Couponing Makes 'Cents' in Tough Times

Most agree that rising grocery and gas costs make couponing worthwhile, especially for the 15 most expensive items on your shopping list.

Coupon redemptions are gaining popularity among consumers trying to save money and shave costs in a tough economy. 

As couponing has gained more followers, a lingo has developed around the pastime itself. For newbies, it's difficult to make sense of acronyms, such as BOGOF (buy one, get one free) or MIR (mail-in rebate).

Yet most experts agree that it makes sense for consumers to educate themselves about couponing. Rising grocery and gas costs make couponing worthwhile, especially for the 15 most expensive items on your shopping list.

Here are some useful tips, gleaned from couponing devotees and store managers, among other experts:

  • Scour multiple newspapers and online sites for coupons on necessary items, including Parade Magazine, www.FreshDeals.com and  www.grocerycouponfree.net, www.kelloggs.com.
  • Ask friends to share their newspaper inserts rather than recycling.
  • Learn the lingo and how to decipher the jargon (see definitions below).
  • Organize coupons – by the expiration date, item or alphabetically.
  • Store these physically or digitally (try Wowpons, an app for that!)
  • Enroll online at Red Plum or Cool Savings
  • Check out a web site’s legitimacy (check out consumer complaints, if any).
  • Resist the temptation to clip –or buy- everything with a good price. Look instead for items you need and avoid amassing items you may not use.
  • If you choose to purchase coupons, carefully monitor pricing, exclusions and the fine print.
  • Embrace your inner couponer and understand the practice may irritate others. Be unfailingly polite. When in line at a store, tell those behind you that it may take awhile.

Once you get the hang of couponing, the more experienced say it’s wise to match coupons with items already on sale for more significant savings. Pharmacies such as CVS and Walmart offer savings cards and on the printed receipt, you’ll find other deals for your next purchase. Use them.

Longtime couponers also encourage you to chat with store managers to gain insight. They say understanding the acronyms and deciphering the jargon can also be helpful. Here’s the breakdown:

  • BOGOF: Buy One, Get One Free
  • B2G1: Buy Two, Get one Free
  • DND: Do Not Double
  • EXP, X: Expires
  • FAR: Free After Rebate
  • GC: Gift Card
  • IP: Internet Printable
  • MC(MQ): Manufacturer’s coupon
  • MIR: Mail-in Rebate
  • MM: Money Maker deal: amount of the coupons, rebates, discounts, vouchers exceed price of the product
  • NED:  No Expiration Date
  • POP: Proof of Purchase
  • PSA: Prices Starting At
  • ONYO: On Your Next Order
  • OOP: Out of Pocket
  • PQ: Printable Coupon
  • Q: Coupon
  • TMF: Try Me Free

Although the jargon can also be confusing, couponers say it’s wise to check whether a store allows an overage (when the value of your coupon exceeds the cost of the item you’re buying). Some stores will apply the amount of the overage to your other purchases, but since not everyone will, do your homework. It's also helpful to know which stores will match coupons from competitors.

When deciphering the lingo, it's wise to know a purchase is equal to only one item. If you buy a bunch, that’s called a transaction. The phrase “limit one coupon per person/customer, per transaction” means you can only use one coupon during each transaction.

However, if your coupon says, "limit two like coupons in same shopping trip," it means you may use two identical coupons per day, in that store. If it says “limit one coupon, per customer, per item” for each item you purchase, you must have an individual coupon.

However, within the Tampa Bay area, some grocery stores allow as many as five purchases of the buy-one-get-one free of the same item, per store visit. Thats why it's good to establish a relationship with the cashiers and store managers and get the inside scoop.

Stacking means you can use a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon in tandem with one another. When you get the hang of couponing, do some digging around and see if your favorite stores offer double coupon deals.  (That means that at designated times, a coupon is worth twice its face value.)

Experts say it's wise to be wary on the Internet. If you opt to purchase coupons online:

  • Check out the web site’s legitimacy- some of them come and go quickly.
  • Carefully check expiration dates, exclusions, limitations and the  fine print before purchasing.

But if affordable entertainment is your thing, try http://www.groupon.com/subscriptions/new?division_p=tampa-bay-area. You make a purchase up front to buy discounted amusement, cultural events and lower-priced services or rentals. 

Been dying to try a Segway on Anna Maria Island? A family of four can find a deal and also see the turquoise blue waters off Florida’s west coast while gliding along a bike path. Deals from, hair salons, movie, restaurant and kayak rental places are available for coastal towns from Longboat Key and Bradenton to St,. Pete Beach. Once you get the hang of grocey coupons, you can branch out a bit. Try logging onto Living Social, and Slick Deals. For deals on golf, local attractions and resorts within our state try these:

Military, teachers, students, seniors:

For those with military i.d. cards, check out sites such as this one: http://www.couponmom.com/military-coupon--program-451. Local attractions such as Mote Marine Aquarium in Sarasota offer free admission to military members. Discounts for military members, seniors, students, and small children are also available at some restaurnats, movie theatres and places such as Sunken Gardens, but even if it’s for yoga classes, it never hurts to ask.

Sites such as www.retailmenot.com sometimes offer discount coupons for places such as the Salvador Dali Museum. If you’ve been itching to stay overnight at one of our stunning west coast beaches, check out discounts offered to tourists, and look for local coupon books. It may also pay to eat earlier for discounted specials. It's also worth knowing that full-time teachers and students are entitled to $10 tickets to hear the Florida Orchestra play.

I found a local seminar that teaches coupon strategies. Addicted to Saving 101 is being offered free of charge, at the Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla on Thurs. Apr. 26, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Childcare is being offered, The catch is, you must pre-register: http://addictedtosavingclass.eventbrite.com/

And who doesn’t love a gasoline discount? Occasionally, Publix offers $10 discounts on gas cards with a $25 grocery purchase. The latest one (BP, Shell) expired on April 18, but local managers expect another roll-out in the near future.

Staying organized, watching specials, understanding the jargon and resisting  temptation are key strategies to saving money with coupons. Why not post  your own tips, websites, and success stories?

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