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Using Coupons to Save Money
In September 2012, MSN.com reported on a PhD student that paid all but $1,000 of a semester’s tuition using coupons and rebates. The student, Jonathan Hood, spent a lot of time looking for deals on the Internet. Most of us can’t spend that much time looking for deals, but there are still ways to get discounts using coupons when it comes time to buy things we want and need.
The Sunday Paper
The most obvious source of coupons is the Sunday paper. Coupon booklets are included almost every week. In addition to the manufacturer coupons which can be used at every store, individual grocery stores and other shops, like Best Buy and Target, also include booklets with deals and coupons. Even if you don’t need the products that day, if it’s for something that won’t go bad, you might want to buy it anyway. For example, coupons for cat litter, light bulbs, or cleaning supplies are “must haves” that can be put in a pantry or garage until they’re needed.
Another source for coupons is flyers that come in the mail. Many people toss their junk mail the minute they see it, but they may be throwing away their money, too. Some of the junk mail is pointless or unnecessary, but often fast food restaurants or even sit-down restaurants like Denny’s include coupons in their flyers. You may even get coupons for other items, like Payless shoes or supplies from Party City.
You can also find coupons online through websites like coupons.com and smartsource.com. In those cases, you go online, click on the coupons you want, and print them out at home. Some stores may not want to honor the online coupons if they worry about them being fraudulent, so if you get online coupons, make sure that they are from reliable websites.
While you’re online, you can check out other great sources. Facebook is a coupon-lover’s dream. Look for your favorite stores and manufacturers and “Like” them. They often offer coupons through their Facebook page for their fans. It can be anything from free shipping to coupons for free meals or discounts on products. In some cases, when a new product is coming out, the Facebook page may even offer free samples.
Online Coupon-Collecting Groups
There are also coupon-collecting groups, such as Mojosavings and WomanFreebies. They have Facebook pages but also have websites where they are constantly posting up coupons and other free deals that you can take advantage of. You have to be quick – often quantities are limited. Not checking the websites for a day can result in missing out. Additionally, there is Freecycle, is a nationwide group that has local chapters that allow members to give items away. Coupon-hungry members post requests for coupons that show up in the Sunday paper or have been delivered in the mail, and other members also offer coupons that they aren’t using.
Other ways to find deals online include using services like uPromise, Ebates, or Shop at Home. Each website allows members to shop at participating companies. The websites may have coupons, but the real perk is that a percentage of the final purchase price is returned to the purchaser, like rebates and refunds but in the form of a check or PayPal payment.
Many grocery stores also have coupon printers at the register. The coupons are generally related to brands you’ve bought or items you’ve purchased in the past. In many cases, the coupons are for the store brand of name-brand items that you buy. If you’re willing to give them a shot, they’re willing to cut you a deal.
If you belong to AAA, don’t forget that your card can get you discounts. Many stores offer discounts for showing the card, like a coupon you can carry anywhere and anytime. You can also use it to get free coupons. Some Tanger Outlets have coupon books that can be purchased for $5, but AAA members get a free coupon book at customer service for showing their card.
Frequent Buyer Cards
Of course, for those who prefer the brick and mortar stores, there are other options. Frequent buyer cards allow stores to track your purchases and give coupons or discounts based on how much you’ve spent. For example, having a registered Starbucks card means that you can save up for free coffee or food. Some grocery stores and drug stores like Kroger and CVS use membership cards that allow you to get sales prices by presenting the card at the time of check out. Many office supply stores, like Staples, allow you to get special deals that give you rebates in the mail for your purchases without having to fill out any special form.
Do you use coupons?
If you don’t mind credit cards, coupons are a benefit for having store cards. Lane Bryant, for example, gives “points” for every purchase and issues a “check” good for anything in the store, including clearance items that can’t use normal coupons. Other department stores take it further. Kohl’s offers card holders the chance to “scratch off” a card and save on each purchase they make using their store credit card.
How to Stack Coupons
Then there are mash-ups of technology and brick and mortar. Apps like Foursquare and Shopkick let you “check in” and see if there are any coupons available on your phone. Tanger Outlets has their own app that lets you “check in” and find coupons available at that location.
Regardless of how you save with coupons, saving with them is a great idea. You might remember the movie Mr. Mom and Michael Keaton’s coupon-poker that he played with the women in the neighborhood. We may have moved beyond that with all our technology, but there’s something about coupon swapping and savings that still appeals to all of us looking for a deal.