Monday, January 9, 2012

Coupon Basics Part 2: Where Do You Find Coupons?

What is the most important tool for a couponer to have in hand? Well, coupons.

Coupons come in many forms and are abundantly available, if you know where to look. Below, I'll list and explain common coupon sources. I'll also include explanations of any associated coupon lingo that you might see on this or other sites.

When most people think of coupons, I imagine this is what comes to mind. Coupon inserts can be found in most Sunday newspapers. On a typical week, you will find inserts from two companies, Smart Source (SS) and Red Plum (RP). Once a month, usually the last Sunday, you will also find an insert from Procter & Gamble (P&G), filled with coupons specifically for their products (Crest, Tide, etc.). Other inserts from different stores and companies will appear periodically.

Some people like to pick up multiple newspapers each week. This gives them multiple copies of a coupon, which helps when stockpiling items. Some people follow the rule of buying one newspaper for each member of the household. Some buy four a week because many coupons list a restriction of four like coupons per shopping trip. Personally, I preview the coupons online and pick up papers according to how well the coupons match my needs and food preferences. Sometimes, it just wouldn't be worth it for me to buy any papers. I don't think there is one right answer here.

When deciding which newspaper to pick up or subscribe to, though, do some research. Some papers carry more inserts than others. In the Durham area, the Raleigh News & Observer carries all available inserts, while apparently, the Durham Herald Sun has stopped carrying any coupons.

Printable Coupon Websites
Online printable coupons sites have become my go-to sources for food coupons. Search for coupons on the sites listed below. After selecting coupons you'd like to print, you may be prompted to install a coupon printer. If you're using one of the sites I've listed, this should be safe for your computer.

You are able to print two of the same coupon per computer. By hitting the back arrow on your browser after printing a coupon, the coupon will be sent to your printer for a second time.

A Few Online Coupon Sources:
Smart Source
Red Plum
Mambo Sprouts (natural and organic products)

E-coupons are different from internet printables, in that you will not have a physical/paper copy of the coupon. E-coupons are typically linked to your store card and are deducted automatically when your card is scanned at check out.

Harris Teeter offers a number of e-coupons on their website. What is great about them, is that the electronic coupons can be combined with paper coupons for extra savings. For example, this past week, I had a $1 paper coupon for Bounty, as well as a $1 electronic Harris Teeter coupon for the same product. A total of $2 was deducted from the price of the paper towels.

Kroger also offers e-coupons, but be careful in loading them to your store card. They will be automatically deducted, but you CAN NOT combine them with paper coupons as you can at HT. These Kroger coupons  won't double either. Sometimes, this means you could get a better deal by using a paper coupon instead of the e-coupon.

This is a term I hadn't heard until I started to coupon, but it's one that makes perfect sense. Blinkies are coupons you find in grocery store aisles inside of those little boxes with the blinking lights. These coupons can be used immediately on purchases or taken home for later use. Coupon etiquette would say that you should only take what you will use (keep the number small). Now, there are some people out there who go shopping for 200 boxes of Hamburger Helper in one trip. Not my style, but if you actually have a use for that many products (donating?), then use your own discretion.

Tear Pads
Also found in stores, often on cardboard displays, tear pads are just that, pads full of tear off coupons. Like "blinkies," show some reserve when taking them, save some for others.

Peelies are manufacturer coupons found attached to products.  This is a tactic used by companies to encourage impulse buying, those people who would be lured in by the "$0.50 off? Why not?" mentality.

While it's not against any written rules to take a coupon off a product you don't plan to buy immediately, many coupon users feel that it's best not to do so. I don't have a strong opinion either way.

Most companies are aware of Facebook's wide reach and have created company pages to connect with consumers. Check out the pages of your favorite products. They will often offer high value coupons.

Company Websites
When couponing and wanting to get the best prices, it's necessary to break away from brand loyalty. That doesn't mean you have to give up your favorite brands completely, though. Check out the websites of brands you like to purchase. Sites will often provide printable coupons. If you want to go one step further, contact the company using the provided contact info (I e-mail). Pass along a compliment, tell them why you enjoy their product. Include your address because companies will often send coupons, sometimes for free products, as a thank you for taking the time to write.

Wine Tags
This is a coupon source I never would have thought about until I read about it on another site. As you stroll past the wine and beer aisles, be on the lookout for bottles or boxes with coupons or tags attached. While some tags will be rebate offers for buying liquor, others will be a bit different. Liquor companies occasionally offer money off products like meat or produce for buying their product.

Here's the interesting thing; in North Carolina and a handful of other states (sorry, Wisconsin, you're not one of them), you DON'T have to buy the liquor to get the discount. In fact, in NC, it would be against the law to require you to do so. This means, that if you find such a coupon, you can take it off of the product and use it immediately. If you find a coupon around a bottle of wine that states $2 off the purchase of meat, you do not have to buy the wine. You can simply use the coupon toward your meat purchase.

Reader Response: Do you have a question about where to find coupons? Post a comment or write to me at

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