How to get the most out of coupon shopping

October 04, 2012|Lynn Little

Coupons are big business: More than 3,000 manufacturers distribute nearly 330 billion coupons worth an estimated $280 billion every year in an effort to help consumers save money.

Coupons are useful when they save you money on what you're already planning to buy. When using coupons, buy only those items that you normally select for your family. Just because you have a coupon doesn't mean you have to use it. Don't allow coupons to cause you to buy on impulse.

 Comparison shop. Don't assume bigger is better. It might be less expensive to buy two smaller items with coupons than one larger item.

 Try different brands. This will expand the coupons you are able to use and may introduce you to new products you like.

 Know store policies. Does the store match competitors' prices or coupons?  Do they have double coupon days? Can a manufacturer's coupon be used with a store coupon? 

 Look for discounts on prescriptions. Many pharmacies offer a discount with multiple refills. New or transferred prescriptions may receive discounts or gift cards. Check drug manufacturers' websites for rebates, or visit

 Don't forget to look for discounts on such things as home repairs, yard work, dry cleaning, fitness centers, restaurants, car repairs and travel.

You will find coupons in the newspaper, magazines, mailers, store ads and displays, and on product packages. Today, there are many websites offering digital, printable coupons as well as mobile coupons for use with your smartphone.  Search the Internet to find sites that offer coupons.

For additional savings, combine coupons with rebates, combine manufacturer and store "buy one get one free" coupons and use coupons on seasonal promotions and closeouts.  Rebates will either slash the price of consumer goods at the time of purchase or provide partial or full reimbursements after the purchase.

Many rebates are of the mail-in variety requiring you to pay the full cost and then send documentation to the manufacturer or retailer, within 30 days of purchase, to receive a rebate by mail.

The documentation required generally includes the original sales receipt, UPC code, rebate slip and the customer's name, address and telephone number. Follow the instructions on the rebate form and enclose all required documentation in the envelope when filing for a rebate. Be sure to make a copy of all paperwork you send for the rebate. This is your only record if anything goes wrong

If you have requested a rebate, contact the company if the rebate doesn't arrive within the time promised. If the rebate never arrives or arrives late, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General (, or the Maryland Better Business Bureau (

Each year, American households spend billions of dollars shopping. Many consumers use coupons and rebates to reduce the total amount spent and get more for their money.

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