How did you get started couponing?
Our first kiddo was a complete surprise and as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started panicking about how we would afford diapers and daycare. The average price of a diaper is about $.25 – $.30 per diaper (depending on size) – and kids use around 2,500 diapers each year. I estimated that it was going to cost around $2,000 to put our kid in diapers until he was potty trained. So I started researching extreme couponing and taught myself how to coupon for diapers to get them for my stock-up price, which is $.10 or less per diaper. Our son was in diapers for just over three years, and in that time, I was able to spend about 25% of what I would have spent if I hadn’t learned to coupon. Once I figured out how cheap I could get diapers, I was hooked, and quickly got sucked into couponing for household products and groceries, too!
Where do you get coupons?
Coupons come from many different places. The most common place I get coupons is by printing them online from coupon databases (www.coupons.com, www.redplum.com, www.smartsource.com) or the manufacturer’s website (i.e. www.huggies.com). I also get them from the inserts that are in the Sunday newspaper (Retail Me Not, Smartsource, P&G). Finally, most stores have apps for smart phones and they have coupons in the app that you can “clip” for the cashier to scan when you enter your phone number at checkout (for Target, the cashier scans a barcode on your phone when you add a coupon to your Cartwheel).
The important thing to remember about coupons is that it’s illegal to copy them. Most websites allow you to print two of each coupon, so when you need more than two, you need to print from multiple devices (such as another computer or phone) or ask a friend to print extras for you. When printing, never change the print quantity to more than one. Each coupon has a unique barcode and the cash register will beep when the cashier scans a coupon that has been copied and used once already.
Can I buy coupons?
Yes, it’s true that you can buy coupons online. Several websites sell individual coupons or entire coupon inserts (the books of coupons in the Sunday paper – Retail Me Not, Smartsource and P&G). It’s technically illegal to purchase coupons, as most coupons state in the fine print that they cannot be sold or transferred. However, coupon sellers get around this by charging you for their time spent cutting the coupons rather than charging you for the coupons themselves.
Buying coupons isn’t a practice that I encourage. It’s very easy to get scammed by paying for coupons that you later find out are fraudulent, and since buying coupons is illegal in the first place, you will have a very hard time getting your money back if you find out that you bought fake coupons. I recommend buying the Sunday newspaper, asking neighbors/friends for their newspaper coupons, printing coupons online, and using apps on your smart phone. I’ve been doing this for four years and have never had a problem stocking up on the products I need without having to pay someone else for coupons.
Can I use more than one coupon on a product?
Using multiple coupons on the same product is called “stacking coupons.”
This depends on the type of coupons and store where you’re shopping. Generally speaking, you can use one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon per item. For instance, you may get a $1.50 off 1 coupon for Huggies diapers in your Sunday paper. You may also get a $1 off 1 coupon for Huggies diapers from the weekly Publix flyer at the front of the store. You can use both of these to get a total of $2.50 off 1 pack of diapers since one coupon is a manufacturer coupon and one is a store coupon.
The policy varies by store, so make sure to familiarize yourself with the coupon policy wherever you’re shopping. Most coupons have limits for how many you can use each day, and most stores have similar policies, too. (For instance, a coupon might state that you can only use 4 of the same coupon per day, so if you want more than 4 of that item, you’ll need to go back and shop again on another day or bring a friend with you.)
How do I know if a deal is a good price to stock up?
You can reference my stock-up price sheet here. I always recommend aiming for at least 50% off whatever product you’re buying. If you can get it for 75% or more off, I recommend stocking up on as much as you’ll need for the next six months until a deal that good comes around again. I promise that no matter how great the deal is, it WILL come back around eventually. Be patient! I also keep a list of my own personal stock-up prices (check out the blank list here that you can use). That helps me look back and see how cheap the item was the last time I bought it, so that I can tell if it’s a good deal or not. At any given time, I usually have a six-month supply of things like nonperishable foods, toilet paper, diapers and household products so that I’m not forced to pay full price when we run out.