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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Couponing: Part Six—Coupon Clipping Services, Trading & Auctions

To conclude my “How To Coupon” series, I’d like to introduce you to my new friend, Alissabeth Taylor.  She knows so much more than I about coupon clipping services, trading and auctions.  Grab a glass of something cold to drink and join me as we learn from Alissabeth.  :-)As a couponer, the most frustrating thing to me is buying paper’s each week and not getting the coupons that were previewed. It is also very frustrating when the bigger paper in my area doesn’t contain all the inserts it should, because the smaller paper does.

Although newspapers and printable coupons are the major sources for finding coupons, there are other ways. As coupons vary by region and city, it is important to know that you have other options for obtaining the valued coupons that you may not receive.

Clipping Services
There are several clipping services out there, such as The Coupon Clippers, Cents Off, Coupons & Things By Dede, and The Coupon Cutters. These sites provide clipped coupons with limited quantities available, and possible purchase quantity restrictions. You pay a handling fee for the time that is spent cutting and organizing the coupons, plus shipping charges. Some of these sites offer whole coupon inserts for purchase. You would want to compare them to the weekly preview before you buy, to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.
I have had personal success with The Coupon Clippers. I find that the variety is good, the customer service is great and the shipping is fast and reasonably priced. I also like the option to use Paypal so I do not have to provide all my personal information. However, I have noticed that other sites offer discounted handling fees from time to time, which may make some services more cost effective then others.

Trading
Various coupon and savings websites have devoted forums (message boards) for couponers, in which you have the ability to trade coupons you do not use for ones you do. This concept involves listing the coupons you have, and the coupons you need, on a post that the whole community can view. If someone has an interest in your coupons, and can provide you with some coupons that you are looking for, you exchange information and mail these coupons. In return, you will get an envelope with the coupons you requested. The only cost involved for you is the cost of mailing the envelope, which typically only takes a stamp or two.
Another aspect of coupon trading is the coupon train. This is where a group of several members is formed on the forum. An envelope is created by the ‘conductor’ and then mailed to a designated number of people ‘on the track’. The advantage of this is that the train may see other regions than your own, giving you the opportunity to obtain coupons that you may never see in your area. The cost of this is a little more, up to a couple of dollars. However, you typically only see an envelope once a month, depending on how big the group is, and may pull out a handful of coupons that will save you more than the cost of shipping.
Some of the trading forums are Coupon Mom, A Full Cup, Hot Coupon World, and We Use Coupons. You must register to use these forums.
I personally use Coupon Mom to participate and run my own train, as well as participate on other trains. I am highly satisfied with the trading that I do on this forum, and have no need to frequent other sites. I cannot comment on the other forums as I have never used them.
One major reminder in trading coupons is to NEVER trade for money or any other form of compensation. Only trade coupons for coupons. If it sounds too good to be true, it is! Trust me, I was burned once and it was very frustrating and embarrassing. However, I definitely learned from that mistake.

Auctions
If you are looking to purchase multiples of the same coupon for a major sale, you will probably have more success with an auction service. The auction site we all know is Ebay. You can purchase multiple coupons for reasonable prices and shipping. You also have the option to buy them at the Buy It Now price, which saves you the hassle of bidding. I recommend purchasing coupons that show a picture of the item you are interested in, so that you can verify you are getting what you want.
Some forums also offer coupon auctions. These include Hot Coupon World, We use Coupons and A Full Cup. I am not familiar with these auctions, so I cannot recommend them.
Don’t feel limited to your paper. Experiment with the options listed above to obtain the widest variety of coupons you can, to save the most money possible.
Alissabeth blogs about couponing, savings, and family life at Faith, Family, Frugality, and is a stay at home mom to a 2 1/2 year old boy.
She can be contacted via Twitter @alissataylor and the Faith, Family, Frugality Facebook page.

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