Coupon Tips & Tricks
In the below sections, I will explain how to start extreme couponing. These tips and tricks are essential in becoming a successful couponer! In addition, you can watch the youtube videos if you learn by watching better.
Organization is key to being a successful couponer. Find a way you like to be organized. Once you start couponing you may find another organization method that best suites you and your family. Don’t be afraid of change or reorganizing. It is good practice to re-evaluate and reorganize your coupon organization method every six months.
There are several ways to organize your coupons:
- Coupon Binder – I prefer the coupon binder method which requires a lot of time clipping and organizing your binder. There are other methods which require less time but for me and my family it doesn’t work well.
- File Box Method – Other methods include buying a file box and sorting your whole Sunday Coupon Inserts whole and your printable coupons whole. This is a clip-less method but makes your actual trip at the store longer since you will have to cut while you are at the store. This method personally did not work for me because I come across so many in-store specials and clearance deals that coupons match up to and had a hard time finding the coupons I knew existed. If you use this method the Coupon Database will become your best source to help you find your coupons. Bookmark the Coupon Database regardless if you use the clipping method or clip-less method.
- Plastic Box method – Another organization method is using a plastic shoe box and using big index cards to create divisions of categories and filing your coupons away this way.
Whichever method you use or create a new method must meet you and your family needs. Also, some people staple all their like coupons together, stapling coupons while cutting is very nice. I like doing this as well. You need to stay on top of your coupon organization and take out expired coupons to lighten your load. Remember to not throw away your expired coupons, you can mail them to military stationed in foreign countries that can use expired Manufacturer’s Coupons 6 month past the expiration date at Commissaries and Exchanges. I use a binder method for organization. You can go HERE to watch a video of my coupon binder.
General Couponing Tips:
- I suggest getting a subscription to the local Sunday (Weekend) Subscription. This is the only way you are guaranteed coupons. You can email email@example.com for an exclusive multiple Sunday Newspaper subscription that we have available for over 40 cities across the nation.
- Coupon Swaps are a great way to get friends and family together to swap coupons. This helps you build your coupon inventory.
- Reading your coupons is very important. Most times manufacturer’s put a picture of the most expensive or most popular qualified product as the picture on the coupon. Check for size limitations, some coupons will state ANY with no size limitations which means cheap or FREE travel size. Behave ethically when couponing. Couponing is like a game and we must follow rules. Coupon fraud is a Felony, so play by the rules!
- Read this tip about reading the FINE print on manufacturer’s coupon that sometimes might be a Manufacturer’s sponsored coupon valid only at particular stores.
- When reading your coupon, look for key words like Shopping Trip, Transaction, Purchase or Per Person. Shopping Trips are in and out store and different register. Many coupons limit how many coupons you are allowed to use; for example, many coupons state 4 like coupons per Shopping trip per day. This means if I wanted to use 12 coupons but only 2 registers are open I would only be able to use 8 coupons. To use the 8 coupons you would need to check 4 out with one cashier go to your car and drop them off. Go to get the next 4 items and go to a different register to check out. If you wanted to use your last 4 coupons you would have to come back another day. Next, Transaction means the little stick at the register to get different receipts. When the word Purchase appears on a coupon just substitute purchase for item. Per Person is each person in the party. If it is you plus 3 kids than you can use 4 coupons when it states per person. Proctor & Gamble (P&G) coupons state 4 like coupons per Household per day which simply means you can only use 4 like coupons per day.
- Never Copy a coupon it is FRAUD, a Felony, and a punishable crime.
- Sales are cyclical, meaning every 3 months you will see the same sale. No reason to stockpile for years, most things will expire. We are couponers not hoarders! We like deals but know our limitations. Remember most things have expiration dates. Evaluate how much of the one product you will actually use before it expires.
- Check the expiration date on items you are buying. If you are buying several and the expiration expires soon, you might actually be wasting money in the long run. I always check expiration date and think if I am going to use XX many before it expires. In my house, storage is limited so I want to save the little storage for things I actually will use. Yes you can get many things free and many things really cheap, but is it worth clearing a shelf for? I believe in taking what you will use within the expiration date. Also, remember sales have cycles. You don’t need to stockpile for more than 6 months. Happy Shopping
- Shop clearance sections and match clearance items with coupons. I find lots of great deals with clearance section, again watch for expiration dates.
- Evaluate the tax and fees added to each item you purchase, we are about being frugal and tax and fees really start to add up when you buy a lot of one thing.
- Have and iPhone or Android? If so check out this cool app: I love The Key Ring. You can load all your store loyalty cards on it, so you have all your cards on your phone no need to carry them all around. Thanks Melissa! Go HERE to see more Smartphone apps. Also if you have an iphone or iPad and an HP wireless printer – download apps GroceryIQ and Coupons.com to print two coupons from each app for a total of 4 like coupons per devise. If you have a new HP wireless printer you can also download the same apps on the printer and print from your printer!
- I just want to point out if you are a new couponer, if something is a money-maker buy it, I don’t care what it is. Couponers look forward to money makers. Money Makers help reduce the cost of the items you really need to buy. I know when starting out a lot of these money makers are embarrassing. Last year I bought a lot of things I didn’t need included 70 bottles of KY, 50 packs of Trojans, 18 packs of Depends, and many more embarrassing items. Hey they were money makers and I was able to find ways to donate them. There are 2 places that allow Money Makers: Wal-Mart and Commissary.
- If you are just starting couponing, you should expect to save 30% on your first three months couponing. If you save more than 30%, fabulous but don’t expect it. Your 3-6 month period of couponing, you should expect to save 50% on your grocery bill. After 6 months, you should be able to master how to save more than 50% on your grocery bill. After a year of couponing, you should have built your stockpile where throughout the coming grocery trips you are just replacing items you used to maintain your stockpile and also buy the free items and money-maker items. Of course, every month we all need to buy meat and produce which rarely have coupons; however, this is when money makes help out our grocery bill.
- I consider your grocery bill to be all the little places you shop at throughout the month. Remember as a couponer you will have to make several more trips to places to get good deals. Wal-mart and Target price match but they do not price match everything. You should expect to make several trips a week to get good deals. When I refer to grocery bill it is everything grocery related you purchased throughout all your trips.
- If coupons are actually in packaging, you CANNOT take it unless you buy the item. I am seeing in many cases the packages advertising $10 in coupons included, the packages have been opened and the coupons are missing. You must buy the product in this instance. Peelies and tear pad etiquette, take a couple but leave some for others. Don’t take the entire tear pad, that is just RUDE. Be aware that if I see someone take an entire tear pad I will confront them and make a stink about it! It is not right!
- Many Sales Ads have in ad coupons in them. When this occurs some may actually be manufacturer coupons that you can use at other stores. Here are three tips to determine if an in ad coupon can be used at other stores.
- Look for the words manufacturer coupon to be present on the coupon.
- Look for an address for the coupon to be mailed back to.
- Look to see if the terms of the coupon state if the coupon is ONLY redeemable at a certain store. If ONLY appears than you can only use it at that store.
Difference between stacking, doubling and piggy backing.
Stacking Coupons – is when you use a store coupon stacked with a manufacturer coupon. A few stores on island that allow stacking is Whole Foods, Longs Drugs/CVS, Walgreens, Target, Times, Safeway.
Doubling – happens only at Kmart and is when you use a manufacturer coupon off of one item under $1 will be doubled up to $1. Example $.50/1 tide will double to $1. $.75/1 suave deodorant will double to $1. Max is a $1. A $.50/2 (two products, won’t do anything since the coupon is attached to two products. Keep an eye out on the wall and I will post prior to the Sunday that double coupon starts on how double couponing will work since it does vary!
Piggy backing is unethical and a coupon no-no. Piggy backing is often done as a mistake so learn to not do this. Piggy backing is the usage of two manufacturer coupons for 1 item, example using a BOGO coupon with a $1/1. To use both manufacturer coupons you would need to purchase three items. A BOGO coupon is attached to two items so to use the coupon you have to purchase two items.
Regional, Zip Code Specific & General Coupon Tips
I received this email and question a lot! Here is goes —- Why do we not receive Target Insert Coupons or this and that coupon?
- First you need to know is Coupons are a marketing tool. The areas that receive Target coupon inserts, have low Target sales. Meaning there is a lot of competition to Target by other stores in that area. Target is known as an expensive high-end Super Store. These areas that usually receive Target coupon inserts, have at least one store that double coupons in that specific area. A way for Target to drive customers to their store and try to compete with double coupons is by releasing these Target Coupon Inserts. Make sense?
- Why do we receive very little coupons in Hawaii? Coupons is a marketing tool. Hawaii has a lower population than other states. Will a company sell more products if they put their marketing tool in California or Florida versus Hawaii? Probably! This is why we receives less coupons compared to other markets. Plus Florida and California receive a lot of tourists from other states. Yes Hawaii is a huge tourism state but it is a lot of international tourist not just people from the United States. Other countries can’t use our coupons.
- Furthermore when you look at the match ups or in the coupon database and see an R at the end of the source of the coupon, that means it is a Regional coupon. A Regional coupon is coupons that were released in certain markets.
- Regional Coupons – So how do you get these Regional Coupons – if you have friends and relatives on the mainland – ask them to send you the inserts or coupons they are not using. You should never pay for inserts from these so called insert companies that sell Regional Inserts say you are paying for their time to collect and mail the coupons and not paying for the coupons. That is how they make it sounds like they are doing something ok. However, it is not. Coupons are not to be sold according to the law. The coupon inserts companies are basically the same as drug dealers. The logic is that drug dealers could legally claim they don’t charge for the drugs, they only charge for their service to deliver the drugs. In other words, why make the distinction at all if theres really nothing wrong with selling coupons.
- Another way you can get Regional Coupons is that SmartSource and Redplum often release the same Regional coupons as printable coupons online late Saturday night. Hawaii Shopaholics will post when these coupons are available and you will have to print right away. The hot regional coupons usually do not last more than 12 hours! That means once it reaches its marketing budget they will disappear from the internet. You can go HERE to print coupons.
- Next why is their zip code specific coupons on coupons.com. Same reason as mentioned above. The manufacturer has seen a decrease in sales and is trying to boost their sales in a particular market. They will release coupons in that zip code.
- Why can we use them at other stores? Because most of them are manufacturer coupons. This is why you need to play around with the coupons.com zip code. Also, remember if a coupon says manufacturer coupon and states ONLY redeemable at XX or XX Only. The coupon is intended to ONLY be used at the specific store regardless of it stating manufacturer coupon. This usually has to deal with that the specific store is having very low sales of that manufacturers products and the manufacturer is trying to drive business to that specific store or else they may have to pull the item from that stores shelf.
- iPad/iPhone = If using an iPad or iPhone you can download two apps – grocery iq and coupons.com to print 2 coupons from each app for a total of 4 per device. Plus you can go HERE to print an additional 2 for 6 per devise. In the coupons.com app you can change the zip code by going to settings and changing the zip code. This is how you can print more of those zip code specific coupons!! Wondering if you can print from your iPad or iPhone to your printer? If so this is a great resource that tells you what printers are compatible. It needs to be wireless with airprint!
- Android – download app Coupons.com and have a wifi printer you will be able to print 2 coupons per android devise! Plus you can go HERE to print an additional 2 for 4 per devise.
- Redplum printing from MAC/Apple devise go HERE.
Proctor & Gamble recently added new wording on their coupons.
If you pull out your Proctor & Gamble insert from Sunday you will notice the second to last sentence on each coupon now states:
“No cash or credit in excess of shelf price may be returned to consumer or applied to transaction.”
This basically means you should no longer expect overages or money makers from Proctor & Gamble products. You will only get the item for free and the coupon will be price adjusted down to the price of the coupon if the item is less than the coupon value.
I recommend bringing your sales ads with you when price matching and creating a section within your binder/file box to always have all the store sales ads with you. You never know what great deals or coupons you might stumble upon. One thing to note about price matching is every store has its own price matching policy. Price matching is using other stores sales ads to get the same deal at a different store. Not all stores allow price matching but Wal-Mart, Target and the Exchanges do. Price matching can only happen if you find the same advertised deal at the other store. The product must be the same as in size and description. At all stores, you will price match first than use coupons. Wal-Mart’s policy states you can price match at any register as long as it is an advertised sale. Wal-Mart will give you the full value of the coupon, if the price of the product is less than the coupon value. This is how we get money makers which is awesome. This is what every couponer looks for to help offset the cost of dairy, meat and produce items! Target policy states you will need to price match at Guest Service desk and only price match stores with no store loyalty card. The Exchanges will price match as well. It depends on the exchange where you will do a price match at but most Exchanges will allow price matching at any register. Regardless the store, I highly recommend you bringing your sales advertisements with you to make the process of price matching that much easier! Don’t be alarmed if a cashier calls a manager to call to verify the sale. This happens and it is the cashier covering their booty!
Tips to Avoid Issues:***I am hearing so many people having issues with coupons lately. I wanted to highlight a few things you can do to avoid issues. 1. Make sure to know the stores coupon policy. Follow it and have it printed. Go to the home page of our website and read under “Store Breakdown”. I have done a lot of the research for you. 2. Be patient, sound more educated and help educate the cashiers. 3. If you have issues, don’t argue with the cashier. Simply ask for the manager. If the manager sounds uneducated ask them to call corporate. 4. When couponing, especially when starting out, you have to help educate your cashiers. I have the same cashiers at Longs Drugs and Target. They know me when I enter the store and know I am going to use coupons. They trust me because they know I know what I am doing. I never have an issue at those stores because the managers recognize me and so do the cashiers. 5. You need to realize when cashiers actually scan wrong coupons, expired coupons and do something wrong they actually get disciplined. If you are knowingly using wrong coupons, you are stealing. Many cashiers are really cautious probably because they have already been warned and/or written up for accepting wrong coupons. For example, one guy cashier at a store I frequent (The Commissary-Pearl Harbor), has had 2 warnings already and a 3rd warning is a No-No! Every time I go to him with coupons, he immediately calls a manager to verify the coupons so he doesn’t get in trouble. You have to remember there is a back story of why the cashier is opposed to coupons. 6. Be ethical. It is important to play by the rules. Every store has their own rules and on top of that every coupon has its own rules. There is so many people who do not play by the rules and this causes us Real Couponers to get hassle. 7. Do not use expired coupons. I cannot tell you how many times cashiers tell me Thank you for having all non-expired coupons. They always tell me people just throw a stack down and majority of the times don’t have the items and are trying to use expired coupons. I don’t care where you shop, no where in Hawaii accepts expired manufacturer coupons (this includes military stores). 8. You need to profile the cashiers you are going to use. Do they look friendly? Do they look like they have patience? Do they look like they care for their job? Remember these are minimum wage employees, in a lot of cases these cashiers may not work at the store long. You want to look and profile to see if they actually enjoy their job. If so, you probably want to use them as your cashier. I usually try to find the younger guy cashiers first, than the younger girl cashiers and so forth. I personally try to avoid older guys because they are slow. I know this sounds mean but profiling your cashier is important. 9. Don’t be afraid to call corporate if you have issues. If you prefer writing an email you can do that too. Facebook is a great means of communication as well. For example, I had issues at Chili’s Kapolei one time, went onto their Facebook page and left a post of how dissatisfied I was. The next morning I received an email thanking me for the post and also received a free meal to make my experience satisfying. My issue was that I placed a pick up order. Not only was it late, but people who ordered after me received their orders before me. I waited for 15 minutes and when I asked for a drink she charged me for it. I thought since they were late, I should have at least been offered a complimentary drink. Therefore, when something is under your skin, communicate about it through some means. If a store never hears there is an issue, they will never know that something needs to be fixed. 10. My biggest tip, is learn which stores reward you for bringing your own reusable bags. Target does, you have to remind them but it is $.05 per bag they use. The Exchanges do as well and many more. You have to do a lot of research when you begin couponing, but once you know the rules it is easy to play the game. Couponing is indeed a huge game. You should go to the Store Breakdown section to continue to read and learn the rules to different stores:
Coupon Budget Goals:
If you are just starting couponing, you should expect to save 30% on your first three months couponing on your normal monthly grocery budget. If you save more than 30%, fabulous but don’t expect it. Your first 3 months of couponing is the most difficult as it takes time by trial and error to learn your coupon terms and your store terms. You will make mistakes along the way but you will learn from them and improve as you go on! We are human, expect to make a mistake. I have been couponing for awhile and still make mistakes here and there. When someone points it out in my shopping trip pictures or from my receipt. I say thank you and move on. Don’t let it bring you down, they do this with no harm but to help educate. As a community we have to work together and this is how it is done mostly. I know at first I was like mind your own business but honestly a couponer pointing out a mistake is not to embarrass you but to help educate you.
In addition to your goals during your first 3-6 month period of couponing, you should expect to save 50% on your normal grocery budget. After 6 months you should be able to master how to save more than 50% on your grocery bill. After a year of couponing, you should have built your stockpile where throughout the coming grocery trips you are just replacing items you used to maintain your stockpile and also buy the free items and money maker items. Of course, every month we all need to buy meat and produce which rarely have coupons; however, this is when money makes help out our grocery bill.I consider your grocery bill to be all the little places you shop at throughout the month. Remember as a couponer you will have to make several more trips to places to get good deals. Wal-mart and Target price match but they do not price match everything. You should expect to make several trips a week to get good deals. When I refer to grocery bill it is everything grocery related you purchased throughout all your trips that month.
In the same token, every family is different in size to what we consume. So just because a larger family may have a lower budget doesn’t mean yours needs to be. It is based on what you want your budget to be. For my family, we stick to a $100 per person per month. I know a few other families that go lower and a little higher so it is what makes you comfortable. If you want to shoot for a goal shoot for $100. This will be doable at the one year mark of couponing.
Now above I mentioned, stockpiling. Everyone will have a different stockpile. I personally only stockpile 3-6 months on products. Others maybe stockpile for a year or just randomly stockpile. Bring military and knowing that the military does not pack liquids, if we were to ever move, I need to be prepared and a 6 month stockpile is the most I ever want to worry with! If you never have to worry about a move, you do need to be mindful of where you are hosting your stockpile. Like if you have it in the garage, be careful as the heat in Hawaii does age liquid products faster. Like laundry detergent, fabric softeners and more.
Also, remember to watch the youtube videos I made on Couponing in Hawaii!
The book Couponing in Hawaii is still for sale!
If you have questions or comment feel free to comment below!
Good luck shopping. If you have a shopping trip you would like to share please email a picture and description to firstname.lastname@example.org