Couponing, no doubt, easy simple way to save money and score better deals. On the TV you always see moms scoring couple hundred worth grocery by paying few dimes. (If you remember shows like extreme couponing)
Looking at that show, I must admit, I am still amateurish in searching for the deals and coupons, however proficient enough to get better deals.
So coming back to the very basic question, how do I get the coupons or where can I find them
After last week’s post on why I believe everyone should use coupons, you’re seriously considering trying out this whole couponing phenomenon. If so, your next question is likely: where do I get coupons?
Well, the obvious answer is that you can get coupons from your local Sunday paper. That’s usually the first thing most people do when they are jumping on the couponing bandwagon. If you already get the Sunday paper and plan to continue doing so, then you’ve got a ready supply of coupons to get started with.
If you don’t already get the paper, I suggest waiting to subscribe until you’ve pursued other alternatives. You see, there are dozens of ways to get coupons for free. In fact, I never pay for coupons. We don’t have a Sunday paper subscription and I don’t order coupons from coupon-clipping services or eBay. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but I’ve found that it’s not necessary because I have a pretty much unending supply of free coupons!
Here are 10 ways of finding a coupon. Mind you finding coupon is just the beginning of your journey to save bucks on everything and stay within the budget. We will discuss all those points later. (reminds me of the quotes from one of the popular commercial – what comes next is what matters. So in the same line, I must say the satisfaction you will get after saving few nickels is worth all these efforts. I can tell you from my personal experience that every time I use a coupon or score a deal, boy, it gives me satisfaction as if I have crossed a big mountain. I would call it as a momofobia (mom-fobia)
If you do not feel satisfied after saving on your day to day purchase, either you have lot of money or don’t care at all which is absolutely fine.
Where to find a coupon
1. Ask friends, relatives and co-workers for their extra coupon inserts
Start asking around and see if anyone you know already gets the Sunday paper and doesn’t use the coupons from it. You might be surprised at how many coupon inserts just get thrown out because people don’t want to mess with them.
2. Stop by Starbucks or McDonald’s on Sunday afternoons
Many people purchase Sunday papers, read them at Starbucks, McDonald’s and other similar venues, and then leave them. Some of my friends stop by a few Starbucks or McDonald’s locations on Sunday afternoons and are able to pick up at least 3-5 complete coupon inserts from extra newspapers left behind by customers.
Know someone who works at restaurants like this? They might be able to collect the leftover coupon inserts and give them to you later in the week. In addition, some gas stations will also give you their extra unsold Sunday newspapers on Sunday evening or Monday morning. It never hurts to ask.
In the news paper category, you may want to consider these below options too
3. Make friends with someone who delivers newspapers
Not all areas allow this, but some people who delivery Sunday newspapers are able to pass on any leftover newspapers and coupon inserts to other people. Or you might be able to find the recycling center they drop them off at and be able to obtain them there.
4. Trade coupons
Trading coupons is a great way to get coupons you need in exchange for giving away coupons you don’t need. For instance, if you have a dog and don’t have children in diapers and I have children in diapers and don’t have a dog, we could trade diaper and dog food coupons.
You can trade coupons with people in your own area or you can join coupon trading forums online and trade with people from all over the country. While it will cost you postage, it’s often better to trade online since different regions get different coupons. So trading with people from other states allows you to diversify your coupon portfolio.
Hot Coupon World has some very active coupon trading forums, if you’re interested in trying this out.
5. Join Coupon Trains
Here’s a simple explanation of what a coupon train is from an article at Suite 101:
Before the internet, people wanting to save money with coupons would turn to joining or forming a coupon train. A train is maintained by one person who sends an envelope of coupons through postal mail. The package contains a mailing list, and as one person takes and adds coupons to the envelope, it is mailed to the next coupon train recipient on the mailing list.
Coupon trains allow individuals between cities, or even across states and provinces, to organize and share coupons. By establishing a group, the coupon train leverages each person’s coupon clipping power to share coupons with a larger audience.
6. Check your local library
Pretty much all libraries receive newspaper subscriptions. Often, they will allow you to have the coupon inserts from their Sunday papers if you just ask.
7. Dumpster Dive
Dumpster diving for coupons doesn’t have to be as “ew!” as it sounds. Let me tell you, it really works! In fact, this is one of my biggest “secrets” for obtaining the majority of my coupons. I hit some very clean newspaper recycling bins on my way home from the store every few weeks and in 15 minutes, I can usually salvage 10-15 coupon inserts!
8. Pick up coupons at the store
Keep your eyes peeled at the store and pick up any coupons you find on tearpads or in the blinking dispensers. If there are plenty of extras, snag multiple copies of these. A lot of times, this very item will be on an exceptional sale just a few weeks later and you’ll be more than glad you picked up that handful of coupons!
9. Print coupons out online
If your store accepts printable coupons, this can be a great source of coupons which cost little more than your printer ink and paper. And oftentimes, the coupons available to print online are much higher than what you’ll find in the newspaper inserts.
I usually highlight the best printable coupons on my blog as they become available. But you can also do a search for the product name plus “printable coupon” online and it will often bring up many different coupons.
10. Write and ask for coupons
What products do you regularly use and love but rarely can find good coupons for? Write to the manufacturer, tell them how much you like their product and politely request that they send you any coupons they have available (don’t forget to include your mailing address, too!).
Usually, it only takes a few minutes to do so through a company’s contact form and you’ll very likely get some sort of coupons just for asking. In many cases, you’ll receive high-value coupons or even free product coupons!
Now that you have collected the coupons, next comes the tougher part of organizing them
Being organized is key to getting the most out of couponing.
Here are some reasons why:
- Coupons have a limited life and will expire.
- You want fast and easy access to your coupons; the time period when using coupons is important because store specials may be short-lived.
- It can be frustrating when you can’t find a coupon when you need to use it.
To get started, following are some considerations when storing and managing your coupons.
How to Store Your Coupons
When organizing coupons the first thing to consider is the type of storage or organizer that best suits your needs.
The method used to store coupons is really a personal preference and has a lot to do with the amount of effort you are able to spend on couponing.
The more time and effort you spend on gathering coupons means that you may have a lot of coupons to organize, and as a result, a larger-type organizer may be in order such as a large binder with clear pocket inserts.
Or perhaps you will just be clipping coupons from weekly newspapers. Then a smaller organizer may work for you such as an accordion-type wallet-size organizer which can be found in the stationery section of certain stores.
This type of organizer can also be found on-line or advertised in the coupon section of the newspaper. They are generally made of soft plastic, quilted fabric, or nylon, and include dividers with tabs that are used to classify items.
How to Manage Your Coupons
It’s important to regularly go through your coupons to:
- Make note of coupons expiring in the near future.
- Remove expired coupons (unless you shop at a store that takes expired coupons).
- File your coupons in your organizer under the tab category that most fits the item description.
Filing and Sorting Coupons
If you have multiple coupons with different expiration dates for the same product, it’s a good idea to sort your coupons so the ones that expire first are in the front of your organizer.
Remove expired coupons from your organizer on a regular basis (unless you shop at a store that takes expired coupons). It can be embarrassing to be at the checkstand with your coupon items already removed from your shopping cart and ready to be purchased; then the checker notices that certain coupons are expired and won’t allow you to use them.
When you have coupons to file in your organizer that don’t quite fall under any of the categories named on the tab inserts, a rule of thumb is to file that type of coupon in the category that first comes to your mind when you see it. Then hopefully when you go to retrieve that coupon, you’ll go right for it.
Ok, so now you’ve found coupons and your organizer is bursting with coupons that are ready for use!
Here comes the fun part, using them!
As mentioned before, to maximize your savings it’s best to use your coupons in combination with buying items on sale.
When using coupons it’s helpful to:
- Make a grocery list
- Match up coupons with your grocery list
- Be organized at the checkout
Make a Grocery List
consider weekly sales
If possible, when writing out your grocery list also check out what’s on sale at each store you shop at. This can be done by scanning flyers that come in the mail, or by going online to the store’s website.
include needed items and those on sale at a great price
In addition to including items on your list that you absolutely need, also add the items on sale that you have coupons for. This is a great way to save money now on items needed in the future.
However, in this context it takes money to save money.
If you are on an extremely tight budget there may not be extra money to spend on items that you don’t need yet.
So buying more than you absolutely need may not work for you.
The good news is that you can still save money when using coupons on the items you need now.
consider coupons that are about ready to expire
When writing out a grocery list, an option is to also include items with coupons that are about ready to expire.
Keep in mind that some items tend to regularly have coupons.
So unless the coupon value is a relatively high dollar the amount, you my want to pass on using it because another coupon may be available in the near future.
A rule of thumb in this area is to take advantage of coupons that are about to expire if they are a higher dollar amount than usual.
If not, and you really don’t need that item currently, you may want to pass on buying that item until a later date.
Match Up Coupons with your Grocery List
Once you have your grocery list, an option is to paper clip together all of the coupons that match the items on your list.
You can also store the coupons you intend to use in one of your organizer divider sections.
Make sure you’ve pulled out for use not only the manufacturers’ coupons that you have, but also the store coupons for the same items.
Generally, you should be able to use both coupons for the same product.
when shopping remember the following things
When shopping it’s a good idea to:
- a) Make sure the item you choose is the same item on the coupon; and
- b) Check the product pull date (expiration date). If the pull date is close to the current
date, check the shelf for an item with a longer pull date.
When shopping, you may decide not to buy certain items on your list for various reasons.
Maybe the price is just too high even when using a coupon and another brand is cheaper.. Or maybe the pull date is just too close to the current date.
If this happens, a tip is just to make sure you do the math.
Sometimes even if you have a coupon for an item, it may still be cheaper to buy another brand if it’s on sale.
Be Organized at the Checkout
at the checkout
When at the checkout counter things seem to go fast and it’s easy to feel unorganized.
Just make sure before you get in line that you have your coupons in order rather than trying to do it while the checker is ringing up your groceries.
You’ll need to be proactive and make sure the checker does the following:
- a) Scans in your rewards card
- b) Scans in all of your coupons
- c) Scans the proper price for coupons that say “free” (the checker may need to manually look up the price for this product and give you credit)
- d) Gives you credit for the number of bags you brought in (some stores will take 5 cents per bag or more off your order if you bring your own bags, while others may give you additional reward points)
After checking out your groceries it’s a good idea to take a look at your receipt to make sure you received all of the credits noted in items (a) through (d) above.
If not, it’s a good time to stop by the customer service desk to get the proper credit.
Also, if you happen to forget to use a coupon, it’s a good time to stop by the customer service desk to get a credit for the amount of the coupon.
Make sure to check the back of your receipt for additional coupons!