Money Saving Tips

How to Use Coupons – 12 Simple Steps

How to Use Coupons - 12 Simple Steps
Written by Oana Schneider

If you know someone who’s an avid coupon user, you might have given the person a stash of magazines or newspapers to double the coupon collection. Since you’re not using the coupons yourself, you might be wondering how they actually work.

Why do retailers offer them in the first place? And what are the ways for you to maximize your savings if you do get started on using coupons? That is exactly what we will learn more about here.

Why Do Retailers Offer Coupons in the First Place?

Let’s have a quick look at what coupons are and why retailers offer them to consumers in the first place. As you may already know, coupons are small pieces of paper that pretty much work like cash when used in grocery stores, drugstores and supermarkets.

If you have a coupon that says you get $1 off when buying a one-gallon container of a specific brand of shampoo, that is exactly what the cashier will do – take one dollar off of your total check-out bill.

There was a time when store managers even doubled the value of coupons, although that’s getting rarer these days. What’s more common now is the use of online coupons or discount vouchers which are taken off the Internet.

Whether you are using the actual or online coupons, what’s important is that you are saving money while using them. Now, when seen from the perspective of the retailer, what do they actually get from printing coupons and offering them to consumers? Take a look at the following list:

To grab the attention of their target market

When seen from an overall perspective, couponing is something that benefits both the consumer and the retailer. From the end of the consumer, they do get discounts instead of paying full price for a product that they usually buy, anyway. From a retailer’s point of view, they can use coupons to easily grab the attention of their target market. The more popular their coupons become, the more impactful their promotional campaign would be.

In fact, according to the Food Marketing Institute, the average supermarket carried almost 39,000 brands in 2010. Out of these tens of thousands of brands, how can brand A be set apart from brands B, C, D, E, etc.? Through coupons, retailers can set themselves apart from the rest which will in turn increase present and future sales.

To promote a new product

Consumers are typically loyal to a brand that they’ve enjoyed using for the past years. If you are a retailer who’s considered as a new player in the market, you need to do something to entice loyal buyers to switch brands. Coupons are a way to do exactly that. When you offer huge savings for trying out your product, consumers will think twice about buying something for twice the price, for example, even if they are loyal to that brand.

To earn the trust and loyalty of customers

How to Use Coupons - 12 Simple Steps

Just because you are offering coupons does not mean that people will continue buying your products even if it is sub-par with the competition. By offering both good quality, a fair price and earning continued trust and loyalty through coupons, you can hit the nail in the head.

To get repeat business

When drafting out the Terms and Conditions for the use of your coupons, you need to do it in such a way that you will get repeat business. For instance, there are some coupons that are designed to be used on the buyer’s next visit to the store. This automatically gives you repeat business. Most retailers work with supermarket chains and store owners when offering coupons that have a purpose of getting the repeat business of customers.

To collate their efforts in marketing

Finally, targeting their marketing efforts is one of the main reasons why retailers and manufacturers offer coupons. Loyalty cards, gift cards and similar promos are used to maximize a brand’s or a product’s marketing efforts. Retailers are definitely missing out on a lot of they fail to use coupons as part of their overall marketing scheme. Collecting coupons may involve a lot of hard work behind the scenes but if you’d like to earn customer loyalty and promote your product, this is the way to go.

Ways to Maximize Your Savings When Using Coupons

Now that you already have an idea about why retailers and manufacturers offer coupons in the first place, remember that there are two kinds that you can use.

First are the store coupons which can be used in-store only. Second, there are the manufacturer-issued coupons which can be used for all products made by a specific manufacturer – at partner stores.

No matter which of these two coupons you end up using, what are the ways for you to maximize your savings through them? Here’s a quick list:

Use coupons to slash a huge percentage off your monthly grocery bills

There’s a reality TV show called Extreme Couponing that shows how people can pay just a few dollars out of thousands of dollars worth of purchases, simply by using coupons. You don’t really have to go to such extremes to take full advantage of the benefits of couponing – but they will save you a lot on grocery bills.

The trick is to use the coupon just for the items that you usually buy in the first place. However, you should also be quite adventurous in trying new brands out because new players in the industry are usually the ones who offer bigger discounts on their products.

Buy national brands instead of generic when buying from supermarkets

In-store or supermarket brands may be cheaper but the problem is that they do not have the resources to advertise their products. As such, if you want to use coupons to save money, you would find them being offered by the bigger players which are the national brands.

The shoppers who can maximize the benefits of coupons are those who are not loyal to one brand

Unfortunately for retailers, 7 out of 10 people are found to be loyal to their local stores, chains or product brands. If you want to use coupons to save money, you should not fall under the category of a loyal consumer. You should be adventurous enough to try out new brands, because the new players are usually the ones who offer the lowest rates in order to entice customers to try them out.

Even if you’re used to buying a certain brand of detergent and you buy it even if it’s not on sale, you might be missing out on great deals if you refuse to try out an entirely different brand.

There are available coupons, even for unprocessed food items

One misconception that buyers have about coupons is that they can only be used on processed or canned food items. Although this is true, there are stores which offer coupons that can be used for fresh produce and even meat. The reason? They’d like you to try out the cheese at their deli section or entice you into buying their other meat products displayed at the part of the store where you can buy fresh produce.

You can take a rain check when using a coupon for a product that’s out of stock

How to Use Coupons - 12 Simple Steps

  • If you brought coupons with the intention of buying a dozen items and it turns out to be out of stock, you can actually ask the store manager to give you a rain check. This means that once the product goes back on stock on the shelves, you will be given the discounted rate indicated on the coupon.
  • It pays to browse the supermarket aisles while shopping.
    By now, you might already be aware of the tricks that supermarket owners use to entice you into buying more from the supermarket. The products that are at eye level are usually the biggest-priced items. When you go down one or two aisles, you will find similar products of different brands which come at a lower price. Even if you do have a stash of coupons to use, you should still take the time to browse the aisles so that you can get the lowest possible price for the items you plan to buy.
  • Get your coupons online to maximize your savings as a buyer.
    Lastly, know that it pays to get your coupons online so that you can maximize your savings as a buyer. There are sites that offer you great discounts for items that you can physically buy from stores, or from items which are sold online. Some websites that you can check out are Coupons.com, WD.com, CouponQueen.com and SmartSource.com. On retailer sites like Amazon, Best Buy or Walmart, you can look for vouchers online for specific products, or check out the free shipping and other perks that the stores offer to maximize the discounts that you can get.  

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

16 Comments

  • Taking advantage of coupons especially if something is out of stock and taking the subsequent rain check is a great way to “stock up” when there’s a sale. In this way, you’re able to extend the sale price to a time that’s convenient for you.

    Additionally, for certain products that you know you will need in larger amounts (think toilet paper, cooking oil and other consumables) a larger bulk buy may be beneficial when coupons arise. Just make sure that you don’t defer too long and end up suffering while waiting for the next coupon to come out.

    • Surprisingly enough, a lot of retailers are putting an end to rain checks. You can get them at most grocery stores, but plenty of drug stores and general department stores are doing away with them. Rain checks are becoming a rarity, and retailers that do offer them tend to place plenty of restrictions on them.

      • I haven’t noticed that in my area to any real extent. I think I’ve encountered a few clothing retailers that have stopped issuing them, but this is usually for some end of season sales or combined offers that are pretty unique. The average sale still has rain checks if they don’t have the right size, colour, etc.

  • On the flip side, it’s important to avoid using coupons that don’t take enough off the price tag on a given item when cheaper alternatives are available without a coupon. Far too many people use coupons, thinking they’re saving money, only to wind up spending more trying to choose coupon-only products.

    • In the same vein, if you’re spending a significant amount of time looking around for coupons, you might be better off just skipping it and spending that time doing something else productive. Sometimes the time spent winds up costing you more than simply paying full price – spending an hour to save $2 is not a very good time investment unless your time is worth less than $2 to you.

  • I hate to admit this but, I didn’t know about rain checks. I’d never heard of them before other than just a phrase people said to one another. I wish I’d known this years ago! I also wasn’t aware that there even was such a thing as coupons for meat and deli items. I just always figured I had to shop the sales more carefully if I ever wanted to save on these items. I inquired about them today at my local grocery store and they had some on hand for customers just waiting to be passed out on request. I couldn’t believe it. So don’t be afraid to ask. You never know what deals you might find.

    • Rain checks are helpful when they’re available, but you might not necessarily want the product in question, or the savings might not be enough to offset the lower costs of a comparable generic item. It just depends really, but you’re right about never being afraid to ask. Sometimes, store employees will know of a few options you have for saving money on any given shopping trip that you wouldn’t know about without asking them!

  • Couponing is honestly one of the best skills that I ever learned. I save my family several hundred a month on our grocery bills. Honestly I don’t know if we would be able to make ends meet if I wasn’t so keen on doing this. It can be a bit time consuming and it does take a bit of practice – but it is definitely worth it.

    • Several hundred a month in savings? You must have an enormous family as we’re barely spending several hundred a month on groceries and supplies period. Do you clip coupons from your local paper or is it a lot of online flyers?

      I’d love to be able to increase savings via coupons, but it just seem like there’s THAT much to be had.

      • I know of larger families that spend thousands per month on groceries, and then I know families of equal size that spend far less. It’s all about a family’s overall consumption, which can vary greatly, and their brand preferences. I know people that can save over $100 on their monthly grocery bills when there’s only two people in the household. It all depends, really.

  • Couponing has never been easier. Now, there are even websites that dedicate themselves to finding coupon codes and to save you as much money as possible. That being said, I never really thought about using coupons to buy name brands. I always kind of assumed that generic will even be cheaper than name brand with coupon combined. I guess it’s time to try it out!

    • I’d be a little wary about those coupon sites as there are many out there that prey on unsuspecting people by sending you through referral links and other nonsense only to wind up not having a coupon at all. This is especially true of online retailers where the code in question may have expired months ago, but is still listed as working.

      Basically, be careful where you end up and whether or not it’s really worthwhile to potentially expose yourself.

    • Definitely stick to the larger couponing websites, such as Coupons.com, AllYou, and a handful of others. Walmart and Target both list coupons online available for printing at home. There are definitely scammy websites out there, and you’ll want to stay as far away from them as possible. One scam could set you back hundreds of dollars if you wind up somehow giving away financial information related to yourself.

  • I love couponing and I must admit that it has led me to try several new brands or items that I wouldn’t normally buy. You have only really saved money if you are actually going to use the goods you’ve bought though.

  • If you plan to coupon, you have to remember to be open to trying different brands – sometimes generic brands are more expensive than using manufacturer and store coupons on a national brand item.

  • I remember about a year ago I watched a few episodes of Extreme Couponing, like you mentioned. Also did research on the extreme coupon strategy. There was a website that matched up local ads with not-yet-expired coupons from several sources. That was the easiest way for me. I found another site that allowed me to order like 10 copies of Sunday inserts going back a month or two. When there was a deal at my store where something ended up being free or a few cents I’d go and stock up like 10 of that item. It was almost entertainment!

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