Using Coupons – The Right Way
The term ‘coupon clipper’ is often used in a derogatory way in reference to an obsessively frugal person who sits around all Sunday morning clipping coupons out of the local newspaper (my father use to, and probably still does fit this stereotype). And lately, we’ve seen an explosion of extreme couponing.
The problem with this type of coupon use is that most of the coupons you get from a Sunday paper are for expensive name brand packaged goods that you normally wouldn’t buy. These goods are usually junkfood or pre-packaged meals that you should probably stay away from for health reasons. A lot of the times, even with the coupon, they are still more expensive than their generic counterparts.
With the rise of the internet comes a new breed of ‘coupon clippers’. There are intelligent and effective ways to use coupons these days in a way that will bring true savings, however, you must adhere to the following rules in order to come out ahead:
1. Only use coupons for things you were already set on purchasing and need
When you start creating reasons to why it makes sense to purchase something that you weren’t already intending to due to an enticing coupon, you are going to lose. This is why businesses print coupons in the first place; they want you to try their product if you never have before. If you’re a happy returning customer, why would they give you a discount?
Here’s a scenario that may sound familiar: Amazon wants to sell some more Amazon Kindles, their “revolutionary new wireless reading device”. Now, this is a pretty cool product, and you’ve heard a lot about it so you think there must be something to it. You’re shopping around on Amazon one day and BAM! – 10% off the Amazon Kindle if you add it on to your existing order!
You had no intentions of purchasing the Kindle before and don’t have a need for it (the library has free books), but now it suddenly appears to be a bargain that you just can’t pass up. You click that button, and suddenly $360 that you hadn’t budgeted for and could be used to pay off debt or add to personal savings has vanished. This is exactly the type of reflex to avoid when coming across enticing coupons.
2. Only use coupons as a supplement to a strong deal
Recently, the tires on my vehicle needed replacement. When your tires go, you don’t really have an option on whether or not you should buy new ones. I called around to three local tire stores and looked at prices on their websites, found the best deal, and then looked for supplemental coupons. I was lucky in that the best coupon offer out there was applicable to any set of tires at the same place where I found the best deal. Another $20 off what was already the lowest price was a no brainer.
3. Look for coupons at places you already shop
If you purchase all of your food from Whole Foods, your books from Amazon, your clothes from Kohl’s, and your tools from Sears, then it makes sense to visit these retailer’s websites to look for a coupon, discount, or upcoming sale, prior to making your set purchase. Sometimes you’ll come up empty when you visit the retailer’s site directly, but that doesn’t mean the coupons aren’t out there. Just don’t get into the habit of looking for a coupon as a reason to shop at your favorite retailer.
4. Google for coupons
Sometimes the best way to find an applicable coupon is to simply ‘Google it’. With my recent move, I have been looking for the elusive Home Depot 10% off for recent movers coupon. If you search on the Home Depot site, you won’t find it. So I googled for Home Depot discount and found the homedepotmoving.com site. If you sign up for free as a member, then they will send you the coupon for the discount. On a $2,000 roofing project, 10% off comes to $200 in savings on a purchase that I was already going to make.
5. Go directly to the manufacturer for Coupons
If there’s a certain brand of toothpaste, underwear, or cereal that you simply can’t live without, then go straight to the manufacturer for a manufacturer’s coupon. Often times manufacturers will have printable coupons or rebates directly on their website. This practice is particularly prevalent with consumer packaged goods. If you’re already buying it regularly, why not save some extra cash?
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