Why Buy Coupons on eBay?
You may live in a small town like me, and your Sunday paper may not have coupon inserts. Buying coupons on eBay also allows you to get multiples of coupons you will use, and you can pick and choose which coupons you want. In addition, different areas may have different coupon inserts, so a seller on the other side of the country may have coupons that weren't included in your Sunday paper.
How to Buy Coupons on eBay.
You don't want to discount the smaller sellers, who can have excellent coupon assortments, but it helps to purchase coupons from a seller who has an eBay store. Listing auctions on eBay can be expensive, and with such a low-value amount, most sellers have to charge more or inflate their shipping to cover the costs of listing their coupons for auction. This doesn't mean you can't find a good deal on auction, it just means often the best place to start is with a search of eBay stores for coupons. In addition, sellers who have an eBay store devoted to coupons will also often have a large assortment for you to choose from, which will allow you to get the most from your shipping dollar.
ALWAYS be sure to look at the shipping costs for coupons. $5 in coupons is not a bargain if you're paying $3 in shipping. I usually stay away from coupon listings that cost more than $1 to ship, unless I am buying lots of coupons, and then I will spend up to $2 shipping for the combined coupons.
Stay away from coupons that you print online. Make sure the seller is actually shipping you coupons. If it is a coupon that you print online, chances are you can find it yourself. In addition, often these coupons will not work right as they are inteded to be printed only once, and you may get to the grocery store and find your printed coupons will not scan.
Don't be afraid to buy "non-traditional" coupons, like $3 off an entree at the Olive Garden, or 20% off home depot. There's no rule that says coupons must be strictly for grocery shopping.
Pay attention to the expiration date!
Sellers may state that some stores take expired coupons, but this is rarely true anymore. Very few chains of grocery stores accept expired coupons. Make sure the coupons you buy expire at least 2 weeks from the date you will purchase them. For example, if you are bidding on an auction that ends June 7th, make sure the coupons expire at the very earliest June 21st. When I buy coupons, I look to find coupons with the longest expiration date to allow me to get the most use out of them.
To buy in lots, or not to buy in lots.
There are 2 basic ways of listing coupons on eBay. There are those in huge lots, that may include anywhere from 10 different to 100 different coupons, and there are those that are multiples of the same coupon. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
Large Coupon Lots
- Plus: You get a wide assortment of coupons for your money.
- Minus: You may receive coupons you don't need or won't use.
- Suggestion: When buying large lots, make sure you will use at least half of the coupons. There may be 1 or 2 coupons you really want in the lot, but if the rest of the coupons will go unused, it's not worth the money.
- Plus: You know that you will use the product which you are buying.
- Minus: Depending on the size of the lot, you may not be able to use all the coupons, especially if the expiration date is looming.
- Suggestion: When buying multiples, buy them in lots of no more than 10. Even if you use only half of the coupons, chances are you will have saved more than enough to make it worthwhile.
Especially if you're buying baby coupons, you may find that some sellers add in free samples they've received to sweeten the deal. Make sure these samples are unused, preferably still sealed in any original packaging. Before, you go all out bidding to get that all important sample of Boudreaux's Butt Paste for your little one, make sure that you will use the samples. It doesn't make sense to pay $4 more in shipping and bid price for a few samples that have a dollar value of under $1.
You have the coupons, now how to use them?
Using coupons sounds simple, doesn't it? However, the best way to get the most for your money is to be careful with your coupons. While it may seem like the best choice is to go to your Super Center Wal-Mart or Super Target to use your coupons, the best place to use coupons is surprisingly your local grocery store. Most towns, even small towns like mine, have at least 2 grocery store chains. Grocery stores are usually quite a bit more expensive than your local huge discount store. However, the ads they run will make sure your coupons stretch that extra dollar. Pick up an ad every week from your local grocery store(s). Then scan it to see if you have coupons for any of the advertised items.
Here's an example of one of my recent coupon excursions. Lay's potato chips were $2.99, and buy one, get one free at my local Martin's. I had a coupon to get $1 off a loaf of bread when I bought 2 bags of Lay's potato chips. I picked out a loaf of Texas Toast that was $1.50, and was also on sale for buy one, get one free. Using the coupon, I got 2 bags of chips and 2 loaves of bread for $3.50 plus grocery tax.
Also, many grocery stores have gimmicks, free points or things like that. Our Martin's in town has a gas station, and for every $100 you spend, you get 10¢ off a gallon of gas. Since our Martin's has very competitively priced gas, we can save money on our groceries and our gas. Many chains also send out incentive coupons every few weeks or months to their subscribers. These are often coupons for free food or products if you spend $15, or x number of dollars off a $30 purchase, etc. Milk these coupons and gimmicks for all they're worth!
Many local grocery stores double or triple coupons 99¢ and under. This can mean great savings for smaller dollar items. One of my new favorite products are Birds Eye Steamfresh Vegetables. My husband loves these, as he can make his own vegetables as a snack just by popping them in the microwave. These retail for about $1.30-$1.50 at our local Weis. We had several coupons for 50¢ off one bag. Weis doubled the coupon, and we got several bags of Birds Eye Steamfresh Vegetables for 30-50¢ per bag.
Pay attention to the auction though, most coupons can be doubled or tripled, but some coupons will have printed on them that they may not be doubled or tripled. Most sellers are courteous and will let you know this in the auction.
Organizing and Planning using your coupons.
You can buy a nice coupon organizer, but I find that most coupon organizers on the market don't have enough sections. Who can divide all their coupons into 4 categories? I organize by several sections, and in each section I have the coupons arranged by expiration date. Does it sound like a lot of work? It's actually not, once you have the system down, and I promise it will save time and frustration in the long run. I use these categories:
- Beauty and Hygeine
- Bread Products
- Cleaning Products
- Condiments, Spices
- Diet Products
- Fast Food and Restaurants
- Paper and Plastic
- Pet Products
- Side Dishes
Coupon Swaps in your area.
Coupon swaps are a great way to not only get together for some interaction with your neighbors/friends, but also to exchange those coupons you won't be using for ones you will be using. Consider asking around or looking in the local paper to see if there are any in your area. One or two grocery store chains I know of even have a box up front, where you can bring coupons and exchange them for ones you find that you can use.
Now it's time to spend the extra money!
Hold on for just a minute. Yes, it's great when you look at your receipts and see you saved $115 with coupons, but keep in mind that while it's perfectly acceptable to use that for something special, you may want to consider saving it. Consider a compromise: you and the kids will buy a new movie that month instead of going to see one, and the rest of the money will go into a savings account for college education, a family vacation or an emergency fund.