Learning how to coupon—and I’m talking about extreme couponing here—something that will save you thousands of dollars by the end of the year kind of couponing—anyway, it’s a lot like learning how to save money and grow your wealth.
You have to be organized and committed to the cause.
Think about it this way: when learning how to save money and grow your wealth, you need two things: a source of income and knowledge or skills on how to save and invest your money.
With these two things, you can create a semi-automatic system that funnels your money through the savings and investment process.
Now, let’s apply that to couponing:
- You need a source of coupons (both paper and digital coupons)
- You need to know how to use the coupons you have strategically to get the most out of your savings
Now, this might sound easy; after all, couponing is all about either cutting them out of the Sunday paper or finding digital coupons online. Right?
No! No, it really isn’t! There’s much more to couponing than this, and I am about to share it all with you. So, come along with me for this fun, money-saving ride. I promise it will be worth every penny you save.
Different Types of Coupons
There are two main types of coupons: paper coupons and digital coupons. Within these two main types, there are myriad different varieties and categories, but all you need to know for now is that you are going to be dealing with these two main types.
Paper coupons are, well, made out of paper. These are the types of coupons you can cut out of the Sunday paper, or you will find them at the bottom of your receipt. Paper coupons have a familiar, physical feel to them that makes lots of people comfortable.
Paper coupons often come in two varieties.
- Store coupons: These are often offered by specific stores or retailers. You are most likely going to find these types of coupons in the Sunday newspaper or in the store itself. You could also look out for digital store coupons that can be found on the retailer’s app or website. These types of coupons can only be used in specific retail stores.
- Manufacturer coupons: This kind of coupon is issued by the company producing the specific products in question. These coupons can be used in any store or retailer that both carries the product and accepts the coupons.
Pro Tip: You can combine a store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon to get a bigger discount on your purchases. That’s called coupon stacking (more on that a little later).
Where to Find Paper Coupons
Before you learn how to strategically use coupons, you need to find them. Here are some places you can start looking at to find paper coupons.
- Sunday papers: This is your best option; the Sunday paper has coupon inserts that you can clip and use on everyday things like groceries and other household items such as detergents.
- In-store coupons: Next time you walk into your local supermarket or even pharmacy, see if there’s a machine somewhere near the entrance. In many cases, this machine can give you in-store coupons when you swipe your associated loyalty program card. Keep in mind that these coupons can typically only be used within the store.
- Store ads: To attract customers, some local stores often run ads in the newspaper. These ads may contain incentives, such as coupons you can clip.
- Checkout coupons: In some cases, after you have paid for your groceries, the clerk might hand you some coupons or include one at the bottom of your receipt. In many cases, these offers are for products that are part of your purchase. Most of the time, they end up in the trash because people aren’t aware of the money-saving goodness they are tossing out. Don’t let this be you!
- Printable coupons: Treading the fine line between paper and digital coupons, printable coupons can be found online. All you have to do is download and print them.
I have written way more about how to find paper coupons here.
How to Organize Your Paper Coupons
I could go on and on about how to organize your paper coupons—in fact, I already have! Check out some of my top tips on how to organize your paper coupons here. The gist of it is to find a way to keep all your paper coupons in one convenient location.
You also need to have a system that can help you quickly identify the different coupon categories (groceries, appliances, store coupons, manufacturer coupons, and so on) as well as the expiration dates; an expired coupon is no good!
The best way I’ve found to do this is to use:
- An accordion file: You can find one of these in your local Dollar General store. They have nice little tabs that you can label so as to separate your coupon categories.
- A binder: You are venturing into the extreme couponer realm here. People who use binders to organize their coupons have created a system that saves them hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year. Binders have plastic sleeves that can hold hundreds of clipped paper coupons.
Digital coupons are very much like traditional paper coupons, except that they are all online. That’s the difference; you won’t need a binder or an accordion file to keep your digital coupons organized, but you still do need a way to keep them organized.
Digital coupons can be used anywhere traditional coupons can: at your local grocery store as well as on digital platforms such as Amazon. There are store digital coupons, just like there are manufacturer digital coupons.
How to Find Digital Coupons
This is the best part about digital coupons: there are so many available online that you just need to know where to look. For the most part, you will find digital coupons on the websites or apps of your favorite stores.
Another thing that makes digital coupons so convenient is the fact that once you “clip” them and add them to your customer loyalty card online, they are often automatically applied to your qualifying purchases at checkout.
This is exactly what happens when you use Kroger digital coupons.
Here’s an in-depth look at how to find and use digital coupons.
How to Organize Digital Coupons
Now, this is the tricky part. Digital coupons aren’t like paper coupons in that you can just put them in a binder and label the different categories. This coupon type is online.
The best part is that you will find most online coupons on websites and apps. So, what I do is create a folder on my phone. This folder is designed to hold all the apps for which I have coupons.
So whenever I go shopping, all I have to do is open one folder, and I will have all my digital coupons in one place. The folder is like my very own rudimentary coupon app!
Tips on How to Strategically Use Your Coupons
Let’s assume that you have found a few paper coupons and have a folder on your phone that has all your digital coupons (the numbers will grow with time; trust me on this).
Now that you are on your way to being a serious couponer, you need to have some tricks on how to strategically use your coupons to get the most out of them. Here are some things I do.
Read the Terms and Conditions
This is always where I start! If you don’t read the terms and conditions or the fine print, you may not use the coupon correctly. Listen, I know no one likes doing this, but it’s really a must here; otherwise, you might miss out on great deals.
For instance, the fine print on the coupon you have might say that you save 50% on a specific type of toothpaste, not all toothpaste. If you happen to buy any other type, you’ll miss out on that sale. See what I mean?
Coupon Stack Where Possible
Coupon stacking is one of my favorite things to do. What this means in simple terms is that you are looking to add more value to your savings by combining your coupon with any other sale or deal that might be happening at the same time.
For example, if your local grocery store has a sale on bread and you have coupons that give you a discount on the same type of bread, you can simply present your coupon to get the discounted price that comes with the sale as well as the deal that your coupon gives you.
That’s not all. Some stores, like Target and Dollar General, aren’t terribly opposed to people stacking both store coupons and manufacturer coupons on the same item.
So, if you have a store coupon that gives you, say, 5% off on a specific item, and you have a manufacturer coupon that gives you 10% off the same, you can stack them to get 15% off!!
It gets better! There are cashback apps online, such as Ibotta, that allow you to get not only discounts but also some money back on your purchases.
Now, if you are an extreme couponer, you can find ways to combine all three: store coupons, manufacturer coupons, and Ibotta deals.
Say, for example, that Domino’s is running a sale on their $4.50 pepperoni pizza. You have a store coupon that gives you a 50% discount on that day. You are already paying $2.25 for the pizza.
Then you couple that with a manufacturer coupon that gives you $1 off for every pepperoni pizza purchase on Tuesdays. You are already at $1.25.
Then you go to Ibotta and find they have a $0.75 cashback deal with Domino’s on Tuesdays. You will end up paying only $0.50 for a whole pepperoni pizza on Tuesday.
It is going to take some time and practice to get to this level of money-saving and extreme couponing, but it isn’t impossible!
Pro Tip: Combine your coupons with cashback apps.
Pay Attention to the Coupon Policy
This is often the crack through which most potential savings fall. If you don’t know what your local grocery store policy is on coupons, you might miss out on quite a bit of savings.
Here are the main issues to consider.
Most business owners don’t want to lose you as a loyal customer because another store is offering the same thing at a lower cost, so they tend to be partial toward price matching.
But you won’t get this if you don’t ask for it or have some kind of proof that you are getting a better deal somewhere else (receipts come in handy). To counter this, the store might lower their price or offer you extra coupons for other purchases. Win-win.
Some stores are okay with accepting competitor coupons. For example, Lowes Foods doesn’t mind taking coupons from competitors such as Walmart and Target.
Obviously, this is a very touchy issue, and you need to be sure if your store accepts competitor coupons (some don’t at all) and, if so, from which competitors.
Target, as another example, even price matches between their store and online prices. So, get to scanning when you are shopping in-store. I have saved tons of money with this little price-matching trick.
What if what you want to use your coupon on is out of stock? Will the store give you a rain check on that purchase? Some stores don’t! It never hurts to ask.
Learn the Sales and Best Deal Patterns
Almost every store offers deals on days like Black Friday. However, that isn’t the only time they run sales within the year. Learn about their patterns by subscribing to their newsletters.
You can take full advantage of these sales and deals throughout the year by stacking them with your coupons. Learning how to coupon like a pro will take time, but it’s well worth the effort.
And just so you know, even the rich coupon lady is all about saving money and channeling that towards growing your wealth. Like LL Cool J would say:
“I try to do the right thing with money. Save a dollar here and there; clip some coupons. Buy ten gold chains instead of 20. Four summer homes instead of eight.” − LL Cool J