Where to find coupons

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.
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 in a futile attempt to get you in the supermarket.
And on to the little paper treasures.

 

Newspapers

 

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 SmartSource 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.

 

Magazines

 

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.

 

Catalinas

 

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 on 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 Catalinas 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 Catalinas 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 Catalinas other customers have left behind. So many people refuse them, so once again, I reap the rewards. Literally.

 

Packaging

 

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.

 

Mail

 

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 neighbor’s 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.

 

Years ago, almost every single coupon available was in the newspaper. Well, newspapers are closing all over the place, and that includes the coupon inserts. The internet has taken over. Here are the ways to get deals, coupons, and rebates online and with your smartphone.

Load to card coupons

Before I go any further with electronic savings, I am going to assume everyone here has their local store loyalty card. or even more than one. It’s a good thing to go ahead and get cards for each of the stores in your area, even those you don’t go to that often. That way, when you do end up unexpectedly going, you have a card to get the store deals. Many stores have sales which are only available to those with a loyalty card.

In addition to sales, most stores use their cards for exclusive “load to card” coupons. Giant’s program is called MyGiant and Safeway has just4u. Once the store knows what kinds of products you buy, it wants you to continue and the competitors want you to try their brand instead. It’s kind of like catalinas. You just need to log onto the store’s website or app and register your store card. Then you can go to the coupon section and click on the deals you want. The discounts will be taken off at the cash register. What makes these discounts especially great is that the discount is completely automatic, meaning you can use paper coupons (both manufacturer and store) in addition to these deals. Also, I have noticed lately, at least in giant’s case, that the “load to card” deals are often for products that have coupons available on coupons.com. That makes it easy to save big.

Don’t forget, many rebate and points programs can and will use your store card to keep track of point earnings. Since you can often register more than one card with each site, it is another reason to get cards from any store you might possibly use. You will earn points without even trying.

Also, a lot of grocery stores use the cards to participate in some sort of gasoline rewards programs. With your groceries, you might get so many cents off a gallon.  Special deals might get you extra points, so if you get a lot of points, wait until your tank is almost empty to fill and get the most use of that deal.

Websites

The first thing you need to do in getting online coupons is to go to your favorite free email program and make yourself a new email. Yahoo, Gmail, whatever, it doesn’t matter. Make yourself an email address that you will only use for couponing and deal making. Use your name or initials and the word coupons if you want something easy to remember, or just make anything up, it really doesn’t matter. That way, you can sign up for coupons, newsletters, samples, and sweepstakes and your real email inbox is kept clutter free, just check this one when you have some time.

Now that you have a magical couponing email, it’s time to create a magical couponing Facebook page. Use the email to create a couponing Facebook. don’t use it to like your friends or even link it to your regular one. Just use it to like products. Check your news feed for this one once in a while. Sometimes a product will offer a printable coupon to the people who like them, or even a free sample of a new product.

Now you want to hit those coupon websites. The most famous and oldest of these is coupons.com. There’s also smartsource.com. Just click the ones you want, make sure your printer is on, and hit print. Viola, coupons galore.

When you first “click clip” these and hit print, it will prompt you to download a program. Provided you are on the sites listed, it is perfectly safe. (never download a program from an email, no matter what the deal the subject line promises) The program will add a mark to prevent photocopying and keep track of how many coupons you print. Most sites have a limit. For instance, coupons.com only allows 2 prints per computer. Let me stress, each computer has the limit. People often have access to more than one computer. Ask your friends or the co-worker next to you if you can borrow his computer for a minute or two.

Now, don’t forget to check the manufacturer’s websites. Here again, your couponing email will come in handy, since a lot of them require you to sign up for a newsletter. But, they will also allow you access to exclusive coupons for specific products. If the company has released a new product or even simply a new flavor, you might find more coupons than usual since the company wants you to try it.

Blogs

Many people coupon, and many of them blog about it. Obviously you know this, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

There are many other blogs, and the great thing about these is that not only can you enjoy learning about coupons but you also can find out about deals that you may not know about. You can socialize with other couponers and learn new money saving tricks.  You also can find coupon databases. Databases make it easy to search to see if there’s a coupon for a particular product. They will tell you if one is available and where you will find it. There are so many couponing and thrift blogs, look around and find ones that most appeal to you.

Apps

Whether android or iphone, if you type coupons into an app store search bar, you will get a lot of results. My personal favorites include Ibotta, Saving Star, Retailmenot and Checkout51. There are many more available, and you may like others better. Some, like Target Cartwheel or Walmart Savings Catcher are store specific, but most are not. A lot of them work similarly.  with some you search for a store or product and it will pop up a barcode for the cashier to scan or (if shopping online) a promo code to type in the box at checkout, but many work in a “rebate” way.

The greatest thing about these rebate apps is that they are  completely separately from paper, or even load to card coupons. They are rebates, and you get them even if you got them item free with coupons. Most stores nowadays won’t let you get money back with coupons, but if it’s free and you use a rebate app on top of that, it’s still getting something for nothing.  This is the most common way to “get paid” to take something out of the store.

With a rebate app, you select the product you want before you buy it, either during your  shopping trip planning, or while at the store before you get to the register.  After you get home you prove to the app you actually bought the item, usually by taking a picture of your receipt. When the rebate clears, it is added to your account. When you want to cash out, you can either receive a paper check, or allow the money to be deposited in a PayPal account.

Points programs

It’s not just grocery stores that have loyalty cards anymore. Restaurants, coffee shops, and other places have them too. If you go the same place often for a breakfast bagel and coffee, see if they have a points card. Starbucks and Caribou do, and many others as well. My couponing group meetups are often at Panera bread, so you bet I signed up for their rewards, and have already gotten several free sandwiches.

Always look for points programs, Plenti covers many different retailers to combine points, pet lovers have Purina perks, there is Similac strong moms for new moms, and many others. I love Kellogg’s family rewards. you get points for what you were going to buy anyway, and can get some cool stuff to cash in the points for. Why waste it?

On my last birthday, I had a ball getting free stuff. A pancake breakfast at IHOP, ice cream at Baskin Robbins, a free cookie from a place in the mall, hot chocolate at Starbucks,  A&W root beer, pretzel, ….I just realized why I gained a couple pounds on my birthday. Oh, well. the point is, if a place offers a birthday club, it doesn’t hurt to sign up. just use your couponing email, and make sure to check it more often during your birthday month.

If you’re couponing, you probably like getting stuff for free. Use your couponing email to sign up for sites like freebies.com, freebiefrenzy.com etc. These sites will let you know what samples or promotional giveaways are available. Besides samples, I’ve gotten promotional items like a tote bag, mugs, mouse pads, sewing kit and more. A lot of these sites also list current sweepstakes. This is why you have that couponing email, go ahead and enter, you have nothing to lose.

 

 

 

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