A College Student’s Guide to Using Coupons

Save Money by Building Your Couponing Skills

Textbooks, school essentials, weekly groceries — all of these expenses eat away at income, costing hundreds. Yet with careful searching and the help of coupons, these costs don’t have to rise. Thanks to the incredible savings earned from coupons, shopping without spending too much at the local grocery store is easier than ever. For college students on strict budgets, coupons are an excellent option to keep more cash in the bank. You just have to know where to look for the greatest savings.

Savings Start Online 

The first step to finding coupons is a simple one: hop online and start searching. With the right search terms and websites, the opportunity to find coupons is endless. Although you can start from scratch with Google, experienced coupon hunters like Full Thyme Student suggest beginning with your local grocery stores. Head to the store websites and check out any special offers or in-store coupons as you begin to make your shopping lists — whether you print them out, or store them on your phone to be scanned while shopping, these store-specific discounts can help you make smart purchases.

Additionally, websites dedicated solely to coupons are also a fantastic resource. Full Thyme Student suggests checking out coupons.com, freestufffinder.com, and, if you’re doing your grocery shopping online, retailmenot.com. You can also visit Valpak, a website that features item- and brand-specific coupons that can be used at any retailer nationwide. You simply select the coupons you need and print them out.

Beyond its own coupons, Valpak also suggests college students use their social media savvy to save even more. Make the coupon search easier by following brands and stores on various social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to ensure you receive alerts and notifications any time they offer a coupon, discount code, or special deal.

Get Smart Use Your Phone and Its Apps

Move beyond the Internet, and you can find even more coupons on your smartphone. Check your phone’s app store for various coupon and shopping applications, which offer everything from deep discounts to sale alerts to cash back. Some, such as the Valpak and Ibotta apps, use your location to determine what savings exist in your area for specific stores or items.

As Full Thyme Student suggests, it’s also a good idea to download your favorite grocery store’s app. These typically offer individual reward programs, members-only discounts, and weekly coupons that may not be available online. The Krazy Coupon Lady also points out that some, like Target’s Cartwheel app, will offer instant in-store savings when the app is opened. Smartphone shoppers can add discounts to their accounts in apps like these, so when the barcode is scanned at the store the correct coupons are applied.

Search for Coupons in Every Store 

Sometimes, technology doesn’t offer every last coupon — stores themselves can have one-off deals right down the aisles you plan to shop. Every week, retailers such as drugstores and grocery stores release ads featuring the best deals and discounts. Pick up this flyer near the door of your usual grocer, and give it a quick look before beginning to shop. It’s an excellent way to score savings on items you may have planned to pay full price for.

Next, take a close look at the shelves of each aisle as you browse. Some stores feature in-aisle coupons that can be pulled off of the shelves for specific items, while others will attach instant savings coupons to boxes of cereal, beverages, and more. These surprise discounts can be used immediately, so don’t forget to ask your cashier to apply them at checkout.

Be Prepared to Switch Stores 

Finally, when it comes to shopping for steals and savings, consider switching stores. Although most coupons are item-specific and able to be used at any participating store, sometimes the best discounts are found beyond your usual shopping location. Flexibility, as Full Thyme Student suggests, can increase savings.

Begin by selecting your coupons and comparing prices in local stores’ advertisements and weekly specials. You’ll receive the biggest savings if you are able to use a coupon on an item that is already reduced in price — for example, a fifty-cent discount on soup that’s already discounted by a dollar means shoppers save a total of $1.50 rather than a mere fifty cents. This is best to do with manufacturer’s coupons, which are the most widely accepted variety and can be used anywhere the items are sold.

Helpful Resources

To craft the most effective coupon search, begin by visiting the online savings or coupon sections of local grocery stores’ websites, such as the following:

Kroger Stores, which offers an online peek at the weekly ad, digital coupons, and a special savings page.

Vons, which features deals and discounts, like a $5 Fridays promotion, right on its home page.

Next, stop by coupon-focused websites like these below to find manufacturer’s coupons and item- and brand-specific savings:

Coupons.com offers nothing but discounts, both digital and printable for use at a variety of websites and stores.

Smart Source helps to choose coupons based on visitors’ locations, ensuring coupons can be used at local retailers.

And finally, don’t forget to load your smartphone with apps featuring discounts and coupons that can be used on the go with ease. Consumer Reports suggests 10 different apps to try, ranked among the best of the best.