Learning How to Coupon
Learning how to coupon can be complicated if you try to do everything all at once. There’s so much to know; where to get coupons, how to use them, deciphering the abbreviations and more. To get the most out of couponing, you’ll want to know all this. This simple guide will get you started on the path to couponing success, and all in 6 easy steps!
Step 1: Pick a Store
If you think you can coupon at a lot of stores, you’re definitely right. There are plenty of stores that happily accept coupons! But, you’re going to want to start with one store at a time or it can get confusing. Each store has different sales, rewards systems and coupon policies. Start by choosing a store that you go to often and want to coupon at. Once you have a few successful transactions under your belt, pick another store to master. Follow this pattern until you’re a pro at every store!
Step 2: Understand the Coupon Policies
Being familiar with couponing policies will help you avoid conflicts at the register. Each store has their own unique set of rules that control how and when coupons are accepted. You can learn everything you need to know about the 5 most common store coupon policies here. For extra reassurance you can always print out a coupon policy and keep it in your purse. This will make it easy to reference while shopping or if an issue comes up.
Step 3: Get Rewarded
Depending on which store you choose to learn first, you’re going to want to join the store loyalty program before heading in (or at least before you check out at the register.) By joining these programs you’ll make sure to get all the available savings. Stores will often times offer rewards (which are like money that can only be spent at that specific store) when you buy a certain amount of products. Rite Aid has Plenti Points, Walgreen’s has Balance Rewards & Register Rewards and CVS has ExtraBucks.
Not only can you get rewards points by using these programs, you can also score store coupons which means more savings! The coupons can be sent out in emails, but they are also available in your online loyalty account. The store coupons can then be digitally added to your account. This is awesome because there is nothing to print. When you use your rewards account at checkout the coupons will be applied automatically.
All in all, if you’re not signed up for the programs you’ll be missing out big time. Start by signing up for the CVS, Walgreen’s and Rite Aid rewards programs. Make sure to link your store card to your online account as well!
Step 4: Get Familiar with Coupon Acronyms
This is an important part of learning how to coupon, but it easy to pick up. On coupon websites (and even on coupons) there are a lot of abbreviations used! If you ever feel yourself getting confused by all of these jumbles of letters, reference this coupon lingo cheat sheet. You may even want to print it out to keep on hand while you’re getting familiar with the jargon. Make sure to learn the lingo, it will save you time. The faster you get familiar with these acronyms, the faster you can peruse the best deal scenarios online.
Step 5: Be Friendly
This is important, but underrated, advice: be nice to the cashiers. Most cashiers are willing to work with you if you are friendly. You may be wrong, polices do change, so listen to them. If you think you are still right and have not come to a resolution then head to customer service after your transaction to fix it. Most of the time being friendly solves the problem.
Step 6: Stay Organized
Lastly, being organized is in your best interest. What good is a pile of newspaper coupons if you can’t find the one you need? Or coupons that expire before you get a chance to use them? If you keep your saved coupons in a messy stack or somewhere you might forget them, then couponing will be a pain.
It’s easy to locate your coupons by keeping them in envelopes. Label them by type: food, toiletries, make up, etc. Or if you really get into it and have a bunch of coupons you can invest in a binder. Use clear trading card pages (like these) to make it really easy to find the exact coupon you need. It’s a time saver and you can decorate the binder any way you want.
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started couponing was letting points (from store loyalty programs) expire before I got to use them! If I was more organized and on top of my budget, that wouldn’t have happened. Keep track of when your points expire to get the most out of couponing.
Rite Aid’s Plenti Points are valid for at least 2 years, so there’s no need to worry about those. Walgreen’s Balance Rewards points expire three years after they are earned or if your account has been inactive for 6 months. Inactive meaning your card has not been used online or in store. Both of those are pretty hard to let expire.
However, you should keep an eye on Walgreen’s Register Rewards (usually good for 2 weeks) and CVS ExtraBucks. You can check the expiration dates in your account online or in their respective apps. Make it a habit to check the expiration dates once a week or in the parking lot before you shop.
Where Do I Get Coupons?
If you want to coupon you’re going to need coupons of course! Here are the most common places you will find coupons:
The Sunday Newspaper
Almost weekly the Sunday paper has coupon inserts in it. If you find yourself only using a few coupons from it each week, it may not make sense economically to keep buying it. Which leads use to our next option.
Online: Print at Home
Printing coupons online is a bit of a double edged sword. A lot (but not all) of coupons can be printed from your computer or smartphone. You can find links to coupons in deal match ups (here at EasyCollegeCoupons.com) or you can browse all the available ones at Coupons.com, RedPlum or Smart Source.
Printing coupons is super convenient, you can get only the ones you want – that is if you get to them in time. Online coupons are typically available in limited quantities, that means popular coupons can run out quickly! Most of them will not run out quickly, though. The newspaper coupons closely mirror those available online, making a good idea to get the newspaper as a back up if nothing else.
NOTE: Do not print a coupon and give it to someone unless you absolutely trust that person. If someone takes your printed coupon and makes copies of it – that is coupon fraud and you can be blocked from printing coupons for life (it will tracked from your ip address.)
Get cash back for buying certain items with smartphone apps! Couponing without having to clip or print or bother the cashier. My favorite coupon apps are listed here, they’re favorites because they are the best ones!
Weekly Store Ads
Store ads that detail what is on sale each week often times will have store coupons in them. These ads can be found at the front of the store or by the cash registers.
Some people collect coupons and then trade with friends for ones that they want. If you know someone that wants a Nutella coupon you can save it for them.
In The Mail
Companies like to mail coupons. You can contact a company and ask for coupons and they will mail you some. Sometimes they just comes in junk mail or magazines, as well.
On Store on Shelves or Products
I’m sure you’ve seen the blinking machines that dispense coupons in store aisles or a stack of coupons in a product display. You can take one or two and use them in the store or wait for a better sale. Also, be on the lookout for peelie coupons that are attached directly to the product.
eCoupons are digitally loaded to your store loyalty card and apply automatically at the register. These coupons can be found in the store digital weekly ad or in online rewards accounts. These can be both store coupons and manufacturer coupons, so be sure to check which kind it is. Store coupons can be stacked with manufacturer coupons, meaning more savings! Plus, there is less paper waste because no printing is required.
Coupons that print at the register after making a certain purchase. They are good for an amount off your next shopping trip.
What Does “Coupon Stacking” Mean?
Stacking is easy to understand. It is referring to when you use a you use a manufacturer coupon with a store coupon on the same product. Stores coupons have the store’s name at the top (eg. Target Coupon). A manufacturer coupon will specifically say “manufacturer coupon” on it. Manufacturer coupons are made by companies (like P&G, Unilever) that want you to buy their products.
Am I Robbing the Store When I Use Coupons and Get an Item for Free or Almost Free?
The answer is simply, NO! Big companies, such as Unilever, have an advertising budget specifically for coupons. It’s the same type of budget they use to make commercials. They put out coupons so you want to buy their products. In turn they use the budget to pay the stores back for the coupons customers redeem. It’s a win win for everyone!
Manufacturer coupons pay the stores back for any coupons that you use correctly. For example: If you buy Crest 3.1 oz and the coupon said 4 oz or greater – the store will not be reimbursed. It’s important that you read the fine print on the coupon so the store is getting paid back and to avoid conflicts at checkout.
If you stack a store coupon that means the store has decided to take the “hit” for their portion of the store coupon. Stores do this to encourage you to buy certain brands. It’s another way to advertise!
What are “Stock Up” Prices?
You will hear people in the coupon world talking about Stock Up prices. A Stock Up price, or rock bottom price, is a price that is a as low as it gets. When something is a stock up price it is recommended that you buy a lot of it to stock up on and save for later. Buying a large amount of the item at this price point will ensure you have enough to last you until the next stock up price.
Generally, you find stock up prices on deals where you have to buy a large quantity. When you have a tight budget you may not be able to buy a large quantity to get items at stock up prices. There are so many items that it can be hard to remember the stock up price for each of them.
We put together a list of stock up prices you can keep on hand, but also added “Great Prices.” Great prices, though not rock bottom price, are prices so good you should buy them! Never pay full price – wait for those great prices to ensure you get the best price you can. You can download the price point list below!
What is a Money Maker?
Money Makers are awesome! A money maker is when a coupon deal ends being better than free. It is when you end making money off of the deal, it’s like getting paid to buy the product. This can happen a few ways.
- If you shop at Walmart they take coupons greater than the value of a product and will give you cash back! For example, if my item is $1.50 and my coupon is $2.00 off I can get 50¢ back or apply it to the rest of my grocery bill.
- If I buy a product and use a coupon, then submit an offer on a coupon app. For example, if you buy an item for $1.00 and have a coupon for 75¢ off. You will pay a quarter, but then you submit an offer on a coupon app for another 75¢ back, you just made 50¢!
- Gift card offers. If you buy an item in store and there is an offer to get a gift card back you could end up with a make money. For example, the offer says buy 3 of a certain product and get a $5 gift card. If you end up paying $4.37 OOP for all 3 items, but in turn get back a $5 gift card you just make 63¢ on the deal!