The average American family spends $5,100 a month on living expenses.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet, couponing could be the answer. There’s a learning curve to understanding the science of coupons, but we’re here to help.
Keep reading to learn how to shop for free and save money on your next trip to the store.
How to Shop For Free In Stores
Learning how to start couponing can save you a lot of money. There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be set. Read on to find our tips on getting the best deals in stores.
Use the Right Coupon Apps
You’re probably wondering where to get coupons from in the first place. There are countless applications you can download to help you find the right deals.
Check out websites like Groupon and LivingSocial to find local sales on dining and experiences. You’ll not only get to try something new, but you’ll get to do so for a deep discount.
Some apps are great to use for finding grocery deals, while others are better for home goods. It’s important to note that not all apps work with every locale. You may need to shop around to find one with deals for your city.
Look For Coupons Everywhere
Don’t rely only on coupon apps to find the best sales. Inserts in newspapers and fliers often have fantastic overlooked deals.
A quick Google search of “couponing websites” will bring up hundreds of thousands of results. Look for printable coupons or ones that can be sent directly to your email.
Don’t forget to check the grocery stores, too. Some retailers have coupons you can grab near the entrance. Others use electronic devices in the aisles to share daily deals.
If you have friends and family members who don’t coupon, ask to have theirs.
Only Buy Items When They’re on Sale
If you want to learn how to extreme coupon, you should get comfortable with buying items only when they’re on sale.
Using a $1 off coupon on an item that is full price won’t save you a lot of money. Waiting until that item goes on sale, however, will.
If a bag of rice is usually $5, $1 off won’t save you much money. If the rice goes on sale for $3, your $1 coupon will save you 60% off the retail price.
Know Store Policies
Some retailers have policies in place that can help you save money. It’s good to find out if your favorite stores allow coupon stacking and price matching.
You should also determine if they honor rain checks and accept competitor coupons, too.
Take Advantage of Store Rewards
Many companies have points-based rewards systems. If you’re not a part of their rewards programs, you’re missing out. Points can rack up fast if you shop strategically.
It can get confusing if you’re a part of many different rewards programs. Websites like AwardWallet will track your accounts, so you always know the current state of your rewards.
Do you have spaghetti night once a week? Does your child half a bottle of ketchup at every sitting? Are you a migraineur going through bottle after bottle of painkillers?
It takes months — sometimes years — for pantry staples to expire. When stores have deals on items you use a lot, stock up. This is a great time to stack coupons to get your often-used products as cheap as possible.
Aim for Overages
If you’re lucky, your coupon usage will allow for an overage.
An overage happens when your coupon’s value is higher than the cost of the product. The result is receiving cashback from the cashier or the difference applied to your cart total.
Overages are more likely to occur in stores where you can combine manufacturer and store coupons. Not every retailer offers overages, so don’t be disappointed if you’re denied.
If you know a retailer allows overages, strategize your shopping to reap the benefits.
How to Shop For Free Online
While you may not score as much free product as you can in stores, you can still find great deals. You only need to know where to look.
Join Email Newsletters
The next time you’re looking for Target or Kohls coupons, check your email first. If you’re on the email list for your favorite stores, they’ll let you know what the weekly deals are. Sometimes you’ll get discount codes for online shopping in your inbox, too.
Find and Layer Promo Codes
Promo codes are an online shopper’s best friend. These codes can provide discounts, free trials, and other goodies that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Retailers don’t necessarily broadcast when they have live promo codes, though. In the past, savvy shoppers had to do some online digging to find codes. Now, we have Chrome extensions like Honey to find live promos automatically.
Some retailers, like Sephora, for example, allow customers to stack promotional codes. Make sure you try several at once to see if the retailer you’re shopping with allows layering.
Don’t check out once your cart is full. Let the items sit in your virtual cart for a day or two. Some retailers see that your cart has things in it and will send deals to encourage you to buy.
You may have to wait up to 48 hours to get a coupon code, but it could spell significant savings in the long run.
Ready, Set, Save
Now that you know how to shop for free (or close to it), let the saving begin.
Cut coupons when you find deals on items you need. Start researching the best rewards programs to reap the most benefits. Stockpile essentials when they’re on sale.
It takes a little extra time to be a couponer, but the savings will make it more than worthwhile.
Check out our Lifestyle blogs for more ideas on living a frugal life.