You do not have to be a “pro” or an extreme couponer to save money on your purchases. Using a coupon is as simple as handing it to the cashier at the time you check out. With many people feeling financially strapped due to the rising cost of food, gas, and, well, everything these days, coupons can help you keep a few extra bucks in your wallet. Here are some coupon basics to help you save some green.
Types of Coupons
- Manufacturer coupons: These are the most common coupons used. They are issued by the manufacturer of the product that the coupon is for. They are able to be used at all major grocery stores, drug stores, and chain stores that sell the product. Typically these are $x.xx off the purchase of xx item. For example: Save $0.75 when you purchase one box of cereal.
- Store coupons: This type of coupon is issued by a particular store and can only be redeemed at that store. Otherwise, they can are very similar to a manufacturer coupon. The bonus? A store coupon and a manufacturer coupon can be combined to purchase the same item at a much lower price!
- Catalina coupons: These are coupons that one would typically receive at the checkout lane. There is usually a little box that sits separate from the receipt printer (self-check and regular check outs) and prints out coupons when you check out. They can be either store specific or manufacturer coupons. Some of the most sought after catalinas are the “save $x.xx off of your next purchase.” So if the coupon is for $10.00, just handing over that coupon at your next shopping trip automatically saves you $10! I bet you have things in mind already that you can do with the extra $10.
- Printable coupons: Usually they are manufacturer or store coupons that are available online for you to print and bring with you to the store. Some websites do limit the number of times you can print the same coupon.
- E-coupons: Are coupons that can be loaded onto your store loyalty card before you go shopping. Once you are ready to check out, simply scan your card and the coupons will be added to your purchase. Ask your grocery store if they offer this. It is an easy way to automatically save some cash without having to remember all of those coupons.
- Coupon codes: These are perhaps the most versatile. When shopping on line and you go to check out, there is often a box for you to enter in a coupon code to redeem. Coupon codes allow you to save in many different ways: xx% off your purchase; $x.xx off your purchase; free shipping; or a bonus gift with purchase. Nearly every website has a coupon code space so you can save money on your purchases that range from clothes to lamps, car parts to knick knacks.
Where to get Coupons
- Newspaper: Most store coupons and manufacturer coupons are found in the weekly paper circulars. Smart Source and Red Plum books appear weekly while Proctor & Gamble books appear on a monthly basis. Some magazines even have coupons in them. For example, Parenting Magazine will often have a Windex or Lysol coupon in each issue. If you want to snag a Sunday newspaper for $2-3, you will likely have several coupons for your shopping trip.
- Online: If you do not receive a weekly paper with the coupon circulars or want to see what else you can find, there are many online sources that you can use. Try to stick with more commonly known websites like: coupons.com; redplum; and smartsource. Other websites could possibly have fake coupons or try to get you to sign up for some mailing list or savings club.
- Coupon codes are also found online or in promotional ads from a particular store. Retailmenot is the number one go to for online codes. For example: I purchased an item from Things Remembered but before I checked out, I looked on Retailmenot for that website and found a coupon code that allowed me to save 15% on my purchase. That 15% allowed me to stay within my gift budget while getting something a little nicer than I originally planned. This works for many of the big name retail stores.
- Store mailings: If you are a frequent shopper at a particular store or have a store loyalty card, odds are you have been put on a mailing list. Be sure to look through the “junk mail” before throwing it out! Many stores will send offers that allow you to save a certain percent off of your purchase or receive a free item with a particular purchase. If you do not receive offers from a store that you would like to, you can usually sign up online to receive offers. Some stores have generous coupon policies, such as Bed, Bath, and Beyond that accepts expired store coupons.
- The Manufacturer: If there is a certain product that you use frequently or a new product you would like to try, the manufacturer of the product would love to help you buy it! Contacting the manufacturer directly by email or phone to request coupons will allow you to get your hands on coupons. Manufacturer websites can also have coupons that you can print and use in the store for some products.
Having a store loyalty card can really add up the savings. Some stores like Walgreens and CVS allow you to earn points with the purchase of certain items that you can use towards future purchases. Some grocery stores, like Hy-Vee and Safeway that have a gas station associated with them offer a fuel savings card. When you purchase qualifying items you save a few cents per gallon, which can quickly add up!
- Use coupons for items you were going to purchase already. Using a coupon just to use a coupon only causes you to spend more money. The goal is to save on items you were already going to purchase.
- Check your store’s coupon policy. There are some stores that do not accept coupons and some that do not accept coupons printed online. Other stores offer days when coupons can be doubled allowing you to save even more money! It can pay to know the store policy.
- Organize your coupons in a filing system and keep them with you! You never know when you’ll come across an item or want to go out to eat at a restaurant that you may have a coupon for.
- Watch out for fake coupons. This mostly refers to online coupons, but in a time where everyone is trying to pinch pennies where they can, it doesn’t hurt to keep a sharp eye.
- Never pay for a coupon either! Manufacturers offer coupons for free, why pay for them? The selling and purchasing of coupons is also frowned upon. Typically the fine print of a coupon will say, “Reproduction, alteration, transfer, or sale of this coupon or its contents is prohibited and is a criminal offense.”