Have you ever wanted to use coupons? Maybe you just started your post-college adult life and the cost of managing a home is giving you a headache. Maybe you’re tightening up your budget to pay down debt or save up for something BIG. Maybe you just like shopping and want to save some money. Regardless of your situation, this post is for you. I’m here to answer all your coupon questions.
Every time I’ve put in the time to clip coupons, I saved hundreds of dollars. If you’re a novice, check out these 10 frequently asked questions about how coupons work and how to find deals.
1. Is couponing complicated?
At first, it seems like it. When I started, I felt pretty overwhelmed and I didn’t know where to start. Couponing is the sort of thing that does require some time, patience, organization and practice. But it is very worth it. I save a lot of money and actually have a lot of fun.
- Time: collecting and clipping coupons, researching deals, and planning shopping trip
- Patience: collecting coupons and waiting for the best deals
- Organization: keeping your coupons neat and easy to find
- Practice: researching deals and making transactions!
2. What are the different types of coupons?
There are two main types of physical coupons:
- Manufactuer Coupons: specific to a particular product and distributed by a manufacturing company, these can be used at any store that accepts coupons. eg: $2 off 2 Herbal Essences hair care products, a Proctor and Gamble coupon.
- Store Coupons: must be redeemed in a particular store. eg $0.75 off 1
*NOTE: some stores will accept competitor’s coupons. For example, some Jo-Ann’s will accept a Michael’s coupon. Some stores also do mobile coupons via text or an app, and there are also coupons that you can load onto your store loyalty card.
3. Do all stores take coupons?
Each store has a coupon policy. These state what kind of coupons will/won’t be accepted, how many of each coupon can be used, etc. Coupon policies vary from chain to chain (Dollar Tree’s policy will be different than Target’s, for example), and can even vary from store to store within a chain (for example, my Kroger policy might be different from the policy of a Kroger in Denton, Texas).
It is a good idea to keep your local stores’ coupon policies handy when couponing, so you can use it as a reference if there is a dispute with a cashier. National store policies can be found online, and most stores will keep their policy at the customer service desk. Just ask for a copy!
4. Where do you get coupons?
The number one way to find coupons is in the inserts in the Sunday paper. For some of you Millennials, it may may be the first time you’ve ever bought a Sunday paper (you can find them at any grocery store).
There are three main types of coupon inserts:
- Smart Source (SS)
- Redplum (RP)
- Proctor and Gamble Brand Saver (PG)
You can also find both manufacturer and store coupons online, for example www.coupons.com, or http://coupons.target.com/. These you will print off from your home computer.
5. How do you find these great deals?
Typically, the way a couponer saves the most money is by combining a store sale with both a store coupon and a manufacturers coupon. So, if Pantene haircare is $3.99 on sale at Target, and you have a $2 off Pantene haircare manufacturer’s coupon and a $1 off Pantene haircare Target coupon, each bottle would be just $0.99!
Yes, it’s that easy. No complicated math involved, just plus and minus.
Researching deals is fun. There are lots of websites that can help you. I like the Krazy Coupon Lady (KCL). I also find a lot of deals on Instagram. I search hashtags (for example, #couponcommunity #cvsdeals #targetcouponing), and have come up with a lot of great deals this way.
6. Have you ever made money couponing?
Yes, a couple times, and I know people who make money regularly. This is a couponing term known as “moneymakers,” “overage” or FREEBIES, where the amount on the coupon exceeds the store cost of the product, thus the store pays you to take the item out of the store.
Most often, I find that moneymakers are not for an item that I would typically use (inexpensive disposable razors, or a deodorant I don’t use). However, I get the product anyway. I make money, and I get to donate the product to someone who will use it!
7. Are you a hoarder?
No, but I do have some stock piled items. The idea is that you buy a lot of something when it’s cheap, and then you don’t have to buy it when it’s full price. For example, there was a time when I had 16 bottles of laundry detergent. They were each about $1.33 each, which is a steal for detergent.
If you’re semi-serious about couponing, you probably won’t be able to avoid some form of stockpiling.
8. How do you organize your coupons?
I watched the KCL coupon binder tutorials to learn how to organize, and modified their instructions to fit my life and needs. Without an organization system of some kind (I have a binder divided in to categories), couponing would be much more time consuming and challenging.
Making a coupon binder might be my number one piece of advice. I made mine in one Sunday afternoon, and it saves me so much trouble each week.
9. Can you find coupons for fresh groceries?
Ah, these are very rare. In my experience, I have found only a handful of coupons for fresh produce. Most coupons are for non-perishable dry goods, household cleaners and products, toiletries, and some name brand refrigerated/freezer items. Occasionally there will be a deal where you can get free milk or eggs if you buy other breakfast items, like cereal or sausage.
Couponing works best when combined with meal planning for a cost- and time-efficient shopping experience. I will do a post about meal planning in a few days.
10. Are you an expert?
No way. Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve only been doing this for a few months. I’m just a mama who is trying to save money. The deals I use the most have been for toiletries. Since I’ve been doing this, my eyes have been opened and I will never spend full price for most anything again. But I do have some final dos and don’ts for you:
- DON’T feel like you have to cash in on every deal, even if it’s a good one. Coupons for products are on a cycle, so chances are, that deal will come around again.
- DO comment, Facebook, text, or call me if you have questions! I would love to help you and answer any more questions you have.
- DON’T use a coupon just because you have it. If the brand name item with a coupon is still more expensive than the generic/store brand, don’t use it.
- Do have fun. I love couponing. It’s a rush, it’s a puzzle, it’s right up my alley. But if it stresses you out, and if you’d rather spend the extra money than deal with all those Sunday papers, DON’T beat yourself up about it! There are other ways to be frugal and save money.
11. Bonus Question: So how do I get started?
Today is Sunday, so go to a supermarket and buy a paper or two, a binder, and a set of clear plastic sleeves for baseball cards to hold your clipped coupons (I got mine from Hobby Lobby using the 40% off coupon on the Hobby Lobby app.) After you’ve clipped your coupons, you will be well on your way to saving money!