What is a Coupon Train?
You might have heard the term "coupon train" and wondered what it is all about. Well, if you're enjoying using your coupons and saving money but want to get hold of ones that are even more useful, then this couponing technique might be right for you.
You could say that a coupon train is a form of coupon swapping.
Starting or riding a train is an excellent way of getting rid of any unwanted coupons that you may have in your binder, and exchanging them for ones that you are more likely to use.
It goes without saying that more useful coupons equates to much greater savings on your grocery bill!
Coupon trains are usually announced and managed through Canadian coupon forums or Facebook groups. There are many different types of train available, depending on different needs.
It is quite simple to join one of these groups and find out more about the active trains, or to connect with other people who would like to participate in a new one.
Each train starts with a "Conductor". The Conductor is essentially a person with a pile of unwanted coupons, looking for riders to trade with.
The Conductor will set certain rules about their train, for example they might limit it to "food coupons only" or "pet coupons only". They then aim to find 3 - 6 riders who might be willing to exchange coupons of the specified type.
When you put your name forward as a potential rider, you name goes into a waiting list until the Conductor announces that you have been chosen to ride a particular train. Then, the Conductor fills an envelope with maybe $30-$100 worth of valid coupons, together with the routing list and any wishlists that have been made known.
When the train departs, the envelope ("envie") gets mailed to the first rider of the train, where it then stops while an exchange is made.
This rider can then take any coupons out of the envelope that he or she would like, but then must replace them with coupons of equal or higher value before departing the station.
The envie is then mailed onto the next rider, and so on until it returns back to the Conductor.
There are a few general rules and guidelines when participating in a Coupon Train. These might vary slightly depending on the forum or Facebook group, but generally speaking:
- An envelope can stop at a station for 1-3 days but usually no longer. It's important to keep the train moving. Grocery coupons tend to have a short length of validity so the longer they are in transit the closer they are getting to expiration.
- Coupons must fit the category for which the train was specified: pets, food, babies etc.
- Always ensure that you replace the coupons taken with ones of equal or greater value.
- Don't stuff the envelope with "bad" coupons that nobody would want.
- Try to cater for people's wishlists wherever possible.
- Remember that if you want to receive really good coupons from others then you should give out good coupons as well. What goes around comes around!
- Try to limit the amount of coupons that are approaching expiry. Ideally they should be valid for 4 weeks or longer, unless they are particularly "good" coupons (again, check specific rules for your train).
- Pull out any expired coupons from the envelope. No-one wants to ride a bad train!
- If you're ever unsure about what you should, or should not include in the envelope, it's always best to check with the Conductor before you mail it to the next rider.