You’ve already taken the entry level course for couponing (step 1: clip coupons, step 2: use coupons). Now you’re ready for advanced couponing tips, where you can get graduate level course credit. Find out more on how to get the most out of your coupons.
Brief Overview of Coupons
In the marketing world, there’s something known as price discrimination. Sounds bad, right? I mean, you shouldn’t discriminate somebody based on their price. Because deep down all our prices are equal.
Price discrimination isn’t actually a bad thing. Basically, marketers are saying that different people will pay different amounts for the same product, so let’s find a way to charge those different amounts so we can make more money.
A good example is airlines. Airline tickets cost more as we approach the flight day. Part of this is because business flyers book last minute, while leisure travelers book well in advance. A business flyer needs to go somewhere for business so they’re willing to pay a lot more for that same seat.
Coupons work the same way. Some people don’t mind paying full price for an item (old me). Others need a deal, or think the product is too expensive, so they’ll buy a cheaper, comparable product. A coupon, which takes time and effect to get, is a way to convince those more price sensitive customers to buy an item.
Why don’t marketers just put the item on sale, you ask? Coupons are a targeted tool, while sales are like a shotgun approach. Remember when I said that some people are willing to pay full price for an item? When you put an item on sale, you’ll get the discounters, but you’re also giving the people willing to pay full price a discount. And that’s lost profit.
Advanced Couponing Tips Explained by an Expert (Not Me)
What do I know about coupons? Not much. The idiot I was, I actually used to pay full price for everything. Couponing takes work, and I had better things to do with my time. Like unnecessarily wasting my money. And because I didn’t want to look cheap, in case the cashier was cute. You know how many dates I had with cute cashiers? Zero. Zip. Zilch. What I realized was it doesn’t matter what other people think. More importantly, it didn’t matter how the cashier looked. What was important was how I looked, and I wasn’t getting a date even if I paid ten times the retail price.
I don’t know much about couponing tips, but my wife does. One time she was at the grocery store and the guy behind her freaked out.
“Oh my god! She just saved over $20 just from coupons!”
Then the lady behind him looked up, and they both started asking my wife how she did it. Remember, couponing it takes work, but if you’re somebody that loves a deal, it won’t feel like work. Also, you’re getting paid for your time, which makes it worth it.
1. Double and Triple Coupons
Some grocery stores offer double and triple coupons. Usually, there’s a limit to how much they’ll double or triple. Like they’ll only triple if the coupon is under $0.35, or they’ll only double if it’s under $1.00.
If you have a coupon that meets the double or triple criteria, you need to shop at these places. It’s not like the stores are more expensive and the coupon only brings it back down to regular price (I’m talking to you, Bed, Bath, and Beyond). Prices at these stores will generally be competitive for the product since they still need to compete with other grocery stores for people that don’t use coupons. But the doubling or tripling effect can really add up. A $0.35 coupon tripled becomes $1.05! Not many coupons are over $1.00 so these can really add up.
2. Combining Coupons or Coupons with Sales
You know the saying, “You can’t have too much of a good thing”?
They’re right. Coupons are great, but when you combine them with sales or other coupons, it becomes coupons on steriods. This is where it pays to hold onto coupons, instead of just using it as soon as you get it. Wait until the item goes on sale, because it WILL go on sale at some point.
If you think coupons aren’t worth it because you don’t want to save $1-2, you’d be wrong. When my wife saved $20 at the grocery store, it was on $40 worth of groceries. Recently, I bought a tablet that retailed for $600. I wanted a new tablet, but I didn’t want to pay full price, so I waited. The manufacturer eventually had a sale for $100 off. I combined that with a $50 coupon from Best Buy, which is how I ended up saving $150.
Spoofee is a great site to find deals and many times they’ll tell you how to combine coupons and sales to save even more money.
3. Combine Cash Back with Coupons
Back to the trusty credit card. You’re making purchases anyways, so might as well put it on your card to get cash back or points. Again, this is free money, so take advantage of it.
If you’re buying things online, see if the site offers cash back through a host of other sites. One of the largest is ebates. To get the cash back, all you need to do is sign up and visit ebates before going to the other site to buy the product. Then you just collect cash and wait for your check to arrive in the mail!
Another site I like to use is Cashbackmonitor. If you type in the name of the store you’re planning to buy from, you can see how much cash back/points you get from various sites. That way you can decide how to best maximize your cash/points.
4. Loyalty Programs
It pays to be a member. When you sign up for a loyalty program, you’ll get exclusive access to discount or sales. My wife created a separate email account for this so her inbox isn’t filled with too much junk. When you’re looking to buy something, you can quickly search to see what sales or coupons a store has.
Loyalty programs can also offer cash back rewards, so the more you spend, the more you save. Again, all it’s costing you is a few minutes and an email account you don’t check regularly, so why not?
5. Coupons with Gift Cards
Coupons are great with gift cards, but not just any gift card will do. No, you need to get DISCOUNTED gift cards. At Costco, you can get gift cards for 20-30% off. I’ve written about Costco before. You can get cash back for being an executive member. If you use your Costco credit card, you get additional cash back. Then you’re buying a discounted gift card. Add a coupon to that store on top, and it’s almost like you’re getting stuff for free!
Cardbear is also a great site to buy discounted cards. It also has a much wider selection of gift cards than Costco and you don’t need to leave your home to purchase them, but the discounts are generally lower than what you’d find at Costco, depending on the popularity of the store.
6. Forget Newspapers
Back in the day, serious couponers had to wait until the Sunday paper came before they could get coupons. We used to subscribe to the paper to get coupons, but that was the only reason we had a newspaper subscription. The coupons were helpful, but we needed to save enough to justify the subscription.
Also, it was frustrating because there would be times where we wouldn’t get the Sunday mail, or some weeks where there weren’t any coupon inserts.
Weird Trick to Calculate Additional Savings in Your Head
Savings on top of savings are great. But it can get confusing understanding how much you’re actually saving. Of course, the easiest way to do it is to pull your phone out and actually calculate it. But if you’re just too lazy, here’s a weird trick to calculate it in your head.
To calculate savings on top of savings, take 1 minus the sales price and multiple those two numbers together. For example, let’s say you have two 20% coupons and you can combine them. That’s 1 minus 0.20, or 0.8, multiplied by 0.8. 8 times 8 is 64. So you’re paying 64% of the full price, or 36% off.
Have a 40% off coupon and a 20% off coupon? That’s 0.6 times 0.8, or 6 times 8. So you’re paying 48% of the full retail price, or getting 52% off.
A 25% off coupon and a 35% off coupon? That’s 0.75 times 0.65, or pull out your calculator because I give up. Or you can just ballpark it and say it’s close to 8 times 6.
How Much Have You Saved?
We’ve probably saved thousands of dollars over the years by using coupons. Not just on groceries, but for clothes, restaurants, electronics, and going out. Basically, if there’s a coupon out there, we’ve used it. How much have you saved?