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BEFORE YOU SKIP THIS ARTICLE, hear me out. No, I don’t like couponing. I don’t dream about it. I don’t salivate over newspaper inserts. I don’t hoot and holler when I find a rare coupon. But I do get excited about saving money! I remember the first time I saved $12.37. While leaving the store, I hollered so loud that you could’ve heard me in China!

I started couponing out of necessity, not because I loved it. My husband’s employer merged with another company, and his division was eliminated. As a result, he lost his job. We couldn’t keep up with our mortgage payments, and our bills kept piling up. And couponing was a smart way to save money. If you’re in a similar situation, or just want to spend more wisely, these tips will help you stretch every dollar.


Find Them
It has been estimated that roughly $470 billion in coupons were printed in 2011, and only $4.6 billion were redeemed. What does that mean for you? It means there are plenty of coupons floating around – just waiting for you to put them to good use. Here’s where to look:

Newspapers issue 89.6 percent of all coupons. So they’re the best place to start looking.

Magazines are also a good place to search. All You magazine is loaded with coupons – typically boasting $70.00 to $120.00 of savings in every issue. Other good magazine sources include Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Woman’s Day.

Stores are a breeding ground for coupons. They pop- up all over the place. From peelies (coupons that can be peeled off a product), to special displays (usually a cardboard display that contains products and coupons), to Catalinas (coupons that print out of a machine after a purchase is made), to blinkies (little boxes – with a red blinking light – that are mounted on shelves), to tear pads (small pads of coupons that are usually stuck to a shelf or display), to the customer service counter. Stores are flooded with coupons.

Printables can be found for virtually any item on the Internet. However, keep in mind that printables commonly come with a print limit. Sometimes you’ll find the odd coupon that can be printed unlimited times, but that’s very unusual. And photocopying coupons is considered to be coupon fraud. Each printable is uniquely coded, and it can be traced back to your computer’s IP address. Thus, play by the rules.

Manufacturers like to give coupons to happy customers. So, don’t be afraid to call or write the manufacturer about their wonderful product. If you are nice and ask for a coupon, they’re likely to send you one.

Not all coupons are created equal, and this depends greatly on the stores in your area. If you shop at a store that doubles coupons up to a certain amount, then some coupons will end up being more valuable than they first appear. For example, in my area, Publix doubles all manufacturer coupons up to $0.50. This means that a $0.40 coupon that doubles to $0.80 will end up being more valuable than a $0.55 coupon that will not double. How do you know if your store doubles? You ask! Coupon policies have a tendency to change without warning, therefore ask about the latest deals. Plus, it’s always good to have a printed version of the policy when you shop. If you have any issues at the register, this will help a ton.

Stacking refers to the practice of using both a store and a manufacturer coupon on the same item – doubling your savings, and stepping-up your coupon game. A manufacturer coupon is created and distributed by product manufacturers to increase sales of a particular product. Consumers can use these coupons in pretty much any store. When you use this type of coupon, the store sends it back to the manufacturer and gets reimbursed for the value of the coupon ... plus a few cents. A store coupon is created by a specific store (as part of an in-house marketing campaign). When you use this type of coupon, the store doesn’t get reimbursed for it. However, the coupon is covered by the store’s marketing budget, or submitted to a corporate office for credit.

Here’s where things start to get good! If you have a store and a manufacturer coupon for the same item, many stores will allow you to use both. This is called stacking. For example, if Target distributes a store coupon for shampoo, the first thing I do is try to locate a coupon being offered by the shampoo’s manufacturer. When you combine the two, you get a double whammy.

Competitors’ Coupons
Many stores will allow you to use coupons from nearby, competing stores (competitor coupons) – but there are limits. For instance, BI-LO stores will accept competitor coupons, but only from specific stores. Also, most Publix stores will accept competitor coupons, but they only accept one competitor coupon per like item (and only from stores that they consider to be their competitor). The reason competitor coupons are exciting is that they are still store coupons.This means, although BI-LO may not have a store coupon for an item, Target might! c

Expired coupons aren’t trash! Military families overseas are allowed to use coupons up to 6 months past their printed expiration date. After your coupons have expired, send them overseas. For more information, visit CouponsToTroops.com.