Shoppers across the country are going coupon crazy. Ninety-four percent of people CR surveyed now use coupons for food, household products and health and beauty items, up from 86 percent in 2006.
More people are also whipping out coupons beyond the supermarket. ShopSmart, the shopping magazine published by Consumer Reports, recently shared 16 ways to uncover discounts at supermarkets, restaurants, department stores, clothing stores, oil-change shops and other kinds of specialty retailers.
“Between online downloads, mobile alerts and good old-fashioned circulars, there are more ways than ever to get coupons,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor in chief of ShopSmart. “If you know where to look, it’s easy to cut the cost of practically anything.”
• Download discounts. Check sites such as SmartSource.com, Coupons.com and CoolSavings.com on the first day of each month, when new coupons are usually loaded.
• Sign up for e-mail alerts. Go to manufacturers’ Web sites and sign up for e-mail lists to receive coupons and other special offers. Tip: Use an alternative e-mail address to avoid the clutter.
• Take along the printout. To redeem an Internet coupon, print the whole page (URL included) and take it to the store in case there is a question about its authenticity.
• Search online circulars. Before planning menus and deciding where to shop that week, scan store circulars at Mygrocerydeals.com and Sundaysaver.com, or on the sites of local supermarkets.
• Check out new coupon programs. Some supermarkets now allow shoppers to select desired coupons online so they do not have to clip and bring them into the store. Other supermarkets have hand-held scanners that let shoppers tally discounts and keep a running total as they shop.
• Be alert in supermarket aisles. Look for coupons that are attached to the item itself and coupon dispensers that are perched on store shelves.
• Uncover hidden coupons. Look on the back of can labels and supermarket receipts for money-off coupons.
• Buy multiple copies of local newspapers. There’s a guaranteed return on investing in a paper if it has a few dollars worth of coupons that are sure to be used.
• Buy or create a carryall. To ensure that coupons don’t go unused, organize them in a pouch or envelope that is divided by category and expiration date and kept in a purse or glove compartment.
Clothes, meals and more
• Sign up for frequent-shopper programs at favorite stores. All kinds of retailers — bookstores, pet stores, drugstores, movie theaters and office supply stores — have discount programs.
• Search online circulars. Many specialty and discount stores post weekly fliers on their Web sites or on ShopLocal.com.
• Sign up for store e-mail lists. Shoppers will receive alerts for coupons regularly, and many stores offer incentives just for signing up.
• Scan the big sites. Couponcraze.com, CouponMom.com and GoGoShopper.com are goldmines for in-store and online purchases. ShopSmart also recommends trying CouponCabin.com, RetailMeNot.com, Dealio.com and MommySavesBig.com, a portal for dozens of coupon sites.
• Ask at the store. If someone else is using a coupon at a department store, ask the cashier if he or she has an extra or can scan the coupon. Also check the customer-service desk.
• Click on store and mall sites. Before heading to a specific store, mall or outlet center, check its site for coupons or deals. Google can also do the trick.
• Use a cell phone to dial up savings. Anyone who has an Internet-enabled cell phone can punch in Cellfire.com, a service that lets users download coupons right onto the phone.