Coupons are continuing to be a hot trend, but sometimes they can spell trouble if the couponer isn't in the know about when to use coupons, how to use coupons, etc.
Coupon policies are important to know and even more important - it's important to have copies of the store's policy if you're planning on using a bunch of coupons to either get free items or stack coupons. For instance, Target.com has a clear coupon policy - you can use a manufacturer coupon along with a Target coupon. Some store employees may have troubles getting the register to register both of these coupons and as a result, may tell you you aren't allowed to stack coupons. But if you just whip out your coupon policy from Target.com that clearly spells out that you can use both coupons, the cashier can call for back up to figure out the register. This may be a hassle, but if you don't speak up, you may be costing yourself more money and this post is all about saving the moola! Each store has a different coupon policy so I would recommend printing these coupon policies once a year or so and keeping them in your coupon binder or envelope.
I receive a lot of great items in the mail for free and most usually come with a coupon. I'll hang onto the coupon for awhile to see if, with sales and coupons, the item will be free. But when it's clear this just isn't going to happen and I've checked that the item, even with a coupon, is not worth it, I will leave the coupons in the store on the item the coupon is for - that way, if a shopper is buying that item (for some dumb reason!), they can at least use a coupon. I recommend doing this or asking friends and family if they are looking for coupons for particular items to be sure that these coupons are going to be used if this item is ever going to be purchased.
Which brings me to my next point - let friends and family know you are looking for any and all coupons. Even if you get coupons you won't end up using, you can pass those onto others who may use them and you may end up getting other valuable coupons you want or need! I find that if you never turn down a free item from friends and family, they will be more apt to keep coming to you with free items and you can either find a great home for them or use them in your own home.
Another way to get coupons besides through the mail or newspaper is to sign up for your favorite manufacturer's newsletters or email offers. Then, you can just set up a separate email account for this, like firstname.lastname@example.org or something similar, and use that just for coupon offers. It'll be easier to read personal email by keeping your coupon offers separate.
My last tip, which is the most important thing to keep in mind out of all the Couponing posts, is that it's not just what you save, it's what you spend. If you save $50 and you spent $50, you still spent $50. It's not for me to judge whether you have that $50 to spend, but $50 is $50. Most of the coupons in existence are for items you can make yourselves (like macaroni and cheese, soup, etc.) or for items that, let's face it, you really don't need (soda, ice cream, candy, etc.). If you spent the majority of your $50 or whatever on items like this, you're still spending too much. At this point, it doesn't matter what you saved. Instead of buying a can of refried beans for $0.50, you could have made your own for $0.28. At the end of the day, it's really all about what you spent, not what you saved.
You can read Part 1 of this series here and Part 2 of this series here.