10 Things You Should Never Buy Without a Coupon

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shopping with coupons
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I discovered coupons in the 1980s when I was a college student working nights and weekends as a grocery store cashier.

Extreme couponing wasn’t a thing yet, at least not at our store — no one was wheeling multiple carts up to my register and paying $5 for the whole lot. But I still saw coupon-using shoppers saving big bucks over other shoppers.

Once I had a home of my own, I incorporated coupons into my shopping.

There are some items I still won’t purchase without a coupon — whether it’s a paper coupon, a digital coupon or an online coupon code. Here’s a look at some of them.

1. HelloFresh meal delivery as a new customer

Woman unpacking a home delivery meal kit
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I’ve tried a variety of meal-kit home delivery services, but HelloFresh is my favorite. The dishes are tasty and easy to make, and the company regularly tosses numerous coupons into my weekly ingredient box so I can get a friend started with a free trial.

Ask a friend who subscribes to HelloFresh to share their deals — you might get a discount on one box or even an entirely free week of meals.

Two tips from an old pro at bringing in new members: Choose your meals immediately or you will be sent the defaults. And if you don’t plan to continue using HelloFresh, cancel the subscription as soon as your free box arrives.

2. Makeup

Woman applying makeup
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I don’t buy much designer-brand makeup, but drugstore makeup brands frequently offer manufacturer coupons through third-party coupon services like Coupons.com. Retailers like CVS and Walgreens also offer manufacturer coupons and store coupons, as we detail in “7 Places to Find Free Manufacturer Coupons Online.”

Ulta Beauty also frequently offers deals and coupons that you can use on drugstore brands — and occasionally offers coupons that are valid for high-end makeup brands, which the retailer refers to as “prestige” brands.

3. Almost anything at Kohl’s

Kohl's store
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Kohl’s is a store where I never shop without coupons. Bookmark Kohl’s coupons page — unlike on some retailers’ sites, the deals are clearly explained and easy to find.

I don’t carry a lot of store credit cards, but some Kohl’s coupons offer bigger discounts if you pay with a Kohl’s Card. Cardholders also get access to additional discounts that are not offered to non-cardholders.

4. Certain things at Harbor Freight Tools

Harbor Freight Tools store
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You don’t have to be a dockworker to shop at Harbor Freight Tools. This retailer sells everything from the obvious (tools) to decorative outdoor lighting, kitchenware and even toys. But don’t pay full price.

Sign up to receive coupons by email. Some offer 20% off qualifying items, and sometimes there are coupons offering small items for free as long as you purchase something else.

5. Pizza

pizza pie
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Delivery or takeout, who doesn’t love hot, gooey pizza? Both local and national chains are competing for your appetites, and they know coupons help. So, before you place that order, check for deals.

National chains such as Domino’s put their deals online, and some smaller chains mail coupons to people who live nearby. Don’t throw away that blue Valpak envelope that comes in the mail — it may be serving up pizza coupons. And even my favorite small Seattle chain attaches coupons to its pizza boxes for use on my next order.

6. Almost anything at Hot Topic

Hot Topic store
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If you or your family members are fans of the trendiest TV shows, movies, music or anime, you probably already know about Hot Topic. Its coupon program is one of my favorites.

For every $30 you spend, you earn a $15 Hot Cash coupon good for use on a future purchase. You want to mark your calendar for that return visit because the Hot Cash isn’t valid instantly — there’s a set period of time during which it can be redeemed. But the returns are sizable enough to make a little wait worth your while.

7. Oil changes

Car service by mechanic
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Gas-powered cars can’t run without oil, and unless you plan on changing it yourself, you’ll have to budget for oil changes.

The car dealership where I bought my car knows when I need to visit and craftily sends a flier offering a deal on oil changes and other procedures if I take the car back to them. But it’s not close to my home, and sometimes I just choose a national chain, such as Jiffy Lube or Grease Monkey. These companies frequently have online coupons that vary by location but can be substantial.

8. Almost anything at craft stores

Mother daughter doing crafts
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Major craft chains like Michaels, Joann and Hobby Lobby are all big on coupons. Somehow, I forget to save their printed mailers but that doesn’t matter these days. Just pull out your smartphone and look up the current deals. They’re prominently linked from each store’s main webpage.

9. Food delivery services that are new to you

A woman receives a food order from a delivery driver
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Food delivery options exploded during the coronavirus pandemic. Sometimes, the restaurant itself handles delivery, but other times, you’re shunted to a third-party service such as DoorDash or Uber Eats.

These services want you as a regular customer and often offer a percentage-off discount or even free delivery when you try them for the first time. Look for this type of deal when you first log in to the ordering site or check their menu for a “promotions” page. You might also receive an offer like this by mail or email on occasion.

10. Dry cleaning

Dry cleaner worker
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The clerk at my regular dry cleaners is pleasant enough, but I’m not against switching from cleaner to cleaner to use a coupon or promotion. Check the blue Valpak envelope that likely comes in your mail for a dry-cleaner coupon — they always seem to have one or more. And when you pick up your cleaning, check your receipt — sometimes there’s a coupon or deal to bring you back.

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