I am known for my uncanny ability to save money, so here is my first blog teaching you how to do so. One of the best ways I have found to not spend a lot is through couponing. For some unknown reason, there seems to be a stigma attached to this practice. When people think of couponing, the first thought that comes to mind is that of a boring old woman who stays at home all day, clipping out of magazines in order to conserve every last penny. However, this stereotype is completely inaccurate. Exciting, fun, and easy, couponing can be done by anyone through a variety of mediums. It is no longer just considered a hobby, but often a lifestyle-one that has helped many an individual in dire financial straits stay afloat.
A coupon is a general term for the voucher that enables you to decrease your purchase price. When it comes to specific circumstances, however, there are many different types of coupons that can be used. One such kind is a grocery coupon. Even that category can be broken down further, for they can be issued by either manufacturers or by stores. The difference between these types is reflected by where the coupons can be used: manufacturers’ are issued by the specific brand for its goods and can therefore be used in any shop, while stores’ are also for specific goods, but valid only in that particular shop. (For example, a coupon I find for $1 off orange juice issued by Tropicana can be used in all supermarkets; the same type of voucher issued by Shoprite can only be redeemed in a Shoprite store.) The practical difference between the two kinds is that the manufacturers’ is issued with the intent to attract customers in every store to buy their brand, while stores use it as a loss leader-they are willing to lose a bit of profit on one product so as to entice shoppers into their store and buy more, especially now that they have saved elsewhere.
Another type of coupon is a retail clothing store coupon. Food is a necessity and will always be purchased, no matter the price; clothing shopping, on the other hand, is considered a leisurely activity and consumers might show more restraint depending on the prices. Retailers have different approaches to issuing coupons and if you want to never pay full price, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with their policies. For example, Kohl’s almost always has a 15% off coupon online that you can print. Do not be fooled into thinking that you must take advantage of their “special” of $10 off every $50 you spend; unless you were previously planning on revamping your wardrobe and therefore spending a lot, this coupon is only there to trick customers into spending far more than they intended, in order to get what they perceive to be a good deal. Other retail stores that frequently issue coupons are Macy’s and Lord and Taylor. People are often hesitant to shop at Lord and Taylor because it promotes itself as a high class and expensive shop that is unaffordable to the masses; in reality, if you use their coupons at the right time, you can get phenomenal deals there.
I put the last major type of coupon under the broad category of miscellaneous. There are coupons that can be redeemed for random services, ranging from discounts on haircuts to $10 off oil checks. There are also vouchers issued by local stores, such as pizzerias. Ever wonder why they have a deal like “Tasty Tuesday” or “Wacky Wednesday” which offers a pizza pie at half price on those particular days? The reason is because in general, these days are the least busy days. Wanting to still generate revenue, the stores are willing to cut the price so as to attract customers who might not otherwise have wanted to have pizza that day. In fact, that is the main principle behind issuing coupons: to entice buyers to spend, specifically targeting those who otherwise would not have done so.
In order to attract these customers, companies put coupons in a variety of places. Nowadays, with the prevalence of the Internet and smartphones, one has even more options than a decade ago as to where to look. There are the classic resources, such as in newspapers and magazines; the former has retailers coupons in the special inserts, such as Smart Source and Redplum, and store coupons in the actual paper, while the latter-especially ones published by cities and counties-has coupons for local stores. The Internet, however, is by far the most invaluable resource. Unlike old-fashioned couponing, where the coupon comes to you, tech-age couponing enables you to seek out a coupon you want for a specific good or store. Internet couponing goes way farther than a simple Google search. You could visit a company website, check its Facebook page, or get emails for new promotions directly from it. In all of these ways, you can get special deals that are not advertised elsewhere. If you want to take advantage of technological deals while avoiding the paper clutter, you may opt to receive text updates about the deals. Do not worry about being bombarded by texts: once in a while, you receive a text deal. You simply show it to the cashier, who applies the discount code as if it is a tangible coupon. A final place to get coupons that is relatively unknown is from your transactions. You know how sometimes the cashier gives you something in addition to your receipt? Catalinas are special coupons that print next to your receipt; they represent special deals that you won’t find anywhere else. Getting a catalina is contingent upon buying a certain, often arbitrarily chosen item. You could easily be qualified to receive a catalina without realizing it! (For example, if you happened to buy a Glade product, you could get a catalina that is valid for $5 off your next Johnson & Johnson purchase.)
To use coupons most efficiently, it is imperative that you know their respective policies in addition to the most auspicious time to redeem them. First and foremost, you must heed the expiration date; once the date has passed, the coupon is completely worthless. To me, not using a coupon for a good that you planned to buy is tantamount to throwing money down the drain. Another important thing to note about coupons is that often the potential savings can exceed the value listed. Stores have unique policies that can increase, double, or, in rare circumstances, triple the value of your coupon. For example, my local Shoprite will double up to a dollar- meaning that $0.20 off is now $0.40 off, $0.75 off is now $1 off. Pathmark, on the other hand, fully doubles coupon values.
Getting the best deal on an item does not only require knowing how the coupons work, but also when to use them. To maximize savings, you must use coupons when a store has a sale or, better yet, a clearance sale. In that way, you can reduce already lowered prices in order to pay the least possible amount. This is where knowing coupon policies comes in handy: while it might be tempting to use coupons in stores that truly double, it might be more financially worthwhile to use them in combination with a sale.
Stocking up when you can buy a good for dirt-cheap is also a good idea. Serious couponers are notorious for their stockpiles Of course, it is necessary to show some restraint by not being gluttonous. On the television show Extreme Couponers, there is an episode where, having found a way to get Aleve for free, a shopper clears the shelves entirely. In economics, there is a constant debate between efficiency and equality. While I will not delve into those issues here, I do find it morally reprehensible to take all of the medication and leave none for others who might be sick, simply because “Why not? It’s free”.
Couponing is a great way to save money. I can personally attest to the rush you get when, instead of paying full price, you pay next to nothing. While stealing is illegal, using coupons is perfectly allowed; I often say couponing is the legal form of stealing! I have heard many an excuse, ranging from logical (inconvenient to find them) to entirely absurd (they takes up too much space), as to why people refuse to use coupons. Yes, I acknowledge the fact that for some items, such as eggs, coupons are impossible to find because there is a constant demand from consumers. But if you are careful to use them for other things, I guarantee you will start accumulating immense savings!
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