General Info About Coupons
A coupon gives you $X amount off a specified product or products. There are many different sources of coupons: the Sunday newspaper, coupons mailed directly by the manufacturer or store, online printable coupons, digital coupons that are attached to your shopper’s card, and most recently, mobile coupons that are sent to your smartphone. (Who knows what they’ll have in ten years – coupons you embed in your skin?)
Most likely, you’ll deal primarily with with paper coupons, which can be either store coupons or manufacturer’s coupons. Store coupons are those put out by the store. Manufacturer’s coupons come from the manufacturer, which reimburses the store for the value of the coupon plus an 8-cent handling fee. (The fine print of a manufacturer’s coupon gives stores instructions on how to get their reimbursement.)
The difference between store coupons and manufacturer’s coupons is significant because they can be “stacked” together, i.e., used on the same item. For example, if you have a $1 off one bottle of Pantene manufacturer’s coupon and a $1 off one bottle of Pantene CVS store coupon, you can use both coupons at CVS to get $2 off one bottle.
Most paper coupons come from the inserts in the Sunday newspaper. Most major newspapers carry coupon inserts on Sunday. You’ve probably seen them, but did you know they actually have names? Now that you’re paying attention, you’ll see that there are two major sources of inserts, Smart Source and Red Plum. They are commonly abbreviated “SS” and “RP” in scenarios and match ups put together online to let you know the best deals available. Approximately once a month, there is also an insert from Proctor & Gamble (“P&G”) and a General Mills insert (“GM”).
Increasingly, manufacturers and stores are releasing printable coupons. The most popular site is Coupons.com, but there are many other sources and the highest value coupons often come directly from the manufacturer. For example, printable coupons that are accessible only through Facebook are becoming increasingly popular. The best way to stay on top of available printable coupons is by following some coupon blogs (like ChiefFamilyOfficer.com!).
When it comes to using coupons, always pay attention to the wording of the coupon. Coupons often have size restrictions, and almost always have an expiration date. Some stores may accept expired coupons, especially if they only just expired, but be sure to follow your store’s coupon policy. Many stores have published official coupon policies on their web site – you can print out and carry a copy with you when you shop in case you find yourself in a situation where the store employees do not know the policy.
As coupon use becomes more popular, so does coupon fraud – and that just makes it more difficult for everyone to use coupons, as manufacturers will become reluctant to issue good coupons for us to use. You’ll inevitably make mistakes, but try to minimize them and always be nice to the cashier and other employees (no matter how unreasonable they are being). You can always complain to the corporate offices by calling from the store or emailing or calling when you get home.
Have fun saving!