Are Free Money Coupons Really Worth It?
You know those free money coupons that come in the mail from stores (think JC Penney, etc.)? The $10 off of $10 or more purchase or something similar? It’s always a smallish amount. They are sometimes also distributed in the store to the first 100 or so shoppers. I post about them on my social media pages and here on the blog. Have you taken advantage of them? I have and will continue to use them because it’s $500 or more a year in free stuff that I actually use! But there are people who don’t see the value in using them so I’m hoping to change some minds. Here we go!
Are they worth it? The answer, like most things is, “It depends.” One trick that makes it worth it to me is that both Brad and I are subscribed to the same rewards programs, so we just about always get double discounts, coupons, etc. (see My Top 18 Favorite Ways to Get Discounts and Freebies for more information).
Below are my two Don’ts and lots of Dos of using free money coupons, and what to use them on to maximize the free-ness. To keep it simple we’ll assume that the value of the free money is always $10 as it’s one of the most common denominations:
Don’t Use them if You’re Spending More on Gas to Get to the Store than the Coupon is Worth
For better or worse most of the stores that offer the free money are within five or six miles of my home. Depending on what my schedule is I can easily pass any of them without planning a specific trip or going out of the way. For many people this isn’t the case, which puts them at a disadvantage. I’d probably rarely take advantage of most of the free money deals if I had to travel thirty minutes or more for one coupon, but if I had a number of coupons to the same or different stores, it might be worth the while.
Don’t Use them Solely as Dollars Off
It never fails. Whenever I’m in the store with my free money coupon looking for something I can use that I can get for FREE, I see others in line with items costing $50, $60, $80 or more using their free money simply as dollars off. Often it isn’t even on sale! I always metaphorically shake my head because that’s exactly what the store wants you to do. Take their token and give it back to them by spending three, four, five times as much or more. The point is to save money. Don’t use your free money coupon to get a few dollars off of a big ticket item. Now for the Dos!
Do Use Free Money for Staples and Accessories
What can you get for free? So many things! Before listing let me clarify. The hardest part is finding something that is exactly $10, because everything seems to end in $0.99. So it’s either $9.99 or $10.99. If I’m lucky I’ll find stuff that ends in $0.49. So, the reality is that my free money doesn’t always mean free, but when I can find a great name brand bra that was originally $50 on clearance and pay $0.99 after that coupon, that’s close enough!
What awesome stuff should you buy with your free money coupons?
Underwear: Free money coupons are how I keep me and Brad in new skivvies all year! There’s always some kind of sale going on in the underwear department. One can never have enough underwear!
Socks, tights, pantyhose, etc.: Whether it’s work socks for Brad or a pack of gym socks or winter tights and stockings for me, free money coupons are perfect for replacing those that are worn out, or you know, always get lost in the dryer.
Pajamas: It took some time but I FINALLY converted Brad into a soft pajama bottom loving man. He previously wore (sorry my love) the most raggedy pair of no elastic sweatpants and wanted no parts of comfy pajama bottoms. That is until I made him try on pair at JC Penney last winter. They were warm, and soft and comfy…and FREE after coupon. SOLD! He now has three pairs and LOUNGES in them after work in the winter. He’s happy. I’m happy. We be chillin’ in our nice PJs.
Workout Gear: I admit to loving Athleta. Their stuff holds up incredibly well and you can return it no questions asked (haven’t had to return anything yet). But their stuff is EXPENSIVE so I’m building my workout wardrobe with them piece by piece when I snag something on super clearance plus 20% off, paid for using a discounted gift card. In the meantime, I get decent pieces for free using free money coupons. The only downside is I’m usually buying in the off season. Think thicker cold weather bottoms in March. It’s okay. I can wait to wear it!
Shoes: I’ve only been successful with this a few times because the shoes that would have been free were either hideous or very poor quality. Throwaway shoes like flip flops or cheap sneakers are a decent bet. You’d probably have more luck with children’s shoes when they go on clearance.
Accessories: Think hats, gloves, scarves, etc. I don’t know why but I lose gloves like a bird sheds feathers! It’s not terribly hard to find something in this category that will be covered by your free money coupon. After Christmas sales are a GREAT time to get multiple pairs for the price of the free money coupon.
Do Use Free Money for Home Goods
Towels: Free money coupons are an excellent way to build a towel set for free if you have patience. It took me and Brad three months, but with the coupons that came in the mail and/or the in-store giveaway, we were able to buy our super plush towel set (four each of body towels, hand towels, and wash cloths) for less than $12 total. Without the coupon the set would have cost more than $100 on sale! We did the same thing with our guest towel sets. Not everyone has the patience or time for this type of finagling. I’m sure some think it’s being cheap. I do this because it’s fun for me. I love the challenge and the buzz I get when I’m successful.
Shower Curtains/Liners: I love cloth shower curtain liners, like the ones found in nice hotels, but they do wear out after numerous washings. They average $20, so when they go on sale for ½ price I’ll pick one up if needed. Free money coupons are also an awesome way to get really nice shower curtains on clearance.
Window Curtains: I’ve never used the free money coupon method to purchase curtains, but I did check that section of the store (i.e. JC Penney and The Bon Ton), to see if free curtains were possible. I found curtains on sale and clearance for $9.99 and $11.99, so it is possible to get very inexpensive curtains. It all depends on the selection available.
Sheets/Dusters: Sheets and dusters go on sale and clearance too. It’s easier to find sets for twin or full-sized beds, but on occasion you’ll find queen and king. I never go into the store with a specific item in mind. That way I’m never disappointed and it’s more like a treasure hunt.
Throw Pillows: I’ve had some success with this. They’re often on clearance, so it just depends on the stock on hand. I leave the blue sequined pillows alone, though.
Kitchen: Think kitchen storage containers, measuring cups and spoons, cutting boards, oven mitts, dish towels, open stock plates and cookware, etc. If you are patient you can build a lovely dinnerware set a few pieces at a time the same way we did our towel set for next to nothing.
Do Cruise the Clearance Racks
Depending on the store and the stock, the clearance rack can be a goldmine where you can walk out with something that retailed for hundreds of dollars for free. I’ll admit that in this case I’ve broken my “don’t use coupon solely for dollars off rule.” But you should see the $199 dress that I got for $3.99 that I wore all summer last year and can’t wait to wear again.
Do Consider Tchotchkes You’ll Actually Use
Don’t forget to check the fine print of your free money coupons for exclusions. I always hope I can use them on food or beverages because it would be an AWESOME way to get K-cups for free. Alas, that has never worked out (YET!). Even so there may be other knick knacks you normally wouldn’t consider buying in those stores that are included. Think greeting cards, candles, heck, how about a wind chime, planter, or gnome statue for the garden?
Okay, well this is much longer than intended, but I got excited. I realize that I didn’t include a list of stores that provide these free money coupons. I’ll create that post ASAP. Stay tuned!
Do you use free money coupons? How do you use them? Tell me your best deal below!