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How to Use Coupons and Save Money When You Shop.

Don is a retired engineer and shares his experiences and knowledge with his readers to help them as technology gets more complicated.

Savings for Real People

If you are looking to save or even make a fortune by using Coupons, Please sign off of this Article, RIGHT NOW!

This article is not for you. There are plenty of articles, and even books, that purport to show you the way to becoming rich by using Coupons.

This article provides some good, common sense ways for the average person to use Coupons and reduce their expenses. It is not intended, in any way, for people to become EXTREME COUPONERS.

Sometimes, You just want to save a Buck or two, and not start a new Hobby or in reality, a second job. Just save a buck!

Typical Coupons You will see


Coupons can be found Everywhere!

We have all become so used to seeing coupons stuck in front of us that we often don't even recognize that they are there.

We open our newspaper and start reading it and just automatically toss those multi-colored and odd sized pages aside to get to what a newspaper is designed to give you, NEWS!

And, when we are finished, we toss all of those weird advertisements into the trash.

Or,we open our mailbox and pull out the days bundle and when we get into the house, we automatically sort through the same multi-colored and odd-sized pages for the REAL MAIL. And we usually just toss the rest into the trash.

Or, maybe we walk into our regular supermarket or department store, and we are greeted at the door with colorful racks of guess what?

There they are, those same multi-colored, odd-shaped flyers full of coupons for their specific store.

Often, we will grab a shopping cart, and what is lying in the bottom of each cart? Yep, the same paper enticements to get you to spend, often including their store specific coupons.

We can even buy a book or a magazine at a bookstore, or maybe even subscribe to a specific magazine, and when we sit down and open it, what do we find?

In the book there will be cards or "Stuffers" that the publisher slipped into the book to entice us to buy yet another book.

In the magazine? Well, you can spend four or five minutes trying to pull all of the ads out of the binding of your magazine so that you can actually fold the pages easily while you are reading it.

Those ads were put into the magazine during the binding process and it is obvious that they are designed to be a nuisance so that you will take yet one more look at them, before you tear them out, in anger.

Why do Coupons exist, Anyway?

So, why are we deluged in these paper enticements to spend, everywhere we turn?

Simply put, there is really only one reason for these things to be everywhere in your life. And, that's to advertise and specifically to advertise with coupons.

The manufacturers and retailers are trying to pull in more sales.

That's it ..... More sales.

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What are the reasons for offering discounts via coupons?

Well, again, the main reason is to get more sales but there can be several basic causes for them to offer these discounts, and here are a few:

Coupons give exposure to products

- Often coupons are offered by manufacturers and retailers alike to get more exposure for a specific product in a town or region in order to expand their market base.

So, one of the strategies that is often used is to provide their product at their normal price.

But in order to gain exposure to the potential users of their product they will offer a significant discount via a coupon,

Often the discount can be for as much as 1/3 to 1/2 off of the regular price. And the goal is that once you try their product, you will come back and pay the regular price the next time.


- It is disruptive for many manufacturers to have temporary variations in their production process, but often there are seasonal or economy situations that cause an established product to have lower sales than normal,

The simplest reaction to such a condition is, once again, is to offer a discount coupon in order to drive temporary sales to a higher level for a short period of time.


With many manufacturers their products will reach the end of their planned life, or are just seasonal products, such as clothing.

To move the unsold inventory out, they will offer coupons on these products in order to clear their inventory storage and processing systems in order to make room for their newer products.


Then, there is the retailer himself. Often with the level of competition in the different retail markets, retailers will offer coupon discounts themselves to draw new customers away from their competition.

So, these coupons are placed out there, strategically, in papers, in the mail, and in their stores, in order to draw new customers or even to keep their regular customers happy with their pricing.

There are many other reasons for there being so many coupons out there offering discounts for us to take advantage of, but you will find that these are the major ones.

Coupons for the Average Joe!

So, with all of this said, I hope that you understand why there are so many coupons out there for you to take advantage of.

And you should use them, judiciously to save yourself some money without becoming one of those people.

You know, the ones who pull out their thick portfolio of coupons from their bag and then tie up the checkout line for an eternity while they try to get their $100 basket of goods for $3.50, or whatever!

You do not have to be an Extreme Couponer to have some significant savings on certain products. But you do have to put in a little extra time to save.

A Book for the beginner COUPON user

The simple way to use Coupons

My wife and I do have a simple way to utilize certain coupons and save on our shopping, and here is what I recommend to you.

Use Monthly Envelopes

Coupons have expiration dates, often within the next month or so.

We have found that if we just take 12 envelopes and write names of each month on the envelopes, than we have a system for managing our coupons.

Using Expiration dates

You should use the envelopes to store your coupons by expiration date. But there is one little trick that you need to use.

You see, normally, if you are in the month of June and you have a coupon that expires in June then you place that coupon into your June envelope.

But, if you have a coupon that expires in July, do you place it into your July envelope?

Well, NO. If the expiration date is further out than the present month you place it into the present months envelope.

It is good to use in June, and you might want to use it in June, but if you leave all of your other monthly envelopes at home, then you might miss using it in June.

Then, at the end of June, take that envelope and discard the expired coupons and place all of the other, still valid coupons into your July envelope, along with your August and other months coupons.

Which Coupons Should you Keep

This is the important thing that allows you to use coupons efficiently and not waste your life looking for penny savings o products that you will probably not use.

The Average Coupon user should definitely still scan through those advertisements, flyers, newspapers and such for great deals.

But you should only keep the coupons for products that you actually use, and not be enticed into changing your lifestyle. here are some examples of types coupons that you should just skip over;

Favorite Products vs. New: Take toothpaste, for example. If you have been using Crest toothpaste for years, why keep a coupon for a great price on some other brand. In all likelyhood, you are going to continue to purchase your favorite brand, and you will end up trashing that other coupon anyway. So, why bother with taking the time to cut the coupon out?

Not needed Now Products: Be real, if you open a flyer and see a great price on Running Shoes, for example, and it is good for 5 days. Do you go over and buy them and save $10?

Well, if your existing Running shoes are still in good shape, probably good for another six months, as often as you run, do you really need to have a new pair sitting in your closet for six months?

And, by the way, tying up your money that you could use for other things.

Not for the Real Me Products: This is one situation that we all need to avoid, when a sale or great deal drives us to purchase something that is not a part of our regular lifestyle.

For example, if you rarely, or even never eat canned Creamed Corn, ask yourself why you would cut out a coupon for 10 cans of Creamed Corn that is on sale for $4.00, or whatever?

Or, if you see a coupon for a pair of jeans at half off of their regular price. But you look in your closet and you already have 3 pair of jeans that fit you and are in good condition. So do you really need to buy another pair that will just hang in your closet, maybe for a year or more? Probably not!

There are more situations that you should consider when saving coupons, but these are the major ones.

You need to consider such things to avoid wasting your time on saving and managing coupons that you should not even consider.

Use COUPONs Your Way

The main thing to understand is that each of us should utilize these Coupons when we can, on the products that we are going to purchase anyway.

Saving $3 to $8 on your weekly supermarket visits or 10% to 30% on your department store visist ends up being a significant amount of money for you over time.

This is especially true when you can do this just by being observant and taking maybe 1/2-hour of your time to prepare.

Then, when you are in the store, read the labels. you may just find an even better deal without or in addition to a coupon.

Calculate the REAL SAVINGS to YOU if you drive

Does the Savings offered actually offset the cost of the Trip to get the deal:

This one is very important for all of us these days, with the price of gasoline being what it is.

If you have a coupon or maybe you just saw a TV advertisement for Product-X that is offered at $10 less than the normal price.

But, they also say that the sale price is only good a certain stores. So, you look and the closest store where you can use the savings is 15-miles away.

How do you calculate the real savings to you on the product, considering where you live?

Calculate the REAL SAVINGS

Here is a little formula that you can use to get a feel for the REAL SAVINGS considering the trip that you will have to make to take advantage of the deal.

RS = PSO - (2M/MPG)* CG - MTC

Here are what the symbols mean;

RS = Real Savings

PSO = Product Savings offered

2M = The number of miles that you have to drive from your home to the store and then back home, or two times the one-way mileage.

MPG = This is the actual miles per gallon that your vehicle gets, on average.

CG = This is the Cost per Gallon that you pay for fuel for your automobile.

MTC = This the thing that many people don't consider and that is what does My Time Cost? Maybe you just put a zero there because you don't care how long this shopping trip costs you, or maybe, if you think about it, your time is worth something and if so, you need to put a value on what it cost you to take advantage of this sale.

Here is an example of using this formula;

PSO = $15 = the actual product savings offered.

2M = 12 miles one way or 2M = 24 = round trip mileage

MPG = 18 = average car mileage

CG = $3.50 = Cost of gasoline per gallon

MTC = $0 = You figure that your personal time is worth nothing.

Put all of this into the formula and you have;

RS = PSO - (2M/MPG)* CG - MTC

RS = $15 - (24/18)* $3.50 - 0

RS = $15 - (1.33) * $3.50

RS = $15 - $4.665

RS = $10.33 = the real saving from your using the discount considering your fuel costs..

Once you have calculated this, you can then decide if you want the product at it's real savings.

And, once again, here I used a value of $0 for the value of my time.

Is this a realistic assumption for you? Or has this proposed savings of $15 that has now turned into $10.33 still worth your time?


Couponing at Walgreens

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Don Bobbitt


ignugent17 on October 14, 2016:

Thank for sharing the interesting tips of how to coupon. I also believe that you should buy whatever you need.

Writerinky from Kentucky on May 11, 2016:

Interesting article! I am a sucker for a great deal and started getting into couponing last November. The "real savings" calculator is an excellent idea; sometimes I get so involved in what I'm saving at the store, it's easy to forget what's spent on gas.

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on April 27, 2013:

bydojo- Thank you for reading my article and commenting on it.

I started getting into using coupons a couple of years ago, and if you take the time to manage them properly, you can save a serious amount of money.

Thanks again,


Ramona Jar from New York on April 27, 2013:

We are just beginning to use coupons in my country, but I saw how much money our friends in NYC are saving with coupons. Even if you save 200-300 bucks/month as they do, this is some serious money. You can use it to travel somewhere or pay off debt faster.

Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on June 05, 2012:

Laci- I agree. I really don't need a new hobby to take up my time, nor do I have a warehouse near my home for bulk storage of things that I do not need at the time.

tipstoretireearly- That is the whole point from my perspective. I just want to save a buck or two on what I use, not change my world for a quarter.

Thanks for the comments guys!

tipstoretireearly from New York on June 04, 2012:

Its great to see an article for regular people who'd like to save some money using coupons. As you say, if you aren't going to buy or use the product, why waste your time cutting out a coupon for it? The real savings of coupons comes when you'd buy the product anyway.

Laci Ledbetter from Fayetteville, Arkansas on June 04, 2012:

Love it! Extreme couponing is way to complicated for me.

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