Notes from a Moderate Couponer: Easy, Non-Extreme Ways to Save Money Using Coupons

published Sep 19, 2016
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(Image credit: kikovic)

Not a couponer? Is that because you refuse to dedicate your Sundays to shuffling through the newspaper, literally clipping coupons to stash away in a tiny accordion file that you flip through as you’re walking down the aisles? Well, you’re living in the past. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. When shopping online—or even in person with your phone in tow (and whose isn’t?) — it’s easier than ever to coupon and only takes a few minutes.

1. Store paper coupons digitally.

When I receive a paper coupon that I’m somewhat likely to use, I snap a picture of it and store it in Evernote. The paper itself goes into the recycling. To kick it up a notch and avoid digital clutter, I’ll tag the coupon with “delete” and if I don’t want to miss using it, I’ll add a reminder on the expiration date.

2. Check before you buy.

Rather than buying what you have coupons for (a telltale sign of an extreme couponer), check for coupons for what you already plan to buy. For instance, when shopping online, take advantage of extensions like Honey, which will search through its database of coupons to see if there’s a promo code — all while you’re on the checkout screen.

3. Take advantage of cashback incentives.

Ebates and Mr. Rebates are two popular cash-back services and they’re pretty painless to use. Visit their sites before you shop online and click through to your store through their portal or install browser extensions so you don’t even have to remember. Using these is an easy, passive way to save when you shop from home because you aren’t looking for coupons specific to stores or items and the payoff can be large.

4. Check rotating cashback incentives on your credit cards.

Another way to save is to know which credit cards might be giving extra cashback bonuses in rotating categories. For instance, Discover usually does a cashback bonus for purchases made on Amazon during the last quarter of the year. Again, this is a good way to save that isn’t store-specific.

5. Do a quick search while you’re waiting in line.

Google “[name of store] coupon” while you’re waiting in line, or search through your email for promos from that store. I often come up with something I can use by the time I get to the front of the checkout line.

6. Ask.

If all else fails, or I’ve simply forgotten or been unable to find something useful on my phone, sometimes I ask the cashier, “Are there any coupons you know about floating around?” More often than not, they either have a code they’re happy to scan for me, or they lead me to a specific coupon I can pull up quickly on my phone. (Obviously, I won’t be rude and keep a line of people waiting behind me.) If nothing else, I get the peace of mind of knowing I didn’t miss any savings.

7. Automatic savings with store cards.

I frequent Target for many categories of items, so a Target debit card makes a lot of sense for our family because we save 5 percent on every single purchase. Stack it with Cartwheel promos and the weekly ads and you can get a good cocktail of savings going — but that’s starting to sound extreme…

On a scale from Mr. Moneybags to Extreme Couponer, where does your saving style fall?