So now we've covered a basic on why coupons are good. If used wisely, they save us money! We like money, we especially like keeping money in our pockets. Which means we need coupons. So the next question becomes, Where Do I Get Them?
The Three Main Coupon Sources
There are three main coupon sources. Two of them cost a small fee (but in perspective, are worth it) and the third is completely free! So where can you get them?
The Newspaper. I call this the "throwback" or retro way! You buy a Sunday newspaper (or get a subscription) and inside you will get coupon inserts! Coupon inserts are literally pages and pages of coupons for you to cut out. They are (mostly) for food, household items, personal care, and vitamins. A few other coupons will show up from time to time, but 90% of coupons fall into these 4 categories. While the newspaper will cost you anywhere from $0.50 (what I pay for my Sunday only subscription, per paper) to $2.50 (the major papers if you buy them at a newspaper stand or convenience store), if you use your coupons regularly, you'll save more money with coupons than you paid for the newspaper. Generally, there are $60 to $100 worth of coupons in a Sunday paper. Even if you don't use every coupon (and I never do) if I use 3 or 4 to save $5 or $10, I've certainly gotten my money back!
The Internet. Yup, the Internet is a GREAT place to get coupons. There are now whole websites devoted to giving you coupons to print out and take to the store. If you look to the sidebar on the right, you'll see an advertisement for Coupons.com. This is one coupon site. The way Coupons.com works (and most others online) is that you will download a small program on your computer (it doesn't hurt your computer, it simply tracks the number of times you've printed a coupon and connects your printer directly to the coupons you are printing). Then you go to their site and select which coupons you want to print. Once you're done, simply click "PRINT" (or something similar) and off they go directly to your printer! The biggest thing with this is that these companies limit the number of coupons printed to 2 per computer (maybe IP address. Nobody is 100% sure except the companies and they aren't sharing!) *FULL DISCLOSURE-The sidebar was provided to me by Coupons.com and I do make some money if you click on it. If you prefer, you can go straight to their website, www.coupons.com and print off the same coupons and it skips me.*
Another great way to get coupons on the Internet is to go directly to the manufacturer's website. Many times the manufacturer's provide coupons directly on their site as a promotion for you to go buy their stuff! While I'm not constantly running to a manufacturer's site (with the exception of Pillsbury) if I'm not finding coupons available in other places, or if a very good coupon is suggested by different deals sites, then I will certainly check them out.
For example, today I noticed certain supplements on sale at CVS this week. None of the deal sites had coupons listed for them, but I went to the manufacturer's site and found they had $3/2 coupons.
This also works well if you buy something that rarely goes on sale or has coupons. I prefer a certain depilatory cream for shaving. It almost never goes on sale and the only place I can find coupons is on their site, so when it's time for me to buy it, I stop by their site first to help cut down my cost.
Now, printing coupons online does cost money. It costs you an Internet connection, ink and paper. You may say "Hello! This is really expensive!" And up until last week, I would have agreed with you. But last week I spent $60 in ink. No, I'm not kidding. I also saved over $30 last week from coupons I got online. And I barely used any ink. Nope, I'm not kidding. The cost seems great, but when you compare how much you save with the coupons, it's totally worth it!!!
The Grocery Store. Yup, Your grocery store is a GREAT place to get coupons!
Ever walk through the grocery store and notice those little boxes sticking out of the shelves? Those are called Blinkies (because when they first showed up, they had red blinking lights) and they have coupons for the stuff right by the Blinkie. Depending on the brand, the coupon in a Blinkie may or may not be more valuable than one you can get in your paper or online, so always check and compare if you see a Blinkie near something you were going to buy anyway. Beautiful G loves Blinkies because she knows they have coupons and always grabs a bunch to give me.
Another great place to get coupons in the grocery store are the big food displays. Manufacturer's will provide grocery stores with the displays as a way to promote their product. Many times, these displays will include a coupon you can use. Many times I find that this coupon is more valuable than one I find in the newspaper or online.
Next stop, check what you're buying! As an "instant discount" some manufacturers will include a coupon right on the package! I've found them on refrigerated rolls (Pillsbury loves to give coupons, BTW. They are EVERYWHERE!), flour, relish, cheese, trash bags, cleaning supplies and more. Again, these aren't always as good as the coupon you may already have, so if not, save it for another time you need the product. I have both a flour and a trash bag coupon right now because it was worth it for me to save for a rainy day.
Final spot to check for coupons in the store: The little booklet the stores provide. For example, right now Vons has a "Joy of Football" booklet available. It has lots of coupons in it. Some of the coupons are for Vons (and it's family of stores) only. Others are manufacturer's coupons that I can use anywhere. I find that many times these are also more valuable coupons than I can get in the newspaper or online. While the store ones are nice (because at most stores you can combine a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon, getting 2 discounts on one item) I love the manufacturer's coupons from these because I can take it to another store that might have a better sale on the item. Check for booklets at the front of the store, usually near the stand that holds this week's ad.
A Few More Ways to Get Coupons
There are a couple more ways to get coupons beyond the big three. Well they work, it's kinda iffy in my mind, so take that when you read these.
Friends and Family. If you have friends and family who get the Sunday paper but don't use the coupons, see if you may have them. My mom keeps her coupons and gives them to me, since she doesn't coupon much. (THANKS MOM! *She reads here and is my biggest fan!*) In turn, I try to clue her in on good deals she may want to take advantage of or pick up something for her if it's an awesome deal and she can't get to the store. I also give her pet coupons, since she has cats on a special diet while I don't have any pets at all. The big downside to this is if something happens, you may not get the coupons or you may not get them in time for the awesome deal unless you make a special effort for it.
Trading Online/Coupon Trains. There are sites out there, like A Full Cup, which allow you to trade coupons with other couponers. They give you a platform to get rid of the excess coupons you don't use in exchange for getting coupons you can use. Personally, I've never had much luck with getting coupons directly. I have sent out coupons as a gift to a few members without a problem, though. With this, you are dealing with the U.S. Mail, whom I love but can be unreliable, and people whom you've never met before who may also be unreliable. There is a system in place at most sites to help keep problems like this in check, but be forewarned it's possible.
Another option for many trading sites is a chance to sign up for a coupon train. A coupon train is when a group of couponers (generally across the US) get together and mail each other coupons every week. It's another way to get rid of your excess coupons in exchange for getting coupons you can use. It works by having person A send coupons to B, who sends coupons to C, who sends coupons to D, who sends coupons to A. Each person should get an envelope full of coupons every week while sending out coupons every week. Part of what makes it work is you are getting coupons from different parts of the country that may not have shown up in your newspaper (some coupons are regional). Some people love coupon trains. I'm so-so on them. I did a coupon train for awhile and found that of the 40 I got every week, I was able to use maybe 3 to 5. I also found myself spending a lot more time cutting, saving and storing coupons I'd never use so I could send them to someone else either this week or next. Plus, again, you're on the whims of the Post Office and people you've never met before. It was something I'm glad I tried, but I'm not ready to do again.
Buying Coupons. Yes, you can buy coupons. Well, technically you are paying someone for the service of cutting the coupon and sending it to you. There are many coupon clipping services available and you can purchase coupons on places like A Full Cup and Ebay.
I have used a coupon clipping service and I wasn't impressed. The selection wasn't great, but it was probably just the company I used. I've also used Ebay several times and have been much happier. There is usually a much bigger selection (simply search for the coupon you want, like "Huggies coupons" and you'll get hits).
The biggest problem with buying coupons is that it can get quite expensive. I went to Ebay recently to buy a coupon that we didn't get locally but was perfect for a deal at CVS and found that a pack of 10 (usually they are sold in groups of 10 or 20 and it's hard to get smaller quantities) was selling for over $10, plus shipping. For this $13-15 I was getting $22.50 in coupons, but it was for only one brand and I didn't need all 10. Also, it's another Post Office/People issue, although the people issue is less here because the sellers want to keep a good reputation. Generally, these services are my last resort.
So Go Get Them
Coupons are all over the place, if you start looking. The big thing is to keep your eyes open and grab them when you can. You never know when you'll find a valuable coupon that can save you a lot of money on your next grocery bill!
Watch for Part 3, The anatomy of a coupon!
This post is part of an ongoing series. Check out the rest of the series: