28 Feb

Written by Kathryn Vercillo on February 28, 2009

Dear Kathryn: I’m seeing a lot of news reports about people who use online shopping codes to save money. It’s a huge trend. Does this really work?

This is a really great question! More and more people are using online discount codes as one more method of reducing what they spend while doing their shopping. In some cases, they are truly saving a lot of money. However, impulsive online shopping and the use of the wrong coupon code sites seem to be making it so that other people are actually losing money by using coupon codes online. The answer to your question, in short, is that online coupon codes are a really great tool that you can add to your arsenal of weapons for fighting off this recession. However, you have to know how to use coupon codes to really get this savings.

Make Sure You Want What You’re Buying

Recent studies have provided us with a lot of information about the increasing use of online coupon codes. What we have learned is that the use of online coupon codes is changing people’s buying decisions. The items that people choose to purchase and the retailers that they choose to purchase them from are different when coupon codes are being used than they are when merely shopping without regard to coupons. This can potentially translate into losing money if you’re buying items with a coupon code that you wouldn’t otherwise purchase.

The key to saving money here is to only make purchases that you would have made with or without the coupon. Here is a simple system that I use to make the most of promotional codes this way:

• I have a spreadsheet list of all of my staple items that I purchase (toilet paper, groceries, light bulbs, etc.)
• At the beginning of each month, I create a second spreadsheet list of all extra items that I would like to purchase throughout the month. This may include gifts for people or seasonal items.
• I sit down and start looking for coupon codes related to those items. I list the codes in the spreadsheet next to the item that I want. I include a link to the coupon code, the details of the savings and the expiration date for easy sorting.
• Throughout the month, as I make purchases, I return to my spreadsheet to get the coupon code.
• If I see other coupon codes throughout the month (usually on the money saving blogs that I read) then I head to my spreadsheet and see if there’s a place for them on my list.
• I do not make the purchase if the item isn’t on my list (even if I have a great coupon for it).
• I note on my spreadsheet what I spent and what I saved so that I can track how beneficial my use of coupon codes is.

Through the use of this simple system, I can keep myself from spending money on items that I see online but don’t actually need.

Use the Right Websites for Coupon Codes

The other main reason that people may lose money (or at least not save as much as they could) with coupon codes is that they don’t use the right websites for finding promotional codes. There are many different coupon code websites available. Research indicates that the best sites are those that offer a wide range of coupons and which allow you to search for those coupons very simply through a basic search engine on the site.

What I’ve discovered is that it’s a great idea to find my own favorite coupon code websites and to keep these bookmarked. When trying to find coupon codes at the beginning of each month, these are the ones that I search. I am careful to search several of them to make sure that I am getting the best deal. I periodically update my list of favorite websites using suggestions from my favorite money saving blogs and financial advisors.

Combine Online and Offline Coupons

Finally, I think that it’s really important to realize that online coupon codes are best when combined with offline coupons. There are many different coupon code sites that allow you to access not only promotional codes but also printable coupons that can be used offline. Using a combination of online and offline coupons helps you to make sure that you’re getting the best deal for the items that you want to buy.

Coupon code websites are increasingly popular and there’s a good reason for that. This is a really terrific tool that can be used to help you save money during a recession. With more and more sites popping up all of the time, it’s important that we take the time to learn how to find the best sites and use them properly so that we truly are benefiting from this new financial tool.

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