How to Use Coupons: Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck

how to use couponsIf you are like so many people across the world these days, you are struggling to make ends meet in one way or another. Maybe you skimp on the amount of groceries you buy per week, or you go to the dollar store to purchase most of your cleaning products. Maybe you don’t purchase cleaning products at all! Whatever you need to buy, chances are there’s a coupon out there that will help you get it for a cheaper price. While coupons seem to get a bit of a bad rap, you’d be surprised how much money you can save just by fishing through them. The trick is knowing how to use them; there are a couple of tips and tricks you’ll need to know before heading to the store with an unorganized pile of coupons.

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Where to Find Coupons

You’re standing in line at the grocery store, waiting patiently. All of the sudden, you see the person in front of you pull out a huge wad of coupons. Their total slowly goes down from $75 to $70 to $63, almost like magic. How did they do that?! How can you do the same?! It’s easy to find coupons for all of your basic needs once you know where to look. Do you get your local newspaper? Mine gets delivered to me every week at no charge, and is always filled with tons of coupons for local stores. If you don’t receive a newspaper, coupons are often found in magazines as well as online. If you’re looking for a coupon for something specific, chances are you can search for “coupon for [your desired item here]” and get results. Don’t throw away your receipts! Often you’ll find coupons on the back or at the bottom of your receipts from grocery and drugstores.

The Basics

how to use couponsCoupons can be confusing. You may be looking for coupons for canned vegetables, and find one that says “buy 3 cans, get one $0.50 off” as well as one that says “buy 4 cans, get one free”. Does this mean that if you buy four cans, you can get one free and one $0.50 off? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many manufacturers do not allow “stacking” of coupons, meaning if you have two coupons for the same item directly from the manufacturer, you cannot use both at the same time.

Stacking Coupons

While I just said that you cannot stack two manufacturer coupons in the same purchase, you can stack a manufacturer coupon with a store coupon! Let’s say you’re shopping at Target. You have a manufacturer coupon saying that if you purchase one bottle of your favorite shampoo, you get the second one $1 off. You also have a coupon directly from Target saying that if you purchase one bottle of your favorite shampoo, you get the next one $2 off. Stack them up, bada bing, you now have a second bottle of shampoo for almost nothing!

Using Coupons in the Right Order

how to use couponsIf you’re not aware of the order in which you’re presenting your coupons to the cashier, you may find that one of your coupons ends up being invalid – simply because of the order! While this may seem silly, hear me out. Let’s say you have a store coupon stating that if you spend $50, you get $10 off of your final price. While the full price of all of your items may add up to over $50, let’s say that you use all of your coupons for everything else before you get to this big saver. All of the savings you get from your other coupons may make your total fall under $50, rendering the $10 savings useless. However, if you total up all of your items and then use the $10 off coupon first, you automatically get those savings. You can then use the rest of your coupons to shave off even more money from your total! The only trick: sometimes these $10 off of $50 or $5 off of $25 coupons specifically state that they can only be used after all other coupons are used, so it’s wise to read the fine print before proceeding.

Sales + Coupons

While waiting for your desired item to go on sale may not always be the best plan of action (I wouldn’t put off buying a new tube of toothpaste I have a coupon for just because it isn’t on sale yet), having a coupon for a sale item can actually help you get that item for close to nothing. Let’s say that bottle of Crest toothpaste is on sale for $1.50, and you have a coupon saying that you can get any one Crest item for $1.00 off. If you combine that coupon with the sale, you get that bottle of toothpaste for $0.50!

Understanding Your Coupons

  • One Per ____: This can be tricky. Your coupon may say “one per visit”, “one per purchase”, “one per customer”, “one per transaction”, etc. If you have three coupons for the same item stating you can only use them once per visit, you can only use one of those coupons per visit. If you wanted to use all three, you’d have to return to the same store three separate times. The same rings true for a coupon that states one per transaction, unless you wanted to ring one up, get in line again, and then repeat the process. If you have the same three coupons that all state they can be used once per purchase, you are allowed to buy three of that item and use all three coupons. A ‘transaction’ is everything you buy, a ‘purchase’ is actually considered each separate item that you buy.
  • Buy One Get One: While this seems pretty self-explanatory, sometimes there are stipulations. If you have a coupon stating that you “buy one bottle of soap get one free”, the small print often says that the free item must be of equal or lesser value. In some other cases, the small print may say “price of free item may not exceed $3.50”, or have another specified amount.
  • Photographs on coupons: If a coupon is valid for any item from a particular company, such as any item in a line of hair care products, often the manufacturer will place a picture of the most expensive product in the line. If this is the case, make sure you read the coupon thoroughly! In most cases, the coupon is valid for any product in the line, not only the product shown on the coupon. This can save you from buying a more expensive product than necessary.

Once you learn how to properly read coupons and use them the right way, you’ll be saving money in no time! If you’re looking for more ways to save, Udemy’s course on frugal living will give you tons of helpful pointers.