I have had many people ask me lately how to get started with couponing. It does seem very overwhelming at first when you begin looking at ECBs, coupons from the Sunday paper, online coupons, catalinas, instant rebates, mail-in rebates……the list could go on and on. However, if you begin with a simple approach, and gradually add in more elements as the weeks and months progress, it is much less likely that you will become burnt out with couponing, and more likely that you will not only stick with it, but truly begin to benefit from the financial blessing that it can bring.
So, I will be running a series throughout the next several days to address how to begin couponing, and how to make it manageable for your lifestyle. During this time, if you have any questions that I’m not addressing, please feel free to e-mail me, and I can address those as well.
The first step to this process is understanding how coupons work, and what the different types are. The most basic coupon is the manufacturer’s coupon that most of us are accustomed to seeing in the Sunday paper inserts. These coupons are accepted at most stores (Aldi, Sam’s, and Costco are exceptions in this area), and some stores double the coupons. In the tri-state area, both Kroger and Meijer double manufacturer’s coupons, although their policies differ. Kroger will double every coupon that you bring in (even identical coupons), up to $1.00 total. So, if you have a $0.35 coupon, it will double for $0.70, clearly boosting your savings. If you have a $0.75 coupon, though, it will only double to $1.00 as this is the cap off limit. Meijer also doubles coupons up to $1.00, however, they will only double 2 identical coupons per transaction. After the first two, the other identical coupons will be redeemed at face value.
Online coupons are another great way to save money. The important thing to remember about these coupons is that some can be fraudulent. There are a few things that are ALWAYS present on a legitimate internet coupon. First of all, the coupon will have an expiration date, it will state whether it is a manufacturer’s coupon or a specific store coupon, and it will have a scanable bar code (for more information, you can check out a recent news story here). The majority of these coupons are able to be printed off twice per computer. The most popular sites for these coupons are Coupons.com (a quick link is in my side bar), CouponBug, SmartSource, Pillsbury, and Betty Crocker.
Some stores are hesitant to take internet coupons because there has been some fraudulent use of them in the past. However, according to corporate policy, Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and CVS will accept them. In the past, I have printed off the company’s corporate policy and carried it with me. It has served me well in the rare instances that I have been questioned about these coupons.
Catalinas are the extra coupons that often print off when you check out at stores such as Meijer, Kroger, and Walgreens. These coupons vary widely, from $5 or $10 off your next order to a certain dollar amount off your next purchase of a certain item. There are also “peelies” which are coupons that are attached to an item that you purchase at the store. These can be peeled off and used at check-out.
So there’s the basic run-down on types of coupons. My next post will address coupon lingo such as BOGO, wyb, and so on. In addition, I will discuss how to accumulate a stash of coupons and how to keep them organized.