Finding coupons isn’t difficult. They are in the mail, online, in newspapers, and on products. Unfortunately most are for products that are not good for you, the planet, or any one except the people making money off them. Locating coupons for sustainable products can be a little trickier but improving your health and finances while making the world a little better is worth the effort.
Coupons on or in your purchases
These are the easiest coupons to get. Just look on or inside the packaging. Often there are inserts or coupons printed directly on the box (sometimes inside). No hunting or clipping. And sometimes you can pull off the coupon and use it when you purchase the item (no waiting!).
At the cash register
Be sure to check your receipt. Often there are coupons printed on the other side.
Friends and family
This is a great source for coupons, especially if you tell them why you are interested in particular sustainable products. Not only could you get some useful coupons but also you can help the people you like by providing a little information about why sustainability is so critical. And you can return the favor if you see coupons for sustainable products they might like (or like to try).
Direct from the manufacturer
One of the easiest ways to get coupons for the particular products you like is to visit the manufacturer’s website. Just search using the manufacturer’s name or the name of the product. Sometimes it helps to add the word coupon in the search.
Once you’re at the site you’ll usually find coupons, special offers, and other promotions. Often they will email you coupons if you provide your email address. Usually you will have to print the coupons yourself from their site or from the email. The few pennies it costs to print a coupon are almost always dwarfed by the savings.
Usually you will have to sign up to have access to these savings. If you are hesitant to provide your primary address (because most companies will sell your address), you can (and probably should) create a free “throw-away” email address for you coupon-hunting activities. Yahoo and Google provide free email accounts that are easy and fast to set up.
Some people claim to have had success by calling the company and asking for coupons. You could tell them how much you like their product(s) and maybe they will send you some coupons. It could hurt to try at least.
Direct from the store
Another source for good, sustainable coupons is from the store itself. Most stores offer their own coupons and discounts independently of the savings provided from the manufacturers. Circulars can usually be found in the store. Be sure to look for coupons on product displays too. And of course there is always the Web.
Just like most manufacturer’s websites, you’ll usually have to sign up on the store’s website to be able to print their coupons. This is when a “disposable” email address comes in handy. You can also sign up to get regular email with coupons. A few stores allow you to download digital coupons to your “bonus card” (or whatever they happen to be calling it). These coupons are used when the cashier swipes your card. This saves you from having to print and carry coupons. Downloadable coupons are a great sustainable idea!
Trade your coupons
This is a great, sustainable idea. You trade coupons you have but don’t want for ones you do want. You can trade coupons with family and friends. You can also join online coupon-trading groups. A simple Internet search will turn up more than you need.
Coupon websites and blogs
There are more coupon websites and blogs than any one person can possible use. Most of these are a huge waste of time and money. The majority of the coupons available are for products that are of questionable value. And it takes time to scan through these sites looking for the few coupons you really want. A better technique is to search (using Google or another search engine) using the product name followed by “coupon” (i.e. – XYZ + coupon).
A few of the more popular coupon sites include coupons.com, ValPak (www.valpak.com), smartsource.com, retailmenot.com, ebates.com, and redplum.com. Facebook is also a place to find coupons. Most companies have Facebook accounts and often offer coupons and specials there too. You’ll need to have your own Facebook account to take advantage of these offers.
Delivered directly to your cell phone
Some stores offer “mobile” coupons that are sent directly to your cell phone. There are also businesses that will send mobile coupons to you. The catch is that you may be charged texting fees.
Coupon clipping businesses
If the idea of clipping coupons sounds horrible to you, there is always someone willing to help. For a price. For a small processing and shipping and handling fee these coupon-clipping services will send you exactly the coupons you desire. There is also usually a minimum purchase requirement. Not the cheapest way to go but still a viable option if you really want a particular high-value coupon or just feel you don’t have time to search for coupons yourself.
Coupons are traditionally found in the Sunday newspaper. For many people, coupons are the only reason to ever buy a newspaper in the first place. While this might be an easy way to get coupons, it is not a sustainable way. First, the newspaper costs you money (unless you get the coupons from a friend or family member). Second, most of the coupons will have no value to you but you’ll still end up spending time scanning through them. Third, the environmental cost of producing, transporting, and disposing of newspapers is very high. From a sustainability standpoint, newspapers should be avoided.
Only a good source if you were already going to buy the magazine. It’s not usually cost-effective to purchase a magazine (or a subscription) just for the coupons. Plus, like newspapers, magazines are not a particularly sustainable product themselves.
Coupon books are common fund-raising tools used by schools and youth-groups everywhere. Typically there are lots of “buy one get one free” coupons to many local businesses. Although the majority of coupons are usually for restaurants, deals can be found for a large variety of goods and services.
You can save a substantial amount of money by using coupon books as long as you are thoughtful about how you use them. There is a tremendous temptation to spend money on things you don’t need or really want just because you can get two for the price of one. This is a false kind of savings.
You have to be very careful with this one. It is extremely easy to get ripped off purchasing coupons on eBay. Most of the time you shouldn’t even consider paying for a coupon anyway.
· Think twice before you pay for any coupon. Many times you can find a similar coupon for free with just a little research. And often these offers are outright scams. Plus, any payment on your part eats into the value of the coupon.
· If an offer seems to good to be true, it probably is. There are many fake coupons floating around and it isn’t always easy to identify them.
· Think three or four times before you give away any personal information. Many sites will require you to fill out more than just an email address. It is extremely easy for criminals to steal your identity if you give them credit card details, passwords, financial information, or personal information.
· Pay attention to expiration dates. Enough said.
· Try switching to a different browser if you are having trouble printing an online coupon. Sometimes a website might not work with Internet Explorer but will work fine with Firefox.
Be sure to check out my other articles on coupons.