Tips on how to use coupons to get better, cheaper, or free things!
Although I love a great sale and practically make a sport of bargain hunting, my interest in coupons is fairly new. (You can read about one of my first couponing scores HERE.) Before, I used to think that using coupons was bothersome and a waste of time. After a few great couponing buys, however, my opinion on the matter changed dramatically.
Shopping with coupons does take time and care, but I have come to realize that the deals I get with coupons make the effort worthwhile. I once read a blog about saving money, and in regards to the hassle of coupons and hunting down sales, the author said, "just because you are money poor doesn't mean that you are time poor." So true! When I walk out of the store with something for free, or a receipt that shows I saved 50% off of the total after sales and coupons, all of the clipping, organizing, and reading store ads seems well worth the trouble.
Here are just a few of my awesome coupon deals on cosmetics:
Almay Intense I Color Liner-FREE at Target with coupons
Physician's Formula Eye Definer Felt-Tip Eye marker-50 cents at CVS with coupons
L'oreal Creme Eye Shadow Stick-FREE at Dollar Tree with coupons
Wet N Wild Nail Polish-FREE with at CVS with coupons
L'oreal Eyeliners-FREE at Dollar Tree with coupons
While I am not anything close to an extreme couponer, I can give you the basics and some tips to get the most for your money with coupons.
Where to find coupons:
- Redplum Coupon Circulars- these are mailed or hand-delivered to homes in many areas of the US. Do you throw away that little plastic bag with weekly store ads? I always used to, but that's free money!
- Sunday Paper Inserts- If, like me, you are fortunate enough to have a family member who subscribes, you can just grab these. The Sunday paper often contains P&G circulars that have tons of coupons for popular drugstore health and beauty brands. I don't think I would consider buying a paper just for coupons. I personally feel like that defeats the purpose, but many people do it.
- Free samples-Many free samples also come with coupons for the product, which is a win-win!
- Magazines-Occasionally you can find coupons for health and beauty items, or clothing store discount codes in magazines. I never noticed they were there until I began using coupons.
- Paper Coupons Online-There are tons of printable coupons online! I don't use these too much. Printing uses ink and paper, and most of the coupons I find online seem to be the same as those offered in the coupon circulars that I already have. Also, coupon sites usually force you to install coupon software, and I don't like that idea. The only printable coupons I use online are Target..and you will see why later in this post!
- Electronic Coupons Online-Some sites allow you to add coupons to your phone or store loyalty card. I have not gotten into using those yet. But that seems like a better idea than printing coupons.
- On/Inside Products-Some have coupons stuck to the outside, or tucked away in the packaging. These are easy ones, because they find you.
- Coupons that print at the store register after you purchase- These are good because they usually are for items that you purchased and not some random thing.
As you see, there are many ways to find coupons to use. Of course, if you plan to buy a product anyway, and you use a coupon to buy it, obviously you will save more than you would have saved without it. Use these tips though, and your savings will multiply even more...
How to get the most for your money with coupons:
- Combine the coupons with store sales- Look at the weekly store ads and match your coupons to sale products. This requires strategy, forward thinking, and self-control, but is the best way to save with coupons. Most of us go into a store and buy whatever we want or need for whatever price the store asks. But buy the item before you need it, when it is on sale, and use a coupon, and the savings can be amazing!
- Read the store coupon policy- Every store has a different set of rules. You need to know their rules to take the most advantage of available deals.
- Get a store loyalty card- Tons of stores use these to give you savings. Make sure you get one and keep it with you.
- Shop at stores that allow you to "stack" savings or offer store loyalty savings-"Stacking" is coupon-ese for using a manufacturer coupon and store coupon at the same time. Most stores with loyalty points or cash back programs allow manufacturer's coupons with these deals as well. It is like doubling your savings! Not all stores do it. Look for more about how this works in my best places to shop section.
- Some stores double coupons under $1-This is mostly found in grocery stores, but a good thing to know, none-the-less. If you find a store that offers both low prices and double coupons, it is amazing how much you can save!
- Don't be brand-loyal- If you are willing to swap brands, you can save more often. If you are stuck on a certain brand or product, you can still get great deals, you will just have to wait until that specific item goes on sale. If you are more flexible, that opens up more opportunities for bargains.
- Don't rule out pricier brands- Before couponing, I would sometimes buy store brands or less-expensive products to save money on health and beauty items such as razors or makeup remover. Now, I find that with the right sales and coupons, I can usually get the more expensive and higher-quality brands for the same price or less than a full-price store brand. While you might not "save" any money, you add value, and end up with a much nicer product for the same price as the cheap one!
- Keep your coupons with you!- This is the hard part. If you don't have it, or forget you have it, you can't use it.
The Best Places to Shop Using Coupons:
- CVS-I think CVS is my favorite drugstore to shop lately. Their store ads are pretty easy to read and usually list actual prices so you can do the math of how much something would cost with your coupon. CVS has an "ExtraCare" rewards card. When you sign up, you get special printable coupons, offers, and discounts, but most importantly, you get "Extra Care Bucks" for certain items which are like cash vouchers. And, you can use these savings in combination with manufacturer coupons. Sound complicated? Well, for example, I bought the Physician's Formula eyeliner... It was $7.50 full price. CVS had a sale offering $6 in ECB for any Physician's Formula product over $7. I combined that with a $1 off coupon and got the eyeliner for only 50 cents! The bad thing is that the ECB are for your next purchase, you must put out the cash up front and then get refunded. So if you do not go back and redeem the Extra Care Bucks, then you lose out on the deal. Since I shop there all the time, that is not an issue for me.
- Target- Target has their own store coupons (available online or sometimes found in coupon circulars) that can be combined with manufacturer's coupons. That is how I got the Almay eyeliner for free. It's regular price was $4.99 but I had a $3 off Almay coupon, and a $2 off Almay Target coupon=FREE!
- Dollar Tree-Yes,Dollar Tree accepts coupons, too! Their prices are already just $1. So, it is awesome getting an already cheap item for even cheaper. Plus, you never have to wonder how much a product is worth. If you see a coupon for something that Dollar Tree carries, you can easily figure the cost. I get a lot of free cosmetic items there because most drugstore brands like Revlon, Maybelline, etc. offer coupons of a dollar or more. Every now and then Dollar Tree has closeout drug store makeup, like the L'oreal eye shadow and liner pictured. So with the right coupon, you can walk out with makeup or other items for nothing!
- Chain restaurants/Fast food- Many chain places offer coupons, usually BOGO deals for fast food or a certain amount of dollars off of the bill at restaurant chains. I'm not a big fan of fast food, and rarely eat it, but the few times I have this year, I split a BOGO deal with a friend so the two of us ate for the price of one. During the spring, Dunkin Donuts had a special coupon for free iced coffee every Monday in April! And just the other day, I got a Dunkin iced latte with a coupon for just $1.99 instead of $3.70. Free and cheap coffee??? What a sweet deal!
- Shoprite-I didn't really focus on food coupons for this article since my blog is geared towards beauty, but Shoprite has low prices, good sales, fresh products and they double coupons!
So, my fellow barganistas, do you enjoy using coupons or can't be bothered? I'd love to hear about your awesome coupon scores, or great stores for coupons that I missed!