Financial Resource Center

Money Management

Shop by the Rules With Coupons

by Center for Personal Finance editors / September 12th, 2011

You have five coupons to your favorite store in the mall—chances are you won't be able to use all of them at once. The recent "extreme couponing" trend has prompted many stores to alter their policies to prevent excessive coupon use. Retailers such as Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens, and Publix are limiting the number and combination of coupons you can use for each item. In some cases, the companies also are taking steps to prevent coupon fraud. You don't have to work the system to save money with coupons. Mind your manners with these couponing suggestions from Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert, Santa Ana, Calif.:
  • Understand retailer policies. Each store has different rules for accepting coupons. Are you purchasing the exact item the coupon is meant for? Does the store accept expired coupons? Know the standards before you get in line at the register.
  • Take one or two—not 12. Make multiple trips or call ahead if you want to stock up on a specific sale item. Don't empty the store shelf—it will only annoy other shoppers.
  • Get organized. Don't keep cashiers and other customers waiting. Before you check out, clip coupons together, make sure they're all facing the same way, and take out any you're not using. Load mobile coupons on your phone ahead of time for the cashier to scan.
  • Shop at nonpeak times. If you have a lot of coupons to use, visit the store when business is likely to be slower. With fewer customers in line, your cashier won't have to stress about completing your transaction quickly.
  • Be nice. Politely ask for a manager if a cashier makes a mistake with your coupons. Also be aware of other shoppers; if the customer behind you only has one or two items while you're wrestling with a full cart, let him or her go first.
  • Don't steal. Some newspapers and newspaper subscribers are having their coupon inserts stolen. Never steal coupons—this is theft. If you're looking for an extra insert, just ask a neighbor or friend.
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