Coupons are said to have been around since the 1800s (the first one issued by PR kings Coca-Cola) and for years savvy shoppers have been clipping coupons, and later on, printing them off the web. Today however, it’s more about apps, online codes and cashback – students don’t need telling twice about UNiDAYS (the student discount website).
Do couponing the right way and you can walk away with food, toiletries and more for free or a fraction of the normal cost. While it is still possible to clip coupons out of a magazine or newspaper, there are now fewer of these coupons available. Like many things, couponing has largely gone digital and most of the savings you can bag these days will be via your phone or online.
There are hundreds of coupons and cashback deals out there, and it can be quite tricky to grasp how to spot the best deals out there, not everyone is bargain inclined, sadly. However, Money Saving Expert have put together a comprehensive guide on how to beat the system and make the most of the British coupon.
1. Download free cashback apps where you pay for an item in full but your receipt becomes a coupon – get up to 100% back
How times have changed. In previous years, this was the last method we mentioned for saving on your shopping, but it’s now become the main way to save, and an integral part of couponing.
Here you download and sign up to special cashback apps which offer you money back on selected purchases. The apps work with brands who pay them for generating sales, and some of that money is passed on to you. Often, you can get the full amount back – nabbing a complete freebie.
2. Look out for ‘hidden’ coupons where you might not expect – on packaging, at events, and on ‘junk’ mail
Pop your specs on and get looking, as there are lots of places coupons crop up that you might not expect, that could be easily missed.
3. Magazine and newspaper coupons are rarer these days, but know where to look and you can still find them
We’re well into the digital age and like many things, couponing has largely moved to smartphones, but you can still sometimes find coupons you can clip out of magazines or newspapers. Here’s what to look out for:
If you pop into most major supermarkets at the start of the month, you might be lucky enough to grab their free magazine which could have coupons inside, usually at the front or back. Tesco releases a new magazine with coupons inside monthly, and other supermarkets such as Waitrose, Asda, Lidl, Morrisons and Co-op have them occasionally.
4. Sign up to loyalty schemes for bonus offers, and some give personalised product discounts
Any true couponer will have a purse, wallet or phone full of stamp cards and loyalty cards/apps. Some give points on your normal shopping which can then be turned into vouchers, and others offer personalised coupons which are usually for items you frequently buy or it thinks you’ll be interested in based on your previous purchases.
5. Check for online codes/coupons on selected products at the big supermarkets
Online shopping has become increasingly popular since the start of the coronavirus pandemic so if you’re doing an online shop, have a look for codes that can get you money off, or even a freebie.
6. Blag manufacturers’ coupons by writing them a poem, telling when something’s wrong or entering competitions
Sending something sweet that companies can use on their social media for free advertising is not only a nice thing to do, but you might get a coupon out of it, too. Think of sending a kid’s drawing, a selfie with the product, either via email or post. You could even try something simple like tagging the brand in a story on Instagram – I recently got sent a free bag from a tofu company for doing this.
7. DON’T buy coupons, with the exception of purchasing a product, magazine or newspaper with the coupon inside
There are online auction sites full of photocopied high-value coupons which may have been originally obtained legitimately, but are now being sold as fakes. You might think you’re not hurting anyone by using them, but the best case scenario is you’ll be turned away. Worst case scenario? You could be prosecuted for fraud.
8. Stack coupons with other offers for super savings – works better with physical coupons
‘Stacking’ is cleverly combining offers, such as a coupon and an in-store deal, to save even more. Not all retailers and coupons allow stacking, and sometimes it’s a temporary glitch. The general key to this is to use a manufacturer’s coupon alongside an in-store offer or coupon.
9. Can you get PAID to use a coupon?
Occasionally, it’s possible to legally walk out of a shop with food you didn’t pay for. This is when you’re able to use a coupon with a higher value than the selling price of the product. You can’t always do it, and you may need to check prices in a few places before you find it, but it’s easier if you’ve a high value coupon from a manufacturer, or for a free product that gives a specific amount off.