The Fundamentals of Super Couponing
The world of ‘couponing’ is far more nuanced and interesting than you might imagine, and it’s gone largely digital to bring it well into the 21st century. I personally know next to nothing about this topic so I decided to interview a coworker and true expert in the field, Natalie Jimenez. Natalie has been super couponing for several years and gave me a crash course on introductory couponing. She teaches friends and family her tips and tricks, and she is active in taking classes with fellow couponers. Natalie focuses on finding items that are useful for her family. “I only buy what I use at home,” Natalie says. “A lot of stay-at-home moms give back to their household by couponing. That’s how they contribute.”
Without any further delay, let’s dive into Natalie’s fundamentals of super couponing. Some of the following information may seem obvious, but to a super couponing novice like me, all of these details about couponing were very necessary.
✄ ✄ 💰 THE FUNDAMENTALS OF SUPER COUPONING 💰✄ ✄
Rule 1- Get the Sunday Paper
You can get many coupons online, but there are still coupons that you can only find in the Sunday paper. I usually limit the purchase of a Sunday paper to historic moments in time, but Natalie insists that some of the best coupons can only be found in the paper not online or in an app.
Rule 2- Keep Old Coupons
Some coupons expire in a week but more often than not, coupons are good for months if not years. It’s probably not a bad idea to have a binder of coupons to organize and save for the future. Another little known fact is that you can send expired coupons to your local military base. Military personnel are able to use coupons for up to six months after expiration.
If you have coupons you’d like to donate that are within six months of expiration send them to the following address:
Support Our Troops®
P.O. Box 70
Daytona Beach, FL 32115-0070
Rule 3- Match Coupons to Sale Items
I asked Natalie why I should care about the grocery store sales paper I get in the mail every week. I assumed that I can get the discount in the paper without having a coupon so why bother? Well that was rookie mistake #1. The entire point of Super Couponing is to match items on sale with a great coupon to drive the cost of that item as far down as possible. An economist probably won a nobel prize for the following equation:
Sales + Coupon = Cheap or Nearly Free item
Rule 4- Use Supplemental Apps and Websites (Flip, Coupons.com, Cartwheel (Target))
Natalie recommends using the app “Flip” to view local sales papers. This was something that I didn’t realize was necessary, but finding the sale is only the first step. After finding a sale item you then search for any coupons you might have to drive the cost of that item even lower. “If you’re saving more than 50% than I think you’ve done a good job”, Natalie tells me. Of course, the best victories are the items you can get for free when combining a sale with a coupon. Being the pro that she is, Natalie is modest about mentioning the times she’s gotten something at 100% discount aka FREE. But it sounds like this is not that uncommon of an occurrence for her.
The benefit of using an app is that you can easily view the sales going on in your area. Flip contains most the local weekly sales papers (exluding Tom Thumb and Albertsons) as well as a limited amount of coupons. Coupons.com is the mecca for online coupon printing. In addition, there are several store apps like Targer’s ‘Cartwheel’, and Natalie tells me Dollar General and a few other stores have their own apps too to make saving even easier.
Rule 5- Separate Coupon Shopping from Regular Shopping
Natalie recommends separating everyday shopping trips from coupon specific shopping. “If you want to see how much you’re actually saving I recommend separate trips.” She goes on to mention that friends who don’t separate out their shopping trips tend to overlook the sales and feel that they didn’t really save that much after all. When you’re shopping with coupon savings in mind it’s much easier to track your victories and stay motivated for even more savings.
Rule 6- Plan Your Coupon Trip Out
By this point I was already feeling overwhelmed with all this new information, and that’s why Natalie tells me that it’s important to set aside one evening in the week to go through your coupons and sales paper in order to decide what you’re going to go after. This will help you to avoid that overwhelmed feeling a busy store can give, and it will also assure you actually save some money on your next store visit.
Rule 7-Become Familiar with your Local Store Policies
As a rule of thumb, Natalie recommends that you feel out your local stores to see how the management prefers to handle Super Couponing. Her favorite stores in the Dallas area are Target and Kroger thanks to their reasonable and friendly treatment towards couponing. Kroger also has something called the ‘Mega Sale’ several times throughout the year in which savvy couponers can really save. Target often offers cash back rebates in the form of gift cards; plus, they also have the red debit card in which you can save 5% on purchases every day. Additionally, Target has in in-store coupon app called ‘Cartwheel’ to stack on even more in store savings. Natalie says she will save up a bunch of the rebate gift cards over time until she can make an entire shopping trip to Target using nothing but rebate gift cards from her couponing efforts.
Rule 8- Coupon Overage is Real!
If an item costs $3 and you have a $4 coupon this creates ‘overage’. Not all stores treat coupon overage the same. “Some Walmarts will give it [the overage] to you on a gift card, Dollar General has given it to me in cash once. What I’ll do at Walmart sometimes is grab another item and the overage from a coupon will pay for that item,” Natalie says. Target does not honor coupon overage. This makes you wonder if they pocket that overage when time comes for them to collect the coupon credit from manufacturers.
Rule 9- Don’t Be a Coupon Fraud
Beware, there is such a thing as coupon fraud. Natalie says an IP address is allowed to print a maximum of two coupons. Print anymore and you’ll be headed to the ‘big house’ before you reach the end of that 25 cent tube of crest toothpaste… not really, but apparently you can get in some sort of trouble if caught abusing this rule.
Rule 10- Share Your Couponing Expertise with Others
I learned in talking with Natalie that the world of couponing is a community of people that want to help each other save. Natalie helps friends and coworkers stretch their budgets with her simple yet highly effective couponing tips. Having a community of fellow couponers is an important element in Natalie’s opinion. “That’s another thing. Social media has been a life saver for me. I work. I’m not a stay-at-home mom, but there are people that are stay at home parents and they share the savings tips they find,” Natalie tells me. Her favorite social media couponers are @hello_rana_coupons on Instagram for Target deals and Layla James with Kroger Leaders.
It’s this kind of community that makes couponing more than simply cutting coupons out of a Sunday paper. Super Couponers make mincemeat of traditional consumerism. They take the idea of frugality to a whole new level, and in doing so they have built a really cool and unique sub culture of savers.
I can count the number of times I’ve used a coupon at the grocery store on one hand. After taking Natalie’s crash course I feel ready to finally try out my couponing skills. I learned how not to be a coupon fraud, that beer and wine don’t have coupons, and that couponing is actually pretty cool. This rookie couponer is ready to start stacking up the savings. This Sunday join me and thousands of other Super Couponers in buying the local paper as we laugh in the face of suggested retail price.
Share your stories and tips of super couponing in the comments. What’s the most you’ve ever saved when using a coupon?
4Change Energy Michael is earning a Master’s Degree in Graphic Design from Savannah College of Art and Design. When he isn’t working on 4Change Energy design projects, Michael can be found jogging the countless biking and running trails around the Dallas area.