Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Couponing for Beginners Part 3: What are Coupons and Where Can We Get Them?

Picture Courtesy of Google
When people ask me what options we have in Alaska to get coupons, I always have an answer.  It's one word, but it sums up our options up here very well. 

That word is, "Limited."

See, here's the thing.  Coupons are money.  Plain and simple.  They are a very specific currency that a company releases in limited numbers to try and entice consumers to buy their products.  And, now a days it has the added benefit of hopefully getting consumers to buy their name-brand products instead of just buying the store generic assuming that it's cheaper, thus increasing their sales.

The target market for these coupons are usually very specific when released in our Sunday papers because those coupons have a set budget attached to each and every one.  They market this "product enticement" to set markets.  The markets vary demographically.  They are set by region, population, coupon use, readership of paper, age of consumers and a lot of other things.  The better a place scores on the scales the manufacturer has set, the better and more coupons that area will receive.

So, we choose to live in a state with a largely scattered populace, and not a large one compared to even a large Lower 48 city, with demographics among that population spread all across the board on age, income levels, and everything else.  The result?  We get about 5 to 10 coupons on average in our Sunday paper compared to say a decent sized city down south that receives about 40 to 50 coupons in the paper each week.

Here's a good example.  I did a post one week on what coupons we got compared to a Lower 48 insert. These figures are from 2009, but it's about accurate on the number of coupons we'd see compared to the Lower 48 (we might get a few more coupons in our papers today, but not many). Ready?

The Lower 48 inserts received...

Smart Source
Arm & Hammer Total 2-in-1 Moist Dryer Cloths $1 expires 7/15/09
Aunt Jemima Frozen Waffle, Entrée, or French Toast $1/2 expires 6/30/09
Banana Boat Suncare Product (no lip balm) $1 expires 8/31/09
Bausch & Lomb Alaway Antihistamine Eye Drops $1 expires 8/3/09
Beano (30ct+) $1 expires 7/31/09
Beano To-Go product (12ct) 50¢ expires 7/31/09
Purchase one (1) Bic Soleil Refillable Razor Handle, Receive one (1) Bic Soleil 4-pk Cartridges Free (value to $7.29) expires 6/14/09
Carvel Cake (40oz+) 42 expires 6/30/09
Carvel Sheet Cake (80oz+ ) $4 expires 6/30/09
Chinet Cut Crystal Cups $1 expires 6/30/09
Chinet Cut Crystal Plates $2 expires 6/30/09
Chinet Lunch Product (36 or 72ct) $2 expires 6/30/09
Chinet Product $1 expires 6/30/09
Chloraseptic Allergen Block $3 expires 10/31/09
Cortizon-10 $1 expires 7/31/09
Cortizone-10 Cooling Relief Gel or Cortizone-10 Easy Relief Applicator $1 expires 7/31/09
Dannon Single-Serve Cups 60¢/6 expires 7/31/09
Egg-lands Best Cage Free Organic Dozen Eggs 50¢ expires 9/30/09
Egg-lands Best Eggs 35¢ expires 9/30/09
Egg-lands Best Hard-Cooked & Peeled Eggs 35¢ expires 9/30/09
El Monterey Taquitos $1 expires 7/31/09
Excedrin Migraine (24ct+) $1 expires 7/6/09
Excedrin (20ct+) $1 expires 7/6/09
Excedrin (80ct+) $2 expires 7/6/09
Fiber Choice Plus Antioxidants $4 expires 6/30/09
Fiber Choice (90ct+) $2 expires 6/30/09
Fiber One Cereal 50¢ expires 6/13/09
GE Reveal $2.00/2 GE Reveal or halogen lighting products expires 7/31/09
General Mills Cereal $1/3 expires 6/13/09
Glade Plugins Scented Gel Refill Packs $1.00/2 expires 6/13/09
Glade Plugins Scented Gel Warmer B1G1 (value to $2.35) expires 6/13/09
Purchase one (1) Glade Scented Oil Refills, Receive one (1) Glade Scented Oil Candles Tin Holder (value to $3.99) expires 6/13/09
Hawaiian Tropic Suncare (6oz+) $1 expires 8/1/09
Herdez Salsa (16 oz+) 50¢ expires 7/5/09
Hershey’s Bliss Chocolates Bag (9.6oz+) $1 expires 6/30/09
Hill’s Science Diet Canned Cat Food (to 5oz) B3G1 expires 8/31/09
Jell-O Refrigerated Gelatin or Pudding Snacks 50¢ expires 6/1/09
Ken’s Lite Accents Salad Dressing Spray $1 expires 6/30/09
Ken’s Dressings $1/2 expires 6/30/09
Ken’s Marinade or Buffalo Wing Sauce $1 expires 6/30/09
Kraft BBQ Sauce (18oz+) 75¢ expires 6/3/09 (a really good sale or if your store doubles coupons should make this free or close)
Lance 100 Calorie Sandwich Crackers (6ct) $1 expires 8/31/09
Lean Cuisine $1/4 expires 8/9/09
Lime A Way Cleaner $1 expires 6/28/09
Little Allergies Allergen Block $3 expires 10/31/09
Lubriderm Body Lotion or Cream (3.5oz+) $1 expires 8/3/09
Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion (6oz+) $1 expires 8/3/09
Lysol Disinfectant Spray (12oz+) $2 expires 6/29/09
Lysol Neutra Air Sanitizing Spray $1.50 expires 6/29/09
Marcal 2 ct Bathroom Tissue or Paper Towels $1 expires 5/31/09
FREE Marcal Small Steps expires 5/31/09
Mentos Gum 55¢ expires 7/31/09
Mentos Gum 55¢ expires 7/31/09
Neutrogena Makeup Remover or Cleansing Product $1 expires 6/4/09
New York Style Product 75¢ expires 7/31/09
Nonni’s Biscotti $1 expires 7/31/09
Old English Aerosol $1 expires 6/28/09
Old English Product $1 expires 6/28/09
Oxy Maximum Product $1 expires 7/31/09
Oxy Sensitive Product $1 expires 7/31/09
Pert Plus (12oz+) $1 expires 6/30/09
Pert Plus for Men $1.50 expires 6/30/09
Playtex Disposable Gloves $1 expires 10/30/09
Playtex Living or HandSaver Gloves $1 expires 10/30/09
Red Baron French Bread Product 75¢ expires 12/31/09
Reese’s, York or Hershey’s 100 Calorie Bars (4oz+) 75¢ expires 8/3/09
Resolve $1 expires 6/14/09
Resolve Deep Clean Powder $2 expires 6/14/09
Rhodes Warm-N-Serv Rolls $1 expires 8/31/09
Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids, Lock-Its, Produce Saver, or Premier Container $1 expires 6/30/09
Sargento Salad Finishers or Potato Finishers 75¢ expires 7/31/09
Science Diet Canned Cat Food B3G1 (value to $1.09) expires 8/31/09
Science Diet Canned Dog Food $2 off the purchase of (6) 13 oz Cans expires 8/31/09
Science Diet Dry Cat Food (3#+) $2 expires 8/31/09
Science Diet Dry Dog Food (4#+) $3 expires 8/31/09
Smart Food Brand Snacks (5oz+) $1 expires 6/7/09
Smartmouth Whitening Toothpaste (6oz) $2 expires 8/3/09
Smartmouth Mouthwash $2 expires 8/3/09
Spray ‘n Wash 50¢ expires 6/14/09
Sure Antiperspirant & Deodorant (2oz+) 75¢ expires 6/30/09
Sure Antiperspirant & Deodorant for Men $1.50 expires 6/30/09
TreeTop Trim (46oz) $1 expires 6/15/09
Ziploc Brand Fresh Shield Easy Zipper Bags with Expandable Bottom B1G1 (value to $2.19) expires 6/27/09

Red Plum
Advil (40ct+) $1 expires 5/31/09
Advil PM (16ct+) $1 expires 6/30/09
Aunt Jemima Mix or Syrup $1/2 expires 8/31/09
Caltrate any (except 30ct) 41 expires 7/31/09
Centrum Cardio $2 expires 7/31/09
Finishing Touch Lumina Lighted Hair Remover $1.50 expires 8/31/09
Flex-a-min Joint Care Product $6 expires 6/24/09
Folgers (7oz+) 25¢ expires 5/31/09
Folgers Decaf, 1/2 Caff or Simply Smooth (11.3oz+) 50¢ expires 5/31/09
Garnier Fructis Shampoo, Conditioner or Treatment $1 expires 5/31/09
Garnier Fructis Style Product $1 expires 5/31/09
Garnier Nutrisse or 100% Color $2 expires 5/31/09
Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Moisture Lotion, Anti-fatigue Eye Cream, Overnight Cream or Moisture Cream 41 expires 7/31/09
Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Moisture Lotion, Anti-fatigue Eye Cream, Overnight Cream or Moisture Cream $3/2 expires 7/31/09
Goodlife Recipe Treats For Cats 50¢ expires 7/25/09
Jimmy Dean Sandwich $1 expires 6/30/09
Laura Scudder’s Natural Peanut Butter $1/2 expires 7/31/09
Natures Bounty vitamins or supplements $1 expires 6/17/09
Nexcare or Nexcare Tattoo Bandages 55¢ or $1 expires 7/31/09
Nivea for Men Energizing Face Scrub, Face Wash, Face Lotion, Post Shave Balm $1 expires 6/30/09
Nivea for Men Shave Gel (7oz+) $1/2 expires 6/30/09
Nivea for Men Revitalizing Lotion Q10, Revitalizing Eye Cream Q10 $2 expires 6/30/09
Nivea for Men Body Wash Product $1 expires 6/30/09
O-Cel-O Sponges or Scrub Sponges 75¢/2 expires 7/31/09
O-Cel-O Dish Wand or Dish Wand Refills 75¢/2 expires 7/31/09
Pangburn’s Millionaire$ Boxed Chocolates (9.75oz+) $1 expires 10/31/09
Pangburn’s Sugar Free Millionaire$ Boxed Chocolate (8.75oz+) $1 expires 10/31/09
Pepcid Product (no trial) 42 expires 7/31/09
Quaker Chewy Granola Bars 75¢/2 expires 6/30/09
Russell Stover Boxed Chocolates (8.25oz) $1 expires 10/31/09
Russell Stover Private Reserve Boxed Chocolates (7.75oz+) $1 expires 10/31/09
SlimShots $5 expires 8/31/09
Smooth Away or Smooth Away Vibe $1 expires 8/31/09
Smuckers Low Sugar or Sugar Free Jams, Jellies, Preserves $1/2 expires 7/31/09
Sparkle Giant Roll 2-Pack $1 expires 6/22/09
Tropicana (59oz+) $1/2 expires 7/26/09
Truvia 55¢ expires 7/31/09
Whitman’s Boxed Sampler (12oz+) $1 expires 10/31/09
Whitman’s Boxed Soho (3.3oz+) $1/2 expires 10/31/09

In comparison, here is what we ACTUALLY got in our paper...

Smart Source

1.00/1 Ken's Dressing
1.00/1 Kens 7oz. Lite Accents Salad Dressing Spray
1.00/1 Ken's Marinade or Buffalo Wing Sauce
19.99 Cold Stone Creamery Small Round Cake
1.00/1 Cold Stone Creamery any size smoothie or shake
.50/1 Eggland's Best Eggs
.50/1 Eggland's Best Cage Free Dozen or Organic Dozen Eggs
50% packaging at the UPS store
1.00/1 Smartfood snacks 5 oz or larger
2.00/1 Science Diet Catfood 3 lb bag or larger
3.00/1 Science Diet Dogfood 4 lb bag or larger
B3G1 Science Diet canned catfood (1.09 or less)
2.00/6 Science Diet canned dogfood 13 oz cans
.55/1 Mentos Gum (sugarfree) any flavor
.55/1 Mentos Gum (sugarfree) any flavor
.50/1 Jello refrigerated Gelatin or Pudding Snacks
.75/1 Kraft BBQ sauce
1.50/2 GE Reveal or halogen lighting products
B1G1 Glade Plugins Scented Gel Warmer (2.35 or less...excludes extra outlet)
1.00/2 Glade Plugins Scented refill packs

Red Plum

.25/1 Folgers Coffee 7oz or larger
.50/1 Folgers Decaf, 1/2 Caff, or Simply Smooth product 11.3 oz or larger
6.00/1 Flez-a-min Joint Care Product
.35/1 Smuckers Low Sugar or Sugar Free Jam, Jelly or Preserves
B1G1 Pedigree Food For Dogs (up to 1.09...cans)
And we got some McDonalds Coupons

So, the lesson here?  Printed coupons in our paper are pretty pathetic compared to other areas of the country.  The downside to this is if you run across a Lower 48 blog and they start talking about some awesome printed coupon in the paper that is going to result in a free product...odds are about 9 times out of 10 we didn't get it in our paper.

There IS an upside to being where we are though.  The stores still take Internet Printed coupons up here, where in the Lower 48 in a lot of areas they will not take internet printed anything due to coupon fraud.  So long as we continue to use coupons ethically and do things the right way I'm hoping that IP coupons will be accepted up here for a long while.  Internet printed coupons are a Godsend to Alaskans if you can't afford to get printed coupons from outside.  I've also found they significantly close the gap between us and the Lower 48 on a lot of deals, so with the nice high value IP's we get the loss of printed coupons in the paper doesn't hurt as bad.  Yes, it's still irritating, but at least we aren't completely out of luck when it comes to getting coupons thanks to internet printables.

Now, if you DO have room in your budget there are things called "Coupon Clipping Services" you can use in order to get coupons from the Lower 48.  The CIC (otherwise known as the "coupon police" by those in the know) frowns on these services because they get around the wording on coupons where it says you can't SELL a coupon by saying that they are charging for their services in CLIPPING a coupon and are not actually selling you the actual coupon (very clever non?).  They have been surviving in this legal loophole for years and it drives the CIC and the manufacturers nuts because there doesn't seem to be much of anything they can do about it.  The only way they could press charges is if they could prove that the coupon clipping services are placing a monetary value ON said coupon, but they aren't because they are charging for their clipping services, not for the coupon itself. 

I leave it up to your own morals if you want to use one of these services or not, honestly.  I personally have never used one, mainly because of the costs involved (and my mom is nice enough to send me coupons from her paper).  The shipping on these services tends to be high and I never see the point in shelling out 5.00 shipping to get coupons if I'm going to save an average of 3.00 per week with the coupons from the paper...get what I mean?  If you have friends that you can split shipping costs with and form sort of a "coupon co-op" it is much more cost effective and many people seem to go this route.

The outfit that most people up here seem to use is Coupons and Things By Dede because you can buy entire inserts from them instead of getting nickled and dimed by the coupon.  I leave it up to you to figure out if the costs are worth it to you to order inserts or coupons, but my advice is to be realistic and not spend like 20.00 a week on coupons so you can save 25.00 at the store on groceries.  It just doesn't seem very cost effective to me.

You can use coupon clipping services to pay for individual "coupon clips" as well.  The cost involved usually rotates around how high a value the coupon is, anywhere from .05 to .25 per coupon plus whatever shipping equates to.  You can look up coupon clipping services by googling them.  "The Coupon Clippers", "The Coupon Master"...those are both outfits that people use and I've heard positive feedback on.  The big thing is that remember to use your fingers to do the walking for you in some cases.  Google a service before you use it and just type like "Coupon Clippers, reviews" and see what people have to say about them.  You'll quickly learn what outfits are the best value for your money.  Also, be sure to read the fine print.  Some organizations have minimum amounts of a coupon you have to order (like say 10) before you can order them, so make sure you REALLY want a coupon if you go that route.

There is also the "I'm dead broke" route as well.  You can do like I do and beg a relative in the Lower 48 who gets coupons and doesn't want them to mail them to you once a week and just send them books of stamps in the mail as needed (if you feel guilty about relatives shelling out stamps every week to send you cool stuff).  It's a great way for people to recycle down south (giving coupons to someone who could use them) and a great way for you to get coupons without breaking the bank on shipping (two stamps a week is a heck of a lot cheaper than 5.00 and something don't you agree?).

Another way people get coupons is to use E-Bay.  Okay, I will admit it I have SERIOUS issues with buying coupons off of E-bay even though I know many people who have no problems using it to buy coupons.  For one thing, coupons tend to come in a lot of like 20 to 200 or more and there are VERY few times (read never) I'd ever see myself buying 200 of anything.  For another thing, like 99% of fraudulent coupons are either created for and sold on E-bay or they make their way there and get sold to people.  If you have NO other means of getting printed coupons, though, this really is the most viable option you might have.

My advice is this.  ALWAYS look at seller feedback before buying anything off of E-bay.  Do not buy ANY internet printed coupons off of E-bay, period, or any home printed coupons at all if you can avoid it.  The odds of getting a fraudulent coupon in those two formats is quite high (for instance I had to tell a lady at the store that her home printed coupons for free Doritos were fraudulent only to find out her daughter had, guess what, bought like 20 of them off of E-bay).  Never knowingly seek out fraudulent coupons to buy either and don't use any coupons that you even THINK might be fraudulent.  I know people who have actually used bad coupons knowingly just because they scan (and of course they argued with me that if they scanned they couldn't be all bad right?) and they know they won't get caught, but darn it it's STILL against the law and the more fraudulent coupons that get passed around the more likely our stores will stop accepting internet printed coupons, which would be a VERY bad thing for us.  Just keep in mind that if a coupon seems to good to be true, odds are that it IS too good to be true.  If you have doubts about a coupon look it up.  If it doesn't show up in a coupon data base or immediately is flagged as fraudulent when you pull it up on Google...odds are that's not a good thing, let's put it that way.

Just as a side note on something never to do as a coupon newbie, which is a common mistake among new coupon users is NEVER photo copy a coupon.  It's illegal in that it is "copying" the coupon, which is against the coupon wording and in the case of Internet printed coupons the coupons have a special pin number (and in the case of new bar coding, unique bar codes) which means if you photo copy said coupon you are duplicating the coupon (which means that unique pin isn't unique anymore), which is coupon fraud.  Only one of those coupons you photo copy will be reimbursed to the store (or one of the stores if you use them in different locations) and the other one will get rejected because it violated the coupon use.  Thus, the store would have to eat the cost of the second coupon, and once again, the odds of us keeping internet printed coupons around if too many people do it?  Not good.

Next time I'll cover some of the resources for printed coupons, what some common problems you might have printing them (and how to overcome a few) and what are some good sites to book mark :).  So, stay tuned for that!

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