Start Couponing (Efficiently) as a Beginner: 12 Best Tips
Are you ready to start couponing? We have twelve tips that will make getting into this hobby easier for you. These tricks are pretty much all you need to know to master couponing.
1. Keep an Eye Out for Coupons and Other Offers
You can find coupons in a lot of places—and we have listed the best ones further down in the article. So the key is to keep an eye out for interesting offers and nabbing them while you can. Often, these offers are limited to a set amount of customers, so be quick!
2. Read Each Coupon Carefully
The best way to up your coupon savings is to read the policy carefully. This will save you time at the grocery store and will help you sort through the ones that are truly worth it.
3. Sign Up for Coupon Opportunities
You can get coupons in the mail when you register for certain services. For instance, you could sign up for a market research study and get free coupons. You could also register for a newsletter and have them delivered to your inbox frequently.
4. Get Into Online Couponing
The real savings might be online. If you do a lot of online shopping, then getting into online couponing is a must. Some companies make this super easy (hint: Swagbucks is one of the best!) Plus, online couponing means fewer pieces of paper to worry about.
5. Always Organize Your Coupons
Speaking of paper coupons, you need to come up with a system of organizing your coupons. After collecting coupons for a while, things can get out of hand. Thus, keeping them neatly organized will save you from having a cluttered house. Plus, you can get better savings if you know where you put your precious coupons.
6. Find a Group of People to Trade With
The couponing community is pretty vibrant. There may be a group local to you where members trade coupons and valuable tips. Make sure to check on social media and you’re bound to find one to join or follow.
7. Plan Your Purchases in Advance
The best way to maximize your savings is to know in advance what you’re buying and how you’re buying it. Sometimes, coupons can stack up to give you better deals at the checkout—but you have to present them in a special order. Think ahead of your grocery store visits and you’re bound to save even more money.
8. Study Your Local Store’s Coupon Policy
Ask your local store’s staff what their coupon policy is. Some stores have cool rules in place. For instance, if an item on discount is out of stock they may extend your coupon. They could also roll your overages to cover items in your cart you don’t have a coupon for. It’s all a matter of asking around.
9. Reach for Items on Discount
Using coupons on already discounted items is a foolproof way of getting items for really cheap—or even for free.
10. Don’t Be Fooled by Bad Sales
You shouldn’t be fooled by bad sales masquerading as good deals. If an item costs $1.99 and there is a sale of two items for $3.5, you’re not getting that good of a deal. If you like the product, go ahead! But if you’re on the fence, you should consider how much you would truly be saving.
11. Prioritize Which Coupons to Bother With
Not all coupons are worth the hassle of clipping them out (or printing them). Make sure to only check out coupons for items you genuinely like and buy anyway.
12. Stay Grounded
Lastly, couponing can be addictive, but it can also get too much. Let this money-saving hobby fit your lifestyle and focus on products you need and use. Otherwise, you could end up spending more money than you would actually save. Not to mention you could spend maybe a little bit too much of your time couponing.
The Best Places to Get Coupons for Free
Now that you are all caught up on how to master couponing, let’s check out where you can get good coupons.
Most local newspapers have a coupon section buried in their pages. When you purchase the daily paper remember to look for the coupons before throwing it out.
Similarly, magazine purchases may also come with coupons inside.
3. “Junk Mail” Fliers
Do you know those publicity fliers that always get stuffed into your mailbox? They might be super inconvenient, but they’re incredibly handy for couponers. Usually, they carry a lot of great deals worth checking out. Plus, since they’re free, you don’t have to purchase anything just to take a look.
Getting coupons in your email inbox is great if you’re into online shopping (and who isn’t?). Visit your favorite brands’ website and a free subscription popup will surely appear. Enter your email, follow updates, and wait for a juicy newsletter to drop in your inbox with special offers.
5. Couponing Websites
If you have the time, couponing websites could also be worth looking into. These web pages round up a bunch of different online coupon codes or manufacturer and in-store coupons you can redeem at the checkout. All you need is a printer, enough toner to color your extreme couponing hobby, and paper. You might have to browse through several invalid coupons, but it can pay off if you can spare the time.
6. Straight from the Manufacturer
We saved the most well-kept secret for last. Did you know manufacturers regularly send their customers coupon codes for their products? All you need to do is write to your favorite brands and tell them how much you love their products. Remember to mention how you would appreciate receiving a few coupons now and then. After that, it’s a waiting game. You might very well get a response and be put on a list of free coupon receivers!
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