Couponing Secrets You Can Unlock with Your Phone

You won't believe the incredible money-saving hauls this 18-year-old makes with her smartphone!

I was astounded recently when my niece Melissa—an 18-year-old accounting student—dropped over at my parents’ house with a laundry basket brimming not with dirty laundry, but with containers of laundry detergent, breakfast cereals, crackers, cleaning products, lotions, and dozens more household staples. It was the product of Melissa’s favorite new pastime—extreme couponing with her smartphone.

Psst! Follow these tips to learn how to grocery shop like a boss.

couponingChristine Rukavena

Total cost of this haul? Well under $10, Melissa said. I’ve always loved saving money at the grocery store, so I couldn’t wait to learn how she was saving so much with mobile coupons. Here are Melissa’s favorite ways to save big with her smartphone (and how you can, do it, too)!

1. Get your favorite store’s app and sign up for text alerts.

Dollar General (DG) is a favorite app in our family. You can browse the sales flyer, clip digital coupons to scan at the register, and get alerts when items go on sale. Not familiar with the brand? Here are more reasons why you should definitely try Dollar General.

Check out these other grocery shopping apps, too.

2. Join other savings-minded folks.

Find couponing groups by store, geographic area or product interest on social media and ask to join. Follow the feeds and discover coupon match-ups and special savings for the week.

3. Embrace the #.

Search terms such as #DollarGeneral, #PennyShopping, and #DGPennyShopping to find everything from blog sites to Pinterest boards and users’ Instagram hauls. In time, you’ll get a feel for the sites that are most helpful for you.

4. Consider buying the Penny Finder app.

This haul means pearly whites for a long, long time—for Melissa and all her friends—for just 16 cents. Penny Finder helps you find items that cost a penny at DG, and even lets you scan the item to ensure it’ll ring up for a penny when you get to the register. The app’s $1.99 price is worthwhile, she said.

5. Do good with your mobile coupons.

Couponing is a lot about the thrill of the hunt, my niece said, but it’s also about being able to do good with what you get. For instance, she and her mom cleaned up on diapers and plan to give them to a friend who’s expecting a baby. (Here’s our expert guide to helping out the new parents in your life.) Other items are destined for shelters and food pantries, which always need household and toiletry staples.

Here are the items food pantries need most—and some you should definitely skip.

6. Play by the rules.

Part of doing good with your wins is ethical couponing, Melissa told me, such as not “glittering.” (It’s a fanciful term for exploiting coupon glitches and is actually a type of fraud.) It also means being courteous to the store personnel, even if the great deal you had planned doesn’t quite work out. Follow the rules and have fun. You can read more about ethical couponing here.

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Christine Rukavena
Christine loves to read, curate, sample and develop new recipes as a book editor at Taste of Home. A CIA alumna with honors, she creates cookbooks and food-related content. A favorite part of the job is taste-testing dishes. Previous positions include pastry chef at a AAA Five Diamond property. Christine moonlights at a boutique wine shop, where she edits marketing pieces and samples wine far higher than her pay grade.