I love coupons. I spent two years in college working as a grocery store cashier, and saw every day how many dollars the coupon-savvy could save on their purchases.
But admittedly, paper coupons are a nuisance. You must clip them, somehow sort and store them, and remember to use them before they expire.
I’ll never be one of those extreme couponers who save enough to buy multiple cartloads of food for $5. So, is the time spent clipping coupons to save 50 cents on aspirin really worth it?
I still haul around paper coupons for certain items, but I’m shifting more of my coupon savings to virtual deals — whether they’re smartphone coupons, loyalty-card deals or another bargain. Use your smartphone wisely — by checking out sites such as Coupons.com and using other tactics — and you can save money without worrying about forgetting your coupon wallet.
Here are my tips on how to move your couponing habit online.
Follow your favorite stores on social media
If you’re a frequent shopper at a few favorite places, follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Sometimes these social-media outlets offer downloadable coupons, highlight bargain items or remind you of when a sale is beginning or ending.
If your Facebook or other feed is already crowded, simply visit the social feeds an hour before you shop to scan for coupon codes.
Check store websites before you go
Store websites often coach you on how to get the best deals and alert you to upcoming events. Sites like Macys.com often replicate newspaper ads, letting shoppers know when deals begin online and when they will appear in-store.
My grocery store lets you get online and go down a list of products you buy frequently — which they track from your rewards card — and select virtual coupons for various items. Then, when you pay with that same rewards card, the coupons automatically are added to your purchases.
Sign up for text or email deals
Few of us want to receive additional email or text messages, but judiciously signing up for store newsletters can pay off. Often you can sign up, receive an emailed or texted coupon code, use it and cancel your subscription without clogging up your mailbox further. Or, consider setting up a free email address to use only for store deals.
Look into rewards clubs
Stores want to make you feel special so they can keep you as a regular customer. Rewards clubs that track your purchases sometimes collect points that add up to certificates or cash back, or offer member-only deals.
Is such a club worth it? If it’s free and you’re a frequent shopper, yes. Regal Cinemas offers the Regal Crown Club, a favorite of mine. Membership is free, and you earn points for buying movie tickets and treats. You can redeem the points online for free snacks and tickets. Hooray for Hollywood!
Use your smartphone in the store
Did you arrive at your favorite store without that newspaper coupon for 50 percent off? In ye olden days, you would have been out of luck. But today, you can simply whip out your smartphone and go to the store website. Find the coupon, and the cashier will happily scan the online bar code so you can collect your savings.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Standing in line at J.C. Penney recently, I spotted the woman ahead of me pulling out her smartphone and handing it to the cashier to ring up a coupon. I wasn’t up-to-date on Penney’s coupon policy, and didn’t know if any of the offers applied to my purchase.
When it was my turn at the register, I asked about it. The cashier knew exactly where on the store’s website to check for the list of current deals. And when one deal didn’t apply to my purchase, the cashier pointed out another that did. The lesson: Always ask about deals, no matter where you shop. Silence is only golden if you don’t care about keeping your wallet fat!
Do you know about additional ways to use your cellphone to save? Share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.