I have had a few friends ask me how I coupon, and how they might get started using coupons. The first thing I tell them is that I am no expert but I am happy to share my “madness” haha!
First let me say that coupons should be used in the correct way, following the rules and restrictions of the coupon and or store etc… Also I should mention that I am not brand specific, in other words I do not prefer one brand overt the other, and most times I buy generic.
There are a few things I recommend to people who ask me how I coupon:
1. Generate a List.
The first thing I recommend is to generate a list of things you commonly purchase. After you have this list, take some time to price check your local stores, and get the “normal” prices for your commonly purchased items. Make sure you note the size of the item as well. Nothing is worse than thinking you have found an item on sale, only to stop into the next store to find a better deal.
On my list I included stores such as Walmart, Homeland, Walgreens, The dollar Tree, and Family Dollar.
You should also ask about the stores coupon policy, and note it on your list as well. For example, I know that my Homeland store will double coupons up to a dollar and that Walgreens has a monthly and weekly coupon flyer/booklet (more about that later)
2. Where to get Coupons.
Now that you have your list of stores and prices, you know where to get the best deals on the items you regularly purchase. Time to bring in the coupons!
I find coupons all over the place :D here is a list of where I get my coupons
*Sunday paper inserts
* Store weekly/monthly flyers/coupon books
*facebook and twitter
*Inside products/on product packaging
After I find the coupons, I always clip the ones I am interested in, but I keep the rest in a separate pile just in case I see a sale on those items.
I store the coupons I plan to use in a coupon folder, which you can find in the office section of most stores.
3. How I use Coupons.
I gather the pile of coupons I am planning on using, I scan the weekly sales flyers for my local stores (mine are Walgreens and Homeland) to see if I can match a current stores sale with a coupon I have. In other words, say I clipped a manufactures coupon for .55 off one deodorant stick brand X. I also found a sale on brand X deodorant stick at Walgreens for 1.99. GREAT! Now my deodorant stick will only be 1.44! But I need to remember to check my list of my commonly purchased items, because I can get my brand X deodorant stick at my local dollar store. (just be sure to check the sizes of the products remember)
I know this seems like a lot to do to save 44 cents BUT if you are over paying for every product you purchase, over the course of a month or a YEAR think of how much you could save just by checking prices. Besides after you do this once or twice you will start to remember where you can get the best deal on the items you normally purchase, and when a coupon will actually save you money.
4. Stacking and Doubling Coupons.
“Stacking” refers to using more than one coupon applied to one item. In my experience this can only happen when you have a manufacture coupon and an in store specific coupon. (I am sure there are other ways, but in my little town this is all I have come up with)
Example: Walgreens has a weekly flyer with “walgreens coupons”, these are often referred to as “in store coupons”. These coupons are valid only at Walgreens, or the store offering them. In other words the store is offering the coupon, not the manufacture. How to tell? Don’t worry, the coupon will say right on it manufacture coupon or Walgreens coupon.
Some stores will allow you to stack coupons, and some stores will not. Be sure to ask about coupon policies at different stores. In addition some coupons will read “cannot be combined with any other coupon or discount” Be sure to read your fine print.
Some stores will double the value of your coupon, up to a certain amount. My local Homeland store will double coupons up to $1. So If I walk in with a coupon for $1 off brand X cereal, they will give me an additional $1 off the cereal, for a total of $2 off brand X cereal. However, be sure to read your coupons fine print, as some coupons cannot be doubled.
5. Rain Checks
One more thing worth mentioning when using coupons, rain checks. Often times sale items that have a current coupon issued may be out of stock at your local store, but not to worry just ask for a rain check! Example: Say your local store is having a great sale on bread, and lucky you because you have a coupon for it too! However, when you get to the store they are all out of the bread, and the sale ends today. You may not be out of luck. Ask the service desk if they can issue a rain check for the bread. What this will do for you is it will give you an extension of the sale price of that bread, allowing you to purchase it “on sale” when they get more in stock, even after the sale has ended. Pair the rain check sale price with your coupon and you have saved!
Couponing can save you money, and who doesn’t like to save money! I am sure I have over looked a few things, so if you would like to leave helpful tips or pointers in the comments please feel free!