In a smart hunt for the best coupons around, leave no store -- uh, stone -- unturned:
Retail sites -- Target, Walgreens, Kroger and many other retailers offer printable coupons via their Web sites. Just access a retailer's site and perform a search on the word "coupon." Sometimes you can find promotional coupons that aren't available anywhere else. Taking a few minutes to explore the Web sites of merchants you visit often has other benefits, too. You'll find recommendations about using their products, as well as expanded customer service information. You might also find goodies like advanced notice of planned events, loyalty club invitations, freebies and more.
Brand and manufacturer sites -- Before goods ever get to a retailer's location, someone has to make them. Those folks have a vested interest in promoting what they make. They're behind most of the coupons you use, and they usually have an online presence you can tap for information and added savings. Take Hunt's for example: The brand is actually owned by ConAgra Foods. ConAgra also owns some other product brands you'll probably recognize like Healthy Choice, PAM, One Egg Beaters and Orville Redenbacher's. Visit one of the individual brand sites owned by ConAgra Foods or ConAgra's corporate site, and you'll find consumer extras like recipes that incorporate their products. On some of the brand sites, you'll also be able to sign up for promotional e-mails that include printable coupons delivered right to your computer.
If there are products you find yourself buying over and over again, discover who makes them and visit their sites occasionally. You'll almost always come away with valuable information and probably score some money-saving coupons, too.
Dedicated coupon sites -- Driven by concerns that the more than 500 Web sites specializing in bargain coupons aren't all worthy of a mouse click, the folks over at SmartMoney.com took a gander at a number of the major and secondary players in 2011. It turns out that coupon sites aren't always what they seem: The good ones perform a valuable service; the mediocre ones tend to carry only those coupons that generate the largest commissions; and the really bad ones indulge in shenanigans like offering counterfeit coupons and loading spyware on your computer. Choosing a site that's on the first page of a Google search may not always take you to the best coupon site candidates, either.
Of the 500-plus sites that claim to do the legwork gathering together printable coupons and other consumer bargains, only about 10 percent are worth your time and trust. That still leaves a lot of ground to cover, though -- 50 worthwhile sites to peruse for great deals and discounts. With all that bounty, your best bet is to find a few sites you like and get to know them well. Some sites may have a layout you particularly like, or special features like dedicated browser bars that will alert you to new deals automatically. Below, we've listed a few of the best downloadable coupon sites based on recommendations by experts like Mary Hunt, Jill Cataldo and Kathy Spencer (author of "How to Shop for Free"):
- CouponMom.com - CouponMom has been around a while. The site is extensive and offers brand-, store- and region-specific information.
- CouponNetwork.com (by Catalina) - These are the folks behind those purchase-specific coupons some grocery stores provide at the checkout.
- Coupons.com - Usually has lots of printable coupons.
- DealNews.com - This site also has an Editor's Choice section that lists the best deals of the day, as well as a regional section that lists purchase discount coupons like Groupon deals near you.
- MommySavesBig.com - This one's always worth a quick weekly perusal.
- RetailMeNot.com - This is the largest online coupon site around.
- SmartSource.com - This is an oldie but a goodie.