Coupons 101

What is a COUPON? It is not JUST a piece of paper.

Beginner Coupon Users: Well, the first thing you need to know when you start using coupons is what exactly they are! There are actually different types of coupons. The most common type of coupon is a manufacturers coupon. These coupons are put out by companies in order to promote their product. You can find manufacturers coupons in the Sunday paper, in the grocery store, in magazines and printable ones online. You can use a manufacturers coupon at ANY store that accepts coupons.

One thing to note about couponing, stores get reimbursed by the manufacturer for coupons that customers use. The store also receives a handling fee. So, the store does not lose money when coupons are redeemed.

Stores also sometimes put out their own coupon. A few stores that regularly have their own coupons are Target, CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Food Lion. Store coupons can be found online, in the snail mail, in the store and in the circulars.

A coupon will always have some sort of barcode on it. Most likely, they will also have an expiration date. It is illegal to copy a coupon. You can only use one manufacturers coupon per item you are purchasing. When a coupon is for a free item, usually the maximum value will be listed somewhere in fine print. These are the basic facts about a coupon!

Intermediate Coupon Users: Did you know that you can stack coupons? No I don’t mean in a pile! Coupon stacking is combining a manufacturers coupon with a store coupon. This is a legitimate thing to do. Look at it this way, the manufacturers coupon is the product makes promotion and the store coupon is the stores promotion. I do this quite frequently at CVS. Here is an example: Buy 2 bottles of Pantene Shampoo which are on sale for 2/$7. I then used a CVS coupon (which printed out when I scanned my card at the red box) $3 off any two hair products. Then I gave the manufacturers coupon for $3 off of two products. Total after coupons: $1. BUT, this deal is even nicer since $2 in Extra Care Buck’s (ECB’s) printed out! ECB’s are like CVS money good on your next purchase. So, after all of that I got two free shampoos and actually made $1 in ECB’s! To review more on CVS, go over to the store policies page on our blog.

Remember, when you stack coupons, always give the store coupon before the manufacturers coupon. This is especially true when you are using money off coupons.

Advanced Coupon Users: Okay experts, did you know that there is a way to tell if a manufacturers coupon will double even if it says “Do Not Double”? The very first number on the barcode to the left is the key. If the barcode starts with a 5, it should double no problem automatically when scanned. If the barcode starts with a 9, you are out of luck! Many blinkie (coupons found in machines at stores) start with the number 9.Do you see the 9 above (the very first one)? This coupon will not automatically double.

Now I have to say, it does depend on the cashier. Most of the time cashiers scan without reading the coupon. All they are focused on is if the coupon scans without beeping. However, I have had one cashier (yes, only one in my long time of coupon using!) pull out all of the “Do Not Doubles” so they would not automatically double. I just want to warn you that this could happen, but it is unlikely.

Where do you get COUPONS?

Let’s discuss where you can get coupons. After all, coupons are like money! Did you know that coupons are not just available in the Sunday Paper? They are found in a multitude of places.

In Stores: When you are walking down the store isles, keep an eye out for coupons. Many stores have little machines that produce coupons called “blinkies”. I do NOT recommend emptying the machine. However, taking a couple for future use is acceptable. Stores also have tear pads of coupons. In drug stores, look near the pharmacy or at the checkout counter. Also look in the refrigerated drink section.

From Samples: I love registering for samples! The best part about samples is that more often than not, the sample will come with a high dollar amount coupon.

From Packages: Do you look inside a package before you throw it away? You should! Some companies put coupons on the inside of a box, on the instruction pamphlet or loose within the product. I recently found a coupon on the back of a yogurt lid (yeah kind of gross, but it washed up nicely!). How about on the outside of the box? Have you ever noticed some products have “peelies” coupons you can peel off and use instantly at the checkout?

Online: You can print coupons online. These are called Internet printable coupons. Although there is some controversy over these coupons, most stores do take them now. NEVER copy a coupon. This is fraud and one of the biggest reasons stores are leery of the Internet printable coupons. You can print coupons from our sidebar at, at, at, or to name a few. Tip: to print a coupon twice, hit the browsers back button once the coupon is sent to your printer. Refresh the page and hit print again.

Sign up for Newsletters: Many companies offer e-mail newsletters. I sign up for these since they will often offer promotions and occasional coupons. Assign yourself an e-mail account just for promotions, coupons and freebies so your regular inbox is not overloaded.

In Magazines: There are many magazines that have coupons in them. I am addicted to coupons, so the first thing I do when I get a new magazine is flip through quickly to look for coupons! While waiting at Jiffy Lube recently, I started flipping through their old magazines in the waiting area. There were a ton of coupons no one ever bothered with! Yes, I know I have a coupon addiction problem! One of the best magazines to get coupons from is called All Youwhich is only available at Wal-mart or through subscription.

Electronic Coupons: See our post HERE on how to register your store savings cards. Also, some store cards can be loaded with e-coupons form shortcuts or cellfire. Kroger is our local store that offers e-coupons.

Please share...Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest0Share on Yummly0Share on Google+1Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Tumblr0Buffer this page
Subscribe to RealAdviceGal Weekly newsletter


  1. rhonda says

    how do you get this week’s (10/17) pillsbury biscuits for free at Kroger? if the price is $1 per item and the coupon is doubled at 50cents/2 wouldn’t that make it 50 cents each can? can you combine cellfire coupons w/ manufacturers coupons?

  2. says

    This was a really useful chat about coupon use so thanks for that.

    I certainly had never previously thought of coupon use in terms of ‘advanced strategies’, so it was certainly a big eye opener for me.

    Will also have to keep my eyes open for ‘Blinkies’ as well because I must have been blinking when they were around, because I haven’t spotted them!

    Are they in most supermarkets?

  3. Melissa Ives says

    Do you know what papers carry the most coupons? We get our local newspaper, but we usually only have the one insert- even when there are others that I know are out for certain weeks, wondering if I need to be buying a national paper?

  4. alisha nelson says

    i signed up for the cellfire coupons or electronic coupons that put krogers coupons on my kroger card and they do not double them …luckily i had a paper coupon and used that instead

  5. katherine says

    have you guys heard of ?? i havent tried printing coupons from their site, but my friends say they have awesome deals.. any one here tried?

  6. kim adams says

    i am ready to be coupon savvy now thank you so much because I really didn’t know about the barcodes and doubling coupons which could have saved me alot of money. Atleast I can start now. thank you very much

  7. says

    My New Years Resolution was to take your Couponing 101 and learn all I could about Couponing! I plan to save my family as much moola as possible this year and from now on! Thank You so much for sharing!

  8. Chelsea L says

    Great article for those learning to coupon! The hint to whether a coupon will double or not was very interesting!

  9. says

    This was a great article. It reminded me of some of the things I already knew and also made me aware of things I didn’t know.
    I didn’t know that when you are stacking coupons you should always give the store coupon before the manufacturers coupon. This is especially true when you are using money off coupons.

  10. Melanie Ivie says

    I have a friend that does alot of couponing, she has a blog also. It’s fun to read up on it since I haven’t read her blog since she hasn’t updated for a little while now.

  11. says

    I love getting new tips on couponing. I am learning more and more. I loved the new tip about knowing if a coupon will double or not. Wow! Thanks for all your hard work and finding out this wonderful information.

  12. Robin says

    Thanks for pointing out the info on how to figure out of a coupon will double automatically, that is a great tool to have. Also, I’m curious, I know that printed coupons are usually excepted but I had an incident where the cashier put aside a couple of coupons mumbling something about copies. Is there a rule about printing coupons, as I had printed them in black and white because I was at the time having trouble with my printer, but should they be printed in color to ensure they don’t look like copies? At the time I was new with coupons so I didn’t question the cashier and I just took back my coupons but I want to make sure that any coupons I print will be allowed in the future.

    • says


      There is no requirement I’m aware of that coupons be printed in color. I have always printed my coupons in black and white and have had no issues. In the future, I would suggest asking for the manager if the cashier questions your black and white coupons.

      Mary @ MadameDeals

  13. Adrienne Hayes says

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful tips and your knowledge. I was so clueless and now at least I know a few things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *