Well here is another step in the road to learning how to effectively use coupons. I wanted to discuss a bit about free item coupons and how to obtain and best use them.
So a free item coupon is exactly what it sounds like. A coupon that is valid to try a product for free. There are a few ways to get your hands on these types of coupons.
- Via social media promotions. Most often these are on Facebook. There are all sorts of these types of promotions, from Purina to organic yogurt to Coffeemate Creamer. It used to be that these promotions would last for a few hours but now there are a lot more people out there seeking these freebies and coupons, so often times they might be gone in a matter of minutes or even seconds.
- Via word of mouth marketing programs. There are a ton of programs you can sign up for and they really do send coupons or products (full size) totally free. Some examples are Vocalpoint or Kraft First Taste. Another type of program would be rewards programs like Huggies and Pampers or Recyclebank where you get free product coupons once you enter enough codes to qualify.
- Via coupon inserts. We used to see free item coupons frequently in the paper. Especially when new products were launching. These days they are pretty few and far between but they are occasionally in your Sunday paper. Now the coupons can be regional (meaning only some cities will get them. An example of this was about 2 months ago. A very small demographic received coupons for a free Marzetti salad dressing (about $3-4 value). That same week some people in another demographic received coupons for a free hot sauce (about $3-4 in value). So depending on where you live your newspaper may have had a great coupon inside.
- Via the manufacturers directly. One popular thing to do is to attempt to get free item coupons by contacting the manufacturers of various products and either ask directly for coupons or compliment them/offer feedback on specific products in the hopes that they will send you coupons.
One important thing to understand about free item coupons is if they are printable coupons or not. There has been a wave of fraudulent printable coupons over the past year or so and as a result most stores will no longer accept these types of printable coupons. Occasionally manufacturers still release these coupons, in fact Lipton actually just offered a coupon for a free iced tea that was available to print at home. These coupons can still be redeemed but it is important to understand that you may need to try a few stores before you find one that will actually accept the coupon.
A free item coupon that is not printed at home on your computer (such as one mailed to you or in the Sunday paper) is another matter entirely and the vast majority of stores will accept those with no problems.
So now that you know where these coupons typically originate let’s move on to how the heck you can get your hands on them! I try to pass along as many of the free item coupons as I hear about on the blog. You really have to be in the right place at the right time though because these promotions can go incredibly fast. Usually following me on Facebook is the best way to find out about them because we can all work together on the Facebook wall to learn when coupons are live etc..
You can purchase free item coupons online. An example would be the Sunday insert coupons I mentioned above. If your area did not receive a coupon for a product or if you want extra coupons, you can purchase coupons from clipping services or from Ebay. One thing to note is that you want to be VERY careful buying coupons from Ebay. There are occasional sellers that never send the coupons, send out photocopies or otherwise altered coupons (that are fraudulent and should not be redeemed) and so on. If a coupon seems too good to be true- say a $5 off Tide coupon, most likely it is too good to be true and it is best to not take any chances. I have personally used Ebay a handful of times and I have not had problems but I have heard from lots and lots of people that were burned so again just use caution.
And the last way I wanted to mention was via manufacturers directly. I used to do this a lot when I started couponing and then I had baby #2 and now there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. You can select random manufacturers for products that you like and call them, email or even write a letter and compliment or offer constructive critisism on their products.
What I used to do was pay attention to the products I already had on hand and make a mental note to contact those companies. For example, during bathtime am I using Burt’s Bees baby wash? Well why not drop them a line. In the morning as I am brewing my coffee- is it Coffeemate creamer I always have in the fridge? Well why not contact them! You can often just turn a package around and find contact information or a simple Google search will more often than not turn up contact information.
When contacting companies it is important to be honest with your feedback but still polite. Telling Luvs that you hated the diapers and they gave your baby a rash is probably not going to get you very far. Here are some examples of things that I have said to companies in the past:
I contacted Huggies when I had a pack of diapers that were defective.
“I have used Huggies diapers on my girls for the past 3 years and have always had great luck with your product. I also appreciate the convenience of finding Huggies diapers in almost every store I shop. I did want to let you know that I recently purchased a package of Huggies Overnights diapers in a Jumbo pack at Target (UPC #:) and the side tabs were missing from 3 diapers in the pack. I have never had any quality issues before and I certainly intend to continue purchasing your product. I just wanted to make you aware of the problem. “
Now that really did happen to me and I really did send them a note about it. Huggies responded by sending me a coupon for a free pack of diapers and two $5 off coupons for any product. So if you do run into any legitimate problems don’t be shy about letting these companies know!
Another example might be something your family enjoys like Newman’s Own Pasta Sauce. You might send something like this:
“I just tried the new Newman’s Own Stockarooni pasta sauce tonight and wanted to let you know how much our family enjoyed your product! Your pasta sauce is a staple in our house and my kids love it on homemade pizza or spaghetti and I love the convenience of just pouring something right from a jar and dinner is served! I also love that your products are organic as that is such an important thing for our family. We will continue to purchase your pasta sauce regularly and if you happen to have any coupons available for consumers, I would sincerely appreciate them! My address is: …..”
And even if you are not a huge fan of a product or you simply want to try something different, you might send a note. Like I happen to be a Coffeemate girl. So I might send something like this to International Delight:
“I tend to purchase Coffeemate creamers most frequently and I do use creamer in my coffee every morning. I recently saw an ad for the new Breve creamer from International Delight and I am really interested in trying this product. I love the packaging on the creamer and the flavors sound wonderful- especially the Caramel Macchiato. If you have any coupons available for consumers, I would really appreciate them as I would love to try your product and see if I like it as much as what I currently use. My address is…”
So emailing companies can sometimes get you incredible coupons and sometimes get you absolutely nothing. I have received several free item coupons from manufacturers, I have received nothing at all in response to my emails and coupons that were very low in value (say $.35 coupons on a $5-6 product.)
If you want to give this a whirl, I would suggest getting started by just looking at the products you use regularly and contacting those companies when you can. You can also see a long list of companies to get in touch with (and hopefully) you will get free coupons in return.
Remember to try to be specific and to be honest with what you say. “I love Huggies please send me coupons” is probably not as effective as the samples listed above.
Now that you know how to get these coupons, I wanted to mention where to use them. Most people get a coupon for whatever product and they hit the closest store, get the product and leave. That is great but I try to be a little more strategic with these coupons.
I actually tend to hoard my free item coupons. Many of them will have long expiration dates and I like to wait for the best possible time to use them to really maximize savings. So what would be an example of that? Well I had a free coupon for a pack of Kraft cheese recently. I waited until I found a Buy One Get One Free sale on Kraft cheese and plunked that coupon down to get 2 packages for free. Another example would be to hold your coupon until you can possibly make a profit via drugstore rewards or rebates. An example of that might be a coupon for a free pack of Huggies diapers. Maybe you hold onto that coupon until CVS is offering a $3 ECB when you buy Huggies. Use that free package coupon and you get a free product and still get the $3 ECB. So not only did you get free diapers but you made a profit!
I also love to use these coupons as fillers for store coupons. For example, my local grocery store offers store coupons for free products when you spend a certain amount (CVS and Rite Aid also offer these types of coupons with $5 off $20 purchase coupons or $3 off $15 purchase coupons.) So for example I might need to spend $20 at that store and if I do, I get a free package of cereal. Now I just have to hit $20 before coupons so if I had a coupon for a free pack of Huggies diapers- well that is likely going to get me almost halfway to the $20 mark. So if I am smart and hold onto those free item coupons until I have a little stash of them, I can use them at the right time to get the best possible deal.
Hopefully this is clear and I would love to hear from you guys that actually do regularly contact companies. What has your experience been and do you have any other suggestions?
You can read more articles about learning to coupon:
and you can get even more information from the Where to Begin section of my blog!