I started couponing because of TLC's show Extreme Couponing.  It seemed like on every episode, people were walking out of the store with hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of items for "free."  After becoming an experienced couponer I realized that "free" can mean several things depending on the situation, and that some kinds of "free" are more desirable than others.

1. TRULY FREE: The item costs exactly as much as the value of the coupon and there is no tax.

Stop and Shop Example: Idahoan Instant Potatoes, $1.00
Use $1.00/1 Idahoan Instant Potatoes
Final Price: Free

2. FREE PLUS TAX: The item costs exactly as much as the value of the coupon but you have to pay tax.  Amount and policies vary by store and state.

Rite Aid Example: Always Pantiliners $1.00
Use: $1.00/1 Always Pantiliner from home mailer
Final Price: Free plus tax (will vary by state)

3. FREE AFTER REWARDS: You pay the cost of the item, but you get the money back in the form of a Reward or Gift Card for a future purchase (ExtraBucks, UpRewards, Target Gift Card,etc.) Roll the rewards from week to week to get even more for free!

CVS Example: Candy Canes, 10 ct. $1.27
Buy 1, Receive $1.27 Extra Bucks

Pay $1.27, Receive $1.27 Extra Bucks
Final Price: Free

4. FREE AFTER REBATE: You pay the cost of the item but get reimbursed after submitting a rebate.

Rite Aid Example: Crest Complete Toothpaste, 5.8oz Scope Dual Blast Mouthwash, 750ml or Oral-B Complete Toothbrush, 2ct. $3.99
Use $2.00/1 Crest Complete Toothpaste, Scope Dual Blast Rinse, Oral-B Complete Floss, Oral-B Complete Toothbrush from SS 9/11
Pay $1.99, Submit a $2.00 Single Check Rebate
Final Price: Free

5. FREE USING REWARDS OR GIFT CARDS: You use rewards or gift cards to pay for the item. Keep in mind, you had to spend money on a previous purchase to earn them.

Target Example: You received a $5.00 gift card by purchasing 2 Pampers value-pack diapers for $29.99 each
Buy Planters Nuts, 9.75 oz $4.99 (or any item at a cost of $5.00 or less)
Use $5.00 Target Gift Card
Final Price for Nuts: Free

6. BUY ONE GET ONE FREE: You pay for the first item, and receive the second one free.  Add a coupon for an even better price.

Walgreens Example: Blue Diamond Almonds, 6 oz $3.59
Buy One, Get One Free
Use $1.00/2 Blue Diamond Almonds, 6 oz Cans from SS 10/16
Final Price: As low as $1.29 each when you buy 2

7. BETTER THAN FREE: This couponer’s favorite happens when the rewards from buying the product are more than the price you paid.

CVS Example: Buy 2 Revlon Deluxe Nail Clippers $2.99
Buy 2, Receive $6.00 Extra Bucks

Use 2 $1.00/1 Revlon beauty tool from SS 10/30
Pay $3.98, Receive $6.00 Extra Bucks
Final Price: $2.02 Moneymaker

Remember that there are many ways almost every week to get something for free if you look hard enough!
 *Please note the scenarios listed above are for illustrative purposes and may no longer be available.

This has been a guest post by Jen from Oakdale, CT
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