How to Coupon 101: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Becoming an Expert Couponer

If you want to save money every time you shop, then learning how to coupon is one of the best hobbies you can pick up.

Learning how to coupon might seem a daunting task, but it’s easier than you might think, and anyone can do it.

Don’t worry. You won’t be sitting at home, armed with scissors, clipping coupons, doomed to relentless sorting and organizing at your kitchen table. Although, that’s still an option if that’s what you’re into.

It’s the 21st century, and most coupons today are digital, which means you can clip coupons from the comfort of your home or office–or when you’re waiting in line for coffee!

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to coupon, including where to access the best coupons, how to redeem coupons, and how you can save the most money possible every time you make a purchase.

Without further ado, welcome to Couponing 101.

Types of Digital Coupons

First things first. Let’s talk about the types of digital coupons you can redeem. This basic know-how is essential for any serious couponer.

Of course, there are physical coupons, too–but these are pretty straightforward, so I imagine you already know how to use them.

Manufacturer coupons.

Manufacturer coupons offer some of the best deals you’ll ever find, so you should take advantage of coupons given to you from popular brands like Colgate, Bounty, or Tide.

These manufacturer coupons are provided by the manufacturers of products, and you can redeem them at most stores that sell those products, like Target, Walmart, or your local grocery store.

When you use a manufacturer coupon, the store you purchase your item at is reimbursed for the cost of the coupon from the manufacturer. So, Tide (aka P&G) would essentially pay Target the few dollars or cents that you saved by using that coupon.

Most of the time, these manufacturers will trade their coupons for your email–and you can expect to see more offers pop up in your inbox after you sign up.

Want a pro tip? Create a deals-specific email that’s dedicated to couponing. This is the email you can give to retailers for loyalty programs, and it lets you separate important emails like bills from non-urgent messages like special offers and sales events.

To use manufacturer coupons, you’ll need to present the digital coupon to the cashier when you check out (more on this later).

Store-specific loyalty coupons.

Next, we have loyalty coupons. These are the deals you’re probably most aware of. You sign up with your email or phone number or receive “points” or other deals. Stores might even have apps for you to use.

To get the most out of store-specific loyalty coupons, make sure you enter your email every time you make a purchase. If the cashier doesn’t ask you, ask them about a loyalty program. 9 times out of 10, they’ll have one.

Loyalty deals and discounts are usually applied automatically, but you may also need to “activate” some deals through your online account or a store app.

Rebate coupons

Rebate coupons allow you to cash in on deals after you’ve made a purchase. You’ll head over to a site’s rebate page, upload a picture of your receipt, and redeem the money. It’s that easy.

Scannable barcode coupons.

Now, when it comes to using online coupons, there are two main kinds you’ll use: scannable digital coupons and digital coupons that must be printed to be redeemed.

To use a scannable digital coupon, you just need to pull up an image of the coupon (I always recommend screenshotting your coupons) for the cashier to scan.

Printable coupons.

Some stores or manufacturers require that you print your coupon to redeem it. Since many people don’t need or have printers these days, it’s important to know that your local library may offer free printing.

Where to Find the Best Coupons to Save Money

Now, let’s talk about where you should head to when you’re searching for the best coupons to save money. There are tons of places for you to start looking, but we’ve rounded up the best and brightest of them.

Clip Coupons from Weekly Ads, Mailers, and Newspapers

Ah, the traditional method of coupons: clipping. Most of the time, local stores will send you flyers in the mail simply because you live nearby. Instead of throwing these mailers straight into the recycling bin, take a few minutes to look through them–you might like what you see.

Clip (or rip) your favorite coupons or the ones you’re most likely to use. Save them in an envelope, and be sure to bring them along the next time you run errands.

Keep Catalinas at Checkout for More Savings

You might be thinking, what the heck is a Catalina? Even if you never realized they had a name, you’ve probably had one before.

Catalinas are the long thin coupons you receive when checking out at a grocery store. Most of the time, you’ll receive a few coupons stuck together with unique deals that you might find useful.

Stick those Catalinas in your coupon envelope because they can help you save money!

Search for Printable Manufacturer Coupons Online

Brands love offering coupons with great deals to customers who visit their website. But there’s a catch.

These brand-specific coupons are usually high-value, so you usually have to use them the same day you print them, and most brands only let you print one or two out.

But, if you can work a coupon search into your routine on errand days, you can enjoy massive savings on tons of items from popular brands, including:

Want a pro tip? Sign your spouse or roommates up for their accounts (with their permission of course) to receive two or even three times as many manufacturer coupons. Then, you can stock up on those basic items you’ll always need more of.

Oh, and whether you’re printing from home or the local library, be sure to print your coupons out in black and white. Printer ink is expensive, and we’re trying to save money here.

Find Coupons Inside Apps and Online

Although many stores still offer printable coupons, there are just as many (if not more) that offer digital coupons. Most of the time, manufacturer coupons are printable and store-specific coupons are digital–but not always.

Take advantage of digital coupons by searching for all your favorite stores in the App Store or Google Play store.

Want to know a secret? Some couponing apps are better than others. The best? Target, Walgreens, and Kroger. You’re welcome.

Join Loyalty Programs for Exclusive Offers

In addition to finding digital or downloadable coupons online, most stores also offer free loyalty programs that let you redeem rewards just for shopping.

If you’re already going to shop at your favorite stores, why not be rewarded for it?

Here’s a “short” list of popular grocery stores that offer digital coupons and rewards programs:

No matter where you shop, check out your store’s loyalty and rewards programs and their couponing deals asap.

Check Your Inbox for Deals Before Shopping

We’re all guilty of accepting to receive thousands of semi-unwanted emails from retailers. However, some of those emails are very much wanted–the ones with great deals, that is.

If you want to save more money, browse your inbox before you leave to run errands. You might find some worthwhile deals in there.

And don’t forget this pro tip: use a specific inbox for all your deals-related emails. That way, you don’t need to sift through ads when it’s time to pay the bills or risk missing an important message.

Cash In Through Rebate Apps

Unlike coupons that you present before or during a purchase for immediate discounts, rebates are after-the-fact coupons. You can redeem reimbursements, cash back, and other rewards simply by uploading your receipt.

There are tons of cash-back and rebate apps out there, including:

Each rebate app has unique rules and limits regarding how you redeem your cash or gift cards, but don’t worry. There aren’t any complicated hoops to jump through–and you can use multiple rebate apps on the same purchases.

Search for Discounted Gift Cards Online

Discounted gift cards are another great way to save money, especially because you can always stack discounted gift cards with other deals.

Here’s how discount gift cards work. You visit an online retailer that sells discounted gift cards, purchase those cards for up to 15% less than their retail value, then use those gift cards when you make purchases.

It’s that easy.

Here’s where you can find discounted gift cards at great rates:

The inventory on discounted gift card sites often fluctuates, so be sure to check often for the gift cards from retailers you shop at and purchase when a great deal presents itself.

Explore’s Coupon Database offers an easy-to-use database of current coupons that you can use at a variety of retailers from Amazon and Walmart to Pizza Hut and Olive Garden.

You can use as your main source of coupons or in addition to other money-saving coupon strategies, like printable manufacturer coupons and after-the-fact rebate offers.

The Need-to-Know Coupon Stacking Basics

Now that you know where to find all the best coupons, it’s time to break down how to use them.

Of course, if you only have one coupon, the process is extremely straightforward. It only gets complicated once you introduce coupon stacking–which every expert couponer knows is one of the best money-saving hacks.

Coupon stacking is the act of combining various coupons, rebates, sales, and deals to get the best deal possible on a single item.

Although every store has a different coupon policy, there are some general guidelines most stores follow regarding stacking coupons.

To know exactly how to stack the specific coupons you have, you may need to read the fine print. But these general guidelines apply to most stores’ coupon policies.

Stacking Manufacturer Coupons

When stacking manufacturer coupons, you can generally use one coupon per item with up to two to four manufacturer coupons in one purchase.

If it sounds a little confusing, don’t worry. Let’s break it down.

Let’s say that you theoretically have one printable manufacturer coupon for $3.00 off one Tide Pods container, plus one digital manufacturer coupon for the same deal. At the store, you can use one coupon per item–so to use both, you’ll need to purchase two containers of Tide Pods.

However, even though these coupons are technically the same deal, you can still use them both in one purchase (as long as you have two separate items to use them on).

Many times, the digital coupons you find in store-specific apps will be manufacturer coupons–so be sure to double-check. If it looks like the same deal, it’s probably the same coupon.

Stacking Store-Specific Coupons

We’re all familiar with store-specific coupons and how to use them–but it’s important to know that store-specific coupons are rarely stackable with other store-specific coupons.

Typically, a store-specific coupon might say “limit of 4” after the deal, which means you can use the coupon four times as long as you buy four separate items.

It’s also common to be able to use different store-specific coupons with no limit. So, if you want to only shop according to this week’s digital coupons in your local grocer’s app, you can do so freely.

However, you can stack one manufacturer coupon and one store-specific coupon on the same product. 

How to Stack Coupons Like a Pro

If you want to save the most money possible when couponing, here’s how you do it: stack, stack, stack.

Now, you just learned that you can’t stack the same coupon on top of itself, but you can stack similar deals on top of other deals from various sources.

Here’s what I mean.

The Six Levels of Coupon Stacking

If you want to reach the maximum level of coupon stacking, you need to hit all six levels.

Start with a manufacturer coupon. Add a store coupon. Be sure to use your store rewards to earn loyalty points and extra savings–or use those points to pay for your purchase. Then, cash in through a rebate app after you’ve paid with a discount gift card. Oh, and if you can do all that on top of a sale or promotion, you’ll earn the title of Expert Couponer.

Even if you don’t use all these methods, combining just two or three of them can save you even more money!

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re shopping for a container of Tide HE Liquid Laundry Detergent at Target.

It normally costs $22.98, but it’s on sale for 10% off.

You have a $2.00 printed manufacturer coupon and a 5% off digital coupon in the Target app.

When you check out, you realize you’ve earned $1 worth of Target Circle Earnings, which you use to pay. And, 1% of this purchase will cycle back to earn you more rewards for later.

Then, you pay with a discount gift card, which you were able to snag for 8% off retail value.

Once you go home, you check in with your rebate app, let’s say Ibotta, which offers 10-30% cash back on most purchases, and you get 15% cash back on this purchase.

Coupon TypeProduct PriceSavings Calculations
Original Price$22.98$22.98
Manufacturer Coupon$18.62-$2.00
Store Coupon$17.69-$0.93
Discount Gift Card$15.35-$1.34
Rebate App Cash Back$13.05-$2.30
Final Results$13.05$9.93

At the end of the day, you saved $9.93 on just one item thanks to expert coupon stacking. That’s a whopping 43%!

This is a hypothetical scenario, but it’s meant to show you what coupon stacking is capable of. All of the deals mentioned were extremely realistic, and you can go find real deals this great, too.

Stacking Coupons Online

Just because you’re shopping online doesn’t mean you need to miss out on savings. You can stack coupons online, too, if you’re savvy.

Be sure to look around for deals on free shipping, existing sales, exclusive coupons sent to your email, plus special promotions for new customers or holidays.

As a general rule here at, we believe every purchase should be made with a coupon, sale, or deal–that’s how you save the most money!

Know Store Policies on Stacking Before You Go

When you start couponing for the first time, there’s bound to be some confusion, especially when you, the inexperienced couponer, are working with an inexperienced cashier.

Knowing the store’s policy on coupons is essential if you truly want to get the best deals. That doesn’t mean you need to memorize every store’s policy. Instead, just review the policies before you leave to make sure you know your rights–as a couponer.

You’d be surprised how empowering knowing a policy is. When you know the policy, you have more leverage to say what is allowed with certainty. So there’s no need to cause a scene or walk away without your deals.

Don’t Give Up on Couponing

Becoming a couponing expert doesn’t happen overnight. Much like any habit, you’ll need to slowly work these couponing strategies into your daily routine if you want them to stick.

Here are a few strategies for making saving money a regular habit. Try out each one, keep the ones that work for you, and forget about the ones that don’t!

  • Create a dedicated savings and couponing email
  • Keep all your physical coupons (like Catalinas and printed coupons) in an envelope
  • Make a digital list of purchases you regularly make, along with links to manufacturer coupons
  • Download the apps for the stores you visit regularly
  • Always join free loyalty programs (with your new couponing email, of course)
  • Before shopping, create a money-saving routine where you check your apps, email, coupon list, and envelope for relevant coupons
  • Download one (or a few) rebate apps to upload receipts and earn cash back
  • Invest in discounted gift cards with retailers you know you will shop at (a lost gift card is wasted money)
  • Resist making unnecessary purchases simply because they’re on sale
  • Watch out for sales patterns at stores you shop at the most and stock up during sales
  • Remember that stacking coupons and deals are the best way to save money

Is Extreme Couponing Right for You?

Anyone can be a great couponer, and some people find that extreme couponing is a method that works for them.

The difference between regular couponing and extreme couponing is how much stock you keep at home. Extreme couponers do save more money because they buy in bulk–but that also means that they spend more money at once than most.

A regular couponer will have a semi-normal regular shopping list with several coupons, while an extreme couponer is likely to pick just 1-2 items and buy tons of that one item.

If you’re interested in extreme couponing, check out this video, where an experienced extreme couponer gives you some helpful tips for your first extreme couponing trip.

FAQs About How to Coupon for Beginners

How do I get coupons and coupon inserts in the mail?

In some cases, stores will send you coupon inserts in the mail without you even asking! But, if you want to receive even more coupon inserts, try:

– Signing up for loyalty and rewards programs, and provide your address
– Subscribe to free newsletters online from popular stores and manufacturers
– Buy your local newspaper with coupon inserts–dollar stores often sell them for $1

But receiving coupon inserts in the mail isn’t the only way to find great deals! Learn more about how to coupon in our guide for beginners.

How do I start extreme couponing?

If you want to learn how to extreme coupons, you need to learn the basics of couponing first. Once you understand how coupons work, then you can strategize by making bulk purchases on non-perishable items. Discover everything you need to know and more in our couponing guide for beginners.

Where is the best place to get coupons?

You’ll find some of the best coupons on manufacturer websites and inside weekly mailers. In addition to those coupons, you can also find deals through:

– Store-specific apps
– Rebate apps
– Rewards and loyalty programs
– Email newsletters

What should all beginners know about couponing?

The basics of couponing are simple. You can save money in six different ways, and your goal is to combine as many deals as possible on a single item. These money-saving methods include:

1. Existing deals and sales
2. Store-specific coupons
3. Manufacturer coupons
4. Rewards programs & loyalty points
5. Discounted gift cards
6. Rebate apps

Learning How to Coupon Will Save You Money

Whether you have your heart set on becoming the world’s next best extreme couponer or you just want to save a little more money when you go grocery shopping, then knowing how to coupon and how stack coupons will help you achieve your goals.

Remember, couponing is a worthwhile endeavor, but like any activity, it can take some practice before you get used to it. Stay committed to your money-saving goals, and you’ll enjoy the obvious benefits!

Want more easy couponing and money-saving tips that work? Check out’s expert tips and insider information about how you can save more money on big and small purchases.

Rebecca Choi is a freelance writer, designer, and contributor to from Philadelphia, PA. Armed with her Bachelor's Degree in English and Graphic Design from Arcadia University, she pursues a life of creation and hopes to earn an M.Arch in the near future. Her passions include reading novels, writing poetry, promoting mental health and wellness, and creating functional artwork.

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