Learn how to maximize your coupon inventory and pay less for favorite brands
Love collecting coupons but end up with handfuls you can’t use? Try trading. There are lots of coupon-swapping options out there, from making an informal arrangement with a friend or neighbor to signing up for a “coupon train,” in which you swap among an established network of coupon collectors.
Tell friends, family and neighbors that you’ve got extra coupons to trade. Once you’ve found a partner, ask what type of coupons she’d like. For example, if she has a cat and you don’t, she may want pet food coupons. Likewise, if you have a baby, ask for diaper and formula coupons. Agree on how you’ll exchange the coupons, perhaps by meeting for coffee every other week or dropping them in the mail.
Widen your network by swapping coupons with collectors around the country. Most work similarly: After joining, you’ll post two lists: a “wish list” of coupons you’re seeking and another of coupons you can offer. Forum members send messages proposing trades; if you agree, mail off your coupons and your trading partner will send hers. Many coupon sites have forums for trades; try AFullCup.com, Coupon Forum, and CouponMom.
When posting on forums to trade coupons, it’s helpful to know these common acronyms:
A coupon train is a more regimented way to increase your stockpile. Go to a forum such as Vickysdeals.com and AFullCup.com. After signing up for a train, you’ll get an envelope with a predetermined number of coupons in it (usually 25, 50 or 100). Pull the ones you like, and replenish it with coupons you want to give away. Send it to the next person on the list. The train travels in a continuous loop, with each person taking from, and adding to, the supply.
Most trains have strict rules. You’ll have a short turnaround time―as little as one to three days--in which to mail off your
replenished envelope after receiving it. Replace coupons you take with similarly high-value coupons for desirable products;
“junk” coupons for items few people can use, such as denture cream, are frowned upon. And about-to-expire coupons are a no-no.
Have questions about coupon trains? Read blogger BargainBabe's interview with one loyal coupon train participant.
Take a cue from All You reader Amy Barr, who both trades and uses a coupon train: “I save money by trading in two online groups, Our Coupon Café and the All American Coupon Train. We also trade in the form of trains, which have four passengers and a conductor. I get coupons from all areas of the country, some of which have a higher cost of living, causing the coupons to be printed at a higher value. With this and other methods, I save about $150-$200 off my grocery and drugstore bill per week.”