I started couponing about eight years ago. My first job out of college paid practically nothing and using coupons provided a way to stretch my budget. Almost everything I learned about coupons back then came from CouponMom.com, so I was excited to have the opportunity to shop in her Coupon Mom Olympics last week.
Six shoppers were given $50 to buy as many groceries as possible for a local charity in less than 30 minutes. I’m by no means an extreme couponer, but I was hoping years of coupon knowledge would help me take home the gold, silver or bronze ($500, $250, $100 Kroger gift cards respectively). My training consisted of asking friends and co-workers for coupons and creating a spreadsheet with my shopping strategy. I was feeling confident until I saw two of my competitors come in with bags and binders full of more coupons than I have used in the past calendar year. And became completely intimidated when they said they got them from going dumpster diving each week.
Maybe I don’t have what it takes to be a coupon champion, but it was fun to pretend that I was on an episode of Supermarket Sweep. After realizing that we could do more than one transaction at the register (something I ordinarily have no patience for), I figured out a last minute deal and only spent about $37. I should have thrown more items into my cart to use up the $50 budget – oh well. While waiting for the rest of the contestants to check out, I sat with another shopper and my shopping assistant (by the way, having a shopping assistant was fantastic) in rocking chairs that were for sale in the middle of the paper goods aisle of the Kroger. They have surprisingly comfortable chairs for a grocery store.
About an hour later the results were announced. I came in 5th place with under $200 in groceries. The gold medal shopper, Ashley, stretched her $50 budget to $700 in groceries for North Fulton Community Charities. Together, all of the shoppers purchased nearly $2,000 in groceries to provide hunger relief in our community. A reporter was there to capture the action for the local news, if you want to see the Coupon Olympics for yourself.
Writing the manufacturers of your favorite products is a great way to get coupons. It only takes a few minutes to find an email address or contact form for a company and then provide them with feedback on an item you use and love. The emails that I write to companies are brief and typically compliment a specific product. Sometimes a short email will get no response or an automatic “thanks for your feedback” email in return, but companies will often mail you high value coupons to thank you for your input.
I have received coupons for free items like Chobani Greek yogurt, popchips and Glade candles in response to my emails. The best response to an email I wrote was from Petmate, a company that made one of my dog’s favorite toys. I wrote them to let them know how much Cookie loves her Dalmatian toy and to compliment them on how durable it is (since the Dalmatian is the only toy to survive her destructive puppy days). A couple weeks after I sent my email, a box full of Petmate products arrived at my apartment!
It’s rare to receive a box of free items from a company, but receiving coupons for products you regularly use can help make some room in your budget. Here are my tips for emailing companies for coupons:
- Look around your house and make a quick list of the products you enjoy. As my dog toy example demonstrates, you can write companies that make more than food in hopes of getting coupons (I keep my list in an Excel spreadsheet). After you’ve made a list of products, do an online search of the companies that make them for their contact information and email them when you have some free time.
- Be specific and genuine with your feedback. Instead of sending a vague email, write about a particular product and provide the honest reasons that you enjoy it.
- Give companies accurate contact information. Most of the coupons that you will receive will be sent by mail, so it is important to provide your correct address.
- If you have a complaint instead of a compliment, hold on to the packaging of the product. If you’re writing to let a company know that you are dissatisfied with a product, it is helpful to have the UPC Code and expiration date. The packaging typically has a phone number for the company’s customer service line which can be a good alternative to emailing.
Have you ever written companies about their products? Did you receive anything for your feedback?