Coupons are like money; you use them to pay for items just like cash. But, just like money, they don’t grow on trees. (Although they are made from paper :))
So where do you get these magical cash-like paper bits?
There are a variety of sources for coupons. Some will require a small amount of overhead investment (such as a newspaper subscription) and others are completely free. I personally have used all of these methods to obtain coupons so find what works best for you.
1. The newspaper.
In the DC area, The Washington Post is your best source for coupons. It has the standard RedPlum and SmartSource coupon inserts as well as occasional Procter & Gamble inserts and is widely available. You can purchase the Sunday edition with the coupon inserts at your local grocery or drugstore for $2 each week (totalling $104/year) or you can get a subscription to the paper. The Washington Post offers daily, weekend only, and Sunday only home delivery subscriptions for DC area residents. The prices for these range from $1.85/week for daily service ($96.20/year), $4.50 for a Fri-Sun weekend subscription ($234/year), and $1.85/week of Sunday only ($96.20/year). These subsription rates are available online at http://subscription.washingtonpost.com. Sometimes there will be an extra surcharge depending on your delivery area, just FYI. So the best deal is either a daily or Sunday only subscription, depending on your preference. The Post is a great paper and will keep you well informed about what is happening in the world so take a glance through and read at least one article before ripping open the coupon insert section and putting the paper in the recycling bin. Keep yourself educated and informed, as well as frugal!
Occasionally there special subscription deals available which are even better, like this one that Living Social is running right NOW! Through this Living Social deal you can purchase a yearlong Sunday-only home delivery subscription to the Washington Post for only $26!!! That’s a 70% savings over the standard Sunday-only subscription price!! I have been waiting for a sale to come along so I am snagging this now and I suggest you should too!
2. Ask your friends or family who subscribe to the paper for their coupon inserts.
My mom and my sister save their coupon inserts for me each week. They both live nearby and I see them at our weekly family dinner so it is not complicated to pick up the inserts. By picking up an extra couple of copies of the coupon inserts I am able to use multiple coupons to purchase multiple products to stockpile (more on that later). If you have family nearby that get the paper, ask them if they can save the coupon inserts for you if they don’t use them. You can also ask friends and neighbors. This is a free way to get coupons and can easily be the only source of your coupons if you consistently get them. Just don’t forget to pick up the coupons regularly from people and it’s always a nice gesture to drop off some free items you obtained through those coupons, like a few tasty cookies you whipped up from a free cookie mix you got with a coupon. Show your gratitude.
If you want something for nothing you are going to have to work for it. There are many places to get free coupon inserts which require a little planning to get, but they are free and help pay for your groceries so isn’t it worth it? Stop by your local Starbucks or other coffee shop on Sunday mornings and early afternoons. There are often many leftover newspapers and coupon inserts that people leave behind after they finish their coffee and muffin and you can scoop up the coupon inserts for yourself. Alternatively, you can swing by your local coffee shop or grocery store on Monday mornings and ask the manager if they have leftover Sunday issues which they will be getting rid of. Perhaps you can purchase these from them for a discounted rate (it’s yesterday’s news after all) or you can take them off their hands and drop off at the local recycling center. And finally, you can dumpster dive. Ask the local recycling center if they will allow you to look through the paper dumpster for coupons or look through community recycling bins. The paper recycling is often just that, paper, so it’s not gross, but it may be a good idea to wear plastic gloves just in case and to protect against paper cuts.
4. Print your coupons online
With the small overhead of paper and printer ink, you can also obtain printable coupons online. There are many sites including CouponNetwork, RedPlum, SmartSource, and Coupons.com. Facebook also has many coupons available on manufacturer’s Facebook pages so follow your favorite brands for savings. Many manufacturers also have coupons available on their websites. My blog and many others will alert you when good coupons are available on these sites.
One of my favorite ways to print coupons online is through MyPoints and Memolink. These sites link up to some of the sites listed above but give you points for redeeming the coupons your print through them. So its a double-win! You can learn more about these sites here.
One thing to remember about printable coupons is that they often only allow 2 prints per computer and sometimes the coupons run out of prints overall. So if you want a coupon, print it right away and if you want more than two use a second computer.
Another tip is to use the back side of already-printed upon paper. If you printed out a newspaper article to read, don’t throw it away. If the paper is in good shape and will feed through your printer, then print your coupons on the blank side. Eco-friendly and frugal!
5. Peelies and Tearpads
Keep an eye out when you are in the grocery store because you may find coupons stuck to the product which you peel off to use (peelies) or coupons on a little pad next to the product which you tear off to use (tearpads).
Please practice good coupon etiquette and don’t take all the coupons. Take a few but leave the rest for someone else who also wants to save some money.
6. Store Circulars
Your store circular may have store coupons in it which can be stacked with manufacturer coupons (more on that in a later post) for greater discounts, so keep an eye out for those coupons as you look for what’s on sale this week. Also, sometimes drugstores such as Walgreens, CVS, and RiteAid will have special coupon booklets in their stores so look for those as well. CVS and Rite Aid will also mail and email you coupons if you sign up for their rewards cards and register that card on their website.
7. Samples and Direct Mailings
Signing up for free samples from products you love (or may love, given the opportunity to try them), often not only gives you the sample but also usually come with coupons for that product. The manufacturers figure, correctly I may add, that if you try it and love it, then you will want to but it. And what more incentive to buy do you need than a coupon? I love free samples (and I love getting mail..as long as its not a bill) and when you sign up for samples another perk is that often the company will continue to mail you occasional coupons. Sometimes just signing up for the email list from your favorite companies will result in emailed coupons too.
8. Purchase Coupons Online
On Extreme Couponing, you will often see couponers buying 20-100 of an item. How do they do that? Are they gathering 20 copies of coupon inserts from their neighbors? Yeah, some probably are. But most are buying coupons on Ebay or from coupon clipping services. Coupons have no monetary value and are illegal to sell, but you can pay for someone’s time spent cutting them out. So often people will sell coupons for a 5 cent clipping fee (or something comprable), not the face value of the coupon. I have bought coupons from various sellers online. I have used CouponDeDe as well as Ebay. There are tons of clipping services out there so keep on looking for the coupon you need.
I usually only buy coupons online when they meet a few requirements:
1) The coupon won’t expire before I have a chance to use it.
2) It’s for a product I will use (a lot)
3) It’s for a non-perishable item (no use in having 20 of something that will spoil before I can use it)
4) It will make a product almost free when it goes on sale
5) The product is on sale a lot so I know that I can get the deal I want
6) It’s from a reputable seller. Check seller ratings and reviews of clipping sites
7) I’m not paying more for the coupons than the product is worth.
Watch out for fraudulent coupons which can be sometimes sold online. If you see a coupon that’s way to good to be true (like $3 off a pack of Tic Tacs), it probably is. The safest are coupons which you got in the paper but you need more of. That way you know that it’s a real coupon.
Stay tuned for more Couponing Basics! Next week we will discuss how to organize your coupons.