September is National Coupon Month, so why not brush up on the latest coupon tips and techniques to save money while you still can? The coupon scene has moved far beyond newspaper clippings and inserts, though these are still included in the many ways to find coupons. Study up on the tips below and you'll also be ready for the quickly approaching holiday shopping season:
Always, always look for a coupon first.
There is nothing more frustrating than walking out of a store or clicking "buy" only to realize later that you could have saved a lot more money on your purchase. Put little notes marked "Check for Coupons!" where you do your shopping, whether it's on top of your grocery list, on a Post-it next to your computer or on the cover of your tablet. After a few reminders, it will become second-nature to always take a few minutes before you shop to check for coupons and sales.
Find your favorite savings sites.
If you haven't bothered in the past with coupons, it's probably because it sounds like it might be a lot of work. Fortunately, there are now entire websites dedicated to finding and organizing thousands of coupons, deals, freebies and cash back opportunities to make it incredibly easy. All you need to do is sign-up for free, choose your favorite stores and click.
These websites offer coupons in an abundance of categories, including online stores, brick-and-mortar retail stores, restaurants, grocery markets and more. You can copy coupon codes for online shopping, or use a printable coupon when you're headed to a store to shop. Some stores even scan coupons directly from your mobile device, which saves time, money and paper!
After you find a coupon website that you like, sign up for email alerts and newsletters. Each day you can get a tailored email with new coupons from your favorite stores, as well as the best deals the couponing experts can find. If you don't want to feel overwhelmed with emails, you can create a secondary email address for this purpose, or use a tool like Unroll.me to help manage the incoming mail.
The savings don't stop with a coupon. You can "stack" your rewards by combining a coupon with other discounts. If you're shopping in a store, you might be able to combine your store coupon with a manufacturer coupon, as well as an in-store sale. If you're shopping online, shopping through a cash back and coupon website will allow you to stack these rewards. You can get a percentage off your total from a coupon code and still earn cash back after your purchase.
If you have a few stores where you regularly shop or know you will be doing a lot of shopping during the upcoming holiday season, it is worthwhile to familiarize yourself with their coupon policy. You can find stores' policies, terms and conditions on their website. By doing this ahead of time, you'll better understand how to use coupons when you shop there, which will avoid disappointment at checkout.
Find more couponing experts.
Another helpful resource is bloggers and social media pages dedicated to helping readers save money with coupons. There are even blogs dedicated to saving money at specific stores, like Walmart, Target, RiteAid, CVS, Walgreens and more. Follow along with these experts and you'll hear about tips to stack savings, weekly sales and helpful shopping apps.
Time it right.
Lastly, the timing of your purchase is also important. Coupons can get a nice amount shaved off your total, but if stores are marking up prices because items are high in demand, then it might not make a huge difference. For major purchases of $100 and more, do some research on the best time to buy as well as where you can find the best savings. It might be during an off-season or a store's semi-annual sale. I hope these tips can help you realize just how easy -- and beneficial -- couponing can be. Happy National Coupon Month, and happy saving! Just remember to apply these lessons when you start your holiday shopping, too.
Jon Lal is the founder and CEO of coupons and cash back website BeFrugal.com, which saves shoppers an average of $27 per order thanks to coupons plus an average of 7 percent cash back at more than 4,000 stores.