By MoneySavingExpert's Coupon Kid, Jordon Cox
For couponers starting out and even those more experienced, there are lots of questions that come up time and time again. I’ve probably had every question you can think of on this topic, and I’d have to write a book to have any hope of answering them all.
So here’s a quick rundown of the questions I’m asked most often about couponing, and my answers.
Can I really cut costs with coupons? (That’s a lot of C’s!)
Coupons can definitely be a legitimate way of saving money. Some argue that coupons only exist to get you to buy the product advertised, which isn’t necessarily wrong. The trick to making coupons MoneySaving is simply being clever with how you use them.
As a rule of thumb, you should only use coupons for things you’d normally buy – that way you avoid spending more money. However, you can switch brands to make use of the coupons on offer (eg, move from Kingsmill to Hovis bread), and while you’ll still be buying what are essentially the same goods, your coupon savings will add up.
It might not seem like you save much at first when most coupons are only worth about 50p, but if you can time it right and use them when products are already reduced – that’s when the savings get much bigger.
If you want to know where to find them, have a gander at the where to find coupons section of MSE’s Extreme Couponing guide.
What’s your favourite method of scoring coupons?
Writing to companies in the hope of blagging coupons is a fun way I’ve learnt I can pocket up to £20 worth of coupons just by sending an email to one of my favourite (or least favourite) companies. It’s a game of pot luck and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. You can definitely increase your chances though, by putting a bit of effort into whatever you send.
When complimenting brands before, I’ve sent love poems, birthday cards and even drawn them pictures. Anything you’ve spent a bit of time and creative energy on has a better chance of earning you coupons.
For templates and more info, check out the manufacturers’ coupons section of the Extreme Couponing guide.
What do the terms and conditions mean?
There are lots of terms and conditions related to using coupons, and this can easily cause confusion when you’re still new to couponing. Here are the most common T&Cs you’ll come across on coupons:
One coupon per product purchased – you can use as many coupons as you like, as long as you’re not trying to use two (or more) on a single barcoded item.
One coupon per transaction – you can only use one coupon on your entire shop. The way around this though, is to separate transactions with the checkout conveyor belt dividers. Cashiers don’t usually mind… most of the time.
One coupon per customer – pretty self-explanatory, but there’s a way around it (bring more people shopping with you).
What are the best loyalty cards to sign up to?
Personally, I would say sign up to every free loyalty card you can for stores you shop in. There are some great ones that give you bonuses for signing up, and occasional free coupons in the post.
My favourites, and the ones I’ve found reward me the most, are Tesco Clubcard, MyWaitrose, Boots Advantage, Subway and Starbucks rewards. All of these will send you freebies now and again just for being signed up.
How do Cashback Apps work?
Cashback apps are gradually replacing traditional printed coupons (although there are still plenty of these around, if you know where to look). Using your smartphone, they allow you to claim money back on your supermarket shopping by taking a picture of your receipt.
The amount you’ll get back depends on the cashback offer for each item, but sometimes you’ll get the full price you paid refunded. Once you have a certain amount in your cashback account, you can claim the money back as a cash transfer. For more info, see my cashback apps guide.
Whenever I see a good deal on something, I try to buy more than one. This is stockpiling. For anything non-perishable (things that won’t go off), as long as you store them in a cool and dry place), you could save a lot of money in the long run.
Common items to stockpile include: toothpaste, toothbrushes, tissues, loo roll, or long life foods such as beans, herbs or sauces (which are mostly easily storable). If you wanted to get multiple items of food, some products freeze well to stop it from being wasted. Even fresh items like butter, cheese and milk can all be frozen and used at a later date. They are easily defrost-able and means you can get more bargains.
How can I coupon if I don’t have a printer?
It’s well worth getting a printer for your couponing, if you can. Check websites such as Freecycle or local “stuff for free” groups on Facebook. If you don’t have any luck, you can get some basic ones for £15ish on Amazon (but do remember to factor in the cost of buying ink).
To give some perspective, there are usually more than £100-worth of coupons to be printed from the MSE supermarket coupons page alone. Even if you end up paying for a printer, you should be able to recoup your losses fairly quickly.
If you still don’t want to get one, make sure you’re signed up to all the supermarket loyalty schemes and review schemes (such as Tesco’s Orchard programme) pick up the free in-store magazines and take a look cashback apps to save money on your phone.
And finally… the most classic question I am always asked when I’m spotted paying for something…
Have you got a coupon for that?
Most of the time, the answer is yes. I get asked this every time I speak at an event, and if i’m spotted paying for anything. Luckily, I was given a handy present one Christmas… a T-shirt that says “I’ve got a coupon for that!”