The internet is filled with coupons for every item imaginable, for every retailer, and tailored to fit every consumer's needs. There are multiple coupon search sites which will you help search more than one location, retailer, and brand. However, you as the consumer need to make some basic decisions before you begin searching for coupons.
Is it worth your time to coupon-hunt?
Usually online shopping and coupon hunting is the best strategy for purchasing big-ticket items or small, regularly consumed items that you purchase more than once. The big-ticket coupons are most effective when you are planning on making a $50 - $100 plus purchase. Most non-consumable online coupons are for 15% - 20% off, or $10 off when you spend $50 etc. Do the math and make sure it's worth your time (a $30 purchase item at 15% off would only save you $4.50 - are those savings worth your online search time?) If the item is consumable, online coupons can be very effective because you can print them out and save them for the inevitable future purchase of items you use consistently in your home or business.
Is the item something you want to purchase online or offline?
Decide if the item is something you want to purchase online. Most online coupon codes are for online shopping and purchase only unless they are for grocery or consumable household items. (see online vs. offline shopping')
Are you willing to join a coupon website?
There are lots of coupon websites which require you to submit an email address and become a member before accessing their coupons. Know ahead of time if you are willing to join a coupon search site that requires a membership. I myself don't usually bother with these, but some of them can have really great offers. If you do decide to go ahead with these, make sure you are adhering to safe identity protection practices. (see 'protecting your identity online')
Factor in Shipping
Once you've found a fabulous coupon, make sure shipping costs will not cancel out your savings. You are probably not going to find any shipping rates under four dollars, so again, make sure what you save is not cancelled by what you pay. There are some coupons that simply offer free shipping - these can be a good option when what you want is not available locally.
Once you have decided that you really do want to find an online coupon, then what? Generally if you are buying a larger item, one-time use item or something non-consumable, what you are looking for that indicates a valid coupon is a 6-8 digit number or series of letters called a Coupon Code. Sometimes these are referred to as Promotional Codes. If you are shopping for grocery, consumable items coupons, you can find Printable Coupons that can be applied in-store.
Focus on consolidated coupon websites in an initial search engine query
You want to look for consolidated coupon hunting websites, ones that will search multiple stores and businesses for you, rather than store and business specific websites. (Unless you are brand-loyal about the item you are purchasing). The consolidated coupon sites will often let you know the specific percentage or amount being discounted off the retail price of the item on their site, and then relocate you to the main site for the retailer once you click on the coupon.
Use the Website Search Bars
Most of the consolidated coupon websites will have a search bar near the top of the web page that will enable you to search for the specific coupon you are looking for. It is also common for these websites to have a 'deal of the day' or 'largest discount' feature, which are worth taking a minute to look at.
Know the type of coupon being offered
Occasionally you will find online coupons that are also valid in-store, this is most likely for grocery and food items, but can also be found rarely for electronics etc. Read the fine print, and make sure you know which kind you are looking at.
Access Specific Manufacturers Coupons
Non-consumable: If you know you are looking for a particular item, it is sometimes helpful to type in the brand or item name and the word 'coupon' for a general internet search. For example, if you are looking for a Dell Notebook, you would type into the search bar "Dell Coupons." If you are flying to California or Europe, searching directly for "Airfare Coupons" can yield some great finds.
Consumable items: Often grocery item manufacturer's have websites that offer "manufacturer coupons." Go directly to the manufacturer's website an clicking on links to 'promotions' 'coupons' or 'special offers' will take you to printable coupons you can use in your local stores.
Double-up on Coupons
Once you have found an online coupon for something you, your family or your business use regularly, if it is an in-store coupon, match the coupons you have to regular store sales published in newspapers and mailed circulars. If you have a manufacturer's coupon for a dollar off 5$ laundry detergent, when you wait for that item to go on sale for 4$ and then spend the coupon, you get it for $3!
If major holidays are coming up, company is coming into town, or your college student is coming home for the weekend to do laundry, stock up on items you know your family will use when the sales come. Buy non-perishable holiday items the day after the holiday, and store them for next year.
Double check the check-out
Take your time going through the final checkout phase of your purchase. If it is online, make sure your information will be secure, and that the total cost of purchase after application of the coupon is displayed for you, so that you are sure your coupon code is working for you the way you thought it would. If you are in-store, watch the prices as they are applied at the register. Don't be afraid to ask the attendant to slow down. It's much easier to decide against buying an item or fix discrepancies at the register than wait in line for customer service afterwards. Make sure you know what the coupons say (i.e. one item each, or "any" Johnson baby product) so that you do not lose savings because your checkout salesperson didn't know what they were doing.
Some sites to go to for online coupon shopping:
- http://www.cashbaq.com/: Offers money back on purchases, rather than upfront discount before purchase. Requires a membership and logon.
- www.Coolsavings.com: Excellent site for grocery coupons
- http://www.pillsbury.com. Manufacturer coupons from Pillsbury.
- http://www.verybestbaking.com Manufacturer coupons from Nestle
- http://www.verybestbaby.com Coupons for all kinds of baby items.