Learn to Coupon | The Anatomy of A Coupon


Learn to Coupon

Welcome to Learn to Coupon... in 30 days. For the next 30 days (week days),  I will be posting a couponing how to.  Each day we will build on the prior days information. The goal of this series is to teach you the basics of couponing. Where to start, what coupons to use, how to use your coupons and more.

If you are looking to learn how to buy 100 bottles of mustard or sports drink for $1.00, this is not the series for you. This series will focus on realistic strategies for couponing.  There will be some depth to the posts, so you will need to spend the time reading the posts in the entirety. Since each post will build on the day before, I suggest you read them chronologically.

Day #1 – The Anatomy of A Manufacturer Coupon

Before you can be a successful couponer, you must understand what a coupon is and how it works. Today’s post will exam a coupon and what each part of a coupon means. Even if you already know what a coupon is, this is a great refresher on terminology.

There are two types of coupons that you will come across: Manufacturer and Store Coupons.  Today we will focus on Manufacturer Coupons. You may only ever use 1 manufacturer coupon per item.

There are common elements you will find on every manufacturer coupon:

Manufacturer Coupon

The first clue that you are looking at a manufacturer coupon is that it will say manufacturer coupon on it. However, this does not always mean it is a true manufacturer coupon. Sometimes store coupons will say manufacturer coupon, even though they can only be redeemed at one particular store. So how are you to know for sure?  Once you have found the “manufacturer coupon” verbiage on the coupon you will want to look for the barcode.


A manufacturer coupon that can be used at multiple stores will always have a scannable barcode. The barcode starts with a 5 or a 9. If you have a coupon that starts with another number or doesn’t have a scannable barcode , chances are you are holding a store coupon.

The barcode tells the computer what you are required to purchase to redeem the coupon. From time to time, some registers may beep when the barcodes are scanned. A register beeping or not beeping is not necessarily the sign of a valid or invalid coupon. These barcodes can sometimes be miscoded or a product can be miscoded in store computers.  This can cause the register to beep.  This does not occur on regular basis, but it can happen.

Expiration Date

This date is show prominently on an a coupon. This date is the final day you can use this coupon. If a coupon is valid until 12/31, you may use this coupon up until the end of 12/31.

Item Image

The item image ultimately really has nothing to do with the coupon.  If it is for a new product, it may help you find what you are looking for. However, most coupons will only include one item of many that is included in the coupon terms. Don’t be fooled into buying the only the product you see on the coupon. Be sure to read the terms in full.

Redemption Value and Terms

This tells you what the value of the coupon is when you meet the terms of the purchase.   The terms also tells you how many items and sizes you must purchase. This area also may exclude types, sizes or colors. For example, this particular coupon requires you to purchase 1 Kraft Dressing that is 14 oz or larger. When you purchase 1 Kraft Dressing that is 14oz or larger, you will save .50 cents on your purchase.

Consumer Terms

These are various terms included by the manufacturer. Not all coupons will have consumer terms. Common Consumer Terms:

:: One coupon per transaction – this means you may use one like coupon per transaction. This does not mean you may not use other coupons for other products in a transaction.

:: One coupon per person – this means you may use one like coupon once per person.

::One coupon per purchase – this is NOT to be confused with one coupon per transaction. This means one coupon per ITEM purchased. If you purchase 3 like items, you may use 3 coupons.

:: One coupon valid for item indicated – this just means you have to meet the terms of the coupon to earn the redemption value.

Retailer Terms & Remit To

Another good indication that a coupon is a manufacturer coupon is the retailer terms and remit to. This information tells the retailer where to send the coupon for reimbursement. In addition, it will give any other specific information the retailer might need.

Other items you may find on a coupon:

:: Cash Value: 1/100 – basically this just tells you that a coupon isn’t worth any cash money.

:: Do Not Double – This is stating that the manufacturer will not pay double the coupon amount. (more to come on this topic later)

:: Coupon may not be copied – It is NEVER ok to copy a coupon. Ever.

:: Product Available At – This is telling you were you can buy the product and does not mean that you can only redeem at that store.

:: Reedemable Only At – This coupon can only be redeemed at this particular store.

:: Redeem At: This is suggesting where you can redeem it, if it is still a manufacturer coupon, you may be able to redeem it at another store. You will need to check with your store to determine if the coupon is permitted in their policy. Also, this may be at a manager discretion, especially if the coupon has another stores logo.

:: You Pay Sales Tax – This means if your state charges sales tax, you will still have to pay it per your states laws.

:: Excludes Travel/Trial Size – Coupon Not valid on Travel/Trial  Size Items

:: Other Use Constitutes Fraud – Using this coupon on products or outside of the terms of the coupon constitutes fraud

:: A Specific Store Logo: Sometimes stores will “sponsor” a coupon – these coupons are still manufacturer coupons and can be redeemed anywhere. (unless they have redeem only at)

So to quickly recap –

There are two main types of coupons – manufacturers and store coupons. To quickly determine if your coupon is a manufacturer or store coupon look for a barcode starting with 5 or 9, a redemption address and the words manufacturer coupon.

Questions? Leave them in the comments. Be sure to check back tomorrow night for Day 2 of Learn to Coupon... In 30 days. You can bookmark the series here.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here
  • Xandria

    So, when a coupon says save .75 cents does that mean .75 cents of the purchase of coupon

  • Joey Espinoza

    What does one coupon per consumer mean? Is it the same as one coupon per customer?

    • Debbie

      Hi Joey, yes, they mean the same thing.

  • monichia

    What do they mean when the coupon say get a $1.00 off any four item…

    • Mena Savings

      You buy 4 items and get a $1.00 off all four together. You won’t get a $1.00 off each one.

  • Patty

    Question, I had someone tell me that sometimes you don’t have to use the coupon for what it says it is for – example a certain Kraft product $1.00 off 2 can be used on any Kraft product. If the coupon doesn’t state any product – how do you know you can use it on any product?

  • Kim

    So I have coupons that start with a 5 that says manufacture coupon and then coupons that start with 0 that also say manufacture coupon. So does that mean I can use both?

    • Andrea

      If they both say manufacturer coupon, then you most likely can’t use them both together. This post was written in 2011, so bar codes might have changed a bit since then.

  • Anonymous

    I used a coupon for cigarettes at the store the other day,, and the cashier charged “8 cents taxable item” before taking the dollar off. Why did she d that, and is it legal?

  • Amy

    What does one like item coupon per family per day mean?

  • Anonymous

    If a coupon states one per person can you use one per every household member?

  • Jamie

    I’ve read this, and am now trying to get to your next lesson, however I cannot find the link. Please advise how to get to your next lesson. Thanks.

  • Chandra LeGree

    Im a wife and mother and I need to learn and to start couponing, I have tried in the pass but I got very discouraged about it and gave up… and my families situation has gotten dire as of right now we are a family of three and we are living on a $ 40 to $ 50 a week groceries budget yes for real ! It gets very tough some days when u have to sacrifice a meal so that one of your family members can have a meal and for most people 40 to 50 is a meal for 1 maybe 2 days and I have to stretch that out over a week, and I don’t receive the paper and its so hard to find coupons, and on the internet they want to u sign up for this or for that to receive a few coupons here and there so they can send u other junk mail.. And right now its very serious for me to get this started and to know where to get coupons and how to use them because for us it like being one meal away from hunger…. So please feel free share helpful tips email me pls Thank you in advance Chandra…

    • For the Mommas

      Hi Chandra its Amy from FTM. I would love to help you out by giving you tips on how to get started using coupons. You can email me at Amy@forthemommas.com with any questions you have and I will get back to asap. Have a great day!

  • Anonymous

    I want to start couponing and I am truly a newbie I dont know where to start but I definitely know I need to start. I have a family of three and we have had a financial drop in income and we are now barely surviving on a $ 40 to $ 50 budget a week for groceries and we sometimes wonder how were going to make it when I look and all I see left in the fridge is a meal enough for one person….and I just take the option to not eat sometimes so someone else in the family wont go hungry, so I figure its time to do something about it, I could take that $ 40 to $50 a week and at least double the groceries by using coupons. My issue is I dont receive the paper and Ive had such a hard time finding coupons that I just gave up on…so I really dont know where to get coupons to get started…. can someone post helpful hints to help me and my family to get started to turn our situation around….Thanks in advance Chandra

  • Tammy Estes

    I’m new to this couponing strategy… problem is, I need coupons. I don’t get the sunday paper and the recycling bins are off limits in my area. Help?

  • Jennifer

    Hi I live on a military base and we don’t get many papers with coupons is there a website that is good that I could print coupons from? Thanks :)

    • Ruth

      Hi Jennifer, I have tons of coupons that expire and I can’t use them. I think you are able to use expired coupons at the military stores. If so, let me know and I can send them to you and you can also share with other families. I shop for people as my full time job so every month, I have to discard 100’s of coupons.

  • Diana

    Can someone please email me i still need help and i really want to coupon ! lapwincess132@yahoo dot com <-

  • Lisa

    Hi I just started auctally I just watched extreame couponing on netflix but they don’t really help you they just show you what they save.. And I would really like to start this week as my B/F got laid off and I am on disabilty so money is so tight that I am afraid I wont be able to buy food or household items.. Thank you for any help you can give me and where do i get the inserts since i can not afford to buy alot of sunday papers again thank you so much..

  • Sharon

    Hey day one says it is never OK to copy coupons. what if my friend gives me a coupon she printed from online and i wanted to photo copy them or no

    • Ruth

      Photocopying coupon is illegal and you can get in trouble for it. Some people do it but if they really wanted to crack down on it, it can be traced back to you and your friend.

  • gloria

    im new to this website and im a little younger than most people out here who wants to coupon but im still a little confused about how to coupon, i really need help on how to coupon. thank you.

  • Mellony

    What about the printable coupons that DO NOT have that third bar code on them?? I have had some stores take them and others won’t.. HELP!! A lot of them are printing this way!!! :(

  • Penny Sillan

    What about mfgr coupons that start with 5 or 9? The 9 means they do double up and the 5’s mean they don’t.

  • cindy doolittle

    Please…..someone answer this question! I have a manufacturers coupon that says at the bottom, redeemable @ dollar general, does that mean I have to use it @ dollar general?

    • jackie

      yes only at the dollar general store. Other grocery shop will not take that!!

  • ziddibilli

    HI, i started couponing when i saw this site a few months ago and then stopped, i wana start again , and i do think i understand most of the lingo and policies but what i am really not understanding is where to start from. i mean i see MOST of the coupons are coming from inserts so which means even to have alteast three coupons for one thing i have to buy three papers.. paying full price for a paper that i dont even read to find savings is just so ironic to me… is there another way to get these inserts? what abt the online smartsource and red plum websites? how good are they.. and if there isnt a way around buying these papers is it worth it at the end?… please share your experiences so i can get started:D thanks

    • Mellony

      Hit Your local recycling bins!!! Don’t be afraid to “dumpster dive!”

  • destine

    I have a question about the ONE Scotch Brite Bathroom Solutions coupon for 1.00. Walmart has the sponge lised for 0.97 cents which means the item is FREE but on the coupon ir stipulates you can only redeem ONE PER DAY. Will the register know that I am purchasing multiples at a time? Will the register beep?

  • Chelsea

    WOW!! Thank You! This is very informative i just started couponing and im having a hard time figuring out how i know when certain things in stores go on sale so i get better savings when i use my coupons. I was wondering if there was a way i could find out when things go on sale things that aren’t advertised? i have just been pricing everything out.

  • Leah

    can you use a manufacturer printable coupon on top of a manufacture coupon from a magazine?
    they have a different price and a different experation date so can i use them both on one item? i printed off one of the coupons and got the other coupon from All You magazine.

    • chra

      No you can only use one manuf. coupon per item. Some stores alow you to “stack” one manuf. coupon and one store coupon.

  • g.p

    i watch extreme couponing and that show is my cvs in new jersey and walked out with four food items for 10 cent it can be done you have to study like you preping for the state bar exam once you master it you can take the grocery stores stealing for free and be legal at doing it lmbo

  • g.p

    i watch extreme couponing and that show is crazy I love saving money I went to my cvs in new jersey and walked out with four food items for 10 cent it can be done you have to study like you preping for the state bar exam once you master it you can take the grocery stores by storm stealing for free and be legal at doing it lmbo

  • Jenn Coffman


    Is there a good website that you would recommend to print coupons off of? I see a lot but I don’t want any scams or viruses on my computer!

    thank you! Love the info btw


    Question – I have a coupon that states “manufacturer coupon” and starts the code with a 5. It printed out at Target and says “redeemable at target” – but not “only at Target”. Should I be able to use this type of coupon anywhere? I have some from giant also.

    Thank you!

    • jackie

      Use it only at Target. Walmart, Shoprite etc would not take any q’s (coupons) from any other store that says redeemable only at ……

  • Billy

    hi, i have a question. if i have a coupon for 1.50 off of an x item, and the coupon says limit one coupon per purchase, Then under it says limit of 4 like coupons in the same shopping trip. does this mean that i can purchase the item that cost 6 dollars, then get 1.50 off to make it 4.50, then use 3 more coupons for the same item and get an additional 4.50 off to a total of 4 coupons used to purchase one item, and then recieve the item for free?? sounds confusing, i hope you can help out. thanks in advance. BIlly.

    • Shannon


      No. It means that if you have $1.50/1 you can use 1 $1.50/1 per item – but can buy up to 4 items and use another $1.50/1

  • Tina

    I am wanting to start couponing but it is hard to understand how exactly I can use the coupons.
    Question 1- For example when a coupon says: Save a $1 on any one x item. Limit one coupon per item purchased. Can I buy multiple items like 10 using that one coupon (manufacturer’s coupon staring w/5). Would the cashier scan it 10 times?

    Question 2:When a coupon says Save 40 cents on 6 x itmes.
    One coupon per purchased of specified products.

    Does this mean that I will save 40 cents on each item or 40 cents on the total 6 items and can I purchase several sets of 6 items per one coupon.

    Thank you for your time!

    • Shannon

      Hi Tina,

      No, you may not use a coupon 10 times . It would be one coupon – one item.

      If you have a $1.00/3 – you must buy 3 items to get the discount of $1

  • Daniele

    what does this a not a redeemable coupon mean coupon printed at register. Any help would be appreciated thanks. Daniele

  • Helen

    I would like to start couponing for Military Families here in San Diego. You would be surprise there are families in need of donations.
    All the product I would get for fee would all be donated.
    I don’t buy the newspaper to get coupons so I will have to get them of of the internet. Do you have any sugestions of web sites that are newbie friendly?
    Any help will be great
    thank you,

  • wendydurison

    These are really good questions and answers. I am now able to take the time to read through your course and I have learned a lot just in this first one. Thanks so much for your hard work in providing this service to everyone. You are making it so much easier on newbies and even old hands. May all your transactions be smooth and profitable!

  • Kathrine

    I came across a printable Olivia’s Organics coupon that doesn’t have an expiration date on it. It looks legit, but I’m afraid to use it. Is a coupon valid without an expiration date on it? What do I say if the cashier questions it?

  • Shannon McGuire

    So, if it says one coupon per transaction, that means, you can only use one coupon for one item and if you want more, you have to go back and do another transaction.

    Are there lots of coupons out there like that? I mean, I notice some of the P&G coupons say limit of 4 like coupons /transaction and that would be limit of 4 EAXACTLY alike coupons, right?

  • Karen

    Can you give an example of the difference between per transaction and per purchase?

    • Shannon

      purchase is per item.
      transaction is each time you walk up to a register and buy something.

  • Melissa B

    I have a question about Walgreens store coupons. I know they are store due to the barcode but they say manufacture coupon in the small print. A few weeks ago I was doing the diaper deal but the cashier scanned the coupons in the wrong order. I told her if she did it another way it would work but told me no and even called the manager up who told me that it was also a manufacture coupon and I couldnt use 2 on 1 item. I know the other way works but why exactly does it need to be done in a certain order and what do I tell the cashier the next time this happens? I now know to wait and hand her my coupons individually but just in case I want to be preparred.

    • Shannon


      There is no good reason other than their registers are programmed that way. Did you happen to print the coupon policy and take it along?

  • Ann

    Good Morning! Thanks for all the great info, there is a learning curve to couponing!

    Question – I have a coupon that says not valid with any other coupons. The Acme has the items on sale (4 for $5) and my coupon is by 2 and save 75 cents. Is the Acme “sale” considered a coupon?

    • Shannon


      No the Acme sale is not considered a coupon.

  • marie

    Buy 1 get 1 free- can you use 2 coupons for that item?

  • Florence

    Oh man, I really wanted that 100 bottles of mustard for $1.00, ;)

    • Shannon

      he he .. :)

  • Jen

    Hi, I have a question. I have coupons from Giant and Rite Aid that say manufacturer’s coupon on them but they have Giant or Rite Aid store symbols on them. Can I use these anywhere or only at those stores?

    The Giant ones say “redeemable at Giant” just under where it says manufacturer’s coupon but nothing on the bottom. The code starts with a 5.

    The Rite Aid ones are ‘video value’ coupons that say manufacturer’s coupons on top but say “good only at rite aid” on the bottom and the code starts with rc4. If I can not use the v v coupons as manufacturer’s coupons then can I use them as ‘competitor’s coupons’ at stores that accept competitor’s coupons (such as Giant)?

    • Shannon

      Hi Jen,

      The “redeemable” at Giant are manufacturer coupons. They technically can be redeemed anywhere – some stores will allow you and others wont.

      The RIte aid Video Values are not really manufacturer coupons – they are pretty much useless anywhere else. Most stores wont allow them as competitors coupons.

  • Trish

    Thanks for all you do, as a working mom of 3 ages 6,4,and 8 months your research and effort is a big help!!! Thanks!!

  • wags

    I just wanna say thanks for all the work you do. Your website is the best out there. Also, “Learn To Coupon…in 30 Days” is a great idea!


    I ran in to an issue a while back at my Walmart where the cashier flat out refused to let me use a Scotch Brite sponge Q due to the fact that it beeped and it did not show a picture (the pics were tiny) of the exact item I was buying even though the description fit perfectly. She even called another lady over to get her opinion who ran back to get a more expensive one which then worked with the Q – she went ahead and scanned the others with the Q without my permission. I was buying 6 sponges (33c w/Q) and just told her to take them all off. She was definitley upset about deleting 8 sponges!! I was not about to pay $1 each for the other ones when these should have worked! BTW, I went back at a different point and got them – no problem!

  • Brooke

    Thank you so much for all this info! I’m looking forward to the next month :) It will be nice to actually know what I’m doing, instead of just making it up as I go along and getting frustrated at the register when something doesn’t go through!

  • Joy

    Wait, so are the coupons I print off of the Target site valid at another store unless it says otherwise? They start with a 9…Great info, thanks

    • J

      The target coupons that do not say “Manufacturer Coupon” do not have a standard 10 digit bar code…it is different. Plus the coupon says “Target Web Coupon” and the fine print states valid in store only…so most of them are store coupons. However, sometimes the ones you print from the Target website actually are manufacturer coupons…you have to read to be sure.

    • Miranda

      Typically Target will carry manufacturer coupons on their website. All of the Target coupons say “Target coupon” on the top, but if it doesn’t say that and it starts with a 9 then yes it works like a normal coupon and can be used anywhere.

  • Tasha

    I have consumer coupons can you uses double coupons with consumer products such as toothpaste, Febreze air ect?

  • Michelle

    Thanks Shannon! I just started couponing a month ago..have found that I love it and am very good at it (I guess being a SAHM with a unused 2-yr Acct degree paid off somewhere!!), but even so I love your site and can’t wait to read your posts for the next 30 days.

  • JamieH

    I am not good at couponing, but I wish I were. Thank you for the Information and steps. I’m looking forward to them.

  • Cheryl

    LOVE THIS! Very informative and I am so looking forward to the rest of your lessons! I am coup-newbie so this is extremely helpful!

  • J

    Can you clarify “one coupon per person” and “one coupon per customer”? Does that mean *ever*? Is it acceptable to redeem one at one store and another at a completely different store (like one at Rite Aid and another at the grocery store) or is that an unethical use?

  • Stephanie

    Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to the next 29 days!

  • Laura

    I have two manufacture coupons for diapers, one for $1 off and the other for $1.50 off. Can I use both coupons when I purchase the diapers, since their discounts are different??

    • Shannon

      No. You may only use one manufacturer coupon per item.

  • Rachel

    Does the 5 or 9 tell the store not to double? Is there a way to tell if a coupon will not double other than “do not double” Sometimes it does not state that and will still not double. Why are all blinkie coupons “do not double” Why do the companies care if the store will eat the doubling cost? TY.

    • Shannon

      Rachel, DND will be a separate topic there is a ton to cover there.

    • Bonnie

      5s will double, 9’s will not. Since you find the blinkies in the store, they figured they provided them for you and therefore are not willing to pay for the doubling part.

  • shannon

    I have coupons printed from internet that say manufactures coupon on it.It doesnt state that its a store coupon and doesnt start with th numbers that you stated.Can I use more than one?

    • Shannon

      Shannon, if it is a manufacturers coupon, it will start with a 5 or 9. Are you sure it doesn’t have a 5 or 9 in the bar code. If it doesn’t — its not a manufacturer coupon.