Whether it’s fond memories of your grandmother clipping coupons or of when your best friend took you to dinner using one of those emailed daily deals, you’ve finally been hooked and want to try couponing yourself. Great! Coupons can be smart tools for trying new products and managing costs, but the world of couponing is wide and complicated. How are you going to begin?
Decide why you want to coupon
First, you need to decide why you want to use coupons. Is it because you want to try new things or spend less? This question is key, because the purpose of most daily deal-style coupons, for example, is to get shoppers to buy new products on impulse that they might not have otherwise purchased. Those types of coupons will actually make you spend more and save less.
Thankfully, other coupons help you to actually spend less by either encouraging you to buy more units now of a product that you would’ve bought anyway or by encouraging you to try alternative competing products that are similar to the product that you normally purchase. Product manufacturers offer shoppers the spend-less coupons in an effort to improve short-term sales and inventory levels or to coax shoppers away from their competitors. Knowing whether you want to win unexpected deals or decrease the costs of your regular purchases will help you determine your coupon strategy and which types of coupons you should use.
Choose the types of coupons you will use
Coupons can be found everywhere from the Sunday paper and circulars in your mailbox to coupon blogs and daily deal services and even to searchable online databases and coupon-finder smart phone apps. The printed coupons and the coupon databases tend to be very useful for finding substitutes or sales for your favorite, regularly-purchased products. Websites like Retail Me Not, Living Rich With Coupons and the Coupon Mom also tend to feature these spend-less coupons regularly. Meanwhile, daily deal services like GroupOn and Living Social—as well as coupon blogs like Money Saving Mom, For the Mommas and Deal Seeking Mom—often post coupons for items that you might not have purchased originally but may enjoy trying.
Pick your coupon strategy
Finally, you need to decide whether you will sit back watching for deals opportunistically or you will aggressively seek savings. If you are the opportunistic coupon tourist that seeks to enjoy new products and experiences cheaply, your first step should involve signing up for deal-finder services like GroupOn and Living Social. Once you’ve registered, each site will send you daily coupons to local businesses—usually restaurants, spas or entertainment venues. If you want to be the more aggressive coupon clipper, we recommend starting with a little research. Focus on learning how your favorite stores’ coupon policies work and then study how you can combine coupons from sites like Coupon Mom and Retail Me Not with the coupons your favorite stores offer through the mail or local newspaper. It’s also best to start small and get comfortable using coupons at just one or two of your favorite stores before you risk being overwhelmed by the variety of coupons and coupon policies available at the many stores around you.
Personally, we’d recommend reading the beginner’s guide and “Important Facts You Should Know Before Using Coupons” available on Cindy Liversey’s Living Rich with Coupons site. We’d also recommend Coupon Mom Stephanie Nelson’s excellent videos on how to get started with coupons. For those of you who want to save money on groceries, she has also produced an excellent article available on her How To Coupon page called “Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with the Coupon Mom System.”
Are you learning to use coupons?
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