Couponing secrets: Clip artists know when to buy a lot of something key to ‘making money’

By Janet Patton

Lexington Herald-Leader (MCT)

Published: Thursday, March 20 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

But often the easiest way to get multiple coupons is to buy them.

You can buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper, which might be your only option if you don’t have regular computer access or a credit card.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to order just the coupons through a third-party seller, such as a coupon clipping service like Klip2Save or The Coupon Clippers (among many others), set up a standing order with an insert seller like SundayCouponInserts.com, or buy a batch on eBay.

Each of these has advantages and disadvantages:

—Ordering specific coupons is most efficient — but really great deals might sell out. Also, you have to be sure you will get them before the sale ends, so factor in shipping time.

—A standing order for whole inserts guarantees you lots of everything, including perhaps coupons from other regions, in a timely fashion — but there will be a lot you just don’t want.

—Buying coupons on eBay can be as risky and price-prohibitive as buying scalped tickets — but sometimes that’s the only place you can find a really juicy coupon.

(A caveat: There are counterfeit coupons out there, and you should always be wary of buying from an unfamiliar source. If someone is offering a coupon nobody else seems to have, ask yourself why. Coupon fraud is a crime, and stores will prosecute you for trying to use fakes.)

Another alternative is to print coupons at home, from sites like Coupons.com or Redplum.com. But there are things to consider here as well, such as the cost of a printer, recurring costs of paper and ink, and Internet access.

Plus, coupon printing sites are notorious for gumming up laptops, according to computer technicians. If you use a coupon site, practice good download hygiene to avoid costly repair bills.

Also, keep in mind you can usually print a coupon only twice, so you may still need another source if you want to buy a lot.

Stockpiling is good, hoarding is bad

Strategic shopping is most effective with non-perishable goods but it can work on a smaller scale with pantry items as long as you are vigilant about using things before they go bad.

If this sounds like a recipe for stockpiling, that’s because it is.

Stockpiling has gotten a bad name, particularly from TV shows like “Extreme Couponing,” that show people with garages and basements stuffed full of “bargains.”

You have to know the difference between stockpiling and hoarding, knowing when not to buy.

That can be surprisingly difficult.

Once you get into this style of buying, it is easy to look up one day and realize you have enough cereal to get through a zombie apocalypse.

When you come home from the store and don’t have any place to put the stuff you just bought, you’ve got a problem.

Consider this: Companies all over the world now maintain very low inventories, switching to “just in time” systems that ship goods to stores only to replace what was just bought. Wal-Mart pioneered this concept, which saves on overhead.

Why turn your dining room into Wal-Mart’s or Kroger’s warehouse?

You risk tying up your working capital in long-term investments and reducing your flexibility for more short-term deals. In other words, if you spend $100 on toilet paper, detergent and paper towels, that’s $100 you won’t have for the next great bargain.

But there can be an upside to stockpiling.