Savvy shoppers know how to maximize savings through finding the best coupons, planning for the cheapest bargains, and using coupons effectively for great deals. There are coupons available for nearly every type of grocery item, from milk and cookies to salad and steak. Coupons are available for many other products, however, including beauty products, restaurant meals, movie rentals, board games, pet supplies, and clothes.
Preparation Equals Savings
There are several ways consumers can maximize their coupon savings. The first is to know where to find coupons, and then knowing how to use them most effectively.
Planning Coupon Use
Save money with coupons using these clever savings tactics:
- Comparison Shopping: Finding the best deals without coupons by comparison shopping will make even small coupons more valuable when they're applied to cheaper prices.
- Competitors' Coupons: Many businesses will honor competitor's coupons and sales, letting consumers find the coupon with the greatest savings but still letting them shop at their favorite store.
- Planning for Coupons: Planning frugal menus and activities based on what coupons are the best deals can maximize savings by ensuring that no coupons are wasted.
- Efficient Filing: Organizing coupons by product, expiration date, or another system that makes sense to the shopper will help keep discount offers readily available and easy to use.
- Stocking Up: When coupons are close to their expiration dates, experienced shoppers will stock up on nonperishable items to take advantage of the savings.
- Shopping Online: Using online coupon codes can help shoppers save even more money than with clipped coupons. This is especially effective for clothing, books, and other purchases not found in grocery stores.
Coupons are available from a wide variety of sources. Shoppers interested in the best deals and greatest discounts will take advantage of more than one coupon resource to find coupons that fit their shopping needs. Popular resources include:
- Newspapers: Coupons may come with advertising circulars or printed directly in the paper. Sunday or weekend newspapers generally contain a large bundle of coupons and special offers.
- In-Store Flyers: Special sale flyers found in stores may have discount coupon offers available, often for even greater savings on ongoing sales.
- Manufacturers' Websites: If you regularly buy specific products, check out the manufacturer's websites for coupon offers that are valid at all stores.
- Email Lists: Signing up for email newsletters from stores and manufacturers can bring coupons right to you inbox.
- Coupon Websites: Specialty free grocery coupon websites list updated deals for a wide variety of products and services. Browsing different sites can often uncover even better deals, and by registering for these websites (registration is typically free and helps customize offers to consumers' preferences) consumers can find great bargains. Popular coupon websites include:
- Coupons.com -- Arguably the most popular coupon site, this one offers printable coupons for hundreds of different items.
- Cool Savings -- You have to join this site, but it's free to join. You then get access to grocery coupons and price comparison tools.
- SmartSource -- Another printables site, this one can also give you local offers if you enter your zip code.
- Valpak -- Access all the coupons you receive when you get Valpak in the mail, plus additional ones.
- Trading with Friends: Offering to exchange coupons with friends can help shoppers double up on their savings without needing multiple newspaper subscriptions or other resources to find the best deals. Trade with online "friends" using sites like Slickdeals and Fatwallet. Simply click on coupons in the forums sections of the sites and post what you are looking for or have to offer.
- SmartPhone Apps: Many grocery stores now have apps that let you download the coupons directly to your phone. Simply scan the screen at checkout.
- Club Cards: Sign up for the club card at each grocery store where you shop. Oftentimes, the store coupons will be directly linked to the card, and you won't get the discounts without the card.
- Texting: Search the Internet for promotions on social networking sites, and also look for signs in the store. Sometimes you can send a certain text phrase to a phone number and get a coupon code in return. Just remember to remove yourself from the phone list afterward or you may get unwanted text messages in the future. Stay on the list if coupons are more important to you than not being bothered.
- Writing to Companies: Send a letter or email to your favorite companies telling them how much you like their products. Often, they will send coupons as a thank you.
- Auction Sites: You can often find coupons on eBay and similar sites, especially if you want large quantities of coupons. While it is not legal to "sell" coupons, it is legal for sellers to charge buyers for the time it took them to collect, clip and sort the coupons.
While you cannot use more than one manufacturer's coupon for the same product, oftentimes you can use a coupon from the store circular or your club card to get an additional discount. Use your coupons when products are on sale to get the most bang for your buck. Remember, if you buy two of the same product you can use two separate coupons.
Read the fine print on the coupons if you're ever concerned about any restrictions. Also, look for stores that offer double coupons and see what the limits are on these. Usually, it is either up to $.50 or up to $1. Some stores only double coupons on certain days of the week or month.
When Coupons Are Bad Deals
Despite all of the ways to save money by effectively using coupons, they aren't always the best deal. An inexperienced shopper could use coupons for everything they buy but still end up over budget if they aren't closely checking the initial prices of the products. If, for example, one brand of shampoo is $3 and has a $.50 coupon, it is still more expensive than a brand of shampoo that costs $2. At the same time, however, cheaper products don't always deliver the same tastes or benefits as more expensive items. The most budget-conscious shoppers will compare different brands to find the best value for their money, then using coupons to make the deal even better.