Extreme Couponing and The Golden Rule

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Posted on : 28-03-2011 | By : Trish | In : Coupon Matchups, Daily Deals

Coupons, to me, are just free money. Use one $0.25 coupon, and you have just put a quarter in your pocket. Do that four times and you’ve just made $1. Of course, this doesn’t work if you’ve used a coupon on something that you don’t need. Couponing can be exciting, especially when you are just starting out, but using coupons just for the sake of using coupons is a trap that should be avoided. It’s expensive and wasteful. Trust me. I’ve done it! You should only use coupons for something you were going to buy anyway or something you know you will use.

If you haven’t seen TLC’s Extreme Couponing, you’ve probably heard about it. It’s a show about taking couponing to the extreme, saving thousands of dollars, spending hundreds of hours, and hoarding tons of stuff. It actually looks kind of exciting. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how to get over 1,000 boxes of cereal for free? And the guy donated the cereal. Awww, how sweet! What you didn’t see in the show is that there is no way that’s actually happening in any store in the country. Stores have coupon policies. They will never let you walk out with 1,100 boxes of cereal. As a matter of fact, they will never have 1,100 boxes of cereal in stock. And really, where are you going to get 1,100 coupons? Before you go getting tips from this show, let me remind you of TLC’s lineup…19 Kids and Counting, does that one make you want to jump right into bed and try for a dozen more kids? Not me! Hoarding: Buried Alive, there are no words…except that extreme couponing (the way they show it) could most likely land you a starring role on this one. Sister Wives…why not? My Strange Addiction…wanna eat some Comet after dinner? And let’s not forget that John and Kate fiasco.  All I’m saying is it’s TLC. They won’t highlight people who use coupons to make ends meet for their family. That would be a useful show. Let’s follow a normal family trying to pay bills, put food on the table, AND put gas in the tank. Let’s get real couponing tips from real couponers who follow the rules and make it work. I would totally watch that! But, it wouldn’t be terribly exciting and probably wouldn’t get good ratings. So, not gonna happen on TLC.

So, how do you make it work? Like I said before, don’t get so excited when you can get sardines for $0.15 that you actually spend $0.45 on sardines when you know there’s no way you’re actually going to eat them. You’ve just wasted $0.45! Use only the coupons you need. You should also learn proper coupon etiquette. A few rules for couponing:

  1. Follow the Golden Rule! Yes, it applies here just like every other area. Just treat others the way you want to be treated. Before you clear the shelf or get ugly with an employee, ask yourself if it would be okay with you if someone else did that.
  2. Be nice to store employees. You’ve come to their workplace. Don’t be ugly. Carry a copy of the store’s coupon policy (almost all of them can be found online) so that you can prove your case. Even if they get ugly with you, try to kill em with kindness before you get ugly back. Sometimes that’s hard to do, I know.
  3. While you have that coupon policy, be sure you know it so that you’re not clogging up the lines trying to get a deal you’re actually not entitled to (some stores may only allow 3 of the same coupon in one trip, for example…don’t try to use four). Learn your store’s coupon policy and stick to it. I bet you’ll find that you’re not allowed 1,100 boxes of cereal or 300 toothbrushes!
  4. Don’t hog the deals! Please, please, please don’t clear the sale items off the shelf. I promise, the deal will come back around. Sales run in cycles. Take only what you need until the next sale plus a couple extra to get your stockpile going. I am a true believer in stockpiling. You should definitely stock your cabinets with enough food to last at least a month…but having a lifetime supply of deodorant is overkill. I’m sure it has a shelf life! Just keep in mind that there are other families who may be in a more dire financial situation than you. If you take 30 boxes of pasta, you may be taking a meal off their table (ok, that could be extreme), just don’t be selfish.  FYI: If you do get to the store and find all the pasta gone, ask for a rain check. Then you can still get the deal next week!
  5. Along the same lines of no hogging, don’t take all of the tearpad or blinkie coupons from the store shelves or displays. Yes, take a few, but don’t clean it out. On the other hand, my local gas station always has great coupons that they keep behind the counter…and they almost always have over half of them expire without being used. I always ask for those coupons (before they expire) and then take them to the grocery store where they will be beneficial. I still only take a few.
  6. Share the wealth! If you’re like me, you may have coupons in your stash that you’ll end up not using. I always carry the Tide coupons in my binder but almost never use them. Even when Tide is on sale and I have a coupon, it’s still usually not worth it. The per-load price is still much higher than other brands. I’ve used them all and my son’s clothes still have stains, so I’m not spending extra money if I don’t get extra cleaning power…and I don’t. So, when I’m in the laundry section, I pull out my Tide coupons and lay them on the shelf next to the Tide. Other couponers in my area do the same and I love them for it! You can also trade coupons with other couponers. That way, you both benefit!

Couponing has been a life saver for me. It still is. I’m a single parent with a very, very, very low paying job. No, really. I’m a certified teacher, but I only work an hour a day for $20. I also sub in the mornings on occasion for a whopping $22.50. Add that to my daily $20 and you could almost buy a tank of gas! I have learned to cut corners in a lot of ways. But my favorite is couponing. I love that I can feed my son and pay the rent. Before couponing, sometimes it would have been eat or pay the rent. So, again, please don’t take all the free spaghetti 😉  I know I’m not the only one who needs that deal.

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[…] to become familiar with coupon etiquette as you get started. I’ve outlined the rules here. Take only what you need and leave some deals for others who may need them even more than you […]

[…] to become familiar with coupon etiquette as you get started. I’ve outlined the rules here. Take only what you need and leave some deals for others who may need them even more than you […]