FTC Disclosure:

I am not paid or compensated in any way to write product reviews posted to this blog. There are affiliate links posted throughout this blog. So, when you click through on links and buy something, I may receive a commission. I pay for the products with my own funds. Product reviews always reflect my own experience with and honest opinion of the product as a consumer.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Basics of Coupons: What are They and Where do you Find Them?

Companies issue billions of dollars worth of coupons annually, yet a very small percentage of the U.S. population takes advantage of this money saving tool. Manufacturers of products issue coupons in order to entice consumers into purchasing their products. Retailers issue coupons in order to get people interested in shopping at their stores. So, coupons are really a form of product advertisement meant to attract and retain customers.

Many consumers overlook the tremendous money saving value in coupons for various reasons. There is a myriad of misconceptions about coupons such as, “Coupons are messy and time consuming” or “Using coupons don’t reduce your grocery bill that much”. This frame of thought is untrue in many ways. Also, some people don’t use coupons because they just don’t understand them and don’t know where to start. Hopefully, I will be able to shed a little light on the subject.

Coupons come in different varieties and range in face value, that is the amount of money that the product purchase is reduced by, after redeeming the coupon. I have seen coupons for as little as $.15, some for as much as $20.00, as well as coupons that are buy one get one free, and coupons for totally free items. There is no limit to the type of offers manufacturers and retailers present through coupons.

I talked a little about face values of coupons. Now let’s go into the different types of coupons that are available. Here are the main types that you will most likely encounter:

Manufacturer coupons: Just as the name suggests, these are issued directly from the companies that manufacture the product advertised on the coupon.

Store coupons: These are coupons that are not issued by manufacturers, but rather they are issued by retailers of products. Store coupons are only intended for use at the retailer that issued them. Examples of retailers that are known to issue store coupons are Winn-Dixie, CVS, K-mart, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Publix, etc. There are exceptions to almost every rule: In rare instances, retailers are willing to accept coupons from competitors.

Blinkies: Sometimes retailers place boxes on shelves, with a blinking light on the box. The box is filled with coupons, and would be located near the product advertised on the coupon. Feel free to take a few coupons from the box.

Tear Pack: These types are found in books of coupons with perforations, to tear off individual coupons. The books are located near related product.

Peal offs: You can find these directly attached to the product with adhesive and a plastic film. There will usually be bold words on the coupon, such as “Save $1.00 Now!”. In order to remove the coupon, it needs to be carefully pealed off. They are meant for shoppers who will be making an immediate purchase of the product.

Hanging tag: These are found wrapped around the product somehow. If you are looking at a bottled product, a hanging tag coupon might be suspended by a rubber band, around the neck of the bottle.

Catalina coupons: These usually print at the register during or after a transaction. The paper is of a thin quality, resembling receipt paper. Winn-Dixie and Walgreens are examples of retailers, which print Catalina coupons.

Internet printable: Coupons which are available for printing directly from a website.

This is a coupon that I found on the back of  a Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwhich package
I went over the types of coupons. These are some additional factors to keep in mind when using coupons.

  • Every coupon comes with an expiration date. Retailers generally refuse coupons that are expired. Be sure to organize your coupons so that they don’t expire before you get a chance to use them. The most popular methods of organizing coupons involve using file folders, accordion files, small file boxes, and/or binders. You can develop and customize a system that works best for your needs. Organizing is essential for success with using coupons.
  • Read the fine print on your coupons. Pictures on coupons can be a little misleading. The product depicted on the coupon isn’t necessarily the product that is eligible for redemption. There are certain limitations that apply with product manufacturers. Some coupons state that consumers may use up to a certain amount of the same types of coupons in one transaction.
  • Know the coupon policy of the store that you shop at. There are retailers that accept coupons up to a certain dollar amount. Other retailers are very liberal with their coupon policies. Still other retailers double, or triple the face value of coupons. I reside in Florida, and to my knowledge, there are very few retailers that double or triple coupons on a regular basis.
Now that you know a little about coupons, you may be wondering where are the best sources for them. The most popular place to find coupons are in your local Sunday newspaper. The Sunday paper includes coupon inserts from Redplum, Smartsource, and once or twice a month, Proctor and Gamble. Other places that you can find coupons are as follows:

  • Magazines are another print source for coupons. All You is a very good source, loaded with high value coupons. Walmart is the only retail store that sells All You at this time. The magazine is also available though subscription.
  • Retailer sale circulars are a good place that store coupons are found.
  • You can e-mail, call, or send snail mail to manufacturers, requesting coupons for your favorite products. If you visit the manufacturer’s website or check directly on the product packaging, there is information available on how to contact them. Also, some companies provide access to internet printable coupons on their website. It doesn’t hurt to join the company’s e-mail list, so that you can stay informed about newsletters, new products, free samples, promotions and rebate programs.
  • Facebook.com: If you “Like” a retailer or product manufacturer on Facebook, sometimes you get access to internet printable coupons. In addition, companies send out alerts to promotions and new products.
  • Coupons.com: This website is probably the most popular website for getting internet printable coupons. You just select and print the coupons that you need, and Voila! It’s so easy, even a caveman can do it.
  • Smartsource.com: This company which produces inserts in the Sunday paper, also has internet printable coupons on their website.
  • Redplum.com: Similar to Smartsource.com, you can find internet printable coupons on this website. The coupons are not always the same as what you would find in the Sunday paper, though.
  • Ebay.com: It’s against the law to purchase and sell coupons. However, there is nothing illegal about paying for coupon clipping services. Many ebayers auction their service starting at $.99. Others, have a fixed price for their service. Just type “coupons” in the ebay.com search box, and the results will bring back a list of “coupon clipping” services for sale.
  • Trade coupons with friends and family. Never underestimate the value of a coupon. A coupon that is of no use to you, could be helpful to someone else and vice-versa.

Some of the Redplum and SmartSource inserts that I have collected
If you are new to couponing, I hope that this hub has provided you with enough information to jumpstart a fun and challenging adventure. Be careful, though. It can get addicting, once you get couponing down pat. I am not a coupon expert, but I have managed to save over $300 since I started to get serious about coupon clipping in October. This is mediocre compared to what the experts can do, but nothing to sneeze at. These are just the basics, though. You can learn lots more by visiting different retail and company websites, and perusing their coupon policies. Coupon forums and blogs are also extremely helpful in gathering information. Best of luck and happy couponing!

Related posts:

Coupon tips to help you save money on groceries

How to Get Free Coupons in the Mail

Thoughts on TLC's Extreme Couponing Series

I Got a Free Bayer Contour USB Blood Glucose Meter with The CVS ExtraCare Program

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