You think you’ve tried couponing.
After all, you’ve clipped your weight in coupons from the Sunday paper. You’ve blown through dozens of ink cartridges printing them online. Sure, every now and then, you save a few dollars. But you usually end up sprinkling your coupons in the bottom of your purse, jamming them into a junk drawer or stuffing them into a forgotten folder in your home office.
Let’s face it: You’re a dabbler in a world of hardcore bargain hunters. And you’re left wondering if the blunt scissors and early onset carpal tunnel are really worth it. Are you really missing out?
According to Stephanie Nelson of thecouponmom.com, you are. “Regular coupon users can save as much as $5,000 a year if [they] know some basic tricks,” said Nelson in an interview with Good Morning America.
Are you ready to go from sporadic coupon clipper to ultimate deal finder? Just follow these five tips.
- Gather and clip your coupons
If you’re old school, subscribe to multiple Sunday newspapers. You can save up to 92 per cent off most subscriptions at discountednewspapers.com. If you’d rather stay local, you can save up to 50 per cent off your hometown newspaper’s delivery fee at retailmenot.com.
If you have a little tech savvy, you can also clip coupons online. With a couple of clicks, you’ll be able to cut coupons from all over the country. The best part is that these coupons might even have a higher value in your local area! While there are plenty of these sites floating around, here are a few top-ranking clipping sites: Groupons, Coupons, The Krazy Coupon Lady and Money Saving Mom.
- Organize your coupons
If you’re computer shy, you can organize your coupons using a zippable, three-ring binder and business or sports card pocket sleeves ($6.29 on Amazon). If the binder has pockets, you can also store couponing essentials such as scissors, a calculator, pens, rebates and receipts inside. If you want to be discreet, you can keep your binder in a reusable shopping bag. The upside of this method is that you can organize your coupons alphabetically or categorically. But there is one drawback: You’ll have to remember to pull expired coupons out. Most coupons expire on the last day of each month, so set yourself a reminder to trash expired coupons at the beginning of each month.
If you’re a techie, toss out your scissors and let the SnipSnap Coupon App (which is free) or Coupon Keeper 2 (also free) clip your coupons for you. These apps allow you to snap pictures of any printed offer, and they convert the text, images and barcodes into mobile-optimized offers, which you can redeem right off of your phone. You’ll also get alerts when your coupons are about to expire, and you can search a huge database of coupons.
- Read your coupons’ fine print
Your coupons’ values are determined by their fine print, not their pictures. You’ll need to scan your coupons for limiting terms like “applies to seven ounces or larger,” “one per transaction” or “with purchase.” If the size or variety isn’t stated, then the coupon works for any size of variety. Are you worried about running across couponing terms that you don’t understand? Grab Crystal Paine’s, also known as the “Money Saving Mom,” free Coupon Terms and Abbreviations Guide.
- Stack store and manufacturer coupons
When you stack coupons, you use a store’s and a manufacturer’s coupon on the same item for a deep discount. When you redeem a manufacturer’s coupon, it usually has a redemption address in the fine print and often says “redeemable at,” or “available at.” The store is reimbursed the face value of the coupon, plus a small handling fee. Manufacturer’s coupons should be accepted at any store. Store coupons, which are completely funded by the store, are basically a store sale issued in coupon format. Store coupons are available on the store’s website or in the store’s ad. Many stores, like Kroger or Hen House, allow you to upload digital coupons directly onto your rewards card.
- Start a stockpile
When a product is 75 per cent or more off, it’s time to stock up! The goal is to purchase enough of the item until the next sale cycle—usually about 90 days. Extreme couponers stuff their pantries, cupboards and garages with up to a year’s supply of products they use regularly. But if you’re living in a tiny apartment, you can place items on the top shelf of your closet, slide them under your bed or even squeeze some behind the TV. Start by picking up two to three of an item when it’s on sale. Build your stockpile slowly. Then you’ll be able to stick to your budget and won’t be forced to pay full price on the items you love!
While there are plenty of other methods to maximize the impact of your coupons, these are a few basics to help you get started. Have fun, and happy clipping!
Do you have other tips for couponing newbies? Share your advice in the comments below.