Have you ever tried to save money using a coupon and a misinformed cashier gives you a look or says something nasty?
Sometimes, it can feel like they think you are trying to get away with something underhanded. And it can make you feel icky, angry, and embarrassed.
But when you understand more about coupons, you can use your couponing knowledge to turn what could be a nightmarish checkout experience into a money saving dream.
Know what a coupon is and why they exist-
No one should judge you for using a coupon, because everyone benefits from coupons. Everyone, that is, except that snarky cashier.
Companies earn money from coupons by getting more customers. They want people to try their new products and they want you to use their products over their competitor’s. If they issue a coupon making their product cheaper and, therefore, more enticing they will get more sales. They are also trying to get customers who will be brand loyal for life. These companies hope that once you try the product, you will love it, and always want to buy their brand in the future- whether or not you have a discount.
The stores earn money because they are making more sales. When a couponer shops at a store, they are more likely to buy multiples of items and a larger variety of items. A couponer pays with real money and coupons. The coupons are then sent to the manufacturers and are redeemed for real money, plus a handling fee.
And, of course, the customer using a coupon has a lower out of pocket fee. Using coupons is a win-win-win situation.
Know coupon laws
The only way couponing is not a win situation all around is if you are using coupons in a way that wasn’t intended, or illegally.
Each coupon that is printed online from a site like coupons.com has a unique barcode number. You cannot photocopy these and use the copied coupons at the store. The manufacturer will refuse to redeem them to pay the store because the barcodes are all the same. In that case the store loses and you were using coupons illegally- something that people have gone to jail for.
Each coupon you print online can be printed up to two times per device, so as long as you printed the coupon and not photocopied it, you’re good.
For manufacturer coupons that come in the newspaper, you can’t make photocopies of those either, but you can use multiple coupons as long as you are following the fine print of the coupon.
Understand coupon lingo
One of the biggest time wasters and goofs of using a coupon is if the computer at checkout says your coupon is invalid. This usually ends, at best, with you not getting a discount, and at worse, with you getting scrutinized by the store manager and getting harsh laser eyes from the customers in line behind you because it’s taking so long.
Most of the time, the computer is right, so you can prevent these situations by knowing the coupon lingo and always using coupons correctly.
Here are some common phrases on manufacturer coupons and what they mean in plain english:
Limit one coupon per purchase:
For each item that you purchase, you can use only one matching coupon. You cannot use multiple copies of the same coupon on one item, but you can use two coupons on two items. A “purchase” is not the same as a transaction or shopping trip.
For example, your coupon states you can get $1 off when you buy 2 jars of olives. If you are buying 4 jars of olives, you can use two $1 off coupons.
Limit 4 identical coupons per day:
You will see this written on a lot of Procter and Gamble coupons, and it means you can use 4 coupons max. You can use less than 4, but no more. Sometimes the limit is less than 4. I have often seen high value coupons limited to 2 per family per day. If a coupon doesn’t have a stated limit, then you can use as many as you like, but try to be considerate to other shoppers and not clear the shelves.
Limit one coupon per transaction:
You will be limited to only one coupon and one corresponding product per transaction. One way around this is if you do another transaction back to back. A transaction is completed when you pay and get your receipt. Some stores will limit the number of transactions you can do at one time, so be sure to understand their coupon policy.
When you know what the coupon means you can use it correctly and completely avoid embarrassing checkout situations.
Know the store’s coupon policy
Each store that accepts coupons has a coupon policy. You will want to know what the policies are before you use a coupon there so you don’t get a coupon refused.
You can usually find this on the store’s website, or request a copy directly from customer service when you are in the store.
You can also use your knowledge of the policy to your advantage. Some stores will double coupons, but only under certain situations. And some will have special discount days for seniors.
Keep your eye out for these policies and you can save even more money when they can apply to your checkout.
Find your coupon comfort zone
You may have seen extreme couponing shows and thought if you were going to use coupons, it had to be done like that.
You don’t need to use a giant stack of coupons so you can walk away with a mile long receipt for stuff you paid nothing for.
While that is awesome, the everyday reality is that extreme couponing takes a lot of time, gives you a lot of attention (good and bad), and can be stressful. If you are not comfortable doing it that way, then don’t.
Use the number of coupons you feel comfortable using and go to the stores you enjoy and that are more coupon friendly.
For instance, at Walmart I avoid coupon usage that would need a manager’s verification. The last thing I want is to wait forever for a manager to come and scrutinize my purchases. While I understand why they do this, it does take a lot of time and I find it annoying. To learn more about how to avoid manager verification, read number 11 on this list of walmart couponing hacks from the Krazy Coupon Lady.
When you know the what, why, and how of couponing you will have the confidence to start saving money with coupons, in big and small ways. And that can have a huge impact on your overall budget and money saving goals.