Couponing isn’t for everyone, but often when people see what I’ve gotten for free or really cheap, they want to know more about how to do it. Though it’s not the only way I save money, I do save a lot with couponing. So if you’re interested in learning how to do it, this and upcoming columns will help you get started on your own couponing journey.
Learn about coupons.
● There are two types of coupons. First, manufacturer coupons that are put out by the product's manufacturer that you can use at any store that accepts coupons, and second, store coupons that are put out by the store that you can only use at that store. Most stores allow "stacking.” This simply means that you can use one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon per item.
● Read the fine print and follow the terms of the coupons. Some companies have a limit of four coupons per household, per day, and others limit to only one coupon. Also, take note of the expiration date. It’s important to know that you cannot copy coupons, even printable ones, because they all have unique barcodes, and copying them is illegal. Abide by the fine print so companies do not make it even harder to use coupons.
● Pretty much every coupon states "limit one coupon per purchase." This is confusing to a lot of people, including cashiers. Per purchase means that you can use one coupon per item, not a transaction. A transaction is each time you literally pay for your whole purchase and you get a receipt from the cashier. You can never use more than one manufacturer coupon on one item.
● Pay attention to the text of a coupon, not the picture. Companies are probably going to put the bigger, more expensive items on the coupon hoping that’s what you’ll get. But as long as you follow the wording and size specifications, you may be able to use it on a number of items.·Let's say the largest size of body wash is 22 ounces and costs $4.99, but the 12 ounce bottle is $2.99. If you have a $1 off a 12 ounce bottle or more coupon, you could get the 22 ounce bottle for $3.99. Or, you could get the 12 ounce for $1.99. If you have 2 coupons, you could buy 2 bottles for total $3.98 and have 2 more ounces than if you had used only one coupon on the 22 ounce. This is the better deal.
Start collecting and organizing coupons.
● Begin keeping the Sunday paper inserts. The common inserts you will see are Red Plum (RP), Smart Source (SS) and Procter & Gamble (P&G).
● There are also lots of coupons available on the Internet. Coupons.com is a popular site to begin. Check it often as new coupons get loaded on a regular basis. Smartsource and Redplum also have printable coupons. Many companies also put coupons on their own websites.
● Are you looking for a coupon for a particular product? Google a coupon database. There are people who do the hard work for you. You type in the product and they will list where to find every available coupon for that item. But remember, all insert coupons are regional, so unfortunately, you may not get all the hot insert coupons you read about.
● Decide how to organize your coupons. I personally keep my newspaper inserts whole and use a coupon database to find the coupon I need before I go shopping. It will tell me which insert they are in and what date; for example, SS 8/27/17. Other people choose to cut out all the coupons and keep them in an organized coupon binder with plastic sheets. I tried this, but found that it was just too time consuming for my needs, so I only cut when I know I’m using it on my shopping trip. I use a small accordion file to put coupons in that I have printed or cut and take that to the store with me.
Knowing the basic couponing rules and organizing your coupons is a good place to start. Once you know all this, then you can start venturing into the best ways to utilize those coupons for maximum savings.