How Coupons Work? A Quick Start Extreme-Couponing Guide

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Written by Babar Beacon

⊂ Updated: 05/03/2019 ⊃

The coupon codes/promo codes/discount codes/gift codes and other variants are the offers by stores and merchants to discount a percentage off or flat amount off the item price or some monetary incentive like free shipping. The deal hunters can get huge benefits in their extreme couponing & frugal living strategy, every day. From printed coupons or coupon cuttings to the digital coupons in the form of QR codes in mobiles to scan at cash point they remain in use. The simple codes are now popular that containing text and/or numbers to enter in a coupon code box checking out online shopping

(words:1400  Pages:3  It can take 3-5 minutes reading, about being a smart worker)

The quick start extreme couponing guide

(words:1400  Pages:3  It can take 3-5 minutes reading, about being a smart worker)

There are countless ways that businesses practice to offer incentives to their customers under specific marketing strategies and business motives. Special day sales to seasonal and clearance sales you can find coupons. The ultimate goal of any coupon is to maintain a long-term profitable relationship with customers.

Coupons Offer Huge Deals On Everything

The coupons have always been welcomed by the market in any form because of its win-win transaction model. The coupons come normally with a limited time offers so use them in a certain time to avoid expiration.

Deal-hunters may get a huge monetary benefit from a discounted price and the merchant can have a new customer to try its products. The customer gets grocery on up to 50% off prices and grocer enjoys the retained customer benefits or makes space for new inventory.

From printed coupons or coupon cuttings to the digital coupons in the form of QR codes in mobiles to scan at cash point they remain in use.  The simple codes are now popular that containing text and/or numbers to enter in a coupon code box checking out the online shopping.

You can experience some coupons by just clicking through certain links. These are all form of digital coupons which are more in use because of convenience and security.

The complete savvy strategy is summed up in a pillar post that you can read or download as an e-book to become a smart savvy shopper. 

Go To:  How to become smart savvy shopper?

Initially, grocery coupons were most in use but with the progress of e-commerce, coupons are offered from almost all brands and stores and you can find coupons for anything you have on your wish list.

So we do personally recommend to always checking for coupons and wisely use them in a savvy strategy for extra savings. 

You must not pay the full price where you can easily grab a considerable discount with some coupons around. You can find these coupons on stores’ websites, their newsletters or from coupons specialized sites


QR Code Coupon - Promolily

Printed Coupons:

The coupons initially were printed in a magazine or weekly newspapers so customers need to cut and save those coupons and handover at source merchant or store. Usually, they were popular with grocery stores. There are a complete system and mechanism that works to process coupons taking from customers to clearing and redemption from manufacturers. It was a quite a hard job.

Digital Coupons:

Now, most of the coupons are digital and customers can use them suitably. The merchants send coupons in emails and newsletters or through mobile apps so to make it convenient for customers to use as per their need. And for stores, digital coupons make the whole process easy to manage and more controlled.

Print and Present: Customers can print digital coupons to present if they want to shop in a physical store. It works just like the classic form of printed coupons.

QR Code: Coupons in emails mostly come with QR code that a customer can present in mobile at the checkout counter to get a discount. The source person simply scans the mobile displayed QR code and the discount is applied

Simple Code: Coupons on brands sites and in their emails contains a code constitute of normal text and/or numbers and it mostly shows any related event or discount behind that offer. The customer enters this code in “Promo Box” at the time of checkout.

Coupon Text Link: Some time retailers send a text link to the targeted customers in an email that carries a discount coupon which customer simply needs to click and the discount is applied automatically.

Public vs. Private Coupons:

These types of coupons are based on their targeted customers.

Public coupons are openly available to all customers. These are shareable and anyone can use public coupons to avail discount from their source merchants without any restriction of usage. Conditions are applied to be met as in printed coupons so use them wisely to sure the discount.

And on the other hand, private coupons are offered to specific groups of customers on any predefined status.  It may be issued to loyal customers as a reward or to new customers as a welcome discount. Private coupons are not shareable.


Here the issues and challenges are discussed from customer take, not merchant perspective.

A lot of coupons don’t really get you a sizeable discount or not that much as they committed to. A 5% discount on your grocery basket with some restrictions seems not enough reward at all

Is there really a discount?

Customers use coupons to save money by getting substantial discounts. But it is challenging to find the best coupons, offering a huge discount that really works on the checkout stage to cut down your final dollar spending. 

It takes time and efforts to find, clip and save coupons so spend your energies on what we call “real deals” at Promolily.

The online couponing made it easy to find the best coupons matching your needs and try various coupons in a short time. Get rid of frustration by clipping coupons for source site or through a coupons site.

The mission of Promolily Savvy Community and specifically this article is to bring you a huge saving on everything you buy in routine.

Take care of restrictions:

Coupons carry restrictions; order size or bulk buys of an item etc. Various retailers offer coupons with certain restrictions to be met ordering.

 Follow these conditions and calculate the final dollars relief. The customers’ only motive of using coupons is discount so you need to know what the discount is in a specific deal for you.

Tracing Coupon Box:

After locating, clipping or copying coupon code, you have to enter or paste it in the coupon box provided by the merchant at the various stages of checking out process.

Normally the coupon box appears on the final checkout page after you have done your online shopping, adding items to cart and in case after entering the payment information or source.

It is not much tricky to trace coupon box but it depends on the layout and template of the retailer’s site on which you are ordering.

The issue is finally placing your order missing the coupon to enter. And the challenge is to trace coupon box and remember to enter coupon you have and get discount in total billing just before placing the order.

 Fake Coupons:

The coupons which are not offered actually by some legitimate source merchants or brands are fake coupons.

It works either not at all or just like a link to divert traffic for various marketing reasons. The coupon sites compete for exclusive content to attract customers so they draw on the quality of coupons.

It is more often you find coupons on a site that may not be from a genuine source so don’t work when clipped or entered. Instead, it does add to your frustration.

Social media is filled with fake coupons so you need to be pretty much guru in couponing, being familiar with authentic coupon sites and try it in your routine shopping.

You may face a condition where site enlisted coupons that are actually a kind of nominal deal on source store and the customer is more likely to land on a home page or other whole deal page.

They expect the customer to do the rest of job of finding a good deal with already marked down price and checkout. But most of times customer bounces back with a huge frustration about the brand as well as for site.

 Unverified Coupons:

The coupons should be verified before publishing but it is not the practice all the time. The common exercise (and a hard work actually) is to enlist unverified or unsupervised coupons. Especially on coupon sites the content is copied and shared to extend the stock of deals and winning the competition.

Sites and brands can enhance their business credibility by putting some efforts on verifying coupon before publishing hence it can serve the purpose for customers.

 User-Generated Coupons:

There are many community platforms where the content is generated mostly from its members and users.

It risks the authenticity because it is hard to completely supervise the whole user contribution perfectly in time. Coupons shared and contributed by users if not properly supervised or verified than constitutes the conditions of a lot of fake, infringements, copied or proliferation of content.

 Leaked & Co-opted Coupons:

There are many sites out there offering coupons claiming the more valued content.

The competition is cutthroat in digital marketing so they try to offer deals by collecting even from other sites that offered partnered brands coupons. The coupons that are targeted to a specific group are no more secure in this scenario as they will be copied and shared by various sites in a chain reaction. So the internet is full of leaked and co-opted coupon deals.

It’s OK if the coupon is public and open to all in a time frame. But the private coupon or targeted coupons create issues for both brand and customers. It is not illegal but unfair practice for sure.

The customer end solution of all issues and challenges will be discussed in a separate section under.

Expired Coupons:

Have you ever experienced a situation that you clipped a coupon on coupon site that directed you to brand site but unfortunately that didn’t work when you check out? 

You can find coupons which are expired on source sites but not updated on coupon sites.

Use the coupons in valid time as they come with limited time offers. If borrowing through coupon sites, make sure the coupon is valid and working looking its expiration date if provided or checking the success rate with each coupon, to know the status before testing yourself.


Here is a concise list of guiding points to begin your journey of extreme-couponing

Printed Coupons - Promolily


Wishlist is the essence of savvy shopping. Enlist all items you need and why.

Enlist all the items sitting the place where you actually are going to utilize those items. It will greatly influence your shopping behavior and you will end up a more contented shopping and of course with a substantial saving.

Your wishlist will provide a clear idea to buy what and why. It is nothing to do with coupon at this stage but it will provide the ground to fun couponing later to save bucks that is your final motive of couponing.

List building is the essence of savvy shopping. Enlist all items you need and why — sitting the actual place where you are going to use them; kitchen for grocery. A magic will happen in savvy shopping


Search the coupons to match your wish list

There are many traditional as well as digital sources to find suitable coupon deals for items you have enlisted on the wishlist. From newspapers, weekly magazines to the brand site, app and more especially the especially coupon sites can surely have coupon around you are in need.

Search, find coupons and now comes the step of management of stock of coupons you found.

You can find popular coupon sites are enlisted separately at bottom of this post.


Get yourself familiar with product market price and compare it with alternative stores and with what you are going to have after couponing. The prices of online and in-store items may vary and that is what you need to find.

You will then have the perfect idea of whether there is any actual discount in coupons you found.

The better you are informed about market prices of an item you needs the more chances are you will come out with a better.

Do your research, get familiar with the item, its price and make a strategy of your own pricing that matches your budget and resources. Plan what is average price and what you can pay maximum for owning the item.

What could be the seasonal price change or clearance or sale schedule for such items to manage your shopping schedule?


Trends are changing from in-store to e-commerce and digital coupons are more popular

You can combine both methods of shopping by buying an item online and picking up in-store. Your online coupon will give a discounted price of the item available in full price at a store around.

Buy the item with using a coupon and pick that item in hours from a store around. Isn’t it a trick to enjoy the discount in a classic way.


Overage is the margin your coupon is exceeding the listed price of the item.

Normally it is more probable that you will lose the portion but with utilizing smartly that overage of one item to others in your cart. Plan to play smartly with coupons building your shopping strategy the way that earns more reward overall.


Management of stock of coupon you collected either printed or digital the organizing is as important as the creation of wish list. You need to have easy access and sorting in time with the clear idea of price and saving.

Organize Coupons - Promolily

Coupons are deals that are limited time and carrying restrictions so you have to learn the art of organizing the coupons.

Printed coupon can be cut and saved in cardholders with your wish list items. Digital coupons can be saved in a text file in word or excel with details of expiration and limitations.

I use to do organize coupons in order of expiry date in excel sheet and works well.  Some mobile apps work well to enter and set a reminder before expiration.

It will provide you with one pager of all coupons you are planning to use, used or expired coupons or saving they brought.

Collect coupons from all means available to you, even asking friends and family members to add to the stockpile of coupons.  Your coupon stock should have deals for almost everything you do shop in routine or planning to buy


Multiple couponing means a lot of ways to enjoy more than one discounts at the same time

Multi-Couponing - Promolily

There are many stores around which allow multiple coupons on the same item or on one order as a whole. You must see restrictions for combining the coupons.

  • It there is coupon is for an item you can use that coupon for every unit of that item especially you can couponing in online shopping. An in case of printed coupon you will need more cuttings.
  • Two kinds of coupons on one item are possible. Some stores offer coupons on certain items and there is a coupon offered by the manufacturer as well. You can double couponing the same item first with store coupon then manufacturer coupon.
  • If you have an expensive item in the cart and holding multiple coupons that can be used to get a discount on that product then firstly use the coupon with percentage discount to get a deeper discount.
  • A discount with coupon on your pantry with other coupons to get free shipping earning double saving.
  • Be experimental with multi couponing.


Do you know that the order you follow to present coupons to the cashier and source person bears a lot on your discounts?

Present coupon with percentage off or flat dollar amount off a certain item or order after comparing. The coupon which brings more discount use first because your second coupon can override the first one.


Get yourself well informed about the merchant policies and specific restrictions for coupons

Coupons offer best deals, can be used in combination but carry strict restriction to safeguard any loss to merchants.

So it is very important to ask research or check the detail of each coupon and do comparative analyses on your own before presenting or clipping them.  Policies vary among various stores so your homework will bring out the deeper discount


Rebates are another form of discounts

Deals hunters always try to combine the rebates on certain in-store items with coupons they have in stock. You can check or ask for rebates visiting a store as some stores have organized lists of items with rebate offers.


I always strive to be loyal with a brand for certain items. Loyalty always pays back, especially in a modern world retail competition

Your strong connection with a store is a suitable condition to enjoy more discounts than your fellows. It gives you more and early information about such discounts and coupons. Most of the time you already have an idea of the expected deal because of a brand experience.

The second thing is if you are loyal with a brand because you like its products then you need to connect it on all platforms such as social media, site subscription, and app. Brand may offer dynamical deals on a certain platform that is not available in one place.

Tip: Never miss to enjoy a huge up to 25% discount on your favorite brand when you subscribe with email. Signup more than one store of the same nature to have the idea about market prices, their offerings and to compare prices.

Leave your contact numbers with your local store especially grocery stores and they will happily inform you earlier about new deals.


If a store is offering a coupon on certain items and put no restriction on the number of items you can buy than try to buy more than your current need.

Stock the items especially if they are storable so you can use for a long time and the saving will also be substantial.

Bulk buy is savvy most of the time. So consider if there is a regular utilization of such item and you buy time to time. There is another greater option to gift or donate the excess that is always rewarding.


The deal hunters suggest shopping small volume but frequently

It is a savvy style of shopping. It is easy to manage your shopping on a trip with coupons you have organized. The frequent visit gives you a better idea about market prices of items you do buy and comparison of various stores prices. And you can benefit more from sales and discounted offers.

There is no restriction on window shopping as it is productive in shaping your shopping strategy.


Do your research and find coupons stores’ as well as brands coupon and try to use them for getting prices down which are already lowest in the market.

Famous brands market their products through various stores. Products of the same brand such as Adidas can be found on physical and online stores of competitors. It is common to notice price differences among them for a single brand or product.

Stores make their own pricing strategies and constitute deals that result in price differences of an item you have on your wish list.

Coupon Sites - Promolily


Use your coupons on expensive items in your cart especially if a coupon is offering an off in a percentage of item or order price.

It will provide you more discount with a single coupon. And in a scenario where you have another coupon of $5 flat off then the chances are there to enjoy more $5 cut in an already discounted product in a technique of multi-couponing.


What the best combination to use your coupons for items merchant already offered in clearance and sale. Double Save!

Merchants often do offer clearance and seasonal sales time to time on a regular basis that gets an amazing opportunity for deal hunters. If you have a coupon of an item or categories of items which you found already in clearance online or in-store of 50% off the regular price.

Search the clearance and deals matching your coupons or search coupons for what you found in clearance. It’s very easy and time-saving to do your market research on various merchants and coupons for your wish list articles.

Hold your coupon until its expiry because using coupons on full priced items will get you nominal savings.

18. Win the Dynamic Pricing Strategy

In today’s world of digital marketing and e-commerce retailers use very sophisticated tools and software such as cookies to target customers more accurately

Cookies in your borrower read all your shopping history and spending pattern to constitute a marketing strategy for a group of people with sharing characteristics that are called dynamic pricing strategy.

Brands can have a different price of certain items for certain customers. Here it comes out with a tact from customer end to clear you borrowing history or even surf the merchant site in incognito or private mode to avoid such a trap and see what is there for you now. You can find price and deals differences in both searches.


If you buy frequently online you might have experienced a special deal on a product you left in the cart for days.

In today’s world of high competition among retailers, they respect each and every customer and deal on an individual level. If you have left items in your cart during online shopping and didn’t check out then there is a strong possibility that you may get a special deal that urge you to check out the cart.


Ask for a coupon when shopping in-store or call customer service in the pre-shopping planning process of searching coupons

Because of whatever reason very few people do ask for discounts and rebates directly from stores representative or customer service. 

Though it can bring really a surprising dear for you to be used to ask for a discount or coupon. They are authorized to offer a special discount if not previously available or can extend your expired coupon even. It depends on you dealing and confidence

20. Ask For Price Drop Refunds

Some retailers offer price drop refund as their policy such as Amazon

They claim the status of the best price in the market and do own it as well. It can be beneficial for customers who either shopped an item from Amazon that later they found on another store with low price they can ask for refund

In the second case if customer purchased an item and exactly after transaction within certain hours price dropped on Amazon for that item customer can ask for refund and luckily they will have. 

21. Where To Find Your Coupons?

To get discounts you will need to search and find out a coupon that matching your wish list. here you can find a coupon from two main sources. Whatever search method you use it is more likely to find a coupon from two sources.

A. Brand Sites / Apps:

If you know the brand of which you want to shop a particular product then it makes easy. Just go to that particular store site and look for any coupon or deal is currently available.

B. Coupon Sites / Apps:

Our second main source is coupons sites. There are many specialized coupon sites providing best deals of your choice and enlisted huge stock of multiple coupons.

The coupons are categorized in brand names and product categories so to make convenience for customers to find a relevant coupon and try. In the following box, the popular coupon sites are enlisted.

26. Do Your Girly Math

Girly Math - Coupons - Promolily

Savvy shoppers are very good at instant math

Do your girly math considering an item to buy after you have located coupons to use for shopping. Do an instant math for a variety of coupons you found and the saving you likely to have after adjusting the restrictions and requirements.

In the case of markdown prices and bulk buy offers it looks logical to do your math to figure out the actual dollar amount of benefits of buying that item.

Final Words

Always try to find out coupon deals for your next purchase.

There may be some time you haven’t come to best deal through couponing but making it your practice in routine shopping will surprise you as you get an expert in finding and using deals.

There are plenty of potentials to save and buy at the same time. Savvy shopping is actually a fun that most people miss at shopping. Consider above startup tips and customize it will your own experience.

This is lifetime learning to be smart savvy shopper because couponing is a valuable skill that may surprise you with up to 90% off what you otherwise ready to pay for.  Make it your hobby to shop for less, always challenge yourself to find a way to buy your dream item for half price and it will start happening.

Do you have any savings strategies or tips do you use when shopping every day? Promolily Savvy Community loves to read from you in comments

The author is co-founder and co-editor at Promolily. Has a practical knowledge and experience of e-commerce, online marketing and retailing.

*Disclosure: It may contain affiliate links that may earn an advertising fee for advertising & linking to the merchant / business. The logos are property of respected brands & stores.

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