We’ve all heard the stories about people who make a profession out of saving with coupons. These people spend hours every day searching for coupons, keep them in files, trade them, travel extreme distances to use them and then brag about their couponing.
If you’re going to quit your day job to coupon-collect, you can look forward to a life of searching and scrounging. But if you want to find and use coupons in a more leisurely fashion, you can join the ranks of the majority of coupon-savers who keep their budgets in balance with some savvy couponing strategies.
Coupons are, basically, vouchers that give you a discount when you purchase a product or service. Many people remember how their mother would sit in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, clipping printed coupons from the newspapers. The small slips of paper were then presented at a supermarket or other store and the amount of the discount was subtracted from the purchase’s total.
Today, the majority of coupons can be found online. The coupon usually comes in the form of a coded combination of numbers and letters. The person holding this code presents the coupon before making the payment and the coupon code is entered with the purchase price which subtracts the discount from the item’s total cost.
Businesses also send coupons digitally to mobile users’ cell phone via text message or download. The app sends the coupon code to the phone and then the coupon barcode is scanned directly into the cash register from a phone or is inputted into the cash register by the cashier.
Print coupons are still in use, though their popularity has declined in recent decades. You don’t have to limit yourself to one specific type of coupon — be prepared to mix and match the different types of coupons for the opportunity to maximize your money-saving activities
How to Coupon Effectively
There are two important pieces of basic advice for people who are going to spend their time couponing.
- Organize yourself — why would you spend hours upon hours collecting coupons if you’re not going to be able to find the relevant coupons when you need them? Create files, either digital files if you’re storing your coupons digitally or print files if you’re using print coupons. Keep your files in folders
- type of coupons (food, household goods, garden goods, clothing, etc)
- Name of store
Your file folder may look something like this:
- Buy what you need — one of the biggest mistakes of coupon collectors involves rationalization behaviors — a couponer might figure “I’ve saved $$$$ here, so I’m going to splurge there.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you spend the money that you’ve saved, you won’t have saved anything! Don’t buy anything with the coupons that you wouldn’t otherwise buy – if you don’t eat sardines, don’t buy them, no matter how big the coupon discount is for. And then….plan out how you’re going to save your savings. Hopefully in a savings account or other smart plan.
Find the Coupons
Now that you’ve got the basics, you’re ready to get started. Here are some great tips for finding coupons that will help you coupon effectively, efficiently and without becoming obsessive.
Make a list of the brands and products that you buy regularly. Now, conduct a search for those products and brands to find as many of those items as possible. Some possible sources for your search include:
- Internet — you can do a general search on the Internet to locate the items that you want to buy. Type in your search keywords — “discount on men’s pullovers,” “discount on online casino games”,”refrigerator sales” — and see what comes up. If you are prepared to buy online, you won’t need to include a location but if you want to find a brick-and-mortar store you’ll need to include your location into your search terms.
- Newspapers — newspapers are still a great source of coupons for many different brands and products. Some businesses have monthly specials while others put the coupons in randomly. The Sunday newspaper is the best source of printed coupon and if you find good coupons in a specific week’s newspaper, consider buying a second paper so that you can double up and stock up on the discounted item. You might even be able to find the newspapers themselves at a discount! (If the store has a loyalty card you might be able to load coupons onto your card so you don’t have to walk around with these slips of paper). Smart Source, P&G Everyday and RedPlum are three sites that will help you complete this upload).
- Grocery and Drugstore Websites offer coupons so you can download the coupons directly to your store card. These coupons include both store-specific and manufacturer coupons. includes both manufacturer, as well as store-specific, coupons. Check for new coupons before you leave your house to go shopping and organize them ahead of time so that you won’t be pressured to find the coupon once you’re in the check-out line. Then you just present your store card at checkout to redeem those coupons.
- Mobile Apps such as Checkout51 and iBotta make it easy for you to get cash back on your purchases. You can pair up a printed coupon with your app coupon to double your discount.
- In-Store coupons are often displayed on products, on the back of your receipt and on store shelves. Some in-store coupons can be printed out at the register. Check the product’s package for a rebate offer if you see a “Try Me Free” sticker on any product,. Cosmetics and personal hygiene products frequently display these types of promotions.
- Junk mail is often a source of useful coupons. Scan the junk mail flyers before you throw them out.
- Magazines often carry manufacturers’ coupons. These magazines, specifically women’s publications, may even show you an index of the coupons that are featured in each issue. You can review what each magazine offers while you’re standing in the check-outline.
Couponing is a great way to see how you can meet the challenge of saving money in the 21st century. Use the couponing tips and enjoy your savings in a relaxed atmosphere of smart shopping.