Coupon is defined as a voucher entitling the holder to a discount for a particular product. What that means is that coupons allow you to save money on the things you buy the most. There really isn’t a trick, per say, to couponing: you see the coupon, you clip the coupon, you use the coupon. That’s it. Where the trick comes from is maximizing your savings – or being able to buy more for less (preferably, much less).
One of the most important things I’ve learned over the year’s couponing is to never use your coupons for an item that isn’t on sale. The goal here is to maximize your savings, after all. Now I know what you’re thinking: but what if I’m just starting out and I desperately need that product right then and there.
Well, the answer is simple: buy the darn thing and use your coupon. Just don’t take this as an opportunity to stock up!!
Speaking of stocking up: the second biggest rule I cling to is the “stock up and save” rule. If an item is on sale and I have a coupon for that item, or I am at a store that allows stacking, I will buy that item in multiples. It’s the simplest and most cost effective way to stock up on the items I already need without absolutely murdering my budget later on even if I don’t need that item right now.
Stacking, as they call it, you will find a majority of the time to be a thing of the past. It’s now known in the manufacturer world as a “dirty word;” after all, that’s how all of those reality show shoppers were able to walk out with two or more baskets full of groceries for $20 or less. The old rule was: as long as the barcode is different, you can use multiple coupons for a single item. Well, those days are long gone for most major retailers thanks to the manufacturers “wising up” however there are still a handful of pharmacy/convenient stores that do allow “stacking” their store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon. Think CVS, Walgreens, & Dollar General where they provide in-house coupon booklets with their logo on them. However, stores that do still allow stacking, are often times the best place to find amazing deals on general household goods – always check these stores ads and compare with your coupon stash.
When it comes to store loyalty though, there is no such thing in a couponer’s world. We aren’t loyal to anyone unless they’ve got a better sale than the guy down the street – even then, we’re only loyal as long as we’re inside the building. Once we hit those doors back into the free world, all bets are off. But, just because we’re not the most loyal bunch around doesn’t mean that we don’t take advantage of loyalty rewards or try our damnedest to accrue them. Truth be told there’s nothing sweeter than rewards points – of any kind, in our minds. You can use them on just about anything (excluding tobacco & alcohol) and if you’re smart about your transactions you can gain just as many as you just spend in a single transaction. The only trick here is to be kind, be courteous, and split your purchase into multiple transactions. Be careful though when managing your rewards programs online and always, always, always make sure that each transaction accrues points.
Walgreens stopped issuing me points for over 3 years with no plausible explanation or remedy. During my last phone call with customer service the woman explained that I had somehow “opted out” of the points online to which I called BS. I’ve had my rewards card since 2012 and only just recently linked it online to my email. Their story of course didn’t add up and the customer service rep agreed that something was amiss with their system but she did graciously offer me a credit of 10,000 points for my “inconvenience” which I am beyond grateful for. In total, I’ve missed out on over 1/2 million points (shared rewards card between my mom and I) thanks to this glitch and I will never get them back.
One of my least favorite things about couponing is coupon bundle pushers. Yes, it sounds like a fabulous idea however so many of the coupon bundlers out there aren’t doing things on the up-and-up and I’d rather not take the risk. There’s actually an entire website dedicated to the busted bundle fraudsters and reading it will give you the coupon nightmares. You see, manufacturers strictly prohibit the sale of coupons and if you read the fine print on those coupons, you could face some severe penalties (Kimberly-Clark imposes fines in excess of $2M) if you’re caught selling or buying coupons. The reality is, most of the time the coupons you find in your papers are the same coupons you’ll find online if you’re willing to put in a little time with the search bar. If you choose to take the coupon bundle route, just make sure you know what you’re getting into and you know the person you’re dealing with is legit. Most seasoned couponer’s do not recommend or buy from coupon bundlers – we have the ability to save enough money or have the access to the resources that can provide us the exact number of coupons we need for our purchases.
See my updated post where I violated one of my own Couponing Basics rules by clicking here.
Finally, what kind of conversation would I be having about couponing if I left out one of the biggest and best sources of coupons? I wouldn’t be having one, that’s what. The internet is a couponer’s best friend and since we’re living in the age of the internet, it’s important to take full advantage of the information out there available to you at the click of a mouse. When it comes to coupons, I choose to keep a separate email account for all my couponing adventures. This way my regular email account isn’t bogged down with 3rd party spam (yes, some sites – even reputable ones, will spam you) and I don’t have to go searching through emails (on either account) to find what I’m looking for. The internet has always been a wasteland of sorts – even for couponer’s, but if you know where to look and you know what you’re doing you’ll be sure to find a cosmic ton of treasure (coupons) buried within its walls.
That’s it. Those are my rules to live by when I coupon. Once you get started into couponing, you’ll find that it’s much easier than it sounds. There are so many resources out there – many more than when I started, to help you maximize your savings to the point that it’s almost stupid not to try couponing at least once. Couponing can help you drastically cut your grocery bills and with the money you save you’ll be able to do a lot more than what you could before.