How to Coupon

What is a Ghost Coupon?

Posted on Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 at 10:21 pm
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Have you ever tried to clip or print out a coupon that you believed should be there only to find it has disappeared?  It might have been a ghost coupon.It is easy to see why so many people get excited about collecting coupons. People use a mixture of paper coupons, digital coupons, and coupons that can only be found in apps. All of them will help a person save a little money. That’s why it is so frustrating to discover that what you though was a good coupon was actually a “ghost coupons”.

What is a ghost coupon?

It is a coupon that you have been led to believe exists and is obtainable – when that simply isn’t true. The coupon doesn’t actually exist in your area – or may not exist where you expected to find it.

One example of a ghost coupon comes from product advertisements. You see an ad for a product that your family frequently uses. The ad could be in a magazine or online. Somewhere in the ad is the statement: “$2.00 coupon found in most Sunday papers”.

But, when you search your Sunday paper – there is no coupon to be found. The alleged coupon has disappeared like a ghost. Where did it go?

The answer to that question is in the wording of the advertisement. It says most Sunday newspapers. The ad did not promise that it would be in your local Sunday paper. People make the assumption that “most” means that they are included in the group that can receive that coupon. What turns out to be a ghost coupon for you could be a real coupon for people who live in a different region.

Another example of a ghost coupon is when a manufacturer suddenly stops offering coupons in places where it has always offered them. A vivid example of this type of ghost coupon can be found in a decision made by P&G.

For a long time, people regularly who used Tide, Downy, Bounce, or other P&G products could expect to find some coupons for those products in their Sunday newspaper. Recently, P&G stopped offering those coupons in that location.

Those who expected to find coupons instead found a mostly empty space that directed consumers to visit the P&G website, and make an account, in order to get coupons. Naturally, this made people feel frustrated. Some may have decided to make an account at the P&G website. Others might have switched to other, similar, products.

There’s another version of a ghost coupon. Sometimes, a company offers a coupon to a limited number of people. The first people who go online to collect the coupon are able to obtain it. After that, it becomes a ghost coupon for those who were too late.

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Facebook New and Improved Offers Might Include Coupons

Posted on Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Facebook updated its Offers feature.  You might find some interesting deals, offers, and perhaps even coupons inside it.There was a time when you could regularly collect coupons from Facebook. Brands would post a special coupon on their Facebook page and people who wanted the coupon would print it out (or have it sent to their email address).

Those days are gone, and there is a good chance the the coupon you see on Facebook is a fraudulent one. Facebook’s newly updated Offers might bring back the coupons.

Facebook has had a feature called “Offers” for quite some time now. Over the years, they have been tweaking it in an effort to see what worked best. Recently, Facebook Offers was redesigned for a new, streamlined, mobile experience.

Facebook Offers is now a place where people can go to see what their favorite brands are offering. If you find an advertisement, offer, or deal that you like, it will be possible to save that Offer. Doing so will put that Offer into the new Offers bookmark. The offer that attracted your attention will be easy to find later on.

People can review and access their saved Offers at any time by clicking on the bookmark and then redeeming them on mobile, desktop, or in-store. Which one can you use? It depends on what the advertiser has specified. Some advertisers might limit which of those options they want customers to have – and others might be not feel a need to limit them.

The newly updated Facebook Offers feature makes it easy for people to redeem their claimed offers. People can copy offer codes and access details, such as the terms and conditions of the offer, on their mobile device while they’re on the advertiser’s mobile site. That means you don’t have to memorize any coupon codes in order to get a good deal.

What about when you shop at the advertiser’s “brick and mortar” store? You can still access Offers through the Offer bookmark on your mobile device and pull it up when you get to the register. That advertiser can choose to enable a barcode or QR code that the cashier can scan at the register.

In addition, Facebook will send you helpful reminders to make sure you don’t miss out on the Offers that you claimed (or bookmarked). These reminders could be sent to you on your mobile device when you are on-the-go. Or, you might get a reminder after logging into Facebook on desktop. Facebook will also send reminders to let you know when your saved Offers are about to expire.

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Beware of Unicorns and Glitter on Facebook

Posted on Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 at 4:19 pm
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Facebook groups that use the word "unicorn" or the word "glitter" are not what you might expect them to be about! The word unicorn usually refers to a mythical white horse with a horn on its head. Glitter is something one would expect to find on a preschooler’s art project. Be careful when you see these words used as the name of a Facebook group. People are using those two terms in groups that involve counterfeit coupons.

Columnist Jill Cataldo wrote an article that explains some new coupon terminology that is being used by criminals. The word “unicorn” and the word “glitter” sound innocent. Criminals chose those words specifically for that reason.

The criminals use those words as a signal to people who want to engage in coupon fraud. They use cute words to try and disguise what they are doing so in the hopes that they won’t get caught. Most people are unaware that those terms are being used to signal that the group is a place to find counterfeit coupons.

You should avoid joining Facebook groups that involve counterfeit coupons. A Facebook group with the word “unicorn” is not about the beautiful mythical creature. A Facebook with the word “glitter” is not about art projects.

A “unicorn” is a high-value coupon that doesn’t exist in the real world. It is a counterfeit coupon. It is a coupon that looks too good to be true. There’s been plenty of them floating around Facebook. People who try to use these fake coupons discover they’ve been tricked when a cashier refuses to take the coupon.

Why are people being fooled? One reason is that the “unicorn” coupons are made to look as legitimate as possible. They include the correct font that the real company uses on coupons and a logo that matches that company’s real logo. Some may have what appears to be a hologram (or other security feature that was created in an effort to make it harder for people to create fake coupons).

The other reason people are being fooled is because they want to believe the coupon is real. It’s from one of their favorite brands (or, so they think), and it offers an excellent deal. It is a tempting coupon.

One way to avoid fake coupons is to realize that a coupon that looks “too good to be true” is a fake coupon. Never pay money for a coupon. Real coupons are freely offered by manufactures (via newsletters and email) or on legitimate coupon websites (like coupons.com). People who sell coupons are engaging in coupon fraud. People who use those fake coupons can also get in trouble for coupon fraud.

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P&G Changed the Way it Distributes Coupons

Posted on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016 at 3:52 pm
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P&G has been rolling out a change to how it distributes coupons.  Some couponers are disappointed by this change.  Has it come to your region yet?The Sunday newspaper has been an excellent source of coupons for a very long time. Couponers looked forward to clipping coupons from the inserts in the Sunday paper long before coupons went digital. Recently, P&G changed the way it distributes coupons. This change is making some couponers very upset.

P&G (Procter and Gamble) is the company that makes Tide, Gain, Downy, Bounce, and plenty of other well known brands. Many people find a brand of laundry detergent that they like and stick with it. This is especially true for families who have a family member with allergies or sensitive skin. It’s always nice to find a coupon that helps you save money on your favorite brand.

In January of 2016, P&G started changing the way it distributes coupons. They are rolling this change out regionally, which has led to some disappointed couponers.

Back in the days when the Sunday newspaper coupon inserts were the only option for coupon clippers, it was only possible to know what was in your local newspaper. Today, couponers are able to discover what the coupons in the upcoming Sunday paper will be ahead of time – which could influence them to buy multiple copies of the newspaper. Couponers also can go online and learn what coupons are available regionally.

Previously, people could open up the P&G brandSaver insert that came in their Sunday paper and find several coupons. P&G has, in some regions, replaced those coupons with a white box that says: “Go to pgeveryday.com to print out your Tide, Downy, Bounce, and Gain coupons!” Those who went to the website found that they had to make an account before they could print out any coupons.

This change is leaving some couponers feeling angry or betrayed. This is especially true for coupon clippers who do not want to give their email address to a brand in order to obtain coupons. The change made by P&G may have already come to your region. If not, you can expect that it will arrive eventually.

Companies that switch from paper coupons to online coupons do this for several reasons. They can collect email addresses of consumers who want their coupons. Often, those email addresses are used to send advertisements and special offers to those consumers. The company can control how many copies of a coupon a consumer can print out, and can control what kinds of coupons are available to people in specific regions.

When P&G stops putting coupons in your Sunday paper, you will need to make a decision. Do you want to make an account at their website and continue to have access to P&G coupons? Or, would you rather switch to a brand that is still offering paper coupons?

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Digital Coupons may not be Ideal for Extreme Couponers

Posted on Tuesday, July 12th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Extreme couponers need to be aware of the potential limitations of digital coupons (that paper coupons do not have).There are people who use coupons once in a while. Many others use some coupons every time they go grocery shopping. Then, there are the extreme couponers who put a lot of effort into figuring out how to use coupons in the most effective and money saving ways. The limitations of digital coupons may not be ideal for extreme couponers.

Glitches Can Affect Digital Coupons
Digital coupons can be extremely convenient, but they also have some disadvantages. The digital coupons that get loaded onto your favorite grocery store’s loyalty card could disappear before you use them. Usually, this happens when a digital coupon has expired.

Sometimes, digital coupons disappear due to a glitch. It isn’t common, but it has happened. Extreme couponers might want to rely on paper coupons, that won’t disappear due to a glitch, as they make their plans.

Family Might Use Your Digital Coupons
There was a time when grocery stores had to see your store loyalty card before you could access the savings connected to it. Today, many cashiers simply ask for the phone number that is attached to the loyalty card. This method is convenient for people don’t like to carry a lot of cards around with them.

The disadvantage is that your family members may have the same phone number that you do. This means your spouse might accidentally use up a coupon that you had been saving for your next shopping tip. It also means your teenager, or college student who returned home, could do the same thing.

Digital Coupons are Store Specific
Some digital coupons are store specific. In other words, the digital coupons on your loyalty card for Vons cannot be used if you shop at a different grocery store. This exclusivity could make it difficult for an extreme couponer to make their plans.

This limitation could be worked around, if the extreme couponer doesn’t mind visiting several different grocery stores on one shopping trip. It is harder to save an extreme amount of money if you have to factor in the cost of the gas you burned while driving around.

There is another problem with store specific digital coupons to consider. There are some stores that will accept competitors coupons. All a customer has to do is hand the cashier the paper coupons she wants to use. That same store might not have the ability to accept their competitors digital coupons.

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Millennial Parents Shop with Coupons

Posted on Tuesday, July 5th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Millennial parents utilize a variety of different kinds of coupons, from many sources, to help them save money.Decades ago, coupon clipping was mostly done by mothers who wanted to save some money on groceries. At the time, the only type of coupon that was available was the paper kind that people had to manually clip from their local newspaper and bring with them to the grocery store. Today, millennial parents shop with coupons, but they do it differently than parents of previous generations did.

How Millennial Parents Save with Coupons

Millennial parents (both moms and dads) are using coupons. They may still get some coupons from the newspaper, but the majority of the coupons used by millennial parents are digital coupons.

Bloomberg reports that millennial parents get coupons from a variety of sources. They use multiple coupon apps. Those apps might include ones that are specific to particular stores (such at Target’s Cartwheel) as well as more generalized coupon apps (like Ibotta).

They also visit websites that are about coupons and saving money. These kinds of websites are an excellent resource for printable coupons, coupon codes, information about sales, and helpful advice about how to combine coupons with sales to get the best deals.

Millennials also use store loyalty cards. Most, if not all, grocery stores offer a loyalty card to customers. People who have a loyalty card are able to access special sales that are only offered to members. Millennials know they can load digital coupons onto their favorite grocery store loyalty card before they shop. Those coupons automatically get used at the checkout.

Pharmacy loyalty cards typically offer a wide variety of coupons. Some can be digitally loaded onto the card. More coupons can be printed out at the store. There generally are offers that automatically appear when a customer uses a pharmacy’s loyalty card at the register.

Valassis found that millennial moms and dads shop more like the people in the Gen X and Baby Boomer generation. One reason why millennial parents are so focused on saving money is because so many of them are struggling with massive student loan debt.

Millennial parents shop differently than do their peers who are not parents. 89% of millennial parent use coupons when they are making their shopping list, but only 78% of millennials who were not parents do that. Millennial parents spend more time on the internet looking for coupons, and use more paperless coupons, than do their childless peers.

Unsurprisingly, millennial parents spend 40% more when they shop than their peers who do not have kids. It makes sense that a generation that started their adult life with student loan debt, and who now has children to feed, will use coupons to cut down costs.

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How Sports Authority’s Closing Will Affect You

Posted on Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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All of the Sports Authority stores, nationwide, are in the process of closing.  How will this affect your coupons, gift cards, and exchanges?You may have heard that Sports Authority has announced that it is going out of business. It will close all of its 450 Sports Authority stores nationwide. What does this mean for shoppers who have coupons, gift cards, or who want to try and get a good deal before the store closes?

The first thing to understand is that Sports Authority is closing all of its stores after it made a failed attempt to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The result is that all Sports Authority stores will be closing, forever. You should not expect that they will reappear under a different owner. This is the end.

What this Means for You

Gift Cards
You should make an effort to spend whatever amount is on your Sports Authority gift cards as soon as possible. Wait too long, and you will lose whatever amount is on them (because you can’t use a gift card from a chain store that has closed). ABC News reported that Sports Authority will honor their gift cards both online, and in their stores, through June 28, 2016.

Exchanges and Returns
Do you need to exchange something you bought at Sports Authority for a different size? Is there an item you recently purchased from the store and need to return? Again, you should try and get that done right away. Returns and exchanges will be allowed in the Sports Authority stores (but not necessarily online) through June 28, 2016.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Sports Authority stores are in the process of selling off as much stock as possible. This could cause difficulty for those who want to exchange an item for a different size. Sports Authority may have sold out of your size before you get there!

Sales
It is typical for stores that are going out of business to have big sales. Some of those sales have already begun, and all of them are expected to end around August 31, 2016. Keep in mind that not all markdowns are a great deal. The closer the store gets to the end, the larger the sales will be. Take a close look at the product before you buy it. Everything is being sold “as is” and you probably cannot return it if you find a defect later.

Coupons
Be careful when using coupons. There have been some situations where a person used a Sports Authority coupon – only to have the cashier deny it. The problem seems to be that some coupons have fine print that states the coupon cannot be used on clearance items. Or, the store may be refusing coupons because it is in the process of liquidation.

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Pinterest Might be Adding Coupons

Posted on Tuesday, June 7th, 2016 at 5:54 pm
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Pinterest might be adding coupons to some of their pins.  It appears they are offering the option of adding coupons to retailers who buy ads.Pinterest may have a lot of pins that are about coupons and couponing, but the social media site typically isn’t a place to find actual coupons. That might be changing! It appears that Pinterest is upgrading its ad platform in the hopes of attracting more brands.

People use Pinterest for many reasons. Many people create boards that are filled with pins of products that they want to buy. It isn’t easy for companies to tell if their pin was added to a board because the person intends to purchase that item, or if they wish they had the money to buy it. Some boards are inspirational and serve as a note of a good idea instead of functioning like a shopping list.

Business Insider reported that Pinterest is offering brands a new ad suite. The goal is for Pinterest to attract more brands who want to purchase ads on their platform.

The suite could include digital couponing, sales, and coupons that can be tacked directly onto a Pinterest ad. The coupons could be used to enable Pinterest users to test out a new product or to buy the products that the see on Pinterest.

It is anticipated that the coupons will be digital coupons. This could mean that the Pinterest coupons might be designed for use on retailer’s websites – only. It may also be possible for some of the Pins to connect to a site where a user can download and print out a printable coupon that can be used at a physical store.

Digiday reports that Pinterest may be offering retailers the ability to use “Cinematic Coupons”. It is something that Pinterest says has never been done before. In short, the Cinematic ads are designed to attract attention in a way that other Pins cannot.

Pinterest describes Cinematic Pins this way: “Cinematic Pins are a collection of Pins that use mobile-first animation to reveal a product.” Pinterest suggests that retailers could convert video into a .gif to show their product in action or being used. Or, another option is to use video content or a still image and add a coupon offer at the end.

Right now, it is difficult to tell when you might be able to find coupons on Pinterest. There is no information on the Pinterest website or its blog that mentions the potential addition of coupons. It is possible that the addition of coupons depends upon whether or not Pinterest can attract enough retailers to start offering coupons there.

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Coupons Aren’t As Important As Quality of Life

Posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Coupon are wonderful - until they start affecting your quality of life in a negative way.We love coupons because they are an easy way to save some money. There are situations, however, where using a coupon is not the best idea. In order to figure out the true value of a coupon, you have to take quality of life into account.

Extreme Couponing
The best thing about extreme couponing is that it can result in great savings. This doesn’t magically happen, though. It takes work! Some people truly enjoy the hours they spend collecting coupons and the effort they put into keeping their stockpile organized.

The trick is to avoid having extreme couponing negatively impact your family’s quality of life. Has your stockpile taken over the kitchen table? Do you spend more time with coupons and your stockpile than you do with your kids? If so, it is time to cut back on the couponing.

Shopping With Children
You have a coupon that will give you a dollar off on a certain brand of cereal. The store in the next town happens to have a sale on that brand of cereal. Combine those offers, and you could save money.

However, you are currently in your local grocery store with your children. The little one is starting to get fussy. The older one just out out of school and is anxious to go home and play. It’s not worth driving to another town, under these circumstances, to save a $1.00.

Don’t Forget the Cost of Gas
You’ve gone through all the sales papers and added digital coupons to your various store’s grocery cards. You made a grocery list that notes which store has the very best price on the items you need. Your plan could result in a significant savings on your grocery bill.

All the driving around, from store to store, is going to burn more gas than if you simply picked one store to do all of your grocery shopping at. The savings you got as a result of meticulous planning could be completely nullified by the cost of the gas you burned.

Cheaper Isn’t Always Better
The name brand cereal, and the store’s brand of the same kind of cereal, probably contain the exact same ingredients. You can buy the less expensive store brand and get the same quality of product at a lower cost.

The cheap gardening gloves that you got from the dollar store, however, are not equivalent to the slightly more expensive ones from the hardware store. Buying the better quality gloves will cost less over time because you won’t have to replace them very often.

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Target’s Cartwheel App Adds More Coupons

Posted on Thursday, May 5th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Are you using Target's Cartwheel app? If not, there is now one more really good reason to start. Target is adding more coupons to their Cartwheel app!Are you using Target’s Cartwheel app? If not, there is now one more really good reason to start. Target recently added something new to their savings app that will make couponers very happy. They made a change that actually gives you access to more coupons than ever before.

Cartwheel is Target’s savings app. It offers hundreds of coupons from across every category in the Target store. In other words, Cartwheel offers coupons for groceries as well as coupons for clothing, household items, and more.

The coupons on Cartwheel are digital. Those coupons typically give you a percentage off of a particular item. Some of those offers included Target’s own product lines (Archer Farms and up&up). Others were for products were not part of Target’s brands, but that were sold at Target.

Users can look at the offers in Cartwheel and choose the ones that they want to use. When they are done shopping, all they have to do is let the cashier scan the barcode on the Cartwheel app. Shoppers can also use coupons that they clipped from other sources (including the printable coupons from the Target website). Those who have Target’s REDcard can use it as well to stack up the savings.

The more you use the Cartwheel app, the more offers you will receive. You start with a few “spots” where offers will appear. Use the Cartwheel app more to unlock additional offer spots. Put all of this together, and the Cartwheel app becomes a good way for frequent Target shoppers to save money on their purchases.

In April of 2016, Target announced that they had begun testing a new kind of deal on the Cartwheel app. They started offering digital manufacturer coupons that offered a dollar amount discount (instead of a percentage discount). Each of those coupons is single-use, only. Now, you can clip “real” digital coupons inside the Cartwheel app.

To make this work, Target has partnered with Quotient (otherwise known as Coupons.com). They are a third-party provider of digital coupons. When Target first integrated manufacturer coupons into the Cartwheel app, there were about 40 of them offered. That number may change and the coupons offered could vary.

Target points out that iPhone users can click the “share” button to send their Cartwheel list into the Notes app. Target suggests that Android users press and hold the screen once they are in the Cartwheel app for a shortcut to the barcode widget.

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