Trading coupons is nothing new to the veteran Canadian coupon saver, but if you are new to using coupons, let me show you how to maximize your coupon savings.
Swap Coupons For Ones You Will Use
Many years before we started this blog, we were what many people in Canada would consider extreme couponers but nothing like what you see on the American programs.
Our pantry was stocked, and our cold room was filled with everyday items that we used, from groceries to health and beauty products.
We could amass such a stockpiling stash because coupon trading is a great way to stretch your grocery budget.
Coupon Trading 101
What is coupon trading?
In a nutshell, coupon trading in Canada is exchanging coupons for coupons, whether in person or by mail.
In 2010, when we were in the coupon craze of extreme couponing in Canada, things got a bit nutty.
Coupon trading also consisted of trading for stamps, although I’m unsure if this is still practiced today.
The idea of the stamps came into play when the person who wanted a coupon you had but nothing to offer you back.
Trading coupons for money is a no-no, so permanent Canadian stamps seemed reasonable since you must mail coupons to those you are trading with.
Some people even go as far as to trade for gift cards because, technically, it’s not money.
Another thing to consider is the cost of stamps when trading coupons which is why most people, us included, had a minimum trade limit of at least $10 to make it worthwhile.
Anything under that meant we wasted time trading coupons unless they were free product coupons.
Ethical Coupon Trading
I want to point out from the start that there are ethical and non-ethical ways when it comes to coupon trading, and the first one is not to trade for money.
Coupons are not money and should not be sold for cash.
As far as I’m aware, trading coupons is legal, as is sharing your coupons with friends and family.
I’m almost betting that the manufacturer wants you to do this because this is how word-of-mouth advertising should work.
You take a coupon and share it with someone, and they get to learn about a product they may not have heard of before or are interested in trying but can’t find a savings coupon to lower the price.
Either way, it’s smart marketing for the manufacturer, and they aren’t going to chase down free marketing from that perspective.
Understanding Coupon Disclaimers
Almost every coupon has some form of disclaimer on the back, and since 2010 when we were heavily into using coupons,
Manufacturers have increased the disclaimer through coupon trading to include product sizes and better explanations.
Back then, it was not black and white when understanding the meaning of a coupon.
It was left open to interpretation, meaning the consumer often argued their point with a cashier or store manager.
Example: One coupon per purchase does not mean the customer can only use one per order. It means that for every product they buy, a coupon can be applied to that specific product.
Then there were the coupons with no specific expiry date that turned into a song and dance but were later confirmed to mean no expiry.
Common sense, but as a cashier, I understand wanting to ensure coupons work before accepting them.
Even with coupon trading, many traders want to see a photo of the coupon to read exactly what it says.
When we were coupon trading, we just typed out the specifics, but with smartphones, everything about coupon trading has increased transaction time.
Where do you trade coupons?
The best place to trade coupons is with friends and family in your area.
We would meet up with a group of other friends who used coupons at a coffee shop and go through our binders together and trade coupons.
Staring at a coupon exchange club in your area is a brilliant way to meet new like-minded money-saving friends and swap coupons.
You can also join online forums at one of the best coupon sites in Canada called Smart Canucks where we do almost all our online coupon trading.
Sourcing online coupon trading groups on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms is also very common.
We would list all of the coupons we had on our profile or in a forum thread that we could adjust as they were traded.
Another thing we did was we created a wish list of coupons so others who were trading coupons could see what coupons we were looking for.
With this kind of coupon trading, you would post coupons in the mail and return them, get what you asked from the other trader.
This helped ease the process of back-and-forth messages when you could see what people wanted.
Finding Canadian Coupons
You can find paper coupons offline in many places around Canada; sometimes, they are hidden, so you must watch out for them.
Here are some places you will find paper Canadian coupons you can trade.
- Direct mail
- Grocery store coupon board
- Grocery aisles
- Product packaging (ex: General Mills Coupons on Cereal boxes)
- Direct from the company (call or email them)
- Phone books
- Flyer inserts (Smart Source, Brandsaver, etc.)
- Printable Coupons
- Discount Coupons
You can find coupons anywhere a manufacturer can advertise, so always keep your eyes open.
If the plan is coupon trading, you will want to keep your eyes open for paper coupons.
Even so, paper coupons in Canada are still flowing and worth the money if you find coupons you will use or can swap by trading with others.
As I mentioned briefly, please avoid trading printable coupons, scanning them, or anything else, as it’s a big no-no.
Printing for coupon trading
These days manufacturers use coupon printing services online, which only allow the person to print x amount of coupons set out by the manufacturer, and they come with a unique code.
This prevents people from photocopying them for multiple uses, which they were not intended for.
Even so, some sketchy people do this and, in essence, screw the system for everyone who tries coupon trading the right way.
People will still trade them, as I don’t think anyone will stop them unless they ask for identification for those printable coupons with the person’s name on them.
Coupon trading is supposed to be a simple way of sharing coupons you won’t use and not a means of taking over the manufacturer’s job to market the coupon.
Consider what they had to go through to put the coupon out there and why they may have chosen specific areas or climate times for that coupon.
There’s always a plan behind everything and reasons for what they do, and for that, it costs money.
There are do’s and don’t when it comes to collecting coupons in Canada.
- Don’t take all of the coupons (2-4 coupons are reasonable)
- Ask for extra flyer inserts from friends, family, or paper carriers. Sometimes apartment buildings have extras you can ask the superintendent for.
- Don’t steal flyers or flyer inserts.
- Collect coupons, even those you know you won’t use, especially if they are high-value coupons.
- Insert the coupons you will use into your coupon binder by category. We used hockey card plastic sleeves purchased from the Dollar Store and dividers. Each part of our binder was product specific such as Dairy, Produce, Laundry, Cereal, Pet, etc. You can name your coupon categories as you wish.
How to create a coupon list and a wish list
Set the coupons you won’t use aside, and then categorize them so you know what you have.
It makes things far easier when coupon trading when you can find what you need fast.
Some coupon trading pros also use an Excel spreadsheet or Word document where they type in all the coupon information so they can easily locate it without going through their binder.
Ideally, whatever makes coupon trading organization easy for you, I’d say approach it from that perspective, as there are no hard and fast rules.
The other bonus to typing out what coupons you have and the expiry date is that you can easily copy and paste the information if you are coupon trading online with someone.
Even better would be to send the entire spreadsheet so the other person you are trading coupons with can look at everything you offer.
You could even use Google Documents or other free online databases to document all of your coupons and send a link to those you plan to trade coupons with.
This cuts down on communication time as you’re not spending time with back-and-forth messages to your coupon trading partner.
Back when we were coupon trading on Smart Canucks we typed out every coupon into our SC profile so anyone visiting could vies what coupons we had to offer up for trade.
These coupons will be those you offer to others who can use them, so you can request coupons from them that your family will use.
It’s an excellent way to save money on everyday grocery and personal items above and beyond typical flyer sales and rewards programs that Canadian grocery stores and manufacturers offer.
Coupon Trading Tips
- Only offer the original coupon.
- Never send money; be cautious if you buy and sell coupons on eBay or other platforms.
- Only offer unused coupons.
- Be cautious if sending gift cards for coupons.
- Only offer coupons that are not expired.
- Always share the coupon details with the person you are trading with before accepting a trade.
- Only offer coupons available for use where the person lives.
- If you’re not sure about the weight of the envelope, get it weighed for accurate—postage at Canada Post.
- Post your coupons as soon as possible so there are no delays.
A happy trade involves proper etiquette and making sure they arrive on time.
If coupons go missing, it’s tough to figure out a solution, but that’s up to the individuals who trade.
Sometimes you may find yourself in a pickle, and you’re S.O.L.
There’s no insurance when it comes to coupon trading.
Coupon trains start with a conductor, the person who created the train, and then adds passengers.
They get to add as many passengers as they’d like, but keeping it low means coupons get around faster.
The idea of the train is that the conductor creates a set of rules that everyone must follow and then stuffs the envelope with unused coupons that are not close to expiry.
- Not more than two of the same coupons should be included (read your train conductor rules).
- Long expiry dates and Canadian coupons only.
- Read wish lists of the train passenger and conductor.
- Keep the train moving as fast as possible so you don’t get pinned a slow rider by other passengers.
The train conductor may ask all passengers to submit a wish list of coupons so they can stuff the envelope with as many of those as possible and for other passengers to use for reference.
The first person on the train stop gets the envelope and looks through the coupons to take out what they would like.
When they do this, they replace what they took with the same amount of good coupons (not crappy coupons like $1 off dog food).
It all depends on the conductor’s rules for the coupon train.
The same mailing rules as described above apply to a coupon train.
You may even have to pay in coupons or stamps to join the train ride, which is part of the conductor’s rules.
Again, there is no insurance on these coupon trains if the train stalls at stop or goes missing. It’s all risk.
Virtual Wish Train (VTR)
We joined many virtual wish trains over the years, which are popular mostly because you get what you are looking for rather than an envelope of coupons that you have to fish through in hopes of finding something you might like as you would on a coupon train.
Joining a Virtual Wish Train meant you could join a train that was coupon specific ie: Dog Food, Health, and Beauty, or a mixed bag of wish list coupons for trading.
Once you have your wish list of coupons that you want, send the list to your train conductor by mail or computer.
The train conductor then distributes your wish list to the other passengers so they can review it.
The great thing about the VTR is that you will only get the coupons on your wish list so you’re guaranteed a happy coupon trading experience.
If you don’t have certain coupons, a rider requests on their wish list, simply adding one or two permanent Canadian coupons would solve that problem.
I remember one particular coupon we were collecting was the $1 off Majesta toilet paper with no stipulations as to package size.
They were often on sale for $1 at the Bargain Shop, which meant we got 4 packs of paper towels for free or just the taxes.
We still have many toilet paper packages to use in our basement.
Finding Canadian Coupons Online
Here are many of Canada’s most popular online sources for coupon savings and rewards programs that also help save your grocery budget money.
- Earn Extra Cash when you shop online. Sign up with Rakuten Canada and receive cash back when you shop!
- Don’t miss the savings by signing up for Checkout51 and other Coupon Apps.
- Honey Honey is a browser extension that automatically finds and applies coupon codes at checkout with a single click.
- Great Canadian Rebates
- My Points All payouts are made through gift cards to Amazon or other leading retail companies.
- Go Coupons
- Receipt Hog
Aside from the above, paper coupon trading is a lucrative money savings adventure for many people.
The more money you can save, the better it is for the budget.
Who wouldn’t want to save more money if they had the means to do so and the time?
We did, and we have a full box of coupon trading envelopes to prove it.
Yes, we kept all the envelopes after a trade came in, but I”m not sure why.
Perhaps we thought we would look back one day to see how many coupon trades we did.
Let me go, count because now I’m interested to know.
Darn, I packed them away, but once I find them, I’ll return and update this post with a photo and number.
Coupon FAQs and Acronyms
Understanding the online coupon lingo can be tough for a coupon trading newbie.
I’ve put together a few popular coupon acronyms to get you started on your journey.
- CPN = Coupon
- CS= Customer Service
- E-Coupons=Electronic Coupons
- GC=Gift Card
- MM= Money Maker
- LC= Loyalty Card
- OOP= Out of Pocket
- OOS= Out of Stock
- PP= Purchase Price
- Peelie=Package coupon
- SCO=Self Checkout
- POP=Proof of Purchase
- MIR– Mail in Rebate
- PM= Price Match or Message me
What are high-value coupons?
High-Value coupons are generally Free or offer a high dollar amount off of a product to make it affordable or nearly free.
What is an FPC?
If you see the acronym FPC for Free Product Coupon or get a free product with the coupon. In some cases, you may only pay the applicable taxes.
What is BOGO?
Anytime you BOGO or B2G2, B1G1, or B2G1, they mean Buy x amount Get x amount Free.
- Buy one get one free
- Buy 2, get one free
- Buy 3, get 2 free
I hope you learned more than you bargained for by reading my post about coupon trading in Canada.
Every dollar saved is a dollar you can put towards something else in your budget.
Discussion: Share your coupon trading tips and experiences below.
If I’ve missed anything important, I will add it to the blog post since it has been years since we joined the coupon trading train.