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Save Money with 7 Couponing Techniques

Couponing TipsPeople love to save money. You don’t ever see anyone arguing that full price is better than the sale. And it just makes sense, both common sense and economically, that saving is ideal to spending. This is why stores have clearance isles and why coupons look so enticing.

People have been using coupons to save money for decades. You might be ignoring coupons because the values often seem too low to be worthwhile, or because you just don’t want to take the time and effort. But TLC’s Extreme Couponing show has brought a strong revival to the couponing business.

Most people shouldn’t shop exactly like those extreme coupon savers. You’ll end up with a stockpile of products you don’t need and will never use. However, by using their tips and tricks (in moderation) you can still use coupons in a smart way to save money on the things you need.

Here are seven things you should do to save money with coupons.

  1. Find the time. The only way you can save some serious cash is if you get serious about couponing. Most people that get the full benefit of coupons spend ninety minutes to two hours a week searching and clipping. This is because you want to search all possible options to get the best deal before heading out. If you can, set aside a specific time each week for this activity.

    If you’re like most Americans, running through the day at top speed, then you’ll have to take the time when you can. Do it over breakfast in the morning, or in your bed at night when the kids are asleep. Whatever your strategy, you’ve got to put a little time and effort into couponing or it won’t ever be worth it.
  2. Hunting for coupons. Most people spot coupons in the paper or notice them in weekly ads. That’s a good place to start, but you’re going to have to go above and beyond for the best deals. Plan on buying at least two copies of the Sunday paper each week. This particular edition is going to be stuffed with the most coupons and ads (the Red Plum inserts are especially useful), and buying multiple copies just means more chances of doubling and saving (discussed later).

    As with most things in life, people are now turning to the Internet for assistance. The web is a great place to find additional coupons. Many sites like RetailMeNot.com and SmartSource.com offer a convenient way to locate online coupons. Also, checking manufacturer’s websites and “liking” their Facebook pages will often yield coupons here and there. Couponing has become such a fad online that there are now sites like TheKrazyCouponLady.com and Lozo.com that help you find the best deals across the web.
  3. Check fine print and store rules. Make sure you read the fine print on each coupon before using it to save yourself from potential angst and embarrassment. Some coupons have size and weight restrictions. Some say they cannot be combined with other offers/coupons. Hint: if there is no size restriction, then buying the smallest size of the brand will save you the most money.

    Various stores also have their own policies on how you can use their coupons or outside coupons from the manufacturer. Some places let you combine their coupons with ones from other stores, some won’t. Some establishments let you double (or even triple) their coupons, others don’t. Be sure to read up on the store’s coupon policies before you go, and even print them out and bring them along in case there is a disagreement at the register.
  4. Clipping and Saving. It is a very good idea to clip all of your coupons before you get to the store. This will save you time and it’s much more convenient then struggling to cut and push the buggy at the same time. It’s also a good idea to keep all of your coupons together and organized. You can buy actual coupon boxes with separate folders, or some people use creative options like trading card sleeves. Either way the point is to have your coupons categorized in a way that makes them easy to locate and use whenever you need them.
  5. Precise yet flexible. When you are couponing you should have a good idea of what you are planning to buy when you go to the store. This way you can focus your efforts, plus you won’t end up with a bunch of useless goods that you bought just because they were a good deal. At the same time, you also need to be flexible in terms of brand and store.

    You might have a favorite brand of a product, but if there are good coupons for another brand (or a store brand) then it’s worth making the switch. The same goes with stores. You might love shopping at Target and Publix, but if you find some great coupons that will only work at a Walgreens, then it might be worth it to swing by on your errand run.
  6. Stacking is Saving. Stacking is one of the coupon-cutter’s greatest tricks of the trade. Stacking is a method where you combine a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon on the same item. Reading the stores policies will let you to know which ones allow this, but when it does work it is a superb way to maximize your savings. A simple example of this is if you have a Publix coupon for $.50 off of Blue Bonnet butter and you have a Blue Bonnet coupon for $1.00 off, then you can stack the two together and save $1.50 total.
  7. Doubling and BOGO. Here are two more techniques that are saving coupon-hunters money. Doubling is a promotional effort made by some stores where they will match the value of your coupon up to a certain amount (usually $.50 to $1.00). So if you have a dollar off coupon and that item happens to be one that the store doubles on, then you could receive two dollars off when it rings up at the register. Some stores require that you are a member of their loyalty or rewards programs to receive this advantage, so be sure to check on that before you begin shopping.

    Like with doubling, certain stores allow you to use BOGO (Buy-One-Get-One free) coupons with their weekly BOGO deals. This is a great way to end up getting extra items for free or even your whole purchase (well, plus a few cents for tax of course). For example, a store is having a BOGO sale on Sargento cheese (or $4.99 for two packs). And you just so happen to have a Buy-One-Get-One free coupon for the same pack of cheese (which takes $4.99 off of the price). In this instance you would be able to get both packs of cheese for free plus tax. Essentially the store is paying for one pack and the manufacturer is paying for another, which is a fantastic deal for the customer.

These are just a few basic tips and techniques to get you started on your couponing career. Because you have to get into the rhythm of how stores set their deals and accept coupons, it takes most beginners a few tries to start receiving the best benefits.

One last piece of advice is to keep a level head when checking out. Coupons can start to get tricky and complicated, especially if you are using a lot and trying to stack or double. The cashier might get frustrated and argumentative, or even refuse certain transactions. This is when you calmly pull out your copy of the store’s policies and show them your rights. As long as you stay friendly and helpful, everyone leaves happy.

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