Coupons and codes: how to earn a discount
Do you remember the news story from a couple of years ago about the teenager who got £600 of shopping for just 4p thanks to his incredible couponing powers? It's an extreme example, which took plenty of scouring and planning but, even if you dial the couponing impulse all the way back to a more casual level, there's still plenty of savings to be found – online as well as in stores.
The most important tip for any would-be couponers looking to make savings is to just keep your eyes open. Coupons show up everywhere – you just have to spot them and grab them .
The second most important tip, of course, is to resist the urge to just chuck them away when your pockets/purse/bag is full of scraps of colourful paper with percentage signs on them. Get a nice big file folder, and stick your coupons in there. Even if it looks like you can't use it now, it may come in handy later – provided it doesn't go out of date.
Split up your folder to separate them by expiry date – it'll take a few minutes, yes, but it'll be worth it when the deals start rolling in. It's also much better than sifting through a big carrier bag to find the right one before you head off to the shops.
The best places to find coupons?
Coupons show up all over the place, so where should you be looking?
- Newspapers. Traditionally the first port of call, but newspaper coupons are a little rarer these days. Also, you have to spend money on the paper on the off-chance they'll have them. Fortunately, red tops and tabloids tend to broadcast any deals loud and clear on the cover – and thereare a few free papers (like the Metro) that are worth a look.
- Supermarket magazines. These are your best bet – they'll be stuffed full of coupons, and they're usually free to pick up. Some careful tearing could see you saving a few quid on every shop, but if you take them home and plan things out you can make bigger savings in the long run.
- Train stations. It's getting more and more common to see people handing out coupons and vouchers in busy train stations during rush hours – slow down on your commute home and accept some flyers, and you might find yourself netting some unexpected savings.
- On products. Before you chuck away the packaging, check for any money-off deals or multi-buy coupons printed on the labels. It can also be worth keeping an eye out for these as you shop, helping every buy go further.
- Online. There is such a thing as an online couponing scene, and it’s huge. You can find loads of offers by browsing forums or listing sites. MySupermarket, Groupon, VoucherCodes, Coupon Shop and Hot UK Deals are all great places to start. You can also bait sellers – add things to your basket and leave them there for a few days, and there's a good chance you'll get an email asking if you want a discount.
- Direct from brands. Filling out customer satisfaction surveys, sending in complaints about defective products, or even just sending a few words about how much you love a product can often earn you some free coupons – or even some free samples!
Stretch your coupons
The key to couponing in a big way isn't just using a voucher to get a couple of quid off a shopping basket. Using a coupon as soon as you have it will see you save a little, but not a lot. It's all about planning!
When you use your coupon is really important. As long as you keep an eye on that expiration date, it can be a good idea to hold on to a coupon for as long as possible. Either make sure you're using it at the shop where the product is the cheapest (provided it's not a shop-specific coupon of course), or wait for a sale or offer to bring the price down even more.
The biggest fear for the couponer is "one promotion per purchase" or "may not be combined with any other deals" – it's worth working out which coupons you can use together, and which ones you can't. One supermarket may charge a little bit more, but you might be able to bring the price down further because of the way they allow you to combine coupons.
If you've struck gold, then stock up – as long as a product is non-perishable, and you've got the coupons to snap up lots of it on the cheap, then pick up as much as you can! This way you'll avoid having to buy it at a higher price. Make sure you only buy things you actually need, though.
Share the responsibility, not just the wealth!
The whole family's benefitting from your couponing ways, so get them involved! Everyone needs to be keeping their eyes peeled, signing up for those "money off your first order" deals, and sticking coupons in your great big folder of savings.
Couponing is a great way to reduce the cost of your shop, whether you go for a casual, moderate, or extreme version of the practice. Take a look at our blog for more money saving tips!
Remember, do not buy what you can’t afford, and think carefully before taking out a loan for any non-essential purchases.