College is a fun and exciting time. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most financially strenuous, and many college students have to sacrifice the small luxuries in order to get by. But it doesn’t have to be that way! With extreme couponing, you can stock those cabinets and shelves for the price of a few meals in the cafeteria.
1. Start with the closest, most convenient big-name stores.
Since a lot of students don’t have their own transportation, many college campuses have drugstores or dollar stores within walking distance. In college, my favorite stores were Rite Aid and Dollar General. They were both only a five-minute walk from my part-time job and had some amazing deals.
2. Get some coupons.
If you live in a dorm or apartment complex, mail is typically dropped off in a common area mailroom. This is a gold mine for coupons! Grab that stack of ignored and discarded coupons. If you can’t get coupons that way, try asking your friends, family, classmates, and coworkers. In return, consider sharing some of your coupon wealth with them. You’d be surprised how much college students appreciate some free shampoo!
Also, most coupon inserts are found in the Sunday paper, so if you’re within walking distance of a gas station (or even your university bookstore), you can grab them yourself.
And finally, try to get access to a printer to print out coupons. A personal printer may be required—not a campus-lab printer—as some coupon sites require a small download.
3. Get a rewards card.
If you find yourself near a drugstore like CVS, Rite Aid, or Walgreens, sign up for their rewards program to get extreme deals. Sign up online and have the card mailed, or sign up in-store—just make sure to fill out your rewards account profile, especially the birthday section. A lot of stores (like CVS) give you a special reward on your birthday.
Related: 5 Things Couponers Should Never Do
4. Download the right savings apps.
Download rebate apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 and unlock offers (aka digital coupons) by completing quick, easy tasks like watching a short video or taking a one-question quiz. Then, after you’ve purchased the specified product, upload your receipt and wait for the cash to roll in.
My obsession with Target started in college. Unfortunately, Target didn’t come out with their mobile savings app, Cartwheel, until after I graduated. If they had come out with it years earlier, I would have saved so much! If you love Target, make sure you download Cartwheel and get instant savings by adding offers directly to your unique barcode that’s scanned at checkout. Get the insider secrets here.
5. Know the coupon policies.
Most stores’ coupon policies are found online and are pretty straightforward, but it pays to take a quick glance over them. The coupons themselves also have rules written right on them. Luckily, most stores’ policies are very similar, easy to understand, and can be found online.
Tip: Bookmark a store’s coupon policy in your mobile browser, take a screenshot of it in case there’s no signal in the store when you need it, or print it out. Find your store’s policy here.
6. Start stacking savings and clipping coupons!
It’s all about stacking. Stack coupons with sales, rewards, and rebate offers for the biggest savings. Or, just visit The Krazy Coupon Lady and find most of the work done for you. Just clip or print out the coupons KCL tells you to clip, buy the products and quantities specified, and you’re good to go!
It takes a little getting used to, but after a while, you’ll find it very easy. I spent about 1-3 hours a week for the couple of stores I visited in college—that included clipping, printing, walking to the store, and buying the products. If you go to more stores, expect to take significantly more time. When you’re in the middle of studying and need a break, coupon clipping is the perfect de-stressor.
A final note
Couponing is a great way to get the products you love and still have some spending money later, but remember that academics always come first. Don’t put them aside for any activity (including couponing). Couponing can save you money now, but a good education will make you a heck of a lot more in the future.
This is a guest post by Alissa J. from Erie, PA.