Life Tips

Guide to Couponing 2018

 A dollar a day can get you a nice vacay!


I’ve always wondered how some people pay less than $5 for over $300 dollars worth of things. I’ve read a million posts, watched a million videos, and joined all the Facebook groups I could find.

When I began couponing my original plan was to become one of those extreme savers. But after a few years I found that one of the biggest traps about couponing is getting too excited and spending more than you actually need. Or getting 17 boxes of things you didn’t really need, just because they were on sale.

Many people turn around and re-sell the items, but that’s just not me.

I call it Casual couponing: Saving on the things you use everyday. 

If you’re REALLY into saving money and also managing it, you may also benefit from my in depth Budgeting Guide.

So what’s the big difference about 2018? Newspapers may still be valuable, but apps are MUCH more rewarding. Most are free too and will give you the same coupons.

With all that said, lets get into the details.

Some Couponing Basics

1. Couponing can mean a few things: using coupons, offers, or special event deals to pay less that you normally would. 

2. There’s two types of coupons: manufacturer’s and store. One is offered by the brands, and the other is a special discount you can ONLY get at the store named on the coupon. In some places you can combine and use both types on one product, and in other places you can’t, so make sure you find a coupon policy, or you ask before you use.

3. Some things I recommend you’ll need for good bargains:

  • Local newspaper subscription (optional)
  • Some space to download apps on your phone (must)
  • An email account you don’t mind getting spammed with emails

Apps for savings

This is what I consider to be the easiest way to save. Every time I want to go shopping for anything (even groceries), I’ll check in on these apps to see what deals may be going on for what I’m looking to buy.

**As a note, this is not an ad or sponsored post**

Ibotta

This is by far the most popular savings app around. It offers you cashback on all kinds of products. All you have to do is search through the app before you go shopping, shop and keep your receipt. After the trip, upload pictures of your receipt, and you’ll get cash back!

Depending on how much you buy and how often you shop, you’ll get somewhere between a few dollars, to $20-30 a month.

Checkout 51: 

This app is more for grocery trips, but they also have categories for beauty and wellness, among a few others. It’s not store specific, and has offers by brand.

This is very similar to Ibotta, but with more of a focus on groceries. It pretty much works in a similar fashion too. Scroll through, pick you favorite offers, then shop and keep your receipt. After your trip, upload pictures, and you’ll get you cashback!

I don’t always get as much from this as i do from Ibotta, but my combined total has sometimes even been around $45-50 month, which is totally worth it for me.

RetailMeNot

This app is my absolute FAVORITE for shopping trips. Usually if I’m looking to go on a shopping trip in stores or online, this is my goTo.

You can find coupon codes, sales, clearance information on your favorite stores!

I’ll tell you a secret: I will look through RetailMeNot for coupon codes, then shop online with an additional Ebates/Swagbucks cashback, during a store SALE. I’ve saved upwards of almost $100 with this magic combo.

Groupon

Whenever I’m looking for something to do/places to explore on a BUDGET, this is the best app for the job.

You can find local events (and also products) on discount or during special offer days and get to travel while saving at the same time.

Another secret: My favorite way to save for travel:

  • Pay with a rewards credit card to get cashback,
  • Use Airbnb whenever possible to save on my stays,
  • Use Groupon to explore during my vacation. Try it out 🙂

Ebates

If you online shop, this app/website is a MUST!

Last year during the holidays, I saved over $50 dollars on my Christmas shopping.

To Save: start on their website, find the store you want to shop at (for example Walmart), activate the offer, and now you’ll get cash back from your overall purchase! If you get their button on your browser, you can skip the first step, and when you go to a store’s website, if Ebates can get you cash back, it will give you the option to activate it.

Other Apps: Just like how Target has the Cartwheel app, other stores might have savings apps specifically for that store.  I do this a lot with Food. From Starbucks, Chipotle, Panera, and even to Chick-Fil-A, I’m getting rewards and discounts on all my purchases.

*Note on the cash back apps*

1. READ THE FINE PRINT. Because you may have to meet certain requirements to get the offer.

2. On some apps, you either keep your receipt, or you can use your store credit card and link it to the app (check with each individual app).

3. Offers expire, so keep an eye on that date.

4. Some cash back apps require you to accumulate a certain amount before letting you redeem it (i.e. $20). But it’s always nice to randomly get $20 for shopping ;).


Website

Coupons: Coupons.com is one of the largest websites I use for my coupons, (and they offer an app)! Simply look through what coupons are available, save them, and send them to your email and print them. They also have a linking option where you can link your store rewards card, and apply store coupons to it. Most are manufacturer’s coupons (directly offered by the brand, not a store).

Paper coupons/offers (mail/newspaper)

A newspaper subscription doesn’t cost too much, and if you faithfully use your coupons, you’ll be able to get your money back. The Sunday paper still offers TONS of manufacturer’s coupons. You may also get special mail coupons from local places near you, so always keep an eye out for those.

This is also how I find out about sales near me.

Email offers

This is my second favorite way to save. Signing up for email offers is a GREAT way to get deal alerts and special offers. What I love about these is that they can be customized just for you. With a rewards program, offers are geared towards things you actually buy. I recommend creating an email account just for these, so you’re not bombarded and overwhelmed with offers on your regular email account.

To save: Sign up for stores you shop often at, and look through it from time to time. When you see a good offer, get out there and use it!


Loyalty/Rewards memberships

If you go to a place pretty often, just take the extra step and sign up for the rewards club. It can be worth it.

Usually these give you a few perks:

  • Special discounts for members only
  • Points on your purchases you can redeem later
  • Customized offers
  • Early access to sales

It really doesn’t hurt to get a surprise deal or perk just for signing up. Plus it will often get you mail offers you can also use!


Glitches

Glitches happen when prices change incorrectly. These sometimes show a super low value for high priced items. Generally when stores change over their prices and sale items (which happen routinely), they’ll often do it automatically or with a machine.

If you follow prices carefully, sometimes online items will show a price as low as $0.01!

Sometimes in store, sale items may also ring up at lower prices than advertised. So basically the system glitch in the price may work out in your favor.

There’s a whole group and blog on this type of couponing, but I’m not really into all the work and monitoring it requires.


“Maximize your savings” tips

Combine offers

This is what it all comes down to. How you use your coupons/offers.

Wait for a big sale, use an email sign-up offer, and a coupon/cash back offer, and you’re on your way to saving BIG TIME. I like to use cash back and coupons/sale deals combined. They’re the ones that often will get you the most savings. Plus if you get membership points, you’ll be working towards yet another offer later.

Birthday offers 

Big savings could be lying here. Don’t sleep on it. Here’s my favorite list by Goob over at Hey, It’s Free. It’s the longest and most up to date list I know, use, and love. Save it somewhere.

Be careful about temptation

I like to use offers only on things I need, when I know I can be flexible on how long I wait to buy it to give it the best chance of the biggest saving. Sometimes you’ll see offers for products you’d never buy. This is how they get to you to spend money you normally wouldn’t. That’s not saving.

Put it on the credit cards

My FAVORITE way to double up on savings and earn credits towards trips and rewards is to pay everything with my trusty credit card. If you have a good credit card with a good % cashback on anything, it’s a good option to pay for your stuff with it. You get the cashback now, and if you pay it right away, you won’t get the interest on it either. WIN!

BONUS TIP: Many don’t know this, but you get a special one time percent off your first purchase when you sign up for an email list. I like to wait for a big sale (like year end, or semi-annual), and combine it with an email sign up offer. So then I get extra savings! Sometimes you’ll get free shipping too. Score! 

Now get out there and shop & save!

Any other tips you’d like to add? Let me know in comments! 

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