Head over to Couponing 101 to download a free Grocery Spending and Coupon Savings Spreadsheet Tracker for 2013.
I’m giving up on coupons! Kroger accused me of “fraudulently” printing a coupon for a free package of Kings Hawaiian Bread, which was sent to me via a Facebook offer. Then today at Walart, they refused three of my coupons that were printed from Coupons.com because they didn’t have the right bar code.
Is this a common occurrence for users of coupons? Is there something I need to be doing differently with my coupons. I just wonder is this is something that happens to others. Hints, tips, and suggestions as to how to avoid these issues in the future? -Cyndi
I think most all of us couponers have had a bad experience or three while using coupons, so we feel your pain and frustration.The bad experiences are usually very minimal in comparison to the good experiences, but they happen to all of us at one time or another.
A number of years ago, I was accused of cheating and firmly asked never to come back to a store by a manager. Truth be told, although I replied kindly and left the store, I was shaking and wanted to give up coupons then and there.
Instead, because I knew that the manager was misinformed on coupons and had overstepped his bounds in the way he had treated me, I went home, wrote out all of the details of what had happened, and placed a call to that store’s corporate office the next morning.
You know what? They apologized profusely, reiterated the fact that I was using coupons in accordance with their policy, and were very concerned with how the manager had treated me.
In fact, they asked me if I’d like for them to have him call me and personally apologize! I said that wouldn’t be necessary, but I just wanted to ask if they could make sure the manager was better informed as to what their coupon policy was so that I and other couponers who shopped there in the future wouldn’t have such a difficult time using coupons.
I never found out exactly what happened, but I do know that from then on, that store became a much more coupon-friendly store and the manager never gave me or my other couponing friends who shopped there any issues.
So don’t give up — even when you feel frustrated! Your wallet will thank you and I promise that not every experience using coupons will be so bad in the future.
Here are some suggestions as to ways to prevent as many bad couponing experiences as possible in the future:
1. Make Sure You Know the Deals & Store Policies Well
Get a copy of the store’s corporate coupon policy and bring it with you when you shop. Know it backwards and forwards. That way, if there is any question regarding your coupon use, you are well educated and can make a clear case for why you are using coupons in accordance with the store’s corporate coupon policy.
2. Look for Efficient and Cheerful Cashiers
I always scan the checkout lanes before heading into one and look for a cashier that is speedy, efficient, and cheerful. For some reason, I always seem to have better success in using coupons with these types of cashiers.
In addition, I’ll look for people who are using coupons and checkout and if I see that the cashier is running them through cheerfully, I’ll head to that line. As the cashier is usually what makes or breaks your coupon-shopping experience, finding cashiers who are coupon-friendly go a long way toward a pleasant checkout.
3. Be Polite and Courteous, But Firm
Unfortunately, many cashiers do not know the store’s coupon policies. I can’t count the number of times a cashier has told me they can’t accept a coupon for one reason or another.
While their reason might be 100% true and valid, more often than not, I’ve found that they will tell me something that I know is not right per the store’s coupon policy. When this happens, I politely, but firmly explain what the store’s coupon policy is. More often than not, this is all it takes and they willingly accept all of my coupons, no questions asked.
Be a polite and informed customer, follow the store’s coupon policies to a tee, and you’ll usually earn the respect of the cashiers. When they respect you, they are much less likely to question your usage of coupons.
4. Don’t Make a Big Stink
In some instances, I’ve cordially explained the coupon policies and a cashier won’t budge. Instead of getting frustrated or upset, I just calmly ask them to remove the item from my transaction and return my coupon.
Yes, I miss out on some deals, but I’d rather leave the store without the deal if it means I avoid holding up the line and making a scene at the cash register. Plus, in many instances, I can use the coupon at another store to get a great deal.
5. Work on Lowering Your Grocery Bill Without Using Coupons
While I’m a big advocate of using coupons, I think they are just one piece of the grocery-savings pie. If you live in an area with few coupon-friendly stores, you might find that you just aren’t going to see the savings that someone with a lot of store options and stores that double or triple coupons is going to see.
Don’t be discouraged by this! There are many, many other ways to save money without using coupons. Pick a few of these to implement each month and determine which ones work best for your family.
Not everything that works for someone else will work for you, but I’m sure you’ll find many simple ways to lower your grocery bill without using coupons. Paired with the savings you can also obtain by using coupons, you can eventually really see significant savings!
What advice do the rest of you have for Cyndi? I’d love to hear your suggestions and tips!
photo courtesy of Big Stock
CNBC posted an article yesterday with interesting statistics on couponers:
Constance Atkinson, a 20-year veteran of couponing, estimates that she saves more than $1,000 per year by scouring the newspaper for deals.
Atkinson, a Brooklyn resident, and other bargain-seeking consumers fueled a 63-percent surge in coupon redemption last year, according to new data from Coupons.org.
But the changing face of the coupon user may surprise you.
Households with incomes of $100,000 or more are twice as likely to coupon as those who earn less than $35,000. College-degree holders are also twice as likely to use coupons as those who did not graduate from high school.
Do you think these statistics are accurate? I find them fascinating–mostly because I know there are many readers here who make less than $35,000 who are avid couponers!
Want to keep tabs on how much you save by using coupons this year? Download a free Excel/Open Office Coupon Savings Tracker Spreadsheet.
Or, download a free 2012 Coupon Savings Calculator.
Want to create your own price book? Well, now you can download our customizable price book forms and type in your stores, products, and prices and then save it to your computer for reference to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
A big thanks to Joy from FiveJs for putting this together!
Have you signed up for SavingStar yet? If not, it’s another great way to save money on groceries and household products. Unlike typical e-coupon sites, when you use SavingStar coupons the amount of the coupon is deposited into your SavingStar account.
So you just sign up for SavingStar, link it with your store cards, and clip the coupons you are interested in. After the money is added to your account, you can redeem it for gift cards or cash.
They have a number of good coupons right now including an e-coupon for $5 when you buy $15 worth of diet Pepsi and $1 when you buy two jars of Peter Pan peanut butter.
(Note: The links in this post are my referral links. Read my disclosure policy here.)
Guest post by Laura Ziesel
I’m not a mom, but I’ve been reading Money Saving Mom® for years because I care about being a wise money manager. Well, that and my husband is a graduate student and I’m a freelance writer and editor. We have to pay attention to every single dollar these days.
Sometimes I get discouraged when I read other people’s success stories at Money Saving Mom® because our family is moving in the “wrong” direction: our income has decreased every year that we’ve been married and we are acquiring more student debt as my husband earns his doctorate in psychology. Our retirement contributions have suffered, we’ve tapped into our emergency savings, and we are barely making ends meet.
Paying off debt is not in the cards for us at the moment. Because of our current financial situation, I catch myself wanting to give up frugality entirely. But I have to remind myself that even though our net worth is decreasing, being budget-minded now is paying off in many ways:
1) While we aren’t getting out of debt now, we are acquiring less debt because of our frugality. Less debt now = less debt to pay off later!
2) By learning to live on less now, we will be able to pay off our debt more quickly when the time comes. We now know how to live on very little money, so our “extra” income will be substantial later.
3) We have become content with the basics–food, clothes, shelter. Keeping up with the Jones’s is not an option, so we truly are not tempted to do so.
4) By keeping our costs low for food and household supplies, we have been able to maintain the amount of money we tithe and give to charities even though our income has decreased each year.
However, we have an additional complicating factor. Because I am a freelancer, I am always calculating how much I’m saving per hour couponing versus how much I could be making if I was writing or editing. I think, “Shouldn’t I simply work more to earn additional income instead of trying to save money?” You’d think.
But the other day, I had a reality check. After a full day of writing and editing, I was spent. My brain literally could not produce any more quality work, nor could I spend one more minute staring at a glowing screen.
So in those remaining hours of the evening, I had to do something away from the TV or computer that did not require deep thought. My husband was busy with school work, my apartment was clean, our meals were planned for the next few days, and we don’t have a yard or garden to work in.
Couponing was what I had left. Clipping coupons, organizing them, flipping through store circulars, and crunching numbers was exactly what the doctor ordered. I felt untaxed yet productive, and was able to give my eyes and mind a much-needed break. I’m not sure how much money I saved during that hour of couponing, but my sanity was saved.
So even though our net worth is decreasing and I might not be saving “enough” money for every hour spent couponing, I am sticking with it.
Laura Ziesel is a freelance writer and editor living in Azusa, California with her husband. She blogs on Following Jesus at LauraZiesel.com. She is also a contributing writer for The Redemptive Pursuit, a weekly devotional for women.
Guest post by Lacey Wilcox
I can still remember the first time I went to try and play the drugstore game. I was excited, a little nervous, and expectant of being able to show my husband my money-saving triumph.
I walked into Walgreens with my coupons and detailed list in hand. I’d used MoneySavingMom®’s helpful tools to come up with transactions that would help me get what I needed, and get a great deal.
Let’s just say, I was pumped as I walked in the door towards my first item.
It was gone.
I was crushed, for a moment. But, I could do without the baby lotion–for now anyway. I shook it off, deciding to just move on to the next item, only to find that it was gone, too.
I worked my way through the rest of my list, only to find that almost all of the items I had planned on purchasing, had already been bought. Talk about a feeling of money-saving defeat.
Anyone else ever been there? My guess is I’m not alone.
So, what do you do when all your deals are gone? Cry? Scream? Gripe about all those selfish people out there? Yell at the store manager for not ordering enough baby lotion or laundry detergent? Sit in your car and pout? Buy ice cream?
Well, no (although that last one is pretty tempting…!). But, here are some things you can do when all your deals are gone that can help save your sanity, and maybe even help you save a buck.
1. Have a back-up plan.
Write out the transactions that are your goal, and then have some others planned out just in case you can’t make them. (Note: I would only recommend putting items on your back-up plan that you either really need, or can get for free. If there are not items like this, I would not suggest spending money just so you can say you used your coupons.)
2. Try another store.
Try another location of the same store, or maybe you decide to go try a completely different one altogether. Create some transactions for alternate drug stores and grocery stores in case your first choice doesn’t work out.
3. Politely and cordially talk to the store manager.
First, ask the store manager when their merchandise is delivered, and when would be the best time to make your purchase. Then, you can also talk with him/her about the possibility of addressing people who take all of the good deals. They might not realize that this can actually hurt their store’s business.
4. Partner with a friend.
If you have small children or a busy schedule, having a back-up plan can be a little tricky. If this is the case, try partnering with a friend to help purchase deals for yourselves and each other. This way, you both don’t have to go every week. I’ve also found that planning transactions with someone else helps me to create the best scenarios.
5. Walk away, but with joy.
When all else fails, choose joy. If you can’t make it work this week, walk away choosing to try again next week. And as you walk away, remember the things you have to be thankful for: for life, for grace, for breath, for family, for sunshine, for blessings…
…and, for ice cream.
What about you? How do you react when all of your deals are gone? What advice do you have to hande that situation?
Lacey lives in the Panhandle of Texas with her husband, Kade and sweet baby, Selah, where they manage Panfork Baptist Camp. Lacey writes about adventures in marriage, mommy-hood, and camp life on her blog.
Guest post by Laura from Unpunctuated Life
I use technology to help me keep track of my coupon stash. I have a coupon organizer that is divided into categories that work for me, including a “using now” section, but sometimes I found myself in the grocery store confronted with an unadvertised sale and having to dig through my entire file to figure out whether or not I had a coupon for that item. I decided it would be a good idea to keep an inventory of my coupons and figured out a way to make it work!
When I began using a smart phone, I discovered a site called Evernote.com that allows me to edit documents and sync them among multiple devices (computer, phone, tablet, etc.). I created a document entitled “Coupon Inventory” and divided it into the same categories as my coupon organizer. Under each heading, I keep a bulleted list of each coupon I have, when it expires, and whether or not I have multiples.
In addition, I created a category for e-coupons, since I tend to forget what I have loaded onto my shopper cards. This also saves me paper, because I used to print out a list of my e-coupons each time I went to the store.
Once a week or so, when I’m organizing my physical coupons, I also pull up my document and make sure I have deleted any coupons that have been used or have expired, and I add any coupons I have recently clipped or printed. When I pull it up on my phone, the document looks like this:
Using this technology, it is so easy to view my coupon inventory even in the middle of the grocery store! If I see a coupon listed under a given category, I know that I can flip to that tab in my coupon organizer and find it there waiting for me to use. This has really helped me capitalize on deals I hadn’t known about ahead of time or hadn’t planned on using.
Laura is a young wife who recently moved to a new city with her husband and is looking to find work in the non-profit world. She enjoys hiking, reading, and finding a good bargain. Laura blogs at Unpunctuated Life about cooking, saving money, and learning about life in general.
Guest post by Jessica from The Abundant Wife
A few weeks ago, my goal was to learn how to play the drugstore game. I’ve heard a lot about it in the past year, and now I live in a town where CVS is located five minutes away. So I decided to give it a whirl.
My first attempt was, as my 16-year-old brother would say, an “EPIC FAIL”
So here are my instructions for how not to play the drugstore game:
1. Don’t bring your children along.
It’s hard enough to think about your coupons and savings without your infant crying and your toddler bolting across the store before you can get her in the cart or knocking toothpaste and toothbrushes to the floor as you push your cart through the narrow aisles.
2. Don’t try to do too much in your first trip.
I bought a mouthwash, dental floss, and detergent. I had two coupons. Just buying these three items was too complicated for my first trip.
3. Don’t go at a busy time of day.
It was late afternoon and it was hot, so not only were my kids tired and cranky, but other people were getting out of work, so a line developed behind me while I tried to figure things out at the register.
4. Don’t spend a lot to get a little.
Set a spending limit for yourself. It’s not worth it to spend $11 just to get $1 ECB back.
5. Don’t go without first looking at the weekly advertisement.
I didn’t look at the CVS weekly advertisement until I arrived at the store. I just trusted the CVS deal websites I’d been reading. The coupons I chose only matched the store deal if I bought the most expensive mouthwash and dental floss available. Rather than saving money, I spent more than I usually would have.
6. Don’t lose sleep over it.
I spent all day and all night thinking about how to work multiple deals. Just pick one item to start.
After I returned home and had a chance to regroup, I decided to go back and try again. I returned my mouthwash and dental floss. Instead, I bought one Revlon nail polish ($4.99) and got $4 ECB back. I used a $1/1 coupon, and ended up paying only the tax ($0.29) for it. Now I have $4 ECB to spend on a future purchase.
What else did I learn through this process?
::Sign up for the CVS card, if you haven’t already.
::Sign up for CVS e-mails.
::Look at your local CVS advertisement on-line.
::Save and date your weekly Smart Source, P&G, and Red Plum Coupon Inserts.
::Take your time. You’re learning how to do something new that will save money for you and your family. So be patient with yourself. If you fail miserably, you can always return your items and start over again.
Do you have any other great tips for Drugstore Game newbies like me?
Jessica is a former middle school art teacher who also taught English in China for two years. She now lives in her parents’ basement with her husband of five years and her two beautiful babies. She recently began blogging at The Abundant Wife about faith, family, debt, and unemployment.