Couponing Basics: A Beginner’s Guide


So, you want to start getting serious about saving money, huh? Well, If you’re anything like I was when I first looked into couponing, you’re probably completely lost already and thinking it may not be worth it after all. Wrong!

Couponing can be a very rewarding (and fun!) hobby when done properly. And trust me, I know how frustrating it is not knowing all the rules and then going to the store after hours of planning just to have my coupons be rejected.

But fear not! This handy guide I have prepared contains all the basic fundamentals of couponing; every thing you absolutely need to know before you embark on your money-saving journey, packaged up nice and neatly in one single post. 🙂

Couponing Basics: A Beginner’s Guide

Couponing Basics: A Beginner's Guide

Types of Coupons

  • Manufacturer coupons- are put out by companies and can be redeemed at any store that accepts coupons
  • Store coupons- are specific to certain stores and can usually be printed out from the store’s website (i.e.
  • Catalina coupons- print out from the register following a transaction. Catalinas typically print out after buying a certain quantity of items from a specific manufacturer
  • Mobile coupons- are typically single use coupons that can be accessed straight from your phone and scanned at checkout. These are often delivered to your email, but you can also have them delivered via text message for some stores

Parts of a Coupon

Parts of a Coupon

  1. Expiration date
  2. Quantity- how many items must be purchased per coupon
  3. Size- most coupons will state a specific size that it will work for
  4. Valid items and restrictions- this is a very crucial section as many coupons restrict certain products or sizes (a very common one you’ll see is excludes trial/travel sizes)
  5. Photo- this is an area of confusion for some. The photo on a coupon does not determine which products it is valid on. For example, if you have a coupon that states: $1.00 off ANY Huggies product, but the picture only displays a pack of diapers; you could use it to purchase a pack of wipes instead, or any other product in that brand!
  6. Bar code- this is, of course, where the coupon gets scanned! Because of this, it is super important that it is completely in tact and readable.

Whew! Now that we’ve got the basics down, it’s time to move on to the more complex concepts. (Only a little more complex… you’ve got this! 🙂 )

Coupon limitations and what they mean

The following limitations are going to be printed on most of the coupons that you come across, and can usually be found near the bar code. It is important to know the difference between them, as they can cause confusion if not understood properly.

  • Limit one coupon per purchase– This is probably the most tricky. A lot of people, myself included when I first started out, interpret this as you only being able to use one coupon total. However, what it actually means is that only one manufacturer coupon can be used per item(s) purchased. As an example, you could use four of the same coupon that are valid on one item if you’re buying four items total.
  • Limit one coupon per person/household– Now, this is the one that most people think the previous limitation is referring to. What this one means is exactly what it states; if it states person, then each person you are shopping with who is purchasing that item could use the coupon once. If it states household, only one coupon can be used, period.
  • Cannot be combined with any other coupon– This is another one that can be kind of tricky. What it means is that you can’t use one manufacturer coupon on an item in along with another, different manufacturer coupon. For example, a manufacturer coupon that states $1.00 off the purchase of one couldn’t be used with one that states $.50 off of one, even though they are completely different coupons. This is often interpreted as that the coupon cannot be combined with any coupon at all, including store coupons, but don’t let it fool you! It simply means that two manufacturer or two store coupons cannot be used on the same item.

Stacking Coupons

That last point brings me to my next section, which involves the stacking of coupons. A coupon stack refers to the use of multiple types of coupons for a single item. The most common type of coupon stack would be the pairing of a manufacturer and store coupon. Unless otherwise stated in a store’s coupon policy, coupon stacking is almost always accepted in any store that accepts coupons.

Printable Coupons

In this day and age, a majority of the coupons that are available can be found online. This makes couponing just that much easier for those who are already busy and may not always have the time to search through the inserts. The following are a few things to remember when using internet coupons:

  • Internet coupons have a print limit- Most online coupons can be printed out twice per computer, although some can only be printed once. In my two years of couponing, I’ve never seen a coupon that can be printed more than twice from a single computer.
  • Some coupons will become unavailable once a certain number of prints has occurred- Sometimes, a coupon is just so amazing, it gets printed too many times and becomes unavailable. When this happens, don’t be sad! A lot of times, the coupon resets a within a few days. 🙂
  • Don’t copy coupons- This is a big one! Because you can only print two coupons, it can be a bit frustrating if you’re planning on buying more items than that. However, copying coupons is not the way to go. Although it may seem like a good idea in order to get basically unlimited amounts of any coupon, it is actually highly illegal. Each coupon has its own individual serial number and if copied, multiple amounts of the same coupon are being run through the system and this can cause problems for the store that it was used at as well as for the manufacturer that distributed it.
  •– One of the best sites to find printable coupons! There are different categories to choose from and it gives you the option to type in your  zip code so you can find coupons that are more specific to the area in which you live.

Rebate Apps

Many new couponers believe that the savings stop once the transaction is complete. But other, more seasoned, savers like myself, know that this just isn’t the case! Modern couponing has introduced a new way to save in the form of rebate applications on your smartphone. Basically, the way it works is:

  1. Complete your transaction
  2. Snap a photo of your receipt
  3. Claim your qualifying purchases
  4. Receive credit!

Different apps have different minimum payout requirements, but the typical amount is $20. Payment options also vary, from PayPal to check by mail. A couple of my favorites that are definitely worth checking out are Ibotta and Checkout 51. You can find out more about these and a bunch of others on my Top 10 Money Saving Apps post!

And that’s all there is to it, folks! Well, it’s not all there is, of course, but hopefully this guide has given you the knowledge to at least get your foot in the door of the wide world of couponing! All you have to do is clip a couple and give it a try 🙂 And it’s okay to be nervous when you first start out, just remember everything you’ve learned and you’ll do fantastic!

Please feel free to share your questions or experiences below, I’d love to hear from you. 🙂 Thanks for reading!


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