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Tricks of the cheapskate trade: Buying coupons on eBay

Planning a big purchase at Home Depot, Lowe's, J.C. Penney, or another major store? Head to eBay for coupons first and you can save a bundle.

For just a couple bucks on eBay, you can score coupons like these--or even better ones.
For just a couple bucks on eBay, you can score coupons like these--or even better ones. Screenshot by Rick Broida

What's with the late post today? Simple: I couldn't find a deal worth posting. So I thought I'd dip into my cheapskate bag of tricks and talk about coupons.

Specifically, eBay is home to a bonanza of coupons for stores like Home Depot, Kohl's, Lowe's, and J.C. Penney. If you're planning a major purchase (and you can put it off long enough for your coupon to arrive in the mail), you stand to save a bundle.

For example, this auction is for 10 Lowe's coupons, each good for 10 percent off your entire in-store purchase. (If the auction has ended, a quick search for "Lowe's coupons" will reveal countless others.)

So if you're buying, say, a $500 dishwasher, you'll instantly save $50--all thanks to a coupon that probably cost you a few bucks at most. (Most of the similar coupon deals I've seen end up selling for around $2 to $4).

Do read the fine print, however. In some cases the seller might be advertising a "Home Depot coupon" that is actually a Lowe's coupon with a used and invalid bar code--the idea being that Home Depot will simply accept this competitor's coupon, no bar code required.

Will that work? In most cases, yes. Is it, strictly speaking, ethical? I'll leave that for you to decide. But a competitor's coupon is a competitor's coupon, regardless of where you got it. Them's Home Depot's rules, not mine.

Anyway, most of the retail store coupons on eBay are straightforward and legit. (If they weren't, I suspect the various stores would have banned them from the site by now.) I've purchased some for use at Lowe's, and though they looked like color photocopies, they worked just fine.

If you've had any experiences (good or bad) buying or using coupons from eBay, let me know in the comments!