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Kristi's Coupons

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Tips for Using and Trading Coupons

Tips for Using and Trading Coupons

I've had so many people tell me they don't have time to use coupons.  Couponing can take as much or as little time as you want and can be done at your convenience.  Clip coupons or go through ads while you're watching tv or talking on the phone.  I like to sit on the couch on Sunday afternoon and clip coupons while I watch the Chiefs game. You can do as little as cutting coupons from the Sunday paper and looking at the weekly store ad.  You can trade a little or a lot or not at all.  You don't have to trade coupons to use coupons.  Obviously, the more time you spend on it the more you'll save.  A warning, though, bargain hunting can become addictive!  It's hard to pay full price for anything after you've learned how much you can save.

Using Coupons:

  • Where to get coupons:  Sunday papers are the easiest place to get coupons.  Ask your friends and neighbors for extra inserts.  Check recycling bins (if allowed).  Ask your local convenience store if you can pick up their extras.  Check store shelves, magazines, and in or on items your buy for non-SS coupons.
  • One of the first things you should do is learn your stores' coupon policies.  Do they double coupons?  Do they take them past the expiration dates?  Do they limit the number of like coupons? 
  • Get to know your stores.  To begin with, it may be easier to use a notebook to write down the regular prices and best sale prices on items you normally buy.  As you continue trying to get the best price, you'll eventually learn the highest price you're willing to pay for an item and recognize the good sales.
  • Get organized.  Organize your coupons in a way that they're easy for you to find, easy to carry to the store and easy to thumb through. 
  • Get your store's weekly ad and make a list.  It's much easier to sit down with the store ad and match coupon to the sale items at home whenever you have time than to try to flip through the ad and find coupons in the store or to just wander aimlessly through the aisles looking for sales.  The ads usually come in the local newspaper on the day they start (here it's Wednesday).  Go through the ad looking for good sales or things you need to buy that week.    Pull the matching coupon out of your organizer and put it with your list.  Especially when you're just starting, many people find that writing your list on an envelope and putting the coupons that match that list inside is a good way to keep everything together. 
  • Even though you've made your list and pulled the matching coupons, take your other coupons to the store with you, too.  You never know when you'll run into an unadvertised sale or great closeout price.
  • When items are on a buy 1, get 1 free sale you can usually use two coupons (one on each item). 
  • Combine rebates and coupons.  You can use a coupon in the store even if you're sending for a rebate on that item.  The coupon will usually save you enough to cover tax and postage and sometimes even a little extra.
  • Stockpile!  I've had a lot of people tell me they can't afford to stockpile.  Say you need Miracle Whip and are planning on buying it  at it's regular price - about $2.29.  This week it's on sale for $1.50 and you have coupons that will make it .50 a jar.  You can buy 4 of them and still spend less than you were originally planning to.  Not only have you saved money this week, but now you don't have to pay $2.29 for it the next time you need it, either.  And if an item is free with the coupon, buy as many as you can find coupons for.  Yes, you still have to pay tax, but you'd have to pay tax on the full amount if you buy it at regular price, too.
  • Share your savings.  You may not need 30 free toothbrushes, but your local homeless shelter, family crisis center, Red Cross, Ronald McDonald House or many other places do.  This is a great way to help others even when you don't have money to donate.


Using Rebates:
  • Combine coupons with your rebate items (see note above).
  • If you're buying more than one rebate item or need to keep your receipt for some reason (such as possible returns), make sure you get a separate receipt that you can send in.  Most places will not accept a copy of your receipt.
  • Make sure your receipt has all the needed information such as the date and store name.  Circle information as directed on your rebate form.
  • Enclose any required proof of purchase.  The best way to make sure you don't throw away a UPC that you needed is to take it off immediately when you get home and clip it to the matching receipt or rebate form.
  • Note any important dates such as the date the item must be purchased before (and sometimes a date it must be purchased after), the date the form needs to be postmarked and the date by which it needs to be received by the company.  If it says 'postmark by 8/31' and you mail it on 9/1 it will most likely be rejected.
  • Check the fine print for the number of times you can do that particular rebate.  Most are one per person, household or address, but occasionally you're allowed to do them 2 or 3 times.
  • Some stores, such as Walgreens, do monthly rebates.  Follow their directions!  For example, Walgreens will only accept one form per month so don't send it in until you're sure you're not buying any other rebate items that month.
    You can now submit your Walgreens rebate online!  It's amazingly easy and after you have your initial rebate loaded onto a gift card, reloading is really quick. 
    Link to Walgreens online rebate submission

Trading Coupons
Some tips to make your trades fast and easy
  • Ideally, a trade should take no more than 4 emails - 2 from the original sender and 2 from the second person: 
    1. What coupons are wanted and what coupons are being offered in trade
    2.  Confirmation that the coupons wanted are available and what's wanted from the coupons offered in the first email or that they don't want to trade at this time.
    3.  An email stating that the trade is okay along with your complete mailing address or an email stating that you don't want to trade at this time.
    4.  The mailing address of the second person.
  • Be specific about the coupons you're requesting.  Include amounts and expiration dates.  Many times there are different coupons for the same item.  If possible, copy and paste the entire line from the list into your email.
  • Try to make the trade worth the postage for both of you.  It doesn't make much sense to request .50 worth of coupons and pay .37 for postage.   Many traders prefer to trade a minimum number of coupons (usually 10 or so) or a minimum dollar amount (usually $5 or so).
  • Check trading guidelines on trading sites or in posts. Things differ from trader to trader.  For example, some traders accept paypal while others don't and some require 1-4-1 trades. 
  • Learn to use Notepad (or WordPad or a similar program).  It's quite handy for copying coupons from lists that can then be copied into an email.  You can also type a list of the coupons you have and save it on your computer (this is a lot of work the first time you do it, but easier after that).  You can open it up and glance at what you have available (usually much easier than sorting through your coupons).  You can also copy any or all coupons from the list into an email or forum post to let others know what you have for trade.
  • Be prompt with both emails and sending your end of the trade.  Many times the other person is wanting these coupons for a sale so they need to get there quickly.  When a trade has been decided on, you should send it in the next outgoing mail unless you've worked out something with the other person.  If for some reason you can't email or mail quickly, let the other person know so they have the option of cancelling the trade or so they know when to expect to receive it.
  • Let the other person know of any restrictions on a coupon such as if it can only be used at certain stores or in certain states.  Always specify if a coupon is internet printed as many areas won't take them. 
  • Don't assume that if the person asked for .50/1 coupons that $1/2 will work just as well.  Ask first!   If their store doubles or triples they may be looking for a specific amount.  Or if they're using the coupon for a rebate item, they may be not want to buy two.  But do offer the coupon.  They may have requested a specific amount because they didn't know the coupon was available in other amounts.
  • A lot of traders include extras (more coupons than you requested) in trades.  This isn't a requirement. If you sent what you agreed to send, you've fulfilled your end of the trade.  (In case you're wondering, I always send extras unless it will require an additional stamp.)
  • Have fun!!