Missed the first posts in this series? Read them here.
Maybe after last week’s post on why I believe everyone should use coupons, you’re seriously considering trying out this whole couponing phenomenon. If so, your next question is likely: where do I get coupons?
Well, the obvious answer is that you can get coupons from your local Sunday paper. That’s usually the first thing most people do when they are jumping on the couponing bandwagon. If you already get the Sunday paper and plan to continue doing so, then you’ve got a ready supply of coupons to get started with.
If you don’t already get the paper, I suggest waiting to subscribe until you’ve pursued other alternatives. You see, there are dozens of ways to get coupons for free. In fact, I never pay for coupons. We don’t have a Sunday paper subscription and I don’t order coupons from coupon-clipping services or eBay. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but I’ve found that it’s not necessary because I have a pretty much unending supply of free coupons!
How do you get free coupons? Well, you just start thinking outside the box! Here are 10 ideas to get you started:
1. Ask friends, relatives and co-workers for their extra coupon inserts
Start asking around and see if anyone you know already gets the Sunday paper and doesn’t use the coupons from it. You might be surprised at how many coupon inserts just get thrown out because people don’t want to mess with them.
2. Stop by Starbucks or McDonald’s on Sunday afternoons
Many people purchase Sunday papers, read them at Starbucks, McDonald’s and other similar venues, and then leave them. Some of my friends stop by a few Starbucks or McDonald’s locations on Sunday afternoons and are able to pick up at least 3-5 complete coupon inserts from extra newspapers left behind by customers.
Know someone who works at restaurants like this? They might be able to collect the leftover coupon inserts and give them to you later in the week. In addition, some gas stations will also give you their extra unsold Sunday newspapers on Sunday evening or Monday morning. It never hurts to ask.
3. Make friends with someone who delivers newspapers
Not all areas allow this, but some people who delivery Sunday newspapers are able to pass on any leftover newspapers and coupon inserts to other people. Or you might be able to find the recycling center they drop them off at and be able to obtain them there.
4. Trade coupons
Trading coupons is a great way to get coupons you need in exchange for giving away coupons you don’t need. For instance, if you have a dog and don’t have children in diapers and I have children in diapers and don’t have a dog, we could trade diaper and dog food coupons.
You can trade coupons with people in your own area or you can join coupon trading forums online and trade with people from all over the country. While it will cost you postage, it’s often better to trade online since different regions get different coupons. So trading with people from other states allows you to diversify your coupon portfolio.
Hot Coupon World has some very active coupon trading forums, if you’re interested in trying this out.
5. Join Coupon Trains
Before the internet, people wanting to save money with coupons would turn to joining or forming a coupon train. A train is maintained by one person who sends an envelope of coupons through postal mail. The package contains a mailing list, and as one person takes and adds coupons to the envelope, it is mailed to the next coupon train recipient on the mailing list.
Coupon trains allow individuals between cities, or even across states and provinces, to organize and share coupons. By establishing a group, the coupon train leverages each person’s coupon clipping power to share coupons with a larger audience. Read the full article.
6. Check your local library
Pretty much all libraries receive newspaper subscriptions. Often, they will allow you to have the coupon inserts from their Sunday papers if you just ask.
7. Dumpster Dive
Dumpster diving for coupons doesn’t have to be as “ew!” as it sounds. Let me tell you, it really works! In fact, this is one of my biggest “secrets” for obtaining the majority of my coupons. I hit some very clean newspaper recycling bins on my way home from the store every few weeks and in 15 minutes, I can usually salvage 10-15 coupon inserts!
8. Pick up coupons at the store
Keep your eyes peeled at the store and pick up any coupons you find on tearpads or in the blinking dispensers. If there are plenty of extras, snag multiple copies of these. A lot of times, this very item will be on an exceptional sale just a few weeks later and you’ll be more than glad you picked up that handful of coupons!
9. Print coupons out online
If your store accepts printable coupons, this can be a great source of coupons which cost little more than your printer ink and paper. And oftentimes, the coupons available to print online are much higher than what you’ll find in the newspaper inserts.
I usually highlight the best printable coupons on my blog as they become available. But you can also do a search for the product name plus “printable coupon” online and it will often bring up many different coupons.
10. Write and ask for coupons
What products do you regularly use and love but rarely can find good coupons for? Write to the manufacturer, tell them how much you like their product and politely request that they send you any coupons they have available (don’t forget to include your mailing address, too!).
Usually, it only takes a few minutes to do so through a company’s contact form and you’ll very likely get some sort of coupons just for asking. In many cases, you’ll receive high-value coupons or even free product coupons!
While I’ve not done this a lot, I’ve had great success in writing to a few companies when there was a problem with a product I purchased. Find more ideas on how to contact companies for coupons here and find an alphabetical list of company contact form links here. Just for fun, you’ll also want to check out The $39 Experiment.
What are your best sources for obtaining coupons for free? Tell us in the comments section.