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The best way to get all the good manufacturer coupons is through the Sunday newspaper. Every Sunday (or I should say nearly every Sunday) coupon circulars are distributed through the newspaper. Frequently major holidays do not have any coupon inserts. Of these circulars there are Smart Source (SS), Red Plum (RP), and Proctor & Gamble (PG).
Typically there is 1 (or sometimes 2, very occasionally 3) insert(s) each of SS and RP. The P&G insert is only distributed once a month, usually at the very beginning of the month or sometimes at the very end of the month before. The P&G insert is also only good for the 1 month that it is issued and only have coupons for P&G products, while SS and RP may have coupons that do not expire for several months and include coupons from all walks of life.
I personally recommend to make sure you get at least 2 Sunday papers every week that the circulars are distributed. You will find that many coupon deals require for you to purchase 2 of the same item and so it is wise to have access to 2 manufacturer coupons. Remember you may use 1 manufacturer coupon for each item that you purchase.
Sometimes you see on tv these people digging through the recycling bin trying to get as many circulars as they can (and I believe this is actually illegal). I have found that it has not really benefited me that much to get more than 4 newspapers a week. The reason being that it has been uncommon that I would need to purchase more than 4 of the same item in order to score a deal, and also many coupons only allow you to use 4 of the same type of coupon in a transaction. Since I typically do not try to score the same deal more than once, 4 newspapers has been the ideal number. If you find it beneficial to get more, then by all means go for it.
So it is a good idea to start with between 2 and 4 newspapers every Sunday. At the moment I am getting 3. I have a subscription to the paper that gets delivered on Sunday and then I purchase 2 more from the grocery store. Occasionally I will receive a 4th from my neighbor or friend.
Depending on your region your grocery stores may also receive what is called a Sunday Preview paper on Saturday which includes all the coupon circulars and can be cheaper than the traditional Sunday paper. It is also possible you may be able to score a double paper from the store on Sundays that is discounted and includes 1 traditional Sunday paper and 1 Sunday Preview paper so that you are getting 2 sets of inserts.
Check with your store to see what type of papers are available to you. I used to live in a region where the local paper distributed the “double paper” at the store which was great. We have since moved and unfortunately that option is no longer available to me.
In addition to the newspaper there are several sites that distribute manufacturer coupons online. These coupons essentially work the same way as the ones in the newspaper, however there is a catch. You may only print 2 coupons per computer and usually you can use no more than 4 per transaction. So if you need more than 2 of the online coupons then you will have to print from 2 separate computers. Nevertheless, these can be good supplements to the newspaper circulars. Some of the most common websites are coupons.com, Smart Source, Red Plum, and P&G, which each offer many of the same coupons as the paper online (sometimes they’re even better).
Store Loyalty Card Coupons
Recently many grocery stores have made manufacturer coupons available through their apps and store loyalty cards. The idea is that you choose the coupons you want on the app and it automatically adds it to your loyalty card to be applied when the card is scanned at checkout. Be aware that unless it says otherwise, these are manufacturer coupons and cannot be stacked with the coupons from the paper or online. Check with your store to see if this is an option for you.
Store Coupons and Promotions
Some of the best places to coupon also make separate store coupons available. Target for example has several resources for discounts that may be stacked together to increase savings. Target sometimes will release store coupons on items in the newspaper circulars themselves. They also have store coupons online for print out as well as mobile offers through their app or through text. The weekly ad also typically will include a purchase based coupon, for example $5 off a $20 purchase of baby items. Target’s cartwheel app includes additional promotions such as 10% off Viva paper towels. On top of all of this, if you purchase with your Target REDcard you receive an additional 5% off your purchase. You can see that taking advantage of all of these coupon stacks can lead to significant savings off of a product, especially when it is on sale. Each store will have different policies and coupon offers, so be sure to check your store’s policy which I talk more about in this post. You can also read more about couponing at Target here.
There are also other ways to “get money back” as I like to say. These options are not upfront savings at the cash register but rather cash back alternatives.
Mail in rebates are one of the oldest yet still standing options. When a rebate is offered, generally you must purchase the item first, then mail in or submit your receipt to the company and have the specified rebate amount mailed back to you. This works, but is kinda slow. So while you will get your money back, it will take a while.
There are also 2 very popular “rebate” apps that many couponers have taken advantage of. Checkout 51 and Ibotta have been frequenting the coupon world these days. They essentially work the same as a rebate in that you make the purchase and then submit the receipt on the app. Once you have hit a certain dollar amount on the app for your rebates, such as $20, then you may cash out.
While many people love these apps and mail in rebates, I tend to skip them. I have personally found that I do not purchase the products available on them enough to make it worth it. Besides, I prefer the upfront savings at the register rather than receiving money back later. Do not let this deter you from trying them should you so desire to see if they work well for you. It is no secret that we live in a technological world and it is likely that new apps will continue to come and go.
Edit: Since first writing this post I have had a bit of a change of heart regarding rebate apps. While I still maintain that you shouldn’t rely on them regarding your out of pocket cost, they can come in handy to receive a little bit of cash back later. You can read more about rebate apps here.