I’ve been clipping coupons for nearly two decades. For me, couponing has been an easy way for me to save money on groceries and household goods without spending a ton of time.
Then came the “Extreme Couponing” craze and couponing started to change. Instead of just saving money on things people needed, there were people gaming the system, clearing store shelves and hoarding mustard like their lives depended on it. It has gotten harder to find coupons, harder to use coupons, and harder to save money.
I’m all for saving a buck or two, but at what price?
5 Things You Should Never Do When Couponing
Don’t photo copy coupons. The merchant will not be reimbursed for these coupons. Oh, and it’s also illegal. It might seem okay to photo copy printable coupons – but each one has its’ own codes with watermarking. Companies set budgets and put limits on the number of copies of a coupon that can be printed to keep their promotional costs down. Don’t scam the system or you’ll get caught.
Don’t try to pass off expired coupons. It seems so simple to just pretend like you don’t know a coupon is expired and hope it goes through. But if you use expired coupons, the retailer ends up eating the cost of that coupon – not the manufacturer. It’s just a $1 to you, but if 10,000 people had the same attitude that can really hurt a business. Retailers end up getting more persnickety about every coupon, which can mean longer check-out times in stores. Don’t abuse a sales clerk’s trust. Only use coupons with a valid date.
Don’t use coupons on the wrong products. Some unethical Extreme Couponers have discovered that some coupons will work on varieties of products not mentioned in the language of the coupon. They exploit this loophole by decoding coupon barcodes to get free or cheap products that were never meant to be included in the promotion. Pay close attention to the wording on the coupons and follow it exactly to avoid any fraudulent coupon use.
Don’t buy individual coupons or coupon inserts. There are plenty of coupon clipping services that will sell you coupons. There are tons of postings for coupons you can buy on eBay. They won’t say they’re selling you coupons because that is against manufacturers’ policies, which state that coupons cannot be transferred or sold. Instead these coupon brokers will claim that you are paying the shipping and handling costs for processing these coupons. It’s a very gray area, that is ripe for scams. Since you don’t know the true source of these coupons it can be nearly impossible to verify the validity of them. Using fraudulent coupons is a punishable offense. Saying “I didn’t know” probably isn’t the best defense. You can eliminate the risk by only getting your coupons from reputable sources. Stick to reputable printable coupon resources and inserts from the Sunday newspaper and magazines.
Don’t use coupons to buy things you don’t need. One of the quickest ways to waste money at the grocery store is to buy things you don’t need. Even if an item is free with coupons – if you don’t need it, leave it at the store. Your waistline will thank you, as will the customers who actually want to buy the product on sale. You also won’t have to worry about where you’ll store all this stuff.
You can always check out Coupon Information Corporation for more information on coupon fraud and how to prevent it. But I have found the the best way to stay above the law is to simply trust your own gut. If a deal seems too good to be true, it just might be too good to be true. If you feel like you’re “sticking it to the big box store” or “getting something past the clerk,” then stop and think about the consequences of those actions. The more rules that are bent, the more laws that are broken, just means there will be fewer coupons and less deals in the future.