First things first. Let’s talk about coupons since they will be the most important part of your new adventure. I can not stress enough how important it is for you to READ READ READ as much as you can about couponing before you start using them. Nobody can do it for you. You have to educate yourself. And trust me…you’ll be glad you did. 🙂
The casual couponer will buy one paper on Sunday, clip only a fraction of the coupons inside and use them at their local stores to get maybe $0.50 or $1.00 off something that they might not normally buy…but do just because they have a coupon. Or even if you do normally buy the product, you are just getting one of them at a good price with your coupon. You are here because you want to take it to the next level and learn how to maximize every coupon to get max savings!!
The first installment of my Couponing For Beginners series will teach you everything you need to know about the coupons themselves.
What is a coupon?
Coupons are what manufacturers send out to entice people to buy their products.
Every coupon should have the following attributes:
:: Type of Coupon
Manufacturer or Store (stated at the top of the coupon).
How much money will be deducted from your purchase, plus how many items you must purchase in order to use the coupon.
If the coupon says “save $1 on ANY Charmin product” then it can truly be used on any Charmin product, including the smallest size of toilet paper…or even Charmin flushable wipes since that is a Charmin product. If the coupon says “save $1 on Charmin Ultra Soft 6 Mega Rolls” then that is the EXACT product the coupon should be used for. If you use it for the 4 pack single rolls, that would be fraudulent use of the coupon and that ruins things for everyone.
:: Expiration Date
MOST coupons have an expiration date. If the expiration date is 6/30/13, you have until 11:59 pm on 6/30/13 to redeem your coupon.
Manufacturers generally put the newest or most expensive product in the picture for advertising purposes, hoping you will buy that product. Although the picture can be useful if you have never heard of the product, it does NOT dictate what you must purchase. The TEXT on the coupon is what you need to follow.
Example: Since the coupon above states “Save $2 on ANY two Kashi Cereals” you can use it on the single cups! 🙂
Every coupon needs a barcode. That’s what holds the information the cash register needs! If a printable coupon prints without a barcode – something went wrong. Try to print it again. If you are clipping coupons from an insert, be careful not to cut any of the barcode off because you need that! 🙂
Insert coupons (from the newspaper) will all have the same barcode. Printable coupons should all print with a unique code found in the upper right hand corner. This proves that each of your coupons was printed legitimately (not copied).
Printable coupons can typically be printed TWICE per computer or device. When you go to print, DO NOT change the number of copies to 2. That will print the SAME barcode. You need to go back to the original link and start from the beginning (or hit the back button to refresh the coupon page) to ensure you get UNIQUE barcodes.
Some manufacturers choose to release PDF coupons. These make me very nervous because we are all printing the exact same barcode and prints are virtually unlimited. Balance is needed when choosing how many coupons you will print.
:: Fine Print
Every coupon should show some type of instructions for retailers including a redemption address. There is also information intended for the consumer. Some of the most common clauses I have explained below.
Purchase Vs. Transaction Vs. Household Vs. Shopping Trip
This is VERY important! You might look at your coupons and think, “How do these people save so much money?” All the coupons I get say I can only use one! Well, in some ways that’s true but mostly it is just worded in a confusing way. It is important to educate yourself on coupon terminology so you can intelligently defend your case when redeeming coupons.
Almost all coupons will say, “Limit One Coupon Per Purchase.” All this means is that if your coupon says “Save $0.50 on One (1) box of Cheerios” then you CAN’T use TWO coupons on that ONE box to get $1.00 off.
One coupon per purchase means = one coupon per ITEM(s) purchased.
If you buy one box of Cheerios you can only use ONE coupon, if you buy TWO boxes of Cheerios then you are allowed to use TWO coupons.
If your coupon says “Save $0.50 on Two (2) boxes of Cheerios” then you have to buy TWO boxes in order to use ONE of your coupons.
Confused yet? ; ) You’ll get it down. Don’t worry…we all started out just as confused as you. The main thing you need to remember is, you can’t use two coupons on one item. It doesn’t work that way.
You might even find a coupon that will limit you to how many you can use in a “Transaction”. This is one of those tricky words that people often mix up with “Purchase”. Let me explain the difference the best I can. When you go to the store, gather the items you want to buy and then take your cart to the checkout – EACH item that you place on the belt is a PURCHASE. Now the cashier is done scanning all your items and coupons and you pay (hopefully not too much!). Each time you pay, that was a TRANSACTION. You could have just purchased 100 items in that one transaction.
It gets even trickier! Some coupons, mostly P&G (Procter & Gamble) will say something like “Limit One Coupon Per Purchase. Limit Of 4 Like Coupons Per Household Per Day” (these are now limit 1 or limit 2). Here’s where things get interesting. When using coupons like this it means exactly what it says. If you alone and go to the store and want to use your P&G coupons, you are only allowed to use FOUR of each kind (“like” coupons). You yourself are NOT allowed to use any more than FOUR of each one in a single day.
“Four Like Coupons…” means Four of the exact same coupons.
And a “Household” is defined as all individuals who live in the same dwelling. So out of everyone that lives in your home you are only allowed to use 4 of the same coupon, per day on these types of coupons. Even if cashier “lets it slide”, the manufacturer technically does NOT have to reimburse the store because they allowed more than the coupon limits. We don’t want that to happen.
A shopping trip can be defined as each trip you make into the store with an empty cart.
So let’s say you have a coupon that says “Save $1.00 When you Buy One (1) bottle of Welch’s Juice” and the fine print says “4 Like Coupons Per Shopping Trip” but you wanted to buy 7 bottles of juice. In order to comply with the wording on the coupon AND get all the bottles you planned on buying you would need to get 4 bottles of juice, checkout and pay, take those items out to your vehicle and then go BACK in the store with an empty cart and go get your other 3 bottles of juice. Then you have completed TWO shopping trips and didn’t use more than 4 like coupons in either shopping trip. Be sure you are also complying with store policy regarding multiple transactions as well. Some do not allow it. Some let you go nuts! 🙂
:: Do Not Double
Some coupons will state DO NOT DOUBLE or DND. No Kroger stores double coupons any longer, so we won’t discuss this in this post.
Now that you’ve gotten to know your coupons, check out my other beginners posts:
Some of you might receive what’s referred to as the “Sunday Bag” on your mailbox every Sunday. Inside you’ll find that week’s ad circulars for local stores and that weeks coupon inserts. Some areas will receive them earlier in the week; however the majority of you will want to purchase the Sunday paper to receive all your coupons. You can order a subscription or you can find them at just about any gas station, local grocery store, big box stores, dollar stores, etc.
These days there are all kinds of whole insert and coupon clipping “services” from whom you can order additional inserts. For legal reasons, I do not promote any specific service here on my site, but a simple google search will lead you in the right direction.
The 3 main coupon inserts are as follows: RedPlum, Smartsource, Procter & Gamble. In my matchups these are abbreviated as RP, SS & PG. You can find the date of the insert on the bind of the insert pack. It’s very small, but it’s there. That date is helpful when trying to locate a coupon you haven’t clipped yet. For ideas on how to organize these inserts, view my video HERE.
ALWAYS CHECK to make sure the paper you are purchasing has the coupons inside. I’ve been burned a couple times…got home…no coupons! Ugh. That’s the worst. Usually on holiday weekends there are no coupon inserts (boo!), but sometimes they surprise you, so always check. Some weekends we will just get 1 or 2 inserts, some weekends we will get 4 or 5! I will alert you to what coupons you can in my Sunday Coupon Preview.
Coupon inserts will have regional differences, so a coupon that your buddy in Texas gets might be different than what you receive. Coupons themselves will be regional as well as the value of the coupon.
:: INTERNET PRINTABLES
The 3 main coupon websites are: coupons.com, smartsource.com and redplum.com. These sites are constantly updating with new coupons, so check them often. The first of the month is the biggest day for new coupons so stay close to me then as I alert you to the best ones. I also update on what other printable coupons are available throughout the week, whether it be random websites, bricks links (powered by coupons.com) or individual Smartsource links. Don’t worry if you don’t know what those are…all you have to do is click the link I provide and it will get you to the coupons! Many companies are now releasing coupons on their Facebook pages as well, so you may want to “like” some of your favorite brands to gain access to those.
Most printable coupons are limit 2 prints per computer. After you print your first copy, sometimes you can hit your browser back button a few times and it will print a 2nd copy. Sometimes you have to go back and click the original link to get your 2nd print. If you want more coupons, you need more computers/devices…or some really nice friends. 🙂 Sometimes a coupon will “reset” which means you will be able to print it 2 more times from the same link! Each of these coupons prints with a unique code.
Do not EVER copy a coupon. EVER. It is a punishable offense. Let’s say that again:
Do NOT EVER COPY A COUPON!! EVER.
Some coupons will print with a store name or logo on them. For the most part, these are just regular manufacturer coupons that can be redeemed anywhere, despite the advertising. Read ALL about this HERE.
“Blinkies” are little machines that spit out coupons, usually found mounted near the product..but sometimes they can be found in random places. Feel free to take a couple!
“Peelie” coupons are offers attached to products that you PEEL off. These are ONLY for the customer purchasing the item. In my opinion, it is NOT okay to peel off coupons from items you are not buying! In fact, many of them will say they are only valid if removed by cashier.
:: HANG TAGS
“Hang Tags” are coupons that hang from the product themselves.
:: CATALINA MACHINE
This is the little machine that prints along with your receipt. Sometimes it has advertisements for upcoming Catalina deals and such, and at other times it spits out extra coupons based on your shopping behavior! You better believe if I buy International Delight coffee creamer – Coffee Mate will give me a coupon!
“On Your Next Order” (OYNO) Catalina coupons are a whole ‘nother story and are explained in detail HERE.
:: RECYCLE BINS
Now some of you might turn your nose up at this idea, but if you’re anything like my husband…you live for dumpster diving! Hey, don’t knock it. You can get lots of freebies! Our local paper recycling bin contains ONLY paper and mostly newspaper, so it’s actually pretty clean! Just make sure it’s legal in your area, before you take the plunge!!
:: ASK FRIENDS and FAMILY
Chances are most of your friends and family are not using all of their coupons. Speak up and ask if you can save them from the trash! I have family members that give me their extra coupons and I repay them with some of the free stuff I got from using them! Seems like a fair deal to me.
There are TONS of Facebook Trading groups you can join where you can trade your unwanted coupons for those that you want to get your hands on. A simple search will help you locate them.
Or start a local coupon trading group! What a fun girls night that would be!
:: INSIDE PRODUCTS
Make sure to check inside the products you buy. Also sometimes manufacturers will put coupons on the box or inside the packaging so don’t throw away anything without a proper inspection!
:: COUPON CLIPPING SERVICES
It is not legal to BUY coupons, but you can purchase someone’s clipping services and pay them for their time. 🙂 If there is a coupon you do not receive in your Sunday paper or if there is a coupon that makes for a great deal on an item you want to stock up on, you can order extra coupons.
While I do not recommend any particular clipping servive over the next one, you can find these by doing a simple google search.
Several magazines feature a few coupons per month…don’t let those get away!
I cannot say enough about ALL You magazine, which features pages and pages of coupons each month. I will make sure to give you a heads up when this subscription is offered at a great price! Check my Magazines category for the latest deal on this mag. If you don’t want to wait for a super deal, you can get a nice price on it everyday on Amazon. You may also want to checkout what their current deal is directly from All You.
Many stores, will put out their own monthly coupon booklets to be used exclusively in their stores. I try to always check near the Kroger Pharmacy to see if they have released any new booklets.
:: EMAIL YOUR FAVORITE COMPANIES
Just ask! I try to email a few companies each month to compliment them on a quality product (or give a valid complaint). In response many of them will mail me coupons! It only takes a few minutes of your time and the majority will respond with coupons. These coupons are usually higher value than ones you find anywhere else. To avoid bombarding your inbox with junk mail, I would definately open a separate email account through yahoo or hotmail just for this purpose. Scroll through my Planning Ahead Project series (I no longer write this series) where I have suggested several companies to email!
:: HOME MAILERS
If you want to receive Kroger Home Mailers, be sure to create an online account HERE and confirm that you’re information is up-to-date. You will need to enter your Kroger Loyalty Card number to be sure it’s linked to your account. You will then start to receive booklets that include recipes and coupons (pictured above).
Kroger also sends out quarterly coupons that are based on your shopping behavior. Sometimes they even include FREE product coupons or $$ off your total purchase. LOVE when these show up!! TIP: If you already have an online account set up and you are NOT receiving these, try going into your account and making a small change – like change your phone number or email. That may trigger it.
Additionally, try signing up with some of your favorite companies. They may mail out promotional offers and coupons. Baby brands are especially great with sending out coupons! Just go to their website and see if they have the option to receive email updates or create an account.
:: LOAD DIGITAL COUPONS TO YOUR LOYALTY CARD
Kroger releases hundreds of digital coupons each month. You can load them to your loyalty card by signing into your Kroger account HERE. I have already written an entire post dedicated to Kroger Digital coupons that you can view HERE. Please refer to that for any questions you may have regarding these.
You can also load e-coupons to your card each month from these sites (some will be the same ones available on Kroger.com):
We also have a couple sites that you can load your coupons to an account that is attached to your card. The balance does NOT come off automatically at checkout, but rather into an account.
With SavingStar, the money goes directly into your account. Once your savings reach $5, you can pick your payout from a deposit into your bank or PayPal account, an Amazon gift card, or a donation to American Forests.
Upromise is a savings program that rewards you with money for college education or to pay off current student loans. BUT you can also request a check for the money you have saved in your Upromise account and spend it on anything you want! Just submit this form here.
:: COUPON APPS
There are also a few coupon apps you can load. The most popular ones are:
Ok, so now you’ve cut out some coupons, you understand coupon lingo, and can’t wait to go use them. My advice to you: WAIT! You don’t want to fall into the trap of buying something JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE A COUPON! You want to learn to get the most bang for your buck and to do that you want to get those weekly sales circulars out and match-up items that are on sale WITH coupons that you have. This way you will be getting MAX savings! Or, let us do the work for you and check out our weekly Kroger Ad Coupon Matchup each week.
:: How To Get Max Savings
Above is a picture of the ad from my local store with a GREAT example of how to get the most bang for your coupon buck!
You can get the weekly store ad either AT your store, on Kroger.com or the Kroger app, or you can get one in your Sunday paper.
What you could do: Look over the ad, search Kroger Krazy’s online coupon database to find current coupons and figure out your final cost. Or, you can simply head over to the Kroger Grocery Ad Matchup category where all the work has been done for you! 🙂 Scroll through the list and compare it to your Kroger weekly sales ad. Print and gather all of your coupons, use the printable list feature to print your list and off you go!
Before you run up to checkout with a hand full of coupons it would be wise to double check your coupons against the products you’re getting to make sure that all sizes and specifications are met. Also check to see if your coupon has a limit written on it and follow those guidelines. It’s important to always practice good, ethical couponing.
So, say you DON’T have my match-ups available to you OR your ad shows something additional that was not in my ad. I will walk you through this next.
In the ad shown above Tide Detergent is on sale for $4.99 (as part of the mega event) and there is a coupon to save $2.00 when you purchase ONE detergent. When I use the coupon with the Tide purchase, I will be getting one bottle of detergent for just $2.99!
Buy (1) Tide Liquid Detergent – $4.99
Use $2.00/1 Tide Liquid Detergent printable coupon
Final cost is $2.99
*Please note that this is NOT a current sale, but is being used as an example only.
Why is it important to match coupons with sales? This brings us to the next topic – stockpiling.
STOCKPILING basically means getting your groceries at the very lowest prices, and then purchasing enough to last you until you can get to the next great sale. This way, you never pay full price for any groceries at all. Organize a space to store all of these items and before you go to the grocery store, check your stockpile first. Make sure you don’t purchase too much of anything with a short shelf life, and of course, always use the items that are due to expire first. The whole point is to get your weekly grocery bill down as far as possible, so set a personal goal for yourself.
In order to get enough of one great sale item to last until the next sale, you’ll need more than just one coupon for each item. That may mean purchasing multiple copies of the Sunday paper. For internet printables (IP), typically you are able to print two (2) copies from every computer or device in the house unless the limit is restricted by the site. If something is a super price (maybe even free) with a coupon, you’re not just picking up ONE item with your ONE coupon – you’re picking up as many as you can! This amount should last until the next sale. I have a small family…just my daughter and I – so I make sure I have at least 4 inserts each week.
By way of review:
Don’t just purchase an item because you have a coupon. Wait until it goes on sale so you can purchase it at it’s rock bottom price.
DO buy more than just one copy of the Sunday paper so that when an item goes on sale, you can get several to last you until the next sale.