In order to use coupons, you obviously have to have coupons. Well, there are dozens of ways to seek out the coupons you most want and need.
First of all, since many of the suggestions in this post involve signing up for a free membership to a website, I am going to recommend that you get yourself a "junk e-mail" account. Get a free e-mail from Hotmail, Juno, Netzero, or something else that is different from your regular e-mail. This keeps your regular e-mail inbox from getting cluttered with advertisements. Some of the e-mails may be valuable in saving money, and might be worth your time reading when you want to, but you don't want or need this constant barrage interrupting your regular life.
Here is my approach to getting coupons:
Subscribe to your local Sunday newspaper.
- I don't bother with the whole week subscription, as I don't read the paper anyway. My paper offers Saturday and Sunday as it's smallest subscription, so that's what I get.
- If you can find a discounted deal on your subscription from a door-to-door salesman, or by phone, or at stores when they're handing out free papers, you're saving even more money. I consider my payment for the newspaper an investment. If the cost of the paper is less than the value of the coupons it contains, I am money ahead.
- If you have a larger metro area which has a newspaper delivery available (or purchase at a local store), I recommend getting that as well, because often, they will have more coupons in their inserts, and possibly higher value coupons on the same products. When I lived in rural IL, I sometimes was able to find the Chicago Tribune's Sunday paper, which was always a great investment for the coupons it contained.
- Find a schedule online,like the one HERE, which tells you which Sundays will not have any inserts included. Then, get online or on the phone and suspend your paper's subscription for that weekend. You can usually choose to extend the length of your subscription one week longer in this case. I'm grateful to Springsbargains for this tip, as well as for reminders that they put out as those "no inserts" weeks come along.
Visit online printable coupon sources. Here are some major ones:
SmartSource - Type in your zip code; On the page it takes you to, click on "Coupon Gallery"
RedPlum - Click on "Grocery coupons" or "Drugstore coupons"
EatBetterAmerica - (This is also a great recipe source!)
Ask companies for coupons.
- You can go to a product's website and find their contact info, let them know you like their product or would like to try it, and request coupons. Include your mailing address and e-mail address, and they may e-mail or mail you coupons. I did this with Quilted Northern, and they sent me 5 coupons for 50 cents each.
- CouponMom has a list of companies to try here. This could keep you busy for an afternoon, but net several dollars in savings 4-8 weeks from now.
Watch for free sample requests online:
- Often, if you get a free sample by mail, it includes coupons for that product also. Some free samples come in the form of a coupon redeemable for a free item.
- Keeping up with some of the savings blogs mentioned in my previous post will alert you to available free sample.
- Many companies have their own Facebook pages. Often, they'll offer coupons. Brainstorm the products you use, you like, or you want to try. Search for their Facebook page, "like" it, then see if they have printable coupons available. Keeping up with savings blogs, as mentioned above, will also alert you to these Facebook coupons and free samples.
Peelies, Blinkies, Tearpads, In-Store Booklets:
Whenever you're shopping, keep your eyes open for coupons in the store:
- Peelies are stuck to the product. If you're going to buy it, peel it off before putting it in your cart so you don't forget to use it at checkout.
- Blinkies are the ones that come out of "blinkie machines" that usually have one coupon sticking out for you to pull, then it spits another one out.
- Tearpads are usually attached to the shelf near the product it's for.
- In-Store Booklets could be near the entrance, in the produce section, in the dairy section, (in any section, really) or at customer service. These may contain store coupons or manufacturer coupons, or a combination of both.
Store Ads (from your newspaper, or at the store):
Some grocery stores not only have sales, but store coupons as well. Occasionally they will include manufacturer coupons.
Note: If you recognize the difference between store coupons and manufacturer coupons (usually clearly indicated on the coupon) you can sometimes use one of each on the same product, depending on your store's policy. For example, if you have a manufacturer's coupon for 25 cents off a bottle of Heinz ketchup, and your grocery store has a store coupon for $1.00 Heinz ketchup, you very likely can use both coupons and pay only 75 cents for your ketchup. Pay attention to the size requirements, and limits on how many the store allows per coupon.
These are coupons you can "load" to your store's preferred card, and if all works correctly, your savings will be automatically deducted at checkout. It hasn't worked foolproof for me all the time, so I recommend paying attention. I don't often use this because I have had spent a lot of time with customer service to retrieve the savings that didn't automatically come off when it should have, and because I can usually get the same savings more tangibly with a physical coupon. This method may improve, however, with time.
Also, check your grocery store's website for it's own electronic coupons.
All of this can net you a bazillion coupons. You probably don't need that many. The more coupons you have, the more you have to organize. So be choosey. You don't want couponing or saving money to take over your life. I recommend spending a minimal amount of time collecting coupons, and learn to get only what you will really use. Start gradually, and find what works for your lifestyle without letting it become an obsession.
In my next post, I'll talk about how I organize my coupons.
Click here for Part 4 - "How I Organize My Coupons"