Coupons 101

Coupons 101

Do you feel like this when it comes to couponing?

That’s how I felt when I first started using coupons.  I knew nothingZilch.  Zero. I assumed that as long as two coupons weren’t exactly the same, I could use as many as I wanted on one item.

That’s why when I found a good deal on diapers, I gathered every single printable, store, and manufacturer’s coupon I could find and plopped down about 12 coupons–to use on one package of diapers.

Thankfully, the cashier did not laugh in my face.

In an effort to save you the embarrassment of such a situation, I thought I’d share a little tutorial on coupons.  It’s all quite simple, actually.

Here are ‘the rules':

  1. You can only use one manufacturer’s coupon per item.  You will know a manufacturer’s coupons because  “Manufacturer’s Coupon” will be printed on it.
  2. Most stores will allow you to use a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon on the same item.  This is called stacking coupons.
  3. If the coupon value is greater than the item value, in most cases, the store will reduce the value of the coupon to simply make the item free.  The Walmart coupon policy states that if the coupon value exceeds the cost, they will offer the excess as cash or to be applied to the entire purchase.
  4. In most cases, if there is a Buy One Get One Free sale, you can still use one coupon per item.
  5. If you have a Buy One Get One Free coupon, you can combine that coupon with a Buy One Get One Free sale and get both items for free!  (This policy can vary from store to store.)

In the world of money saving blogging, you will discover another language you didn’t know existed.

Coupon Lingo:

  • ECB – Extra Care Bucks – CVS “money” printed on receipts to be used like cash in store on your next purchase.
  • RR – Register Reward – Walgreen’s “money” printed on receipts to be used like cash in store on your next purchase.
  • UPR - Rite Aid’s +Up Rewards coupon
  • IVC – Walgreens Instant Value Coupon
  • OOP – Out of Pocket – actual cash paid
  • BOGO or B1G1 – Buy One Get One FREE!
  • SS – Smart Source insert in Sunday’s paper
  • RP- Red Plum insert in Sunday’s paper
  • P&G or PG – Procter and Gamble insert in Sunday’s paper
  • V – Valassis
  • Peelie – Peelable coupon located on packages
  • 2/$5 – This means 2 items for $5, can be any combination.
  • $1/2 – This means $1 off of 2 items, can be any combination.
  • WYB – when you buy
  • MIR – Mail In Rebate
  • PSA –  Prices start at
  • mfr – manufacturer’s coupon
  • crt – cash register tape
  • cat or catalina – a coupon printed at the end of a receipt (often as part of a promotion when you buy certain items.)
  • mm – moneymaker

Organizing Coupons:

Learn more about my 20 minute Couponing System here

There are a variety of ways to organize your coupons.  I began with a simple coupon organizer from Walmart.  This worked well for a while, but I tired of clipping my coupons weekly and then doing the ‘coupon hunt’ every time I wanted to find one.

First, there are two things you should know:

  1. Sunday papers contain three basic sets of coupons: RedPlum, SmartSource, and Procter & Gamble. (Some regions also carry Valassis coupons, but mine does not. These coupons are the same as RedPlum.) Some weeks they carry all, and some just one or two.
  2. You will discover on this blog and any other money saving blog that other people want to do the work for you when it comes to finding deals and matching the coupons.  Therefore, you no longer need to do the ‘coupon hunt’.  We will tell you the exact coupon to use on a deal.  Sweet, huh?
  • For example, a coupon match-up for a sale on Colgate toothpaste at CVS might look like this:

    Colgate Sensitive Whitening Toothpaste, $3.99

    Get $3.99 ECBs (limit 2)

    $1/1 Colgate Sensitive printable

    $0.75/1 Colgate Adult or Kids Toothpaste, exp. 5-31-09 (SS 2/22/09)
    $0.75/1 Colgate Toothpaste, exp. 4-18-09 (SS 3/29/09)
    Moneymaker after coupon and ECBs!
  • The highlighted words are a printable coupon that, when clicked  on can be printed out right from the comfort of your own home (this one is just an example).  Typically, most printables can be printed twice if you hit the back button on your browser if it prints the first time.
  • Underneath the printable coupon are two coupons from past Sunday papers.  Most coupons are the same nationally, although some more rural regions differ occasionally.  Each of these coupons were from a SmartSource insert.  The first is from the February 22 insert and the second is from the March 29 insert.

My Organizational Method:

My new system saves me a great deal of time and is very simple.

I bought an accordion-type file folder like this.

coupon organizer

And I labeled it like this:

coupon organizer

(see above for abbreviation definitions)

Update: Eventually my collection outgrew my cute little folder and I graduated to this File Box method (still just as cute!):

Coupon Organization

Each week, I take the coupon inserts out of my paper and I use a sharpie to label them with the date. Then I file them away, without clipping them.

When you find a coupon match-up that you would like to use, simply find that week’s coupon insert, take it out and clip the coupon that you want.  How easy is that? It simply means that you need to plan your shopping trip before you head to the store, which is always a good idea.

Coupon Database

If you are looking for a coupon that is not listed in a sale match-up, check out my Coupon Database.  It will help you find the latest printable and manufacturer’s coupons available and will save you lots of time and money!

Printable Coupons:

Keep in mind that some stores will not accept printable coupons.  If your store declines them, I suggest contacting their corporate office and asking for a coupon acceptance policy.  If the policy states that their stores accept printable coupons, you may be able show this to your local store next time you attempt to use them.
Where to find printable coupons:
Where to find Mobile coupons:

Earn Money by Scanning Your Receipt or Items in-store: 

Helpful links on my blog: 

My 20 Minute Couponing System that Saves Me Thousands

Weekly Store Deals

Latest and Greatest Coupon Deals

The Drugstore Game



This Post May Contain Affiliate Links. See my Disclosure Policy.