May 172011How To Tuesday: Extreme Couponing (Part 5)

Topic: When to Use Your Coupon

If you’re just joining us, I started a How To Tuesday series to help you learn how to achieve Extreme Couponing status. You’ll learn how to coupon shop step-by-step and take your regular couponing to Extreme Couponing. If you’re new, be sure you check out our previous week’s features.

In previous weeks we’ve talked about how to find coupons and how to organize them. Today we’re going to talk about when to use them.

:: Need vs. Want

The first step in cowing when to use your coupons is to determine if the item is a need or a want. But I think there’s another middle category called could use.

Need – These are products you use on a regular basis: toothpaste, toilet paper, cereal and other staples.

Could Use – These are things that aren’t necessarily needs but rank slightly higher than wants. For example you found a coupon for Capri Sun drinks. You may not normally let your children drink Capri Sun on a regular basis but you know you have to bring drinks to your kid’s school one day. This is a coupon you could use.

Want – These are things that you don’t need but simply want. Items like Crest White Strips, Ice Cream or other not-so-healthy food options.

Once you determine which category your coupons fall into, it’s easier to know when to use them and when to let them expire.

::  Wait for a Sale

Just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean you need to use it right away. The best way to use your coupons is to wait for a sale at the grocery store and use your coupon on top of the sale price. Using this practice you can likely get brand name items cheaper than generic.

Eventually you will set your own price points for different items, but until you do, 50% off is a good starting point. Try not to use your coupons unless the using the coupon give you a 50% or more savings off the regular price. Try this practice with items you need. Use 75% as a starting point for items you could use or items you want.

:: Patience & Free Product Coupons

We all get free product coupons from time to time. You may want to run out and use your coupons as soon as it comes but try to hold off. Wait and see if there will be a buy one, get one free sale. Then your free product coupon could turn into two free products.

I do this regularly but one of my greatest scores was some Jennie-O Ground Turkey meat. I received a $5 off Jennie-O Ground Turkey coupon ages ago. The expiration date was for many months later. I knew that $5 coupon would get me one package free at just about any grocery store but I waited and waited. Sure enough, Randalls had them buy one, get one free in their circular one week. I was able to get two packages of ground turkey free.

If the item never goes on a buy one, get one free sale, you’ve lost nothing. Simply get your free item right before your coupon expires.

:: Double & Triple Low Value Coupons

It’s gotten to the point now where I cringe when I get a $.55 coupon because I know it won’t double. I’d rather the manufacturer just released a $.50 coupon so I could take it and double it. Many grocery stores double and triple manufacturer coupons. Know which stores in your area do and which don’t. If you aren’t  sure, call the store and ask.

There are $.35/1 Softsoap Handsoap coupons from the 5/15 Smartsource. For all you people with stores that triple coupons, this is a hot coupon. Stores often mark Softsoap pumps down to $1. With a triple coupon, that makes the handsoap free. Your neighbor probably bought it for $1.69 when it wasn’t on sale. But coupon users know. Wait for a sale and take it where it will triple.

If you don’t have a store that doubles or triples, you may want to just use low value coupons on items you need. They usually don’t offer much of a savings unless you needed to purchase the item anyway.

:: Stack Them

Another way to save big is to stack your coupons. Many stores like Safeway, Target, CVS and Walgreens allow you to use a manufacturer coupon AND a store coupon on a single item. That means double the savings if you can find store and manufacturer coupons that line up.  Very often you can get items free or very, very inexpensively. This practice is a great way to get some of your could use and want items for next to nothing.

:: Clearance Deals

Using your coupons on clearance items can mean extra savings. Clearance prices are already marked down below the normal sale price. Adding the coupon on top of the clearance price could mean a steal of a deal. Many couponers prefer to shop with all their coupons so they can take advantage of these deals.

:: Expiration Dates

Don’t feel like you have to use your coupons just because they are about to expire. If you’ve been holding your $1/1 coupon waiting for a sale and just haven’t found one yet, look at your coupon and determine if it’s a need. Then check your shelves and see if you have enough stock to last a week or two. Typically when one coupons expires the manufacturer will issue a new one a week or two later. But if you’re running low and you need the item, by all means use the coupon to get it a little cheaper.

If the item is a could use, assess the situation. It might be prudent for you to use the coupon. It might be better to let it expire. It depends on your situation but most of the time I think you could probably just let them expire. If it’s just a want, let it expire. You can wait until the next coupon and the next sale to get it much cheaper.

Don’t fall into the mentality that just because you have a coupon, you have to use it. You don’t. Coupons don’t make you buy things. You control your own finances. You just need to have some self-control and know when to walk away.

Experienced Couponers Chime In! Did I miss any tips you think might be helpful?

Check out the entire How To Tuesday feature to learn how to achieve savings success using coupons.


  1. One thing I like to do with my “getting ready to expire coupons” is take all the ones that don’t exclude trial size items and pick them up with the coupon for free at the end of each month. That way I have the coupon all month for a good sale, and then if one doesn’t come up, I grab the trial sized items as long as it makes them free and the store allows it! It’s a win-win! I get to use my coupon and get a couple of freebies!

  2. How can I get good savings with coupons when the stores in my area don’t double them? I would love to start saving money at the store. And driving an hour and half to get to a store that does double coupons is out with the way gas prices are. Help!

    • most of the time your local grocery store will issue their own online coupons, and then you can use your manufactures coupon as well..ends up like a double. 🙂 I love target because they have target online coupons, target only sunday paper coupons, and then they will take my manufactures coupons as well..if its proctor and gamble well its usually ends of free or almost free. hope this helps.

  3. Hi, I have the same question as Kara. My store does not double the coupons either, so how is the best way to save money then??

    • You just have to be more creative. You can still get great deals without double coupons. You might be getting things for $1 or less though instead of free. You can also try to shop at more stores like Target and Walgreens that allow you to use one store coupon and one manufacturer coupon per item.

  4. Wal-Mart will match any sale ad from any store may help

  5. Kara & Emily,
    Despite your stores not doubling, you can still use the higher value coupons that are often found online (coupon database is a great resource). Even when I have a coupon from the Sunday RP & SS, I usually check the database if my coupon is less than $1/1 because I’ve discovered that frequently the printable coupons are more valuable than my regional coupons!

  6. I do not have a store close to me that will double or triple, so when a store has a great deal on an item (with a limit) I have been taking my ads (not always necessary) with me to wal-mart and get the deals there with no limits. An example is: BBQ Sauce for .68 cents (limit 6) and I had a $1.00 coupon and comped this at wal-mart with no problem and no limit.

  7. Kathleen says:

    What is the reason for buying items in large quantites? Do you have to buy for example 43 items?

    • Oh goodness no. Most people buy a big enough stockpile to last until the next sale. Like Cereal goes on sale about every 3 months. So they buy enough to last 3 months until the next rock bottom sale comes along. Some people take it over the top and stock up for a year or more. Some think of it just as a game and get as much as they can for free. Personally, I have no more than a 3 month supply of most things.

    • I don’t understand how you can have enough coupons to allow that anyways. I understand that you can make multiple transactions, but who buys 20 newspapers, just to have 20 like coupons on hand? Almost seems like your spending more money on newspapers than you would be on the items.

  8. Sherise says:

    Hi, I noticed that there are time when they have coupons in their binders and times when they clip the coupons right before a shopping trip, is this because they don’t want to clip coupons with expiration dates and the coupons in the binder do not expire?

    • All coupons expire. Some people have binders and other don’t. I clip coupons right before I shop and don’t carry a binder. As far as I know, binder people clip all the coupons and carry them in their binder. If you saw someone with a binder clipping just a few coupons, it could be that it was the most recent coupon insert and they hadn’t had a chance to clip them all and file in their binder.

  9. shannon says:

    What does it mean to double or triple a coupon? and ow would i know if a coupon is able to do so?

  10. If I have a Buy 1 Get 1 Coupon and and the store runs a Buy 1 Get 1 sale, do I get 1 or 2 for free (one free from coupon and 1 free from the store sale)?

  11. My HEB wont let me use their $1 off on one toothpaste coupon plus the $2.50 off on two toothpastes manufacturers coupon. Also, they denied to use their $1 off for some bodywash plus the manufacters coupon of buy one get one free. Why is is is that?

    • Because HEB coupons are manufacturer coupons and you can’t use two manufacturer coupons on one item. The only coupons you can stack at HEB are the yellow coupons that have a “B” in the lower left corner. Those are store coupons. However, these are few and far between.

  12. I live in the Chicago area and there are no stores here that double coupons, but I still manage to save alot using coupons and sales. The idea is to always have enough to last to the next sale. This is tricky, sometimes, because I live in a townhouse and don’t have alot of storage space and my husband won’t let me turn our garage into a mini-mart. Anyway, yesterday I went to Walgreens. They had Gillette deoderant and body wash on sale buy 1 get one 1/2 price. I bought four of each and used 4 buy a deoderant, get a free body wash. Both items were $4.99, so I got $39.92 worth of products for 14.96. I continued onto CVS, where they had Nivea Body Wash regularly 6.49 for 5.49. If you spend $15 you get a $5 ECB. I bought, totalling 16.47, used 3 $2.00 coupons and got $5 ECB, so $16.47 ended up costing 5.47.

  13. Catherine marrison says:

    What do u mean double the coupon? Does that mean the value of the amount off is doubled or does that mean u can get two of the same products because it gives u two separate coupons for the same item

    • It means if your coupon is for $.50 off 2 yogurt cups, the register will change the coupon to be $1 off 2 yogurt cups. You still have to buy 2 yogurt cups but instead of saving $.50, you save $1.

  14. Do you know what stores in Round Rock, TX double coupons?