Coupon Dos & Don’ts
There are some smart ways to use coupons — as long as you’re buying something you actually want or need. Here’s some advice for tactfully getting the most out of coupons and some coupon etiquette Do’s and Dont’s.
Do Know Your Limits. Save time, energy and embarrassment at the register by playing with the rules established by retailers and manufacturers. Visit their Web sites to learn if there have been any updates or changes to their coupon policies.
Do Ask Friends and Neighbors to Leave Aside Papers. Some people actually subscribe to newspapers for the articles, not the coupons. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask these friends and family members — politely — to set aside the coupons for you to pick up at a later time.
Don’t Barter for New Papers. According to a report in North County Times, local publishers say customers are asking to return papers for new ones with fresh coupon circulars. I’m all for trading up, but, really?
Do Start a Small Coupon Swap. Rather than stealing your neighbor’s Sunday paper to benefit from the extra coupon circular, create a support system through a small, local coupon exchange. Members can meet once a week in person for 30 minutes to exchange coupons for things they actually would buy anyway. (One person’s buy-one-get-one-free instant oatmeal is another person’s 50-cents-off cold cereal.) Online exchanges also exist at savingsadvice.com and thriftyfun.com.
Don’t Copy Coupons. Many stores mention in their coupon policies that “coupons are void if copied, scanned, transferred, purchased, sold ” etc. Again, stick with the official policy. You’ll still manage to save a good chunk of change — and by skipping a long debate at the checkout, you’ll also avoid unnecessary delays both for you and the shoppers waiting behind you.
Do Ask Manufacturers to Send Coupons Directly. If you can’t find manufacturers’ coupons readily on their Web sites, email or call them to request coupons be sent directly to your inbox. That’s what many successful couponers claim to do. It sometimes earns them freebies, as well.
Do look for a coupon whenever you shop online.
Before you click the “buy” button, take a step back and do a quick search for “your store of choice” + coupons and deals. Use a search engine, or visit reputable websites that have a strong track record for providing quality coupons. There are several reliable sites such as: retailmenot, ebates, shop at home that will help you stretch that hard earned dollar even further.
Don’t spend hours looking for offers.
You should be familiar with the expression that time is money. While you should search for a deal, you shouldn’t spend hours scouring the internet to save $3. Avoid this frustration by knowing when to quit.
Do look for alternatives to shipping costs.
There really isn’t any reason to pay $5 to $10 plus tax for shipping. Instead, find options that are free like site-to-store shipping and free shipping discounts.
Don’t decide to buy something just because there is a coupon.
You may end up paying added costs – like shipping, for instance. Even if you have a coupon, you should always evaluate the big picture. Be a smart shopper instead of an impulsive one.
Do ask for help finding deals.
The advantage to couponing online is that there are a number of communities with like-minded consumers. These people live absolutely everywhere and even include people who work in retail and at deals websites. When you have a question, just ask! Being social is much more efficient than spending aimless hours browsing and searching.
Don’t have false expectations.
While good do deals exist, too-good-to-be-true deals don’t. If it looks unrealistic, then it probably is. Similarly, you shouldn’t have false expectations about the deals that you’re going to find. Sometimes, good enough is simply good enough.
Do take couponing seriously.
As with many things in life, results take hard work. Don’t expect to become an “expert couponer” overnight. Saving does take skill, and some people will see better results than others.
Don’t take couponing too seriously.
The consequences include unnecessary stress, stinginess, false expectations, and, yes, wasted money. Above all, when you’re looking for deals, freebies and giveaways, you should stay lighthearted. Life is stressful enough, so couponing should never becomes something that bogs you down.
The Bottom Line
You should strive to strike a balancing act with your couponing strategy. There’s no magic to saving – it’s all about time management, resourcefulness and efficiency.