Top 11 Tips for Winning the 'Coupon War' and Saving Money

New store policies and extreme couponing make it tough for average customers.

ByABC News
September 14, 2011, 7:16 AM

Sept. 14, 2011 — -- To combat extreme couponers who spend hours, days even weeks searching for deals -- sometimes stealing newspapers and diving into dumpsters -- in hopes of saving hundreds of dollars, some stores have started fighting back and changing their policies.

CVS recently announced that shelf-clearing would no longer be allowed. Rite Aid may accept up to four identical coupons for the same number of qualifying items as long as there is sufficient stock to satisfy other customers. If the store is running low, managers have the right to restrict the quantity of sales.

Target is allowing one buy-one-get-one coupon per purchase. Kroger says it will no longer accept stacking paper coupons and e-coupons -- that is you can't stack manufacturers' coupons with downloadable coupons. And Publix is now limiting the number of coupons that can be used; a customer can use only one manufacturer's coupon and one from Publix or a competing store.

Even Wal-Mart, which eliminated per-transaction coupon limits and implemented an "ad-match guarantee," has limited the amount of coupon savings to $50.

While the restrictions vary from store to store, casual couponers shouldn't worry. Here's a list of tips to help you mine the coupon war zone and save a few bucks at the same time.

1. Use coupons for organic food.

2. Get a rain check. If a store is out of an item you have a coupon for, get a rain check.

3. Don't throw Catalina coupons away. They are the coupons that print out of a special machine at the register. The cashier hands them to you with your receipt.

4. Don't forget "peelies," the coupons stuck to items at the supermarket.

5. Get organized and get online. Newspaper inserts are the primary method of coupon distribution, but Internet deals are rising in popularity. Create a system for listing things you need and check that list online to see what coupons and deals are available.

6. Stock up when appropriate.

7. Know your stores and their policies.

8. Never shop when you're hungry.

9. Search high and low for bargains.

10. Use a list when shopping and stick to it.

11. Download apps such as Coupon Zerpa and Yowza to regularly save 30 percent or more in the stores.

The Associated Press, ABC News affiliate WCPO-TV and ABC News staff contributed to this story.