Introductory Guide to Couponing

In 2010, The Wall Street Journal started delivering coupons inside its weekend edition. The appearance of coupons for everyday items might be a bit unusual in a paper that prides itself on an affluent audience. Effectively, it asks, “Who doesn’t like some value, regardless of their income?

Everybody likes a good deal. Personally, I read the papers too and I appreciate the genuine concerns over the tougher economic times, and that you want to be smart with the way you are spending your money.

A Davis + Henderson report on couponing trends for 2010 showed that the number of coupons in the Canadian marketplace has risen by 32% from 2008 to 2010, with the total number of coupon redeemed in 2010 amounting to 3.3 billion.

While the stats aren’t out yet for 2011 – as a team we try to be leaders in the field of value and deals. Here are some of my personal top tips on how to be extra smart with the way you spend and save using coupons in all their glory.

Tip #1 – Using coupons on top of sale promotions

The title says it all. Try to use your coupons wisely, most coupons come with restrictions, but if they don’t then try to use them in conjunction with sales at stores. Here is a personal example of how I take advantage of this kind of promotion;

La Senza always has AWESOME winter sale promotions for bras and panties. Already discounted on line or in store by 50% I went in to try on some merchandise. In the changing room the sales girl told me that they had a special promotion, after you cash out at the register, they give you a scratch mystery percent off coupon card with a special expiration date. Being a smart shopper, I put the panties back, and took a few bras to the counter. There I got my mystery scratch coupon card, which brought me back into the store a second time during the promotional period to buy the matching panties at an additional 15% off, making the deal 75% off.

Tip #2 – Using 2-4-1 Coupons

2 for one deals and By One Get One Free (BOGOF) deals are everywhere, especially in flyers and in stores. My advice is to not ignore them, especially on items you regularly buy, here is an example;

McDonalds 2-4-1 meal coupons always arrive in my mailbox. McDonalds isn’t exactly the healthiest choice, but being thrifty means you take a good deal when it comes to you. When I was a sales rep, I used to have a colleague in customer service who regularly upsold my accounts with no commission as incentive. She also liked McDonalds, and I would regularly buy lunch as a way to thank her for her help or extra attention she paid to a client for me. As a result, I had an incredibly loyal associate, who often put my interests and clients ahead of other reps, and all for free to boot (obviously I ate my one).

Tip #3 – Scanning newspapers and magazines for coupons

Recently, while waiting for an appointment at the hair salon, I was flipping through a copy of the 2012 March issue of Vogue. I happened to notice Clairol had a coupon for hair colour advertised. Instead of shelling out $100.00 for a colour, I quietly clipped the coupon from the Vogue, got the hair cut and colour consultation, and after went to the drugstore to buy my own hair colour for less than $10.00.

Now this is an extreme example, but generally I find that the coupons in magazines you read are generally targeted at you, so they are normally for products you would ordinarily buy, so why not take advantage of your usual purchases?

Tip #4 – Scanning for digital on line coupons sites before shopping

I have found some of the best bargains from electronics to travel and clothing actually here on our website, Anne does a great job in updating the best offers and I usually have the website open on my phone and check if there is a new offer before going into a store or shopping at their site. Try to find coupon codes from some top Canadian brands, while also staying in the loop with all the online sales and deals. This makes you a savvy shopper.

Tip #5 – Planning ahead for retail shopping trips

When I want to shop for clothing or electronics, I first shop around (street level or online) to determine what I like or need. Resisting impulse, I would go home and think about it overnight to decide if I just have to have the item or not. I find giving a night to sleep on it really keeps impulse buying at bay.

Now, with digital coupons, I can even check online to see what kind of coupons match my shopping objectives.

Tip #6 – Taking inventory before shopping

This is a no brainer for me when it comes to grocery shopping. Matching coupons and planning meals based on what I already have in my cupboards and fridge enables me to save money and control my budget thus allowing me to “save up” for something really decadent later, like a P.O.P. item, or dinner out. I make a list, check the coupon expiration dates, print some promotional coupons and am on my way to stock up.

Tip #7 – Buying in quantity

Conditional coupon offers are designed to increase sales. An example of this would be, “Buy 2 get 1 free. I love these coupons because if I have the resources and a quantity based coupon I like to build up a 3 to 6 month supply, so that I never run out of regular items and have to buy them at full price. Long term planning helps save money and money is what it is all about. This is also known as stockpiling which you can find more about in our article on extreme couponing.

Tip #8 – Alternative distribution and group buying concepts

I am single, and have friends that are students, or on a fixed income. Often times it’s impractical or unaffordable to buy a 3 to 6 month supply to take advantage of a deal based on quantity. My friends and I will spend an evening together cutting out, printing, comparing and organizing our coupons with the intention of sharing the wealth. We agree to pay a divided discounted price amongst us, making a day of it and have a blast shopping for our deals. This has proven to afford us items we might not have considered buying on our own. Then it is back to the house to split up the supply and marvel at how much we saved thanks to our coupons.

Tip #9 – Coupons as Money Makers

I have found that most coupons are for small discounts — a few cents here and there. Some coupons are so generous they can actually become what is called a “money maker.” A money maker is a coupon or combination of discounts that can result in a negative price. They pay me to take their merchandise !!! I’ve found great deals like this at drugstores. Listen, a dollar here a dollar there, it all adds up.

Tip #10 – Passing it on

I love a good deal. I love to tell my friends about a smart purchase I’ve made and like to pass on the savings within my sphere of influence. Whether through email or social media I like to direct traffic via a link to either the coupon site, or website specific so that everyone can take advantage of a great opportunity. This is always a point of leverage because a special deal is always welcome and a really great deal is likely to go viral!!

These are also a lot more ways to save money using coupons, but those are the ones that I think will get you the best value for your money as a start. They are also the base to become an extreme couponer.

Happy savings everyone!

This article was written by Melissa a friend of Vouchercodes. Don’t hesitate to submit to us any article that might be helpful to the community! Thanks.

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