Friday, September 24, 2010

Guest Post: The Secret to Coupons, Part 1

Guest Post by Sarah of Capitally Frugal

People always ask me how I find "useful" coupons, not just ones for $1/3 Megamix Vanilla Vitamins. So, I thought I'd write a two-part series with some of the tips I've learned.

1. Buy the Sunday Newspaper
Probably the most obvious way of getting coupons is through the Sunday newspaper. While there are many coupons that you won't use, you can usually find a handful that are helpful. And, those that you don't need, you can swap (see Tip #2). Most times, the cheapest way to get the Sunday newspaper is to have a subscription. But, it's important to always check your statement - many times (at least in our area), they raise the cost of the subscription after several months, and you end up paying more for it, than if you bought it off the stand. However, if you call the newspaper, they will usually lower the cost, in order to keep your subscription.

2. Use Coupon Swapping Sites
When I first started couponing, I came upon Baby Cheapskate Baby Coupon Traders. Once you join (it's a very quick process), you can post a list of the coupons you have along with your wishlist. While you do need to post at least one coupon that is baby-related (for instance, you can do the $1/1 Johnson & Johnson baby product), the majority of the trading is for regular, non-baby coupons. Over the years, I've gotten the majority of my organic and high dollar coupons from them!

In fact, just recently, we decided to splurge on a chest freezer. (I've been saving for one, so I can stock up on meats and fruits during sales and summer time bumper crop seasons.) And, I found the cheapest freezer, with the best reviews, at Home Depot. I immediately started looking for coupons, and realized that my best option would be to trade for a "10% off Lowe's" coupon (since Home Depot takes competitor coupons). I went to my favorite BC Traders website, and listed my coupons. Within a couple hours, someone replied; and, within two days, a Lowe's coupon was in my mailbox. I ended up saving $20, by trading $5 of coupons I would never use!

Also, many times, you can find friends on these swapping websites, with whom you can trade your useless Sunday coupons. A while back, I had a friend, who I saved my cat coupons for, and she saved automatically held onto any organic coupons for me.

3. Write to Companies
Everyone loves feedback; and most businesses show their gratitude with coupons. I've written to countless companies, explaining what I love about their products, and received many high dollar coupons in return. And, there are times when I'm unhappy with their product and detail my grievances to them. I've been amazed by their timely response!

As an example, I was a loyal customer to a very well-known diaper company. For two years, we used their diapers exclusively, without a problem. Then, the quality began deteriorating: tabs did not stick, etc. I informed them of the problems we were having and our disappointment, and they immediately sent me free coupons with their sincere apologies. So, you see, it is worthwhile to point out problems - it benefits the company and you (this particular company must have gotten a number of complaints, because they ended up doing an overhaul of their product, and it's so much better now!). As a side note: Please make sure the complaint is justified (I don't write flimsy excuses, in hopes of getting high dollar coupons or monetary compensation).

4. Ask Friends
When I first started couponing, I was too embarrassed to ask friends for their Sunday newspaper. Heavens, I use to have a good job, and could afford to pay full price for my groceries, thankyouverymuch. What would people think of me? I really didn't want to be the stereotyped poor, denim-jumpered, pregnant, bare-footed homeschool mom, yet! But, the Lord has a way of stripping away one's pride; and I quickly learned that using coupons helped me be a better steward of my money! So, I did start asking people for their newspapers - at first, they looked at me a little funny and wondered whether we'd gotten a dog. And, I did get some good natured teasing...but, now, I have everyone so well trained, that they call whenever they received a coupon in the mail and ask if I want it! :)

In exchange, I always ask friends what products they enjoy and keep my eye out for great deals. When I can, I combine coupons and sales to purchase their favorite items! In my opinion, it's very important to not always be on the receiving end. Even if it's something as "insignificant" as the Sunday newspaper they were going to throw away, people always appreciate knowing you are thinking of them as well!

5. Check RetailMeNot for Coupons
Always, always search the web for coupons, before you make an online purchase! The best site I've found for online coupons is RetailMeNot. I've saved so much money by checking their site, and have found coupons for everything from pizza to an air compressor. About a year ago, my husband was frequently traveling for work and had a very measly travel stipend. In fact, it was so low that many times, he could only find hotels in the bad parts of town. So, I searched online, and found coupon codes he could use on Priceline and Orbitz. He ended up at the other extreme - getting a beautiful 4 star hotel for under $50/night, making his wife extremely jealous of his opulent living quarters. I stopped looking for coupons, when he called to say that he was relaxing in his suite and enjoying his 100 ft flat screen TV. ;)

I would love to hear how you, my wonderful readers, find coupons! In my experience, there is a lot of trial and error...did I mention, ERROR? :) But, the Lord does bless your efforts; and, while I've had many bad experiences (mostly cashier errors and uninformed store managers), there have been many blessings along the way. Through couponing, I've been able to afford organic food and to share my bounty with others! Hopefully, I haven't bored all of you, and you'll come back for part 2!

Look for Part 2 of The Secret to Coupons next week!

Sarah blogs about her money saving adventures in Northern Virginia at Capitally Frugal.  She is a stay-at-home mom to a lively two-year old and has an extremely patient husband who puts up with her crazy couponing schemes!

Check out Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom and Mrs. Moneysaver for more great frugal links.


  1. I LOVE, you pay a few cents for coupons but if you want to stockpile for certain stuff they can really pay off. Also, I live in an urban area that has a bunch of free papers that are delivered to my house, they have tons of coupons in them, usually the same ones in teh Sunday paper.

  2. Good read! The coupon websites are intended to make your job really simple. You can additionally search twitter / facebook fan pages for coupons for your favorite stores.


Thanks for commenting. I love to hear your feedback!