These days, when it comes to saving money, families need all the help they can get. So what if we told you that you could save $1,000 or more a year with coupons?
The best coupon deals aren’t necessarily in your newspaper anymore. Today, coupons are getting a modern-day twist.Of course, anyone who gets a Sunday paper — or the weekly inserts that land in your mailbox — knows that those forms of coupons are very much alive (in fact, 80 percent of grocery coupons still do come from the Sunday paper). But they're not necessarily how you're going to a) land the coupons you want the most or b) get you the coupons that give you the highest dollar values.What kinds of coupons are available today that weren't previously? More retailers are getting in on the act. If you go to the Web sites Bradsdeals.com or CouponMom.com, for example, there are coupons for nearly 1,000 different stores, including Home Depot, Target, PetSmart and Kohl's. They range from 10 to 20 percent off.
Some of them are printable coupons that you can take to the store. Others are coupon codes you can enter at checkout when shopping online. Brad Wilson, who runs BradsDeals.com, says he's noticed more luxury retailers getting in on the game — Bloomingdale's has started couponing more, as has Saks Fifth Avenue.Here are tips to help viewers find the coupons they really want:
The new couponing
- Search for specific product and coupons: Look for the coupons you really want. I always type the name of the merchant and the word “coupon” into Google before I buy anything, and routinely come up with discounts. Recently, a reporter who works with me did the same and got 15 percent off a pair of Steve Madden boots she was shopping for as well as free shipping.
- Take advantage of coupon-specific sites: These include sites like Bradsdeals.com and Promotioncode.org, which gives consumers the opportunity to help each other figure out which coupon codes are good and which don't work. Printable grocery coupons from sites like coupons.com haven't been terrific until recently — now they've not only increased their distribution, but they are also for larger amounts of money.
Coupon Web sites
- If you go to Shortcuts.com — which is a part of AOL — you can load coupons directly on to your store loyalty card. You don't even have to print the coupons out; when you go to the checkout line, you swipe your loyalty card and the dollars come right off. It works at Kroger and all its subsidiaries.
- Here are a few coupon Web sites:
Coupons and mobile devices
- Contact manufacturers directly: You can go to the manufacturers' Web sites and look for coupons. At Pillsbury and General Mills, for instance, you'll find coupon galleries where you can print coupons. At Pillsbury, for example, you can print coupons for $1 off Green Giant Select steamed vegetables as well as roll-out pie crusts. You can also call the manufacturers and ask. We did just that and got coupons from Sunsilk, Quaker Oats ($1 off any product), Tylenol ($3 coupon, $2 coupon and a sample of Tylenol rapid release gels), Burger King (free Whopper) and Lean Cuisine (brochure with multiple purchase coupons).
- Credit card sites: Many credit card companies offer discounts on their sites as well. Ostensibly, they're for cardholders, but in fact they're available to anyone. At Visa.com, for example, there's a 10 percent off coupon at La Quinta Inns and Suites, 20 percent off your first online order from Pizza Hut and $25 off $125 at Kmart.com. At Geico.com, you can sign up for Geico Privileges (basically they just want your e-mail address) and then you get discounts like $20 off bluefly.com, or $20 off an Alamo car rental.
- Stacking: This is essentially using one coupon on top of another to save big. Here are some examples:
- Sign up for a loyalty card: Another strategy is to allow the manufacturers to market to you. Every grocery store — and many other types of stores — has loyalty cards these days. A lot of people sign up and don't provide their home address because they don't want to receive a ton of junk mail. What they don't understand is that the stores use your address plus the information they get on your buying patterns to send you coupons for items you actually buy.
- Warehousing: A final strategy is warehousing. Essentially, you have to understand that there are cycles when products go on sale. If you go into a grocery store, the merchandise is divided into about a dozen different categories, and they're on sale at different times — paper products, for instance, are on sale at different times than candy and cookies, which are on sale at different times than cleaning products. The idea is to follow several simple rules — other than milk and perishable produce, you don't buy anything when it is not on sale. When things are on sale, you stock up. And you don't buy more than you need of things simply because they are on sale. Then, when you go to make dinner, you shop out of your pantry rather than running to the store. People can learn about the cycles when the the supermarket chains give them the heads-up before the sales — they send them the circulars ahead of time.
Jean Chatzky is an editor-at-large at Money Magazine and serves as AOL’s official Money Coach. She is the personal finance editor for NBC’s TODAY Show and is also a columnist for Life Magazine. She is the author of four books, including 2004’s “Pay it Down! From Debt to Wealth on $10 a Day” (Portfolio). To find out more, visit her Web site, .