June 11, 2011

The fundamentals of couponing pt.#1

How to maximize your coupon savings!

So you finally decided that coupons are no longer lame and you want to start using them, but you don't exactly know how or where to start. Here are some must have tips to start you on your couponing adventures.

  • Save every coupon you get! Even those coupons for items that you don’t think you need or would ever use. You never know when those coupons may come in handy.  
  • Have products that you don’t use or need? Bless others by donating those items. There are many non profit organizations and individuals such as food pantries, shelters, local churches, a family in need, those on fixed incomes, the needs are endless.
  • Buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper, you can get them at a local convenience store or retailers like Walmart. BTW, Walmart sells the Sunday paper for .88 cents. The coupon savings you receive more than pay for the paper. You can also find coupons online at Redplum, Smart Source, P&G, SC Johnson, Coupons.com. Keep an eye out at your local grocery store for “blinkies”, “tear pads”, “peelies” & “hang tags” You will find links to each of the online resources at the end of this post.
  • Never PAY for toothpaste again! You will almost ALWAYS be able to get free toothpaste when you match your coupons to store circulars, especially at Walgreens. 
  • Give up on brand loyalty! Have you always used Dawn dish liquid? Ajax is just as good and if you can get it for FREE. The freebies don’t stop there, you can also get shampoo, hairspray, body wash, detergent, deodorant, and so much more. 
  • Get focused and organized! Coupon organization is key to maximizing your savings! If you’re stuck fumbling around for your coupons, you may get frustrated & overwhelmed and miss out on potential savings.
  • Find a couple of “money saving & coupon blogs” that you like and sign up for their daily emails. They will help you stretch your pennies and give you lots of great information on ways to save!  
  • Sign up for loyalty rewards cards from your favorite retailers. These can save you big money! 
  • Make your list and sort your coupons before you go to the store. It’s  also a good idea to paperclip similar coupons so that you know exactly how many items you can get and you won’t have to worry about searching through your coupon holder. I keep my list in the front pocket of my pouch with the corresponding coupons I plan to use on my shopping trip.
  • Stack your coupons! You can use one manufacturers coupon and one store coupon for the same product, this is called “stacking”. This is not double dipping, this is a legal and ethical means of saving money. The majority of retailers accept stacking coupons, however double check the stores coupon policy.
  • Keep a copy of the coupon policy on hand. I keep a copy of each of my favorite stores policies with me at all times, just in case I need to reference a rule or in case there may be a discrepancy that requires clarification.
  • Don’t be intimidated by BOGO (Buy One Get One). Often times, retailers like Walgreens or CVS offer a sale promotion of BOGO, for example; Walgreens has Zest body wash on BOGO which means you have to purchase one bottle to in order to get one free. But what if you have a BOGO coupon for the same product? You can confidently walk in with your BOGO coupon and use it on the corresponding BOGO sale which would make both items free.  All you pay is tax! You’re probably wondering how that’s possible. Because you used the BOGO coupon, it made the bottle that you were purchasing FREE since the other one was already FREE.  This is not unethical nor illegal!!! In fairness I was very scared when I first tried this, I thought the police would be standing outside waiting to hall me off to jail.  
  • If the store runs out of the products you are looking to purchase, don’t leave without a Rain Check! A rain check is like a promissory note, it guarantees that once the item is restocked, you will still receive the sale price even after the sale is over. A rain check indicates the product, the sale price, and the quantity you want to purchase. *Keep in mind, you may be relying on being able to stack a coupon with the sale price, be careful to ensure that the coupon is still valid and not expired. The rain check is only good for the retailers sale price, it does not include a guarantee on the coupon! I’ve made this mistake a couple of times and walked out red faced.
  • Ad matching is a huge money and gas saver! Many retailers will match a competitors sale price and some times beat it too. This saves you from having to drive to the other store. 
  • In addition, many retailers will accept competitors coupons. For example, if you have a Walgreens coupon for a Snickers candy bar for .49 cents and Target sells the same product for .89 cents, you can use the Walgreens coupon at Target to get the sale price. Always be sure to verify which retailer accepts competitors coupons by reading their coupon policy.
  • Pay attention to your coupons! Read them carefully to ensure you are following the rules of the coupon and the rules of the store. Some coupons use verbiage like “Limit one coupon per visit” or “Limit one coupon per item” or “Limit one coupon per purchase", there are huge differences between them. 
  • Always remain calm when dealing with a difficult cashier, they may interpret the policy differently or may be confused. If you feel you are honestly right about the use of a coupon, don’t be afraid to ask for a manager who has more authority. If you are still experiencing a problem, you have the right to request to speak to a District Manager. 
Following these guidelines will certainly help to get you on your way to mega money savings! Don’t get frustrated, it takes time to get the hang of it all, it took me almost 6 months to get a true understanding of couponing, so don’t beat yourself up when you don’t get it right the first time.

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