Today, I’m going back to some couponing basics. One of the first major things every couponer wants to know. “Where &*$%# do you find all those coupons?” The short answer is, well, everywhere. I know, you were probably looking for something more specific than that. So here are the main ways that you can get printed paper coupons. Of course, you can get even more coupons online and I will go over these in my next post. (Hence, the part one of my title, I promise not to pull a Mel Brooks on you)
The first thing you need to know about coupons is that they are part of any company or manufacturer’s advertising budget. Therefore, when the budget restarts, look for more coupons to come out since they have that allotted money right off. More coupons will come out around the beginning of the fiscal quarter with a HUGE haul at the end of the year. There won’t be as many coupons right before a major holiday though. Manufacturers’ are guessing you will be using the holiday deals to shop for larger household items and they don’t want to waste budget money on a futile attempt to get you in the supermarket.
And on to the little paper treasures.
While newspapers used to be the mainstay of all couponers, that is no longer the case. But it’s always best to start at the beginning.
Just about everyone knows about the Sunday inserts. Many papers even advertise how many coupons are in Sunday’s paper in the upper corner. The two main companies that put out the inserts are SmartSouce and RedPlum. Once a month, Proctor and Gamble will put out an additional insert. Sometimes each company will put out more than one in a week. On any given week, the number of inserts will vary from none to six.
Papers themselves can be pricey, especially if you’re buying more than one for the coupons. Some Dollar Tree stores carry either the current or the previous weeks Sunday papers. If you are only getting the paper for the coupons, this is a great deal. And don’t forget to check out your local free paper. The Fairfax County Times in my neighborhood often carries the weekly coupon inserts.
A quick warning: When buying the Sunday paper, check the plastic wrapping around the inserts, if it’s torn open, make sure the coupons are still in there. Couponers who resort to illegal and rude methods of getting coupons are rare, but they are out there.
Women’s magazines are a great coupon resource depending on what their focus is. Magazines like Real Simple or Good Housekeeping often have many coupons for household products. Fashion magazines will have coupons for beauty and grooming supplies. All You, which used to be the WalMart store magazine, has expanded and usually carries a wide variety of coupons. Once in a while I will come across a good coupon in a magazine at a doctor’s office waiting room. I’ve never been told no by a receptionist when I ask if I can clip it. Always ask though. And don’t forget about store magazines.
Grocery Fliers and Magazines
Besides letting you know what’s on sale, usually a flier will have additional coupons. Some of them might be for a one or two day “flash” sale or for extra points on a gasoline program.
Many stores also have a monthly store magazine. For instance, Giant has one called Savory and Wegman’s is called Menu. They are free and located near the front. These will have coupons for not only name brands, but some store brands as well. And since some of them will be store coupons, you can combine them with manufacturers to stack deals. (More on this later) As a side note, the magazines also have some nice cooking advice and recipes.
Blinkies and Tearpads
Blinkies are the little dispenser machines on the shelf right next to the product it’s for with the tiny flashing red light. There are also Tearpads which are the notepad coupons also near the products. Now, just because the coupon is there, doesn’t mean you have to buy it right away. It’s there now to tempt you to buy now. The expiration dates usually aren’t right away. Grab a few now and wait until later when the product is on sale to buy it.
Don’t be snobby about coupons. One day Klondike was on sale and I already had a store coupon, but when I got there, there was a Blinkie shining on some one dollar offs. A woman walking past put a box in her cart. I (always sharing the couponing love) called after her “Miss, there’s a coupon here for that!” She turned to me and replied “No thank you, I don’t use coupons”. I have to admit I was a little confused since she was already buying it and they were right there, and I was stunned by her attitude, so she walked away and paid 3.50 for her box and I got some ice cream goodies for 50 cents.
These are the coupons printed out with your receipt. Never forget them. They are usually high value and connected with what you just bought. On occasion they might even be for a general discount over your next shopping purchase.
It may sound bad, but I always glance over at the self-checkouts on my way out of the store . If no one is standing there, I grab any catalina’s left behind. I don’t know why people leave them, it’s like leaving money. So many people don’t know how cool couponing can be.
Once, I went into a store and saw an empty and closed self-checkout with catalina’s coming out of the machine down to the floor. Well, I grabbed them. One of them was for 5 dollars off my next purchase courtesy of Campbell’s soup as a reward for buying 10 cans. I don’t even usually buy that product, but someone did, and they got me 5 bucks off my purchase that day. Thanks mystery soup person.
And here is why manners always matter. I am always trying to be the southern lady I am and be polite, kind and charming. (Wow, I can hear my friends laughing hysterically from this side of the computer) I know sometimes it doesn’t work out, but I try. Now since I mainly shop at the same store, the cashiers know me and will save me the catalina’s other customer’s leave behind. So many people refuse them, so once again, I reap the rewards. Literally.
You see a lot of labels that say save one dollar now, details inside. They don’t lie, there is a coupon tucked in there somewhere. Sometimes there is one even when one isn’t advertised on the outside. I recently tore open a box of Luigi’s Italian Ice to put in the recycling. Written on one of the cardboard sides was a coupon for fifty cents off my next box. (And it will double) It had no expiration date. Seriously, the coupon says does not expire. That’s pretty rare these days. Once a type of female product was on sale for 1.50 each. Tucked into each box was a 75 cent coupon which the store would double As the cashier scanned one, I opened one flap and grabbed the coupon for her to scan for the next box, and so on.
If you have a store loyalty card, your store will be sending you store coupons in the mail. This is also where you will get your local coupons from Valpak, Money Mailer or other local coupons. This is your main source of non-grocery coupons. Many restaurants, local entertainment venues, home improvement and repair stores, and even dentists and lawyers advertise with coupons in Valpak.
Friends and Family
If you want to get multiple copies of the same coupon inserts, you have to ask for them.
Look around for coupon swapping clubs you can trade with. Meetup.com might have some listings. If you can’t find one, start one. It’s a great way to socialize as well as get more coupons. Grocery stores have community bulletin boards, so put one up looking for clubs. And let me do a shameless plug here. If you live in Fairfax County in Virginia, or you are willing to drive, check out meetup.com and look up the Centreville Clippers. Come on by for a meeting, I promise not to bite.
Let your friends and colleagues know about your couponer status. My friends save their coupons for me, and I often come into work or even back from lunch to find coupons sitting on my chair.
If you are near me in the DC area, we have a huge advantage. Coupon inserts differ by area, especially states. So when you live in an area (like here) where another state can be across the street, you might have co-workers from other states (or districts) to beg coupons from. Also, any long distance family might be willing to mail you their coupons. Some areas of the country don’t allow stores to double coupons, so those areas might have higher value coupons. If you have family in those areas, ask them for their extras.
Where NOT to get coupons
Dumpster diving? Really? Those pristine clean ones you see on TV? Yeah, nope. The cake is a lie. Most bins get covered in slime and the papers are half decomposed within hours. There are a lot less dangerous and (let’s face it) more sanitary ways to get a few coupons. No need to risk infection. Not to mention a ticket from the cops, since it’s usually illegal.
Speaking of illegal, NEVER steal your neighbors newspaper or mail.
Never buy coupons. This is very illegal. Never use “clipping services”. That’s just a way to get around buying coupons. Either way you are risking receiving what looks like great coupons but were actually printed in Photoshop or something. Using one of these is theft of goods.
By the way, don’t try to snip the expiration date off or photocopy any coupons. The barcodes are there for a reason and the machine senses all.
As I said at the beginning newspapers are no longer the flying flag of coupons. Nowadays, everything’s on the internet. My next post will be about finding coupons and rebates all over the web.