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Monday, July 18, 2011

Coupon Etiquette

Before we go off to using the coupons, let's learn some coupon etiquette :



Do's:
  • Do learn limits and policies of your local stores (not every cashier knows the store's policy and you become a savvy shopper by playing with the established rules.  It is also a good idea to print this policy and shop with it.  Check back often to make sure they haven't made any changes or updates to their policies)
  • Do trade coupons (win-win for both parties)
  • Do ask neighbors or friends to give you their paper inserts
  • Do use the coupon for what is it intended for (misusing coupons is fraud) and if any questions arise about the validity of your coupons, do sort it out with the manager of the store in a peaceful way (you do not want to be banned from every Walmart in USA, yes! this happened recently)
  • Do buy what you need (sales will come around over and over again - you don't need to have a mini-mart in your garage or basement)
  • Do ask manufacturers for coupons (you might even get a free coupon)


Dont's:
  • Do not steal newspapers (or inserts) from newspaper racks (yes !  people have done this and have gotten arrested, so don't put yourself in that situation)
  • Do not copy coupons - this is fraud ! And if caught, you could end up behind bars or pay a hefty fine (you are trying to save money, not pay large fines)
  • Do not try to cheat the system because it not only hurts you in the long run but everyone else too
  • Do not buy the entire store just because you have large quantity of coupons (if you need large quantity of items, just call the store manager and they can pre-order for you and the box will be waiting for you)
  • Do not use fake coupons (If it doesn't have a barcode AND a barcode number, then it's fake - you could end up getting in a lot of trouble for using fake coupons even it was not your fault.)
  • Do not let rewards expire, such as extra care bucks, up rewards, or register rewards (that is wasting money because you paid for an item up front and then received the reward, so if you let it expire, you've wasted money and it defeats the purpose)

Some thoughts:

  • Don't get discouraged if you buy $100 worth of groceries and pay more than $0.25 (there aren't many coupons for produce, so save on things like toothbrushes and toothpaste and spend it on produce).  If you have a coupon for a product your family doesn't use, then leave that product on the shelf and even the coupon :)  When we buy things we don't use, we are not saving.  I don't save 80% on my grocery bill because I buy mostly fresh produce and fruits.
  • Don't get discouraged when you didn't maximize your savings (learn the rules and figure out a strategy for one store at a time).  Sometimes we forget coupons, but that's not saying we shouldn't plan ahead.
  • Keep your eyes on the register when you check out because both the cashiers and the people programming the registers are humans, but as a savvy shopper you can catch the mistakes just by paying attention (some stores have price match guarantee - if the shelf price doesn't match the register price, you get the item for free, this happened to me couple of times).  But as I mentioned before, if you don't know the policy, you'll never know what you are entitled to as a shopper.
  • If you ever have any doubts about a price, a coupon or store policies, just ask.  This can avoid confusions, delays and even embarrassment when you check out.  Just like any other skill, tricks and trades of couponing is one you will master over time.

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