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 coupons.com, at smartsource.com, at redplum.com, or coolsavings.com 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.

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