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Save Big by Learning All There is to Know About Coupons

From Coupon Clueless to Coupon Expert

Congratulations! You are reading this e-book because you want to learn how to save money using coupons. But you are probably wondering how to get there.

Over the past year I have met many people online and off-line that wanted to learn how to use coupons effectively, to help reduce their expenses. Some have heard about coupon classes, but simply lack the money to pay for these classes. While others just lack the flexibility in their schedule to attend such classes. Many have just never heard of coupon classes altogether.

That was me five years ago. As a stay at home mom of three little ones, I could not afford the time or money to attend a coupon class. So I had to teach myself by hunting for this information all over the web. But you don’t have to. I am the founder and Editor of the website Over the past four years, I have been helping thousands of people, save thousands of dollars by using coupons and hunting deals. And now I want to share what I have learned to get you started on the same path.

The purpose of this article is to take you from coupon clueless to coupon expert, at your own pace, and in the comfort of your own home. With this e-book, you will learn how to use coupons at your leisure, in the evenings after the kids go to sleep, or during any free time during your day.

Understanding Store Sales and the Power of Stockpiling

The first thing you need to know on your road to becoming a coupon expert is that stores have ‘sales cycles’. Every week, your local pharmacy or grocery store has a certain amount of items that it offers at a discounted price. This is just one of the many promotional tools used by manufacturers to get consumers to buy their products.

You will most often find these sale items advertised in a weekly sales circulars. This is why you need to become used to scanning your weekly ads.

Save yourself a lot of time with this tip: the best deals on your weekly ads are posted on the front and back page of the ad. These are what are usually referred to as ‘loss leaders’.

These are the rock-bottom offers that bring shoppers to the store. This is the first place you should look for bargains when scanning your weekly ad. And, if there are any coupons available for these items, then you will really get big savings. Your goal is to focus on buying groceries only when they are at this rock bottom price. Luckily for you, these ‘loss leader’ sales come around in a ‘sales cycle’ that is generally every 6 to 8 weeks.

When you find this opportunity to save big, by combining a great sale with a coupon, you want to maximize those savings by buying enough items (at this rock bottom price) to last you until the next time the item

goes on sale. By stockpiling food, at their rock bottom price, you are in effect saving your family money by never having to pay full price for those items you regularly need. Let me give you an example: First we have Annie Couponer, she uses coupons and stockpiles her finds to feed her family. Annie’s family uses one box of cereal per week. She sees that cereal is on sale at her grocery store for $1.88 per box. This is a sale that comes around every 6 weeks at her store.

With coupons and a sale Annie gets:

6 boxes of cereal at $1.88 each

Less six $0.55 off one box cereal coupons, which can be doubled ($1.10).

To feed her family breakfast for six weeks Annie spends $4.68.

On the other hand, we have Debbie Clueless, who does not use coupons. Debbie also needs one box of cereal to feed her family each week. She sees cereal is on sale this week for $1.88, so she buys one box. Next week, when she comes back to buy more groceries, she buys one box at the regular price of $3.69.

To feed her family for six weeks Debbie spends $1.66 + $3.69x5 = $20.11

This example shoes you how Annie fed her family breakfast for 77% less than Debbie.

This is how YOU, too, can effectively combine sales, coupons and stockpiling to get extreme savings.

Now that I have shown you the power of using coupons, let’s move on and start learning all about coupons.

All About Coupons

Coupons are a promotional tool used by companies to get consumers to try their products. A coupon allows a consumer a chance to try a product for less. This, in return, represents less of a risk of loss for the consumer, just in case they end up not liking the new product. In the process, the company is hoping to gain a new ‘brand loyal’ consumer of their product.

Coupons also help the manufacturer generate a sale they may have otherwise lost. The companies that put out products understand that people have different price points. By issuing a coupon, they are hoping to capture the business of those individuals who shop at the lower price points. Here are a few types of coupons that are available:

Manufacturer Coupons

These are issued directly by the Manufacturer. This type of coupon has a barcode that starts with the number 5 or 9 and can generally be redeemed at any store that accepts manufacturer coupons. The retailer must mail the coupon in order to be reimbursed. Store


Coupons issued by the Retailer. They have a barcode that starts with a number other than 5 or 9. They only scan at the registers of the store that issued them. Most of the time, they do not contain an address to mail the coupon for reimbursement.


These are electronic coupons that are (usually) tied to store’s loyalty cards. They provide a one time discount/savings at the register when you purchase the intended product and use your loyalty card. They tend to be store specific. Two big providers of E-coupons are Cellfire and Upromise, also

Where to Find Coupons

Newspaper inserts are one of the main sources of coupons. They include Smartsource, Red Plum and Procter & Gamble. You can find them tucked in the middle of most Sunday newspapers alongside other weekly ads. You can now print coupons from your own home computer.

You can find them on, Smartsource or Red Plum. You can also search this coupon database for other coupons that are not offered by these major coupon providers.

You can also find coupons inside the store. They may be available in coupon dispensers as the one pictured here, throughout the store. These are usually manufacturer coupons that can be used at any store.

Coupons can also be found in the store attached to the product itself. These may be both manufacturer or store coupons.

In-store displays are also a great source of coupons. You may find booklets or tear pads with valuable coupon savings inside.

You have probably noticed that after you checkout at the store, the cashier may hand you coupons that printed with your receipt. These are called Catalina coupons, and may either be manufacturer or store coupons. I like these type of coupons a lot, because they are sometimes customized, based on your personal shopping history

Coupon Terminology You Need to Know

In addition to the terms I have already shared with you, here is some more coupon lingo you need to become familiar with:

WYB = When you Buy

BOGO = Buy one Get one free

FAR = Free After Rebate

IP = Internet Printable Coupon

IVC = Instant Value Coupon at Walgreens (Walgreens store coupon).

MIR = Mail In Rebate

OYNO = On Your Next Order

OOP = Out of Pocket.

RP = Red Plum insert

SS = Smartsource insert

P&G = Procter and Gamble insert

GM = General Mills insert (usually a Smartsource insert)

Moneymaker: Getting something better than free after coupons and sale. Also known as getting paid to shop.

CAT = Catalina coupon that prints at check out.

YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary. It basically means that your experience may be different from the rest.

ECB = Extra Care Buck (CVS coupon good on your next order)

RR = Register Rewards (Walgreens Rewards program, Manufacturer coupon good on your next order)

SCR = Single Check Rebate (Rite Aid rebate program)

+UP rewards = Rite Aid reward program (coupons good on your next order)

Coupon Organization

Organizing Your Coupon Inserts

You need to keep your coupons organized in order to use them effectively. Let me start by telling you about how I like to keep my coupon inserts organized.

Every Sunday, after I get the coupon inserts from my Sunday newspaper, I flip through them and clip only the coupons for the items that I buy regularly. Then, I file the whole inserts in an accordion file. I label them, and keep them sorted by date.

I keep all coupons, even those for products that I don’t

regularly buy. Experience has taught me that many times I

can get paid to shop for items that I don’t regularly buy. Or

maybe I can get them free. If I am able, I still buy them and

donate them.

There are several ways you can organize the coupons you take to the store when you go shopping. You will probably have to test a couple of methods before you find the one that works best for you.

The three-ring binder method of organizing coupons is very popular. You use plastic trading card sleeves to hold the coupons and tab dividers to label each section. Organize categories based on the different sections in the store. You may want to include a table of contents. Personally, I found this method very time consuming and the binder was too bulky for me to carry around.

You can also use a filing box or index card box (depending on how big you want it) to create your own coupon box. Use the same method of using filing tabs to create categories based on sections in the store.

You can also use a pocket check file to hold your clipped coupons on your trips to the store. I use the front pocket to hold all of the coupons that I pull from the other pockets as I shop throughout the store. Then at checkout, I pull them out and hand them to the cashier. The middle section is filled with coupons categorized by sections at my store. I use the back pockets to hold Extra Care Bucks, Register Rewards or other store specific coupons I may have. I like this coupon holder because it fits very nicely inside my purse.

Get Started with Strategic Couponing

The secret of trimming your grocery budget is not eating differently or even less. The secret lies in paying less for the things we buy.

That sounds pretty straightforward right? It is, and it is also easily achievable. As you learn your way to becoming a coupon expert, there is one simple mantra you need to understand: always buy an item and use a coupon when the item is on sale.

The best time to use your coupon is not after you clip the coupon. To maximize your coupon savings, the best time to use it is when the item is on sale.

Learning how sales and savings programs at the stores you shop work is pivotal to achieving extreme savings. From here on, we will go over the nuts of bolts of how to “work the system” and use coupons to save big.

Supermarket Saving Strategies

Supermarket Saving Strategies

Grocery stores use a variety of promotional tools to get you to shop there. Here are just a few. Afterward I will show you an example of how you can combine them to get a shopping basket full of food for very little money out of your pocket.

Loyalty Cards

A lot of stores offer loyalty cards and through them, give shoppers a discounted price on items. Often, the weekly ad will show an item on sale only after you use your loyalty card.

Double Coupons

I have mentioned these before, and the only reason I mention them again, is because grocery stores are the only stores that double coupons. This is because everyday prices at grocery stores are, in average, higher than at other retailers. So a double-coupon promotion acts as a price cut.

Register promotions

Grocery stores often offer promotions where you get a coupon to help you save on your next purchase, when you buy certain items now. Another type of register promotion is ‘Buy X item and get Y item free’.

Gas Rewards

Gas Rewards programs are a great way to get gas for less. These programs vary by store, but in general, you get discount rewards when you buy a certain item or a certain number of items or spend a certain amount of money over a period of time. You then redeem those rewards for a cash discount at the pump.

Price Accuracy Guarantees

Certain stores guarantee that the price at the register will match the price advertised for an item. Depending on each store’s policy, some stores will give the customer the item for free if there is a price discrepancy. Others will provide you the difference as a discount. It is always wise to make sure the items you are purchasing are ringing at the correct price, so even without this type of guarantee at your store, keep alert at the register.

Combing These Promotions to Save Big

Here is a great example of how you can combine these promotions to get cheap groceries:

Recently one of my local grocery stores was running the following promotion: Get a $10 coupon good on your next shopping order when you spend $25 on select frozen food items.

You could get the items for less if you used your loyalty card, and in addition to using coupons, this store also doubled my coupons for even greater savings. Here is what one of my transactions looked like:

After I paid $14, I also got a coupon for $10 off my next purchase. In effect, I paid just $4 for all four pizzas after coupons and all promotions. That is just one dollar per pizza! In this example, I combined three different promotions: loyalty card discounts, a Catalina promotion and a double coupon promotion.

This is the real secret to getting extreme savings: combine a sale or store promotion(s) with a coupon to minimize your expense and maximize your savings.

You are probably thinking; “But how do I do that? I am just getting started.” I am about to tell you how you can do this too, and it is very easy.

Saving Made Easy with Online Resources

Nowadays you can find coupon match ups on the web for the stores that you regularly shop. They are posted on deal forums or deal blogs like These are a great resource for you because they save you a LOT of time.

What is a coupon match up you ask? It is when you have a sale item and you match it with any current coupons available. A coupon match up available online will generally help you spot the best deals available at your store.

A coupon match up generally looks like this:

Secret Clinical deodorant $2.99

Use $2/1 Secret Clinical Strength Deodorant 2/27/2011 PG Insert (exp 3/31/2011)

Pay $0.99 after coupon

This coupon match up tells you the sale price of the item. Then it tells you what coupon you on use:

$2/1 Secret Clinical Strength Deodorant 2/27/2011 PG Insert (exp 3/31/2011)

This is how you read the coupon line:

Coupon Value: $ 2 off ONE item

Item description: Coupon is to be used on Secret Clinical deodorant

Date and Coupon Source: the coupon was available in the Procter & Gamble coupon insert that came out

in the newspaper on 2/27/11

Expiration Date of the coupon: (exp 3/31/2011)

You can then use this information to search your filed coupons and find the right coupons to bring with you to the store.

On my website Common Sense with Money you can find comprehensive coverage of Nationwide stores such as Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. The list of grocery stores match ups that are covered on my blog is growing every week.

Creating a coupon match up on your own is very easy as well. All you need to do is grab your store’s weekly circular, and identify the items you intend to buy. To find the coupons available for those items simply search this Coupon Database. Enter the name of the item in the search field, and hit ‘search.” If there are any coupons available for those products they will listed in the results section.

The coupon database will tell you the source of the coupon (which insert), the date the insert was published, and the expiration date of that coupon. If the coupon is available as a printable coupon, you will be given a hyper link. Clicking on the hyper link will direct you to the website where you can print this coupon.

Extreme Couponing at the Drugstore

You are probably thinking there is no way to find any bargains at any Nationwide Drugstore. But let me tell you, that is not the case at all. Drugstores are a prime place for getting many name brand personal care products for free.

Manufacturers offer aggressive promotions to drugstore shoppers to get them to try their new products. You can also find great deals on food items. Drugstores often run promotions on the selection of food items that they carry to promote sales. Much like at the grocery store, the secret to getting stuff for free at the drugstores is to combine sales with coupons.

The goal of shopping at the drugstores is to get the items you need for personal care and even some over the counter medicines for practically nothing. Once you achieve this, it will be easy to find room in your budget for other things that matter to you. When I am talking about drugstores, I am referring to CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid. Shopping at each store is different, but in general you can score some great deals at any one of these stores. Next, we are going to go over how to shop at each store.

Extreme Couponing at CVS

To take advantage of the sales and deals available at CVS you will first need to apply for an Extra Care Bucks card.

These are the terms you need to become familiar with when you shop at CVS:

· Extra Care Bucks (ECBs): It’s a CVS store coupon for a discount off your next purchase order which prints at check out. They print at the bottom of your receipt and can be used “like cash” on almost anything sold at CVS.

· Clip Free Coupon: Refers to a month long discount offer that’s deducted automatically at checkout.

· CRT: Cash Register Tape is a coupon that prints at the bottom of your receipt or at the Price Scanner.

· Price Scanner: Price scanning machines located at certain stores that serve to check the price of items and also print CVS store coupons when a CVS Extra Care Bucks card is scanned.

· CVS Store coupons: These can be stacked with manufacturer coupons for added savings. Can only use one per transaction.

· CVS $/$$ coupons: These coupons provide a discount once your order reaches a certain value before coupons. For example: you could save $4 when you buy $20 or more. This total is always before any other coupons.

How to Get Free Stuff at CVS

The first way to get free stuff when you shop CVS is by taking advantage of any Extra Care Bucks promotions available. These extra care bucks promotions usually require you to buy certain items or spend a particular amount of money. After you have fulfilled this requirement, an Extra Care Bucks reward prints at the bottom of your receipt.

Extra Care Bucks Facts:

· At CVS you can “roll ECBs” meaning you can spend ECBs you received from one offer to buy more of the same.

· Also, if the limit of the offer is more than one, you can buy more than one item in the same transaction and get all of the ECBs you would expect from each offer.

· ECBs expire four weeks after the date they were first issued. Make sure to use them before they expire.

· ECBs are tied to your Extra Care Bucks card. This means that you can only redeem them when using the Extra Care Bucks card used to earn them.

· One last item to remember is that when an Extra Care Bucks promotion requires that you spend a certain amount of money for the reward to print, this total is before coupons.

Another way to get free stuff when you shop CVS is by stacking store and manufacturer coupons as well as by combining a sale with a manufacturer coupon.

There is a right way to hand in your coupons when shopping at CVS: First hand in dollar off transaction coupons (except otherwise stated on the coupon), then manufacturer coupons, then CVS store coupons and finally your Extra Care Bucks. You can use as many ECBs as you have on hand, as low as your total at the register doesn’t dip below $0.00

Snatching up the best deals at CVS is very easy when you take advantage of the online resources provides. Every week, you will find the list of CVS Weekly Deals posted, along with the coupons you need to clip and bring to the store. On this CVS Weekly Deals list, I give you everything that is free, after coupons and Extra Care Bucks promotions, as well as those items that are a great bargain.

Extreme Couponing at Walgreens

Unlike CVS, you do not need a loyalty card to take advantage of any deals at Walgreens. Here are some terms you need to become familiar with before shopping there:

Register Rewards: It’s a coupon for a discount off your next purchase order that prints at check out.

Monthly Coupon Booklet: This is a small coupon booklet that contains Walgreens store coupons. These can generally be found next to the weekly sales circulars.

Instant Value Coupons: or IVCs are Walgreens store coupons that can be found in the monthly coupon booklet or any other Walgreens coupon booklets available.

In-Ad Coupons: These are Walgreens store coupons that can be found in the weekly sales circular.

Fillers: These are small and inexpensive items that are sometimes needed in order to be able to use a register reward on your transaction (read more about how the register treats register rewards below)

Megasaver: It’s a term that denotes items that are on a special sales price for a one month period.

How to Get Free Stuff at Walgreens

The first way to get free stuff at Walgreens is by taking advantage of Register Rewards promotions. These register rewards usually require you to buy an item, pay for the item, and at checkout a coupon (register reward) prints that allows you to save on your next shopping transaction.

Register Rewards Facts:

• You CAN use manufacturer coupons when taking advantage of register rewards promotions. The use of manufacturer coupons will not prevent the register reward from printing.

• Register rewards can not be rolled. This means that you can not use the register rewards you received from purchasing one item to buy more of the same item on a future transaction. If you do this, the second register rewards will not print.

• Register rewards offers are usually one per transaction. For example: If the offer is buy one Bottle of Pantene Shampoo for $4.99 and receive one $4.99 register at checkout, only one $4.99 register rewards will print if you buy two or more. You need to do separate transactions if you want to take advantage of the register rewards offer more than once.

• Register Rewards are manufacturer coupons. This means that they need an item to attach to. This is often referred to as the coupon/item ratio. The coupon/item ratio pertains ONLY to manufacturer coupons and the rule is: You need to have as many items as you have manufacturer coupons. Please note that manufacturer coupons that read “$x off two or more items” are considered two coupons.

• Register Rewards generally expire within 2 weeks, so make sure to use them before before this time period, so you wont lose the money savings they provide.

Another way to get free or cheap stuff is by combining Walgreens store coupons with manufacturer coupons. Even though Walgreens store coupons may be labeled as manufacturer coupons, they are store coupons if their bar code starts with the number “0” instead of the number “5,” which generally precedes the bar code on a manufacturer coupon.

There is a right way to hand in your coupons when shopping at Walgreens: First hand in Walgreens dollar off transaction coupons (except otherwise stated on the coupon), then manufacturer coupons, then Walgreens store coupons and finally your register rewards.

Snatching up the best deals at Walgreens is very easy when you take advantage of the online resources provides. Every week, you will find the list of Walgreens Weekly Deals posted along with the coupons you need to clip and bring to the store. On this Walgreens Weekly Deals list I give you everything that is free after coupons and Register Rewards promotion, as well as those items that are a great bargain.

Extreme Couponing at Rite Aid Rite Aid currently offers two types of loyalty programs to its customers: the Single Check Program and the +UP reward program. To take advantage of the Single Check rewards program, you need to register online or in store. For the +Up rewards program you will need a Wellness + rewards card. You can sign up online or in-store. You will need this card to trigger sale prices and rewards at checkout.

Here are some terms you need to know before shopping at Rite Aid:

Single Check Rebate: This is a rebate system offered by Rite Aid. You buy the eligible items and submit your rebate online. Then you get your money back in the form of a check. You can use coupons on the rebate items you buy to pay less and still get refunded the full amount of the rebate. You can enter several receipts throughout the month. At the end of the month, submit these receipts online and get just one reimbursement check for all of them. • +Up Rewards: Are checkout coupons that print at the bottom of your receipt after you have bought an eligible item. They are store coupons that can be used like cash to buy almost anything in the store (read fine print on the reward for exclusions). You can use as many as you want in a transaction as long as your total doesn’t dip below $0.

Video Values Coupons: These are Rite Aid store coupons. You will need to register for an account and then watch videos to access the coupons. These coupons are updated monthly on Adperk.

In-Ad coupons: are Rite Aid store coupons published in the weekly sales circular.

How to get Free Stuff at Rite Aid

You can get free stuff at Rite Aid when you take advantage of both Single Check Rebate and +UP rewards offers.

+UP Rewards Facts

• You need to buy all eligible items, in one transaction, in order for the +UP reward to print at the bottom of your receipt

• Using manufacturer coupons will not prevent the +UP rewards from printing.

• You can roll +UP rewards and use them to buy more of the same items that trigger a +UP rewards. You can also use them to pay for items that are eligible for Single Check Rebate to lower your out of pocket expense.

• You must fulfill all of the requirements of the +UP reward offer, in one single transaction, in order for it to print at the bottom of your receipt.

Another way to get free stuff at Rite Aid is to combine store coupons (Video Values, In-Ad or sent to you via email) with manufacturer coupons . Although Rite Aid store coupons may be labeled as manufacturer coupons, they ARE store coupons that can be stacked with manufacturer coupons.

Just like at Walgreens or CVS, the best way to hand in coupons at the register is by giving the cashier any dollar off transaction coupons (except otherwise stated on the coupon), then manufacturer coupons, then Rite Aid store coupons and finally your + UP Rewards.

To get the best deals at Rite Aid, stop by every Saturday to get the list of the Best Rite Aid Weekly Deals available. This list has all free items after Single Check, +UP rewards and coupons. You can create your shopping list and clip all the coupons to take to the store with you.

Advanced Couponing Strategies

Besides clipping a coupon and handing it to the cashier at checkout, there are other techniques you can use to save money on your purchases. Here are some advanced money saving strategies:

Double Coupons

There are plenty of stores around the country that still double coupons. A double coupon promotion is sponsored by the store, and it is basically their own way to discount price an item, but only to coupon users.

The store knows that not many people take full advantage of this promotion, but that it is a good incentive to bring people to their stores. Some stores double coupons with a face value of up to 50 cents, other double coupons with a face value up to 99 cents.

Some may limit the number of coupons you can double in one trip and others don’t. The best way to find out the Double Coupon Policy at your local store is by stopping by the service desk and asking. When a coupon is doubled, the store pays for half the value of the discount.

So, for example, when a coupon for 50¢ doubles at the register, and you get a $1 discount total, the store gets 50¢ reimbursed by the manufacturer. The other 50¢ is a promotional expense for the store. Sometimes you will find the following wording on the face of a manufacturer coupon: “Do Not Double or Triple.” This is a manufacturer’s way to remind stores that if they double coupons, they will only reimburse the face value of one coupon.

Stacking Coupons

The only coupons that you can stack are store coupons with manufacturer coupons. You can stack one store coupon with one manufacturer coupon per item. The major drugstores such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens, most grocery stores, and Target allow you to stack coupons.


Overage occurs when the value of a coupon exceeds the value of the item the coupon is intended for. Most stores will let you apply the exceeding value to the rest of your shopping order.

This is a good reason to keep coupons for items that you may not buy generally. They could help create overage that helps lower your out of pocket expense at the register. An important thing to remember is that a store doesn’t lose money by giving you the face value discount of an item, even when the item costs less. The store will get the face value of the coupon reimbursed by the manufacturer, plus a handling fee, regardless of what the price of the item was at the register.

Price Matching

Target and Walmart offer a price match guarantee. Both will match the price of an identical item if a competitor is selling it for less. You will need to bring a ‘print ad’ with you in order to have the item price matched, and the item must be identical to the one sold in store. This is a great way to save time, as you can shop all the sales at one place. But, you need to be aware of all the exclusions at both stores. You can read more about Target’s Price Match Policy here and about Walmart’s Price Match here.

Rain Checks

I love rain checks because they allow you to take advantage of today’s sale price in the future. A rain check is a store note that promises to honor the sale price of an item (if it is out of stock) at a future time. So, if you ever get to your store with your coupons only to find that the shelves are empty, make sure to ask for a rain check. That way, you will be able to get that same low price when the item is restocked. Make sure to ask how long your rain check is good for, as this varies by store.


Mail-in-rebates are a great way to save a lot of money. Most rebates are honored based on the purchasing price of an item. Therefore, if you use coupons and take advantage of a store promotion, a rebate can help you get your items for FREE or possibly even better. You can find a list of current rebates online here.

Debunking Couponing Myths

MYTH: Coupons are for poor people.

FACT: According to Nielsen Online Research “41% of coupon enthusiasts come from household with incomes greater than $70,000. In fact, 35% of those earning $29,000 or less use do not use coupons at all.” The truth is that coupon users are savvy shoppers who like to keep more of their hard earned money in their pockets rather than handing it out to the store.

MYTH: Clipping Coupons is too Timing Consuming

FACT: Not anymore! If you take advantage of the online resources available as I shared with you earlier, most of the work is done for you. You do not even have to hunt for the deals. Use the coupon match ups available online to create your shopping list and only clip those coupons that you need at the store.

MYTH: I can’t find Coupons for the Products I Use

FACT: Chances are pretty good that you can find coupons for many items you regularly use, such as: toilet paper, deodorant, toothpaste, cereal, bread, rice, even eggs and vegetables. Finding the coupons you need may be as easy as flipping through your Sunday Coupon inserts or searching a coupon database. You will find coupons for the items you use, if not the exact brand, then a competing brand.

MYTH: Coupons make you buy things you wouldn’t buy otherwise.

FACT: Only if you let it happen. Your focus should be on getting those items that you regularly buy for less. Use coupons to try new products or give new brands a try when you get them at rock bottom prices. The only reason I would suggest buying something you do not normally use is, if by using a coupon you are getting overage applied to the rest of your purchase.

MYTH: I can save more money by buying generic brands.

FACT: The only way I save more money buying generic is when I have an immediate need for something. For example, my family regularly consumes cream cheese, this is an item that it is very hard to stockpile since we use it so often and it has a short shelf life. Therefore, I save by buying the store brand, that sells for less than the name-brand on a regular basis. However, by taking advantage of the power of stockpiling, you can save more money by buying name brands and using coupons than buying generic.

MYTH: Stores Lose Money when you use a coupon

FACT: Retailers do not lose any money when someone uses a coupon. As long as the retailer submits the coupon for reimbursement, they will get back the face value of the coupon PLUS a handling fee of 8 cents. In addition to this, the store has also generated a sale they may have otherwise have lost. The only way a retailer may lose money is from the use of fraudulent coupons.

Couponing Ethics and Shopping Etiquette

As we have already established, coupons are an invaluable tool for saving money. However, saving money should not compromise anyone’s moral values and create any ethical or etiquette lapses.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you shop using coupons:

1) Photocopying coupons is not OK. Most printable coupons have a unique tracking code. This code is there to help retailers verify the validity of that coupon. The manufacturer also uses this code to reimburse retailers for printable coupons submitted. If you photocopy a coupon, the retailer will not get reimbursed by the manufacturer. This results in a loss to the retailer and makes it less likely they will continue accepting printable coupons in the future.

2) Using a coupon for an item other than what is intended is not OK. Follow the wording on the face of the coupon and use the coupon on the item and sizes specified. Decoding the barcode of a coupon, to find alternate products to buy with the coupon, is going against the wishes of the manufacturer. This leads to the manufacturer issuing less coupons in the future.

3) Use only one manufacturer coupon per item. If the coupon says you must buy two items to use the coupon, then buy two items. Most coupons will beep at the register if you tried to use them on the wrong number of items, so this may only lead to embarrassment at the register.

4) Don’t use expired coupons or cut out expiration dates. Nowadays, most stores do not accept expired coupons. The retailer doesn’t get reimbursed by the manufacturer when they submit expired coupons. Again, this leads to loss to the retailer and less willingness to accept coupons. Also, a lot of coupons beep at the register when you try to use them past their date.

5) Don’t be a Smash and Grabber. Don’t go to the store and buy all the items on the shelf, or don’t grab all the coupons available on a tearpad or blinkie machine or all booklets. EVERYONE wants to save money and take advantage of a great deal or high value coupon. So, be considerate of others. Being a smash and grabber will get you flagged at any store quickly, particularly if you shop at that store often.

6) Be mindful of returns made on items purchased using coupons. Making a valid return on an item you bought using a coupon but turned out to be the wrong item for you is OK. Returning an item you paid for, using a coupon, just to get cash back is frowned upon. It is also the type of behavior that will get you flagged at any store fairly quickly and it is the type of behavior that gives coupon users the label of scammers.

Managing your Stockpile

After you start shopping, strategically using coupons, and taking advantage of store sales, you will soon notice that you are accumulating a stockpile of items. A key thing to keep in mind is to make sure that you are stockpiling items your family will consume before the items expire.

Throwing away an item that you got for free or very cheap is not a wise use of your time or money resources. When deciding what items and how much of them to stockpile, keep in mind the size of your family, the stage in life you are in, and the length of the sales cycle.

A family with small children probably needs to stockpile less food items than a family with teenagers. As you get more familiar with sales cycles at your local store, you will get a better idea of how much to buy at rock bottom prices.

You need to keep your stockpile somewhat organized to make sure you use the items. Disorganized stockpiles lead to buying more of an item you already have but didn’t remember you do. It also leads to spoilage. The first thing you will want to do is dedicate a section in your cupboards or a closet in a room in the house to store your stockpile.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

• When shopping, check expiration dates and purchase the items with the longest expiration date available.

• At home, arrange your purchases by expiration date. Place items that expire the soonest, closest to where you can reach them.

• Get in the habit of going through your stockpile at least once every three months. This will help you spot items that need to be used up soon. Anything that you do not think will get used by the expiration date, put aside and donate.

Managing your stockpile is important. You do not want all of the effort you spend using coupons ending up in the trash can.

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