And as Drake would put it, nothing was the same.
Couponing. Most of us see it on TV. Soccer Moms running around getting 126 bottles of mustard and a plethora of other things for literally only $1.
I’ll admit, I was blinded by the sensationalism of tv and assumed that if I went and got some newspapers I would be just like them. I turned out to be wrong, but couponing has been something that has utterly changed my life since being in college. So get your pen and paper (or iPad cause it’s 2016) because I’m about to give you the Keys to Couponing.
#1: Be realistic.
Like I mentioned before, the TV couponing thing is possible, but there’s a 99% chance that with you being in college then that isn’t going to be your aim or outcome. Buy things that you actually have a use for. If you don’t have a use for them, consider giving it to friends or family or even better, charity. I don’t know about you, but my college apartment doesn’t have room to accommodate 50 bottles of mustard. Especially when I don’t even LIKE mustard.
#2. Stay dedicated.
Couponing takes time. It takes patience. It took me a month of buying Sunday papers and researching before I even started getting real ‘deals.’ If you have a mindset that it’ll be glorious overnight then you will break down in tears in the face wash aisle of Target. I’m not joking.
Now, on to the real meat of it all: how to start couponing in college.
Types of Coupons:
-Manufacturer Coupon (type of coupon you generally see in Sunday paper)
-In Store or In Ad Coupon (think of those kiosks at CVS)
-Mobile (via an App or text)
These are the main types of coupons I rely on for my couponing. If you learn how to use these types together, you can really maximize savings! With Sunday coupons, I recommend you purchase 2 papers each Sunday. Why two? Because some stores (Publix, CVS, etc) allow you to apply two coupons to ‘buy one, get one free’ offers! Remember how I said the applesauce changed my life, it was because of that simple thing. With online printable coupons, you generally have the allowance of two prints of one coupon PER device. So depending on the site and what devices you have, that can play to your advantage.
So you’ve got the types of coupons. What’s next? Research. I rely on the internet for my couponing with a sprinkle of social media. I’m going to give you guys the websites and mobile APPS that I SWEAR by for my couponing.
In my opinion, this by far is the best website for couponing out there. The design is amazing, you can see deals by specific store which helps when you tend to only coupon at specific ones. It breaks down deals with pricing, what coupons to use, what order to use them in, the whole nine. It even has a coupon database so you can search specific items to see if there’s a coupon for it and where to find it. They also have a whole series for those that are beginning to coupon so definitely check them out!
Southern Savers is pretty awesome too, they have a similar setup to KCL so I generally pair the two.
- Cartwheel for Target - Awesome app that gives percentages off specific items at Target. Can range from 5% to 50%. Can be used with other coupons to maximize savings.
- Target - I use the Target app for their mobile coupons that can be paired with Cartwheel discounts and Sunday coupons
- ibotta - I use this when I remember to actually use it. While it isn’t giving a coupon, it does give you money back when you buy specific items and scan your receipt into the app. I think of this more for someone a little more skilled with coupons. It’s cool getting money back but in college, I tend to like to see my savings up front.
- Favado - I found this app not too long ago, but it’s nice in that is has outlines similar to KCL that breakdown prices and coupons for particular stores.
I also use Instagram. #couponing is like an entirely different universe. People post internet glitches, in-store glitches, deal breakdowns, all in a picture. This comes in handy because I can simply screenshot and refer back to it later.
Plan Plan Plan
Using your resources, sit down with your coupons and plan out what you’re going to buy. It’ll make things much easier when you go to the actual store. Planning is awesome in general because it lessens the chance of you buying stuff you had no intentions or need for. I like to cut my coupons and put them in a mini file folder that I bought at Target from the Dollar Spot. I also take a sticky note and a paperclip and group together coupons that I would ‘stack (using different types of coupons on one item)’ so they’re easily accessible during my trip. My sticky note I use to write out exactly how the transaction should go. Making sense? Don’t worry, I’ll give examples at the end of all of this. Couponing is seriously 90% planning and 10% actually buying the stuff.
You’ve planned out your trip so what’s the last step?
Go to the store of course!
So for the following, I’m gonna rely mainly on this basic example (keyword BASIC) to show what you’re going to be dealing with.
If you’re in college down South and have Publix, TAKE ADVANTAGE. This is where I bought the applesauce that changed my life. Publix is known for the BOGO weekly deals. They allow you to use a coupon on both the item you are technically paying for and also the ‘free’ one. #thatslit The following is the breakdown of it all.
Go-Go Squeez, BOGO Free, $3.60
Buy: 2 Boxes of GoGo Squeez for #3.60
Coupon: $1/1 ($1 off of 1) Use TWO of these (1 for both boxes)
Total Paid: $1.60 for two 4-pack boxes for Go-Go Squeez ($0.80/box)
Make sense? This was a simple transaction where only one type of coupon is involved. I recommend starting with these to understand what you’re doing and actually saving.
I would go into detail about more advanced techniques, but we would literally be here for three days. Start simple and then work your way up to the big stuff if that’s what you desire.
My final remarks/tips/tricks
My favorite store to coupon at is Target by far. They have a lot of nice deals, especially their gift card ones. They also have SO MANY ways to save. You can combine a Sunday coupon, Cartwheel discount (MUST download app), and a Target specific coupon.
Like I mentioned earlier, if you have a Publix, take advantage of their BOGO deals. Publix is known for being pricier, but their BOGO deals paired with coupons are super worth it.
Look at coupon policies! Not every store is super nice with coupons like Publix, Target, or CVS. Don’t go in with your coupons to any store thinking it’s all the same!
Link up with couponers in your area! I’m a member of a few Facebook groups of couponers in the city where my college is. This comes in handy when certain deals aren’t applicable to your area and another person in your area lets you know before you travel to a store, and a plethora of other reasons!
Ask for help! The best thing I ever did was go online and ask for help. I’m a member of a Facebook group and explained that I was a college couponer and willing to take any extra coupons that those in the group had no use for. A woman reached out to me and began sending me LOADS of coupons each week! #itwaslit
Finally, even if you decide not to do the whole paper coupon route, mobile coupons still can serve a great purpose in saving you a few dollars. Remind yourself to always check store apps (if they have one) to see if they have any coupons you can apply to your purchase. Cause let’s face it: in college, every dollar saved counts.
I hope this whole blurb helped you on your quest to save some moolah! I love teaching people about couponing, especially in college. So when my advisor told me about dealspotr having a scholarship dedicated to this very thing (https://dealspotr.com/scholarship-giveaway) I had to definitely give it a shot!