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Couponing Basics

Are you wanting to start saving money in a big way? If so, an easy way to do that is to pair coupons with a great sale. You may have some experience with coupons or none at all, but we can all benefit from learning how to effectively use coupons and sales to save money.

To get started with saving, here are a few things you'll want to understand:

1. Just because a coupon exists doesn't mean it should be used. Using a coupon on a product that you need or want will not necessarily make it a good discount. Watch for a sale on the item to maximize the discount. For example, if you have a coupon for $4 off Coppertone sunscreen, you can go to the store and use it on a can that regularly costs $10. You'll pay $6. Or you can find it on sale at another store for $5 and pay only $1. Big difference!

2. Stores earn more money on purchases with manufacturers coupons. Each store receives the value of the coupon plus a processing/handling fee that normally ranges from $.07-.15 each! By using coupons, we are actually helping the store make more money!

3. One manufacturer coupon is allowed per product. Read the coupon carefully to use it correctly. One per purchase means one for each product. If you have four ketchup coupons, you can buy four bottles of ketchup at that discount.

4. A store coupon and a manufacturer coupon can often be used together, depending on the store policy. (Target, Walgreens, Smiths, Associated Foods)

5. Each store has a coupon policy—not all cashiers are familiar with policies, so it's important for you to become familiar with the policies of the stores you shop. Most stores list their policies on their web sites. You can print them to take with you for future reference.

6. Couponing is gaining in popularity, but there are still many people (including cashiers and managers) who don't fully understand it. Remember that saving a few pennies is never worth losing your cool or having a fight. When I encounter someone who wants to argue over the coupon policy, I just ask them to remove the item in dispute from my order. I'll pick it up some other time without a fight. Live to coupon another day!