Coupons are a great way to save money.
While coupons are a marketing tool used by manufacturers and retailers to drive consumers to their products, knowledgeable and savvy shoppers can save thousands of dollars by bringing coupons with them to the checkout counter. Couponing is often associated with grocery shopping, but restaurants, electronics stores, car repair shops, clothing outfitters, amusement parks and optometrists, among other businesses, also frequently offer coupons. Smart couponing can save a shopper up to 50 percent on a grocery bill, according to Woman's Day magazine.
The world of couponing has long surpassed simply cutting paper coupons from weekly circulars, although many consumers still rely on the Sunday paper for their coupons. Internet coupons are now available for consumers to download, and some manufacturers allow shoppers to load coupons onto supermarket savings cards. Those who shop online do not have to miss out on the potential savings. Many retailers offer coupon codes to their online shoppers. These codes are entered into an information field during checkout and the savings are then deducted from the total.
Some coupons are mailed to the general population, while others are sent to targeted consumers. The booklets of coupons found in the Sunday paper are called weekly circulars. In addition to the national circulars, retailers sometimes include their own coupons in the newspaper. Many households receive small booklets in the mail that include coupons to local retailers.
Many manufacturers and retailers mail coupons to shoppers who have subscribed to their mailing lists or registered at their websites. For example, an expectant mother who registers at the websites of various baby formula and diaper manufacturers will likely receive samples and coupons in her mail and e-mail. Some retailers send valuable coupons to customers who have a store credit card.
Several websites provide downloadable coupons to national retailers, but these sites may impose limitations such as allowing a coupon to be printed only once from an IP address. Not all retailers accept coupons that have been printed from websites.
Internet couponing forums are also a popular way to find coupons. Forum members post coupons they have found so other members know where to get them. Members can also list what coupons they have and do not need or what coupons they want to trade.
Grocery stores frequently have coupon dispensers in their aisles for shoppers as well as coupons that print with the receipt at checkout. Some manufacturers place coupons on their individual products. The shopper peels off the coupon and usually uses it during that same shopping trip.
Real Simple magazine recommends asking the information booths at malls for coupons to the various retailers. Consumers should also ask for available coupons before obtaining services such as car repairs or eye exams.
Coupon codes serve the same purpose as paper coupons, although the method for obtaining them is different. Online retailers often include coupon codes in their advertising in an effort to drive consumers to their website. According to ABC News, coupon codes are usually on websites other than that of the merchant offering the discount in an attempt to bring more consumers to their site. The information field for coupon codes is typically located on the same page that payment and shipping information is entered. Shoppers should double-check that the coupon code is still valid and was applied to the order before completing the purchase.
Many retailers accept competitor coupons in an effort to retain customers. Many times retailers post their policies on price matching on their websites, but consumers can also request a written copy from customer service. Most price-matching policies include restrictions on competitors' clearance and going-out-of-business sales.