Coupons can save you hundreds of dollars each year, if not more. So why is it that so many people choose not to use them? Maybe it’s that they don’t consider them worth the trouble, or have had bad experiences with using coupons in the past. It could be that people just don’t know where to look to find good coupons, or they don’t understand how to get the most out of the coupons they do find.
Whatever the reason, not using coupons or using them inefficiently can cost you a lot of money over the course of time, so here are some hints and tips that can enable you to use them as effectively as possible.
1. Don’t lose sight of the goal
Just because you have a coupon for a particular product doesn’t mean you have to use it. Remember, the goal is to save, not to spend. Sometimes people are so caught up in coupon use that they buy things they don’t need just to use the coupon and end up spending money on products they don’t need or won’t use.
2. Beware of name brands
You’ll find plenty of coupons out there for discounts on branded products. You’ll quickly find that in many cases though, even with a coupon, name brands are still more expensive than the generic or store brand of similar ingredients. However, you can also find coupons to name brand stores. It’s a good idea to compare prices among similar products and stores even when using coupons.
3. Coupons vs. taxes
For some, county taxes are a minor factor of their daily life. However, county tax rates can be in the double figures where you live but just several miles away it could be significantly lower. In a situation such as this, it makes more sense to use your coupons (especially large purchase or storewide coupons) at stores in the neighboring county in order to increase your savings.
4. Try asking
Many of us assume that if we have a store coupon, we can only use it at that particular store. However, competitors might be willing to honor that coupon if you ask. Rather than driving across town to use your coupons, ask if a closer store will honor them. If they do, it can save you time, effort, and money.
5. Don’t overdo
Having too many coupons can lead to disorganization and eventual lack of use because it’s too time consuming to search through the clutter when it’s time to head to the store. Try only to clip coupons you’re sure you’ll use in order to keep you coupon pile a reasonable size and easy to use.
6. Oldies but goodies
In this modern, high-tech age, the old ways are still viable options when it comes to saving money. A coupon from the Sunday paper or out of a coupon packet in the mail can work just as well as one printed from the internet. While the internet can be a great source of coupons, keep your eye open when reading the paper, checking the mail, or flipping through magazines. You never know what you’ll stumble upon.
7. Expiration dates
Just because a coupon has expired doesn’t mean you can’t try to use it. Especially at restaurants or stores that don’t scan their coupons, you might be able to slip one by the accepting service person if they aren’t paying attention.
8. Minimum purchase restriction
Watch out for this one because I bet it has happened to you when trying to use a coupon. You get in line at the store or sit down at a restaurant, excited to use your buy one get one free coupon, only to have the cashier or server notify you that you haven’t met the minimum purchase price to validate the coupon. This is the point when you mentally kick yourself and swear you’ll never make this mistake again.
9. Payment method restriction
My wife and I have a credit card through a large discount store. When we hit a certain point level, we receive a coupon for a 10% store discount – that is if we pay for our purchases with that same store credit card. We can’t pay with gift cards, cash, check, or other credit cards. However, as long as we pay off the balance on the card immediately, using the coupon works in our favor.
10. Fight the system
While restrictions can be troublesome, sometimes there are ways around them. If there is a minimum purchase price on coupons at the grocery store, consider stocking up on items that are on sale, will keep for a while, and that you know you’ll use like tissue, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.
About the author
Kris is a freelance writer for an credit card comparison website specializing in 0 balance transfer credit cards that help consumers save money by paying less interest. You can also subscribe to their blog, The Credit Letter.