So you don’t want to buy coupons - for whatever reason - or you do, but you want to expand your coupon stash in other ways too. There’s another option for you - and a way to get rid of what you don’t use and make others happy at once. (Say it with me - awww.) Trading!
Think Locally at First
Start simple - trade with your friends or your family. Seriously, start asking around. Find out what products your loved ones use all the time and save coupons for them. Find out what friends get the Sunday paper (whether for the coupons or to, you know, like, OMG, read it) and ask if they’d like to trade. Post on your favorite local email list and see if others want to get in on the action. See if you can get a group together for a weekly or monthly swap. Bring some wine and cheese and you’ve got yourself a party.
You also could see if a local spot would let you set up a take-one-leave-one type station. I’m thinking libraries, grocery stores, churches, synagogues...that sort of thing. And then leave the coupons you’re not using and hope that others follow suit. Voila. Coupons for things you need, an empty spot where the ones you’d never use were sitting.
Messages Boards R Us
Now if you want to get just a little more complicated, you can dip your toes into the ocean of online trading. There are several message boards dedicated to the discussion of coupons - afullcup.com and hotcouponworld.com are two of the biggest, but there are others that you can find with a quick online search. They can be overwhelming, but they also can be great sources of information. I have one word for you - LURK. Go to the forums, look around, read, and do not post until you have a feel for the way things work. Getting a virtual wrist slap from a forum moderator is really no fun. Trust me.
But once you’ve poked around a bit and you think you know what you’re doing, look for the forums labeled For Sale or Trade (FSOT). See if anyone is offering coupons you’d use and see if you have what they want in trade. Or make your own post listing just what you have and what you want. Rule vary by forum - how many threads you can make, what you can offer, what others can send you - so be careful. And also pay attention to the feedback system so that you don’t get ripped off.
How Often Do You Want to Make a Trade?
There’s no commitment to this process, other than the purchase of envelopes and stamps. (Good old snail mail, what would we do without you?) You can trade once a day or once a year. You can trade when you know a good coupon is out that your family will need or you can just offer up something special when you have it. For example, I occasionally get coupons for free items that I will never use. (I’ll teach you how to get your own in a future column.) When that happens, I offer them up and ask for things that I know I’ll use. I don’t tend to have time to manage trades at other times, but it’s nice knowing the option is out there if I need it.