Coupons I have received through trades this week
Today I’d like to talk about another way to build your coupon stash and increase your savings: By trading coupons. This could be as simple as swapping coupons with friends over coffee, or as advanced as exchanging envelopes of coupons with other coupon traders through the mail. If you’re new to using coupons, you’ll probably want to wait before diving head-first into trading – but if you’ve been using coupons for a while and feel ready to take it to the next level, then you may want to consider it. I’m going to explain how this works, what the benefits are, and how it’s helped me.
What is coupon trading and where does it take place?
Online coupon trading usually takes place on forums such as Hot Coupon World, which has a special forum just for this purpose. Members simply request to join the trading forum and can begin swapping coupons with other members – there is no fee to join or trade. Hot Coupon World’s trading forum includes an eBay-style trader rating system, so you can check feedback before trading coupons with others.
I know there are lots of other forums where you can trade coupons – this is just the only one I have personal experience with. (Feel free to share your favorites with me!)
How does it work?
Members post in the trading forum either with coupons they are searching for, or coupons that they have to trade. When you are interested in trading with another member, you send them a private message and work out the details of the trade.
For example, say Sally writes a post telling the trading forum that she has five coupons for .50/1 Brand X dish soap available. In return, she is looking for dog food coupons. Joan has dog food coupons and needs dish soap, so she send Sally a message telling her what she has and asking if she would like to trade. Sally agrees, so they swap addresses and mail coupons out to one another. After the trade is complete, they leave feedback for each other.
What people trade
You can trade “Coupon-for-coupon”, as in the example above; alternatively, some members prefer to charge a handling fee for their time clipping the coupons, or trade coupons for first-class stamps (Frequent coupon traders can go through a lot of postage!).
Can you really trust total strangers to come through with these trades?
Although Hot Coupon World has an excellent trader feedback system, you assume risk for all trades conducted. That being said, I have done well over 50 trades since joining Hot Coupon World, and I have never had a bad experience. Most of the people I have met through the online coupon community have been extremely nice, generous, and thoughtful. Most people I have traded with even included bonus “extra” coupons with my trade, just to be nice! Yes, there are some bad apples out there, but in my personal opinion the risk is not a big one. I’m willing to speculate the potential loss of a few coupons or stamps, since trading is a significant source of savings – and so far, that hasn’t happened.
What’s the point?
Coupon trading can be an excellent way to build up both your coupon stash and your stockpile. Let’s say that laundry detergent usually costs $5.00 at your store, and a $5/1 coupon comes out in the Sunday newspaper inserts. You spend a little time to trade for more $5 coupons, and snag a bunch of laundry detergent for the cost of stamps. Done right, trading can compliment your coupon usage and save you a lot of money. And this brings us to our next point:
Effective coupon trading
I traded a lot during 2008, when I was first learning the ropes of couponing. I stopped trading at the end of that summer, and didn’t start again until a week ago. The reason I stopped was because it was taking a lot of time and money, and after I discovered recycle bin diving, it seemed unnecessary. But as I went through my pantry last week, it occurred to me that many of the things in my stockpile were the result of trading – and had been a very worthwhile investment. Here is what I have learned:
Only trade for coupons you REALLY need. I got so caught up in trading in 2008 that I was trading for loads and loads of coupons. It wasn’t cost-effective, and I ended up swamped with coupons I didn’t need. Now, I am refining my focus to things that I definitely need – coupons that will get me something free or steeply discounted.
Trade stamps or a PayPal handling fee. When I was trading coupon-for-coupon, it took me ages to go through my coupon stash, figure out what others wanted, see what I could get rid of, clip, sort…it was not efficient at all, which is why I stopped. Now when I trade, I do stamps or PayPal only, unless I just happen to have a surplus of a coupon I don’t need that someone else can use – this makes trades quick and easy. Just factor the cost of the coupons in to your savings, and count it as part of your grocery budget. For example, if I trade a book of stamps for 30 free milk coupons, the milk is not “Free” – it cost me $8.80. But obviously, .29 cents for a gallon of milk would be a killer price, so this fictitious trade would be worthwhile. Just factor in your time and monetary investment, and make sure the result is worthwhile.
Allow for a learning curve! All that being said, using coupons is a learning process – and like all things, coupon trading has a learning curve. Don’t feel bad about the time it takes to learn the ropes; it will help you develop your savings strategy and save you money long-term.
If you’re ever on the Hot Coupon World forums, feel free to say hi – I’m “hardertobreathe” on there!
Readers, weigh in: Have you traded coupons before?