Coupon Codes - No Clipping Required

by Nancy Callahan

Wait, don't make that on-line purchase! …That is, don't make that on-line purchase until you've looked for a coupon code first. You may be missing out on some terrific savings.

What is a coupon code?

A coupon code is an alphanumeric string that acts as an electronic version of the paper coupon.

You type the coupon code into a text box located on one of the billing pages when you go through an on-line check-out. Your savings will then be reflected in the final billing price once you've finished making your purchase.

Coupon codes commonly provide a flat discount, a percentage discount, or a reduced shipping and handling rate when you buy items on-line. They also normally require that a minimum amount be spent, and only remain active for a certain amount of time - similar to paper coupons.

How do I find the coupon code I want?

You find coupon codes at coupon code sites, most of which are affiliated with the same major merchants and therefore tend to feature the same deals at around the same times.

Here are two basic search methods:

  1. If you are in the middle of making your purchase...

    Open up a new browser (so as not to interfere with your current transaction) and type the merchant name and the phrase "coupon code" into a search engine. If you need to narrow your results, try either including the name of the item you're buying or using different permutations of "coupon code," such as promotion code or discount code. If you still can't find anything, try a different search engine.

    Once you've located a code you can use, copy it (ctrl+C), toggle back to your first browser, and paste it (ctrl+V) into the coupon code text box. Leave the second browser open as a reference until you receive confirmation that the coupon code worked.
  2. If you just want to peruse the latest deals...

    Bookmark two or three good coupon code sites that are extensive, have appealing layouts, and allow you to search by merchant name, category, and expiration date and scan them regularly. Here's a sampling of sites you could start with:

This second method is also helpful if you only shop on-line for specific types of items. For instance, if you're a technophile, try browsing at a site like If you're an avid reader or a student who needs textbooks, try a site like If you are expecting a baby or already have children, try a site like

Is there anything I should watch out for?

Yes, beware of a few things:

Expired coupons. Coupon codes have expiration dates just like paper coupons do. Frustrating, isn't it? Check the coupon code's expiration date before you try using it at a merchant site.

Spending to save. If you find a coupon code that forces you to spend extra to get a deal, do the math first. The coupon isn't worth it if the extra you have to spend isn't more than made up for in the savings.

Substandard sites. Don't bother bookmarking sites that aren't updated daily, that don't have coupon code search functions, or that have confusing layouts. They aren't worth revisiting.

Could you offer any last words of wisdom?

Two months ago, I purchased an item from the Hickory Farms website, but I forgot to look for a coupon code first. While harvesting URLs for this article just the other day, I found (lo and behold!) a 10% off coupon code for Hickory Farms. I used a search engine to test how easy it would have been for me to locate that coupon code from scratch and discovered it would have taken about ten clicks-worth of effort. My purchase was over $30, so if I had simply remembered to look for a coupon code first, I could have saved over $3.

My point is that coupon codes are worth it. You just have to remember that they're out there! So make them a part of your on-line shopping routine. They're easy to find and nearly always save you a few dollars.

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