A couple of times a year, I open my mailbox to find a postcard-sized coupon from Kohl’s.
“$10 on us!” it announces. Challenge accepted, I say. My goal with these coupons is to get in and get out without spending a dime of my own money.
Since there’s no minimum purchase when you use the coupon, as long as your total is less than 10 bucks, you don’t need to take out your wallet to (legally) leave the store with merchandise.
Like all coupon distributors, Kohl’s sends these deals your way to get you into the store, where you’ll inevitably spend more than $10 on items you wouldn’t normally buy. And I’m not mad about it. It’s a legitimate marketing strategy that’s worked on me plenty of times.
However, these days when I get snail mail from Kohl’s, I know exactly which sections of the store to hit for items that’ll keep me under the $10 limit. Here’s my game plan for snagging a little something I actually want, using nothing but a coupon.
Skip the Clearance Rack
I know, it sounds crazy. But the clearance racks at Kohl’s tend to be pretty picked over.
And I’m not convinced there was much there to begin with. The items that find their way to clearance tend to be the more out-there fashion choices and the poorest quality options. I’m not willing to invest the time it would take to weed through all of the misses for a single bargain.
Get Ready to Go Back to School
It’s that time of year, and the little humans need gear to help them learn.
For the under-$10 game, my money is on smaller supplies, like pencil boxes, lunch boxes and tablet cases. If your kids wear uniforms to school, you can get a handful of suitable polo shirts for under $10.
But in all honesty, if you take your kid to the store with you, you’re coming out with something related to a favorite animated character. For better or worse, Kohl’s carries merchandise depicting everything from the Minions to Minecraft — and much of it comes in under the $10 mark.
Check Out the Fitness Section
Kohl’s has a pretty decent selection of activewear from some recognizable brands — who knew they carried Nike?
When all else fails, you probably need a pair of track shorts or a workout tank top. I’m pretty sure my last two Kohl’s coupons resulted in new sports bra purchases (TMI?).
Stop by the Jewelry Case
You’ll find lots of under-$10 choices in the jewelry section, either for yourself or to give as a gift. The majority of Lauren Conrad’s trendy line is coupon-friendly, and you’ll find tons of dainty earrings and statement necklaces.
Meanwhile, Vera Wang keeps it classy with more grown-up options. If all else fails, basic silver posts will never go out of style.
Stock Up on Gifts
Sometimes it pays to have a few all-purpose items on hand for last-minute gifts. Kohl’s has a respectable selection of scented candles, bath stuff and pretty scarves. You’ll find coupon-able options in all of these areas.
Or consider getting a gender-neutral baby gift to keep at the ready. A good portion of the baby section is under $10, including baby-related trinkets to stick on top of a wrapped gift as you head out for the next baby shower.
Scan the Beauty Products
A $10 coupon might be just the nudge you need to try something new. I’m only half kidding when I suggest testing out faux eyelashes.
On a recent trip to Kohl’s, I spotted smallish, under-$10 Bliss brand products (which are also carried by Nordstrom). They have Essie nail polish, too. For 10 bucks, you could also pick up a couple of those cute EOS chapstick balls.
Swing by the Housewares
Last year, I got a pretty sweet rag rug with my coupon. Those things are ridiculously cheap, washable and having a trendy moment.
Other options include bathroom accessories (soap dispensers, toothbrush holders, etc.), picture frames and smaller décor items for around the house.
One of these coupons will also cover all manner of small kitchen gadgets. Before you head to the store, scan your kitchen drawers for anything you might need to replace — whisks, spatulas, wooden spoons.
Or maybe you’ve been pining for something super specialized and hard to justify, like a cherry pitter or an avocado slicer. Now’s your chance to live your dreams!
Your Turn: Will you take the Kohl’s Coupon Challenge next time you find that little postcard in your mailbox? What are your top department-store picks under $10?
Note: This post was not sponsored by Kohl’s, which should probably be obvious since we’re discussing how to maximize free stuff and avoid spending money in the store.
Lyndsee Simpson is an editor and writer living Washington, D.C. She’s wearing a pair of (free) Kohl’s earrings right now.