Couponing 101 Part 2: The Basics

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What we have learned so far in this series

Now that you know some great places to get your coupons and hopefully have a little stash created its time to learn the basics.  Many people are slightly intimidated by the coupon game.  They know there are great deals to be had, but are afraid they don’t know all the rules.  This post should help you learn the basics so that you can use coupons with confidence.  Here are some tips to help you make the most of your shopping trips with coupons.

You can “stack” a manufacture coupon with a store coupon.  This is how many people get many items for close to free.  Many stores release coupons that are strictly for use at their store.  Companies also release coupons that are strictly for their product.  When you use a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon at the same time you will save big.  Stores are reimbursed by the “manufacturer” when people use those types of coupons, so when you use both types of coupon the stores are not giving you that item for free.

Try to use your coupon(s) when the item is on sale.  Unless you need an item badly, try to always wait until the item is on sale before you use the coupon you have been hanging on to.  Most items will go on sale sometime before your coupon expires.

Take advantage of stores that offer double coupons.  Many grocery stores have what they call “double coupons.” These are the blank coupons (often in their add) that will usually say something like “Double Coupon” or “Double Your Savings.”  Most are only good up to a certain amount.  Some say something like “will double your savings up to 50 cents per coupon” or ” double your savings with coupons that have a value up to 1 dollar”.   There are usually about 3 or 4 of them in the adds that run them (so you will not be able to double all your coupons you use in that transaction).  Some cashiers like to fill in the value themselves and some want you to do it.  I always ask when I start putting my items on the belt which they prefer.  Some coupons (especially the coupons you find in the store in the “blinkie” machines or on the tear pads) will have the wording “Do not double” or “Not subject to doubling.”  These are obviously coupons that your store is not allowed to double.

Use your coupons that have the nearest expiration date first.  This seems like an obvious tip, but it is easy to forget if you are in a hurry.  Many times I have used a coupon only to later realize that I had another coupon that is just about ready to expire or has already expired that will now go to waste because my coupons weren’t organized.

Keep your eye open for unexpected sales.  Many stores will have unadvertised sales on certain items.  As you walk through the store keep your eyes out for items that are on sale that may not me mentioned in the add.  If your coupons are well organized you might be able to score a good deal by digging out a coupon to pair with an item you were not expecting to find on sale.

Watch for markdowns.  Those are the items that are nearing their expiration date that usually have little stickers on them offering a discount.  Sometimes they have multiple stickers on them and each sticker means more savings.  The other day I found a package of yogurt that had (3) 75cent off stickers on it at Safeway.  This means that we saved $2.25 right off the bat.  If you happen to have a coupon for this item you will save even more.  The most common places to find these stickers are in the dairy section, meat department, produce dept., and refrigerated section (items like biscuits or cookie dough), and bread dept.  Basically any items that have a limited shelf life are often marked down like this.  These will often be easier to find at stores that are a bit slower.  You can even ask employees that look like they are familiar with these departments if there are certain days they do markdowns on.

It usually works best to hand over your store coupons first.  Sometimes people have trouble using coupons even when they are following all the rules.  Sometimes the order you try to use your coupons effects weather or not the register likes what you are using.  In most cases you will have the most luck if hand the cashier all your store coupons followed by your manufacturer coupons.

Watch your items and coupons when they are rung up.  As the cashier rings up your items make sure they are coming up at the right price.  Pay special attention when you have items with markdown stickers.  After they have rung up all your items make sure that all your coupons are working properly.  If you hear a beep and nothing is deducted from your bill as they scan a coupon sometimes the machine rejected it for some reason.  If they don’t seem to be trying to figure out what is wrong, kindly ask if the coupon worked.  Sometimes they can push it through by if you have both determined that it should be working.  If the cashier does not seem to be familiar with a stores coupon policy or a coupon is not going through that should, you can always politely ask a for a manager.

Know the wording on your coupons.  Make sure you know what product the coupon is good for, if there are limitations on that size of product it is for (like can it be used on any item, or any item except for travel size, etc), and always pay attention to expiration dates.

Know your stores coupon policies.  If you have questions you can always go to customer service and see if they know, or ask if they have a copy of the stores coupon policies.  If you have a specific question you can always call to try and get an answer or ask to speak with a manager the next time you stop by.

Knowing these tips will help you save lots.  Being friendly to your cashiers will go a long way in how helpful they will be to you in that specific transaction, and also in future transactions.

Helpful Hints

  • Always have your coupons clipped and ready to hand over when you get inline.
  • Sometimes I smile and tell the person who gets inline behind me that I have quite a few coupons and it may take an extra minute or two.  At that point they can either choose a different line or are atleast warned incase things get a little bogged down.

Any questions?  Twin mama LOVES comments!

Couponing 101 Part 1: How to Build Your Stash

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I have been asked quite a few times where I get my coupons from. Having a good stash of coupons is half the battle when it comes to saving your family money. There are a few different types of coupons and many places to get them. I will outline the main ways I get my coupons and include links to some of my favorites.

Inserts– These are the little multi-page fliers that come in the Sunday paper with all sorts of coupons (and some really tacky ads) in them.

Some of the main ones are:

  • Red Plum
  • Smart Saver
  • P&G Saver –Contains coupons for Procter and Gamble products only (Tide, Pampers, Pantene, Cover Girl, Herbal Essence, Charmin, Crest, etc.)

Internet Printables-These are the coupons that you can find and print out from the internet. This is the category of coupons that has been gaining the most popularity. Companies have seen the success and consumers love the convenience of printing out the coupons they know they can use from their own home.  Many stores accept printable coupons, but before you plan a big trip, be sure to call the store first.

Some of the main sources of coupons are sites like:

  • You can also many times fine coupons on specific companies sites. These are usually temporary and I often find out about these by looking at blogs that notify their readers. When I find great coupons like these I will post about them like I did in THIS post.

Coupon Books sent out in the mail– Some companies send coupon books containing coupons for their brands (the coupons in these would be considered manufacturer coupons). Some stores also send out coupon books with coupons that can only be used at their store (the coupons in these would be considered store coupons). These are sometimes a little harder to get ahold of. Many times you have to sign up for the coupon books for the specific companies. Whenever I see an offer online to submit a request for a coupon book, I jump on it. Many times these have higher value coupons than the insert coupons for the same brands, and some booklets even have coupons for free products.

  • Example of company coupon book-Home Made Simple <- SIGN-UP! CURRENTLY AVAILABLE!  (also for P&G brands)
  • Example of store coupon book-*Target

*Target (they send out two types of booklets; a regular one and a baby one)- These coveted little coupon books have left people wondering why some people get them and some don’t. Some theories are that people get them from registries, ordering online, after talking to customer service on the phone, etc. After some research and reading many people’s experiences, I eventually came to the conclusion that they are mainly triggered by in-store purchases (possibly within certain categories) made on your credit card. This was somewhat confirmed after THIS trip to Target with a friend who tried using her credit card as her form of payment and got their next (and her first) coupon book soon after. (Remember to always pay off your credit cards every month and don’t use this form of payment if it tends to get you in trouble.)

Word of mouth programs- There are many programs available online and they are a GREAT source of coupons.

Freebies- Often when I receive samples in the mail that I signed up for, they come with a coupon for the same or similar product.  These are often fairly good coupons.  I always sign up for samples of products we regularly use hoping that I will also get a coupon bonus out of the deal.

Blinkies- Those little red boxes that you can sometimes find in the aisles that spit out coupons.

Catalinas- The coupons or vouchers for money off your future purchases (often based upon what you purchased on that trip) that print off with your receipt.

Peelies- The coupons that are stuck to the front of the packaging of some products.  Easy to use and fun to find!

Magazines- Don’t forget to look through your magazines for coupons! I am not sure I have ever paid for a subscription.  All of the current magazines I receive are through free subscriptions or free issue offers that I have signed up for online.

Let me know if you have any questions!