How to Get the Maximum Value Out of Coupons and Loyalty Cards

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How to Get the Maximum Value Out of Coupons and Loyalty Cards
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I don't mean to throw away coupons. It just happens. I stick them in my pocket, wait in line, go to the register and forget to use them. I also don't return to the store and ask for my missed discount.

You might think that it's not such a big deal. What's a dollar here or there? But, like most small things, these missing savings can add up over time. Have you ever looked at the savings printed on the bottom of your grocery receipt? What if you forget your loyalty card and coupons more often than not? We're talking about some serious money if this keeps happening for a year.

Most stores offer to give you the difference if you bring your receipt in with your loyalty card or coupons at a later date. But I'm too lazy to go back to the store and get the credits I deserve.

I think to myself that I'll go home, get the coupon, and come back. Or I tell myself that I'll bring it and my receipt back with me next time I visit this store. But I'm just fooling myself. I'm just telling my subconscious that to make me feel better about wasting the money.

I Forget to Ask for Discounts I Qualify For

I constantly leave my loyalty cards at home. I join one or two new ones a month depending on which retailers I'm shopping at for deals, and cards fill up my wallet. Keychain cards can also get cumbersome. So, what are you supposed to do? How can I stop forgetting my loyalty cards?

One way is to clean out your wallet. Do you have loyalty cards for stores that you'll never visit again? I've lived in a lot of states over the past few years. In a recent sterilization of my wallet, I found loyalty cards for grocery stores that don't even have locations in the state where I live now.

I forget to ask for a military discount almost everywhere I go. Many wonderful businesses give discounts to active duty service members -- plus veterans, teachers, senior citizens, emergency responders and others. These discounts won't do any good if you don't remember to ask for them.

A Few Tricks for Handling Coupons, Loyalty Cards

Have you seen the customers who carry Ziploc bags, Tupperware containers or large envelopes of coupons around the store? You can usually spot them in the front seat of the grocery cart. They have a system to help them remember to use their coupons. That's what you need -- a system.

Find what works for you.
Do you need to keep your coupons in your wallet next to your credit card? Do you need to put them in an envelope in the front seat or have your toddler hold them? Use your system day in and day out. I have trouble when I just run into the store for one item and have a coupon for it. I stuff the coupon in my pocket, and more often than not, that's where it stays.

If you're like me and forget your loyalty card, ask the cashier for a new one to replace the one you just "lost." Ask for your name to be looked up in the store computer. Or ask if you can just give the clerk your phone number.

You can also ask to borrow one from the person in line next to you. But stores typically frown on this tactic because they track spending data and consumer behavior through their loyalty cards.

Several smartphone applications track your loyalty cards and coupons. Many retailers publish coupons on in-house smartphone apps. My wife loves Target's Cartwheel (TGT). Many of these apps negate the need for paper coupons and allow clerks to scan coupons off of a customer's phone.

Incentivize Yourself to Use Coupons When Shopping

Make a game of saving money with coupon. You can find pays to make saving money reward you with cash back. Ibotta is an app that lets you take a picture of your receipt and then gives them a cash back rebate for certain items.

Upromise.com lets you invest money that you save through loyalty cards in a college fund for your children or pay off student loans. Upromise works with more than 950 online retailers and 21,000 grocery and drug stores.

No matter what you do, don't do what I have done. Don't walk out of the store paying full price for an item with your coupons in your pocket or even back home. Even if it is a few dollars, those lost savings will start to add up over time. If you were to simply bypass a few dollars of savings every week, it won't be long before you were losing a few hundred dollars each year.

Surely I can't be alone in this plight. Do you forget to use coupons that you bring with you to the store? Do you leave your loyalty card at home and miss out on discounts? What tricks do you use to remember your coupons?

Hank Coleman is the publisher of the popular personal finance blog Money Q&A, where he answers readers' tough money questions. Follow him on Twitter @MoneyQandA.


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43 Comments

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Renee Boochee

i will try couponing

June 03 2014 at 5:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wendy Kennedy Krepak

I invented the Card Cubby which saves people time and money!!
Www.CardCubby.com.

May 25 2014 at 9:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bug582020

One way I remember coupons is to use the stores e-coupon's that you can add directly to your reward card. One of the local grocery stores does this and I go through the list before I go shopping and attach the one's I know I will use.

I just wish they offered a better variety of coupons, tells me they really don't pay attention to what some people purchase of they'd offer more coupons for those items.

May 15 2014 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nicolas Monsigny

Hi there! Thanks for this good read, I am a coupon user as well, and if I can give you a little tips for always saving money is to use websites such as Giift. Thanks again!

March 24 2014 at 11:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nicolas Monsigny

Thansk for this good read! I m a coupon user as well! I hate to waste my money, so an other good tip for always save money is websites such as Giift!

March 24 2014 at 11:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
liza.ray1

Using coupons is my habit now days. I really saved a lot of money using printable and online coupons from CouponPark.com and RetailMeNot.com. Couple of days ago I went to JCPenney for buying some spring clothing for my kids and really saved $50 on all my order using JCPenney 20% off printable coupon from CouponPark.com. That's why I always suggest my friends to use coupons because I know the value of savings. Thanks

March 21 2014 at 7:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ihave80shair

I am a coupon user as well. The other day I went to K-mart armed with coupons, I left there with 10 "wet and wild" products and $2.15cents!! I made money!!

March 14 2014 at 2:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nandabachoon

using coupons is great. today i paid only $30 for $108 worth of groceries. the trick is to shop at a store that doubles your coupons and try to use the one that are under $1...you could also print them off line and add them to ur store card...there are stores that save ur phone number in the system so u don't have to walk with the card...I have only been using coupons for about a month and i have already saved $500 on at the grocery store(most of the items were free)

March 14 2014 at 12:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alncamg

Great way to keep your loyalty and gift cards - hole punch a corner and put them all on a keychain (not your keys, just a round keychain thing) and keep them in your purse or car. At least they'll all be with you all the time and it's easier to just run back to your car if that's where you keep them. Just be careful not to punch any numbers or other codes that are important. I've been doing this for several months now and it makes things so much easier

March 14 2014 at 12:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fwlrcj

I only use paper coupons or e coupons for items I normally buy or something I might like trying and of course my store gives points towards gas which is helpful. Yes some good off brands are cheaper than some coupons so I shop wisely. I don't just buy something because it has a coupon when something else is cheaper.

March 13 2014 at 5:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply