Is coupon a verb? Probably not. But someone asked the question, so let’s talk about how to coupon Harbor Freight, and if my former English teacher is reading, sorry, Mr. Reiss. Maybe he’ll forgive me when he sees how much money he can save, right?
Rule number one is to never, ever go into Harbor Freight without at least two coupons. Probably more than that. If nothing else, you should always, always have a 20% off coupon and a freebie coupon. If you know where to look for coupons, you can easily use three or more at each visit.
Where to get Harbor Freight coupons
Harbor Freight publishes coupons in magazines, its own web site, and sends them out in the mail, in addition to sending them to you via e-mail and texting offers to you. There’s usually a coupon flier at the register or in the front of the store too. Grab one the next time you’re there. Not everyone gets the same coupons.
It’s not a bad idea to sign up for their e-mail list and their mailing list, and watch the mail for coupons, but you really need to bookmark the Harbor Freight Coupon Database. Chances are they have a coupon you don’t. It’s searchable, so you can easily find out if they have a current coupon on clamps, and if it’s one of the good ones or one of the junky ones. Wait for the good ones, of course. They may have better freebies than you got, too. If not, you can always use another one of their flashlight/worklights, right? Keep one in your car, under the kitchen sink, in the toolbox, and your nightstand. I figure you need at least four.
I just copy and paste whatever coupons I want into a Word document, resize each coupon to at least 2″x2″ to make the barcode easy for the cashier to scan, then print it out.
What’s free at Harbor Freight?
Free with purchase, that is. Quite a few things are free at Harbor Freight. Typically there are coupons out and about for about 18 freebies:
- Tape measure
- Pickup and reach tool
- 4-pack of microfiber cloths
- Magnetic tool holder
- Magnetic parts holder
- 6-pack of stretch cords
- 100-pack of cable ties
- Heavy duty scissors
- Pack of AA or AAA heavy duty batteries
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- 6-piece screwdriver set
- Moving blanket
- Utility knife
Most of these are items with a list price of around $4-$5, but some of them go higher. Frequently you can also find coupons on these same items for around $1, so if you can’t decide, and don’t want to go back a second time, use the sub-$1 coupon. Or if you need more than one of something that’s commonly a freebie, the $1 coupon usually lets you buy several.
Limitations on Harbor Freight coupons
The 20% off coupon has limitations. You can’t use it on the newer high-end power tools, or on the big tool chests in the middle of the store. Usually you can use it on Drillmaster and Chicago Electric power tools. Those are the ones you generally don’t want, but a Chicago Electric tool usually costs less than it costs to rent a DeWalt from a tool store for the weekend, especially if you use the coupon. At $79, that Chicago Electric miter saw becomes more appealing. Virtually all hand tools are eligible for the coupon, including the newer, nicer Doyle and Quinn tools, not just the cheap Pittsburgh tools.
You’re allowed to use the 20% off coupon once per day. Presumably they use your phone number to track whether you’re trying to use one more than once.
You can use one freebie coupon per trip, and the freebie requires another purchase. That other purchase can be something you used another coupon on. I’ve gone in, bought one item with a 20% off coupon, and used the freebie.
On coupons for a specific item, you can buy more than one. The limit is in red print near the bottom of the coupon. I don’t know why I would need nine mover’s dollies, even at $8 each, but they had a coupon for that a couple of weeks ago. Maybe people buy them for the casters.
One weekend in January, Harbor Freight had a 30% off coupon on items under $10. You could buy up to five items with the discount. That’s the time to load up on things like clamps, toolbox organizers, and any hand tools you don’t have yet. I got a set of slip-joint pliers, for example. For $7, why not? I use them more than I thought I would.
Keep a list
I have a list of items I don’t need right away, but want to get sooner rather than later. I keep them on a spreadsheet on my computer with the item name and the expected price. If there are coupons for enough of the items on my list to justify a trip, I go, buy the items, use the 20% off on another one, and get a free item.
Shop on weekends
I’m not saying Harbor Freight has a special sale with limited-time coupons every weekend, but they do almost every weekend. In February 2019, they had a Super Bowl Weekend sale. Then the President’s Day Weekend sale was two weekends later. The weekend after that, they did a Friday-Saturday-Sunday sale. That’s three out of four weekends in February. So if you’re buying more than a couple of things, you may be able to use more coupons on the weekend than during the week.
Parking lot sales
Harbor Freight has parking lot sales several times a year, where they mark down various merchandise. Frequently the prices aren’t much better than what you can get with a coupon, but if what you need is on sale, that’s another opportunity to buy it at a discount.
If you’re thinking about waiting for a parking lot sale and then stacking a 20% off coupon on top of that, nice try. The 20% off coupon almost always excludes items that have already been marked down.
Inside Track Club coupons
If you pay $30 a year, or $45 for two years, you can join Harbor Freight’s Inside Track Club. Is the Inside Track club worth it? It depends how much you go. At the moment I write this, there are 425 active Inside Track Club coupons, compared to 438 coupons everyone else can use. So you almost double the number of sale items available to you. Some of the Inside Track coupons are for items that never get coupons for everyone else.
But the counterpoint is that you can use a 20% off coupon on those items instead.
To decide if the Inside Track Club is worth it for you, browse the Harbor Freight Coupon Database and look at the coupons marked ITC. If you see enough things you want or need, get the membership. If you don’t, save your money. Maybe check back in six months.
When a deal isn’t a deal
One thing to remember: Don’t buy something just because you have a coupon for it. If you won’t use it, you didn’t really save anything. That’s one of the biggest secrets of coupons. While the $9-with-coupon sawhorse is a good deal, I already have two sets of sawhorses. So there’s no reason for me to buy a third set. One of the reasons for discounting is to get us to spend more, so be careful.
I always go to Harbor Freight with a list, and I buy things based on what I need for my next project or two. If I see a smokin’ deal on something, I might buy it before I have immediate need for it, but it has to be a significant savings that doesn’t come along very often. This helps me build up my tool collection while keeping costs under control.