Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mistakes With Coupons Clip Into Your Savings

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. This is why I don't use coupons--besides, I learned a BETTER way to shop!

"If there's one thing that drives this coupon-user crazy, it's going home only to realize that a coupon I used didn't work properly. While that can happen on occasion at any store, Target has admitted that some manufacturers coupons have been ringing up improperly for months, blaming a computer glitch that the Minneapolis-based retailer says it is working to fix."


"As for shoppers? We should always pay close attention at the prices that ring up at the registers whether a problem has been identified or not. But smart coupon use goes beyond having a watchful eye. Consumers commit coupon mistakes in checkout lines all the time."


"Mistake: You think purchases with coupons are always the best deal. "You shouldn't be tempted to use a coupon just because you have it," said Annette Economides, who runs the website with her husband Steve Economides. The couple recently wrote a book about saving money on groceries. "The bottom line is how little cash can we pull from our pocket and still eat well," she said. But some people feel an irrational pressure to use their coupons even if a store brand is cheaper, or they never would have purchased that bag of chips without one in the first place."


"...think of coupons as an ad. "They're marketing the product to you promising a deal and if you're not savvy about your prices, you could actually overpay," he said. Not only that, but manufacturers love to introduce new products with high-value coupons. But don't be surprised when the coupons stop once your family is hooked."


"Mistake: You use a coupon right away or don't hold onto it long enough. Consumers are sometimes surprised when Carrie Rocha, founder of, tells them that it's not just produce that has seasons. Packaged goods and coupons promoting them have seasons, too. "When a product is in its peak season, it goes on sale more frequently and at lower prices ... that's the time that a manufacturer releases more and higher-value coupons for that product," she explains. For example, manufacturers are unlikely to release their highest-value coupons for summer items such as razors, barbecue sauce and baked beans in November. Look for frozen vegetable, canned soup, cold medicine and baking supply deals going into winter. The wisest shoppers know to wait and use a coupon when an item is in season and on sale and then stock up."


"Mistake: You fail to ask. Maybe the item you could get for free with coupons has been wiped off the shelf by other deal seekers. Don't leave the store without asking someone to check the stockroom, or without requesting a raincheck."


"Mistake: You toss expired coupons. Rocha said some stores will take expired coupons at the manager's discretion, especially if the store is very close to another grocery store or big box. Cub Foods, for example, takes expired coupons for three months. Ask your local store's manager about the store-specific policies regarding expired coupons, price matching and Internet coupons. Familiarize yourself with a retailer's corporate coupon policy. That is, if you can find it -- many policies either aren't posted on the corporate website or are impossible to locate."


"Mistake: You fail to read the fine print. "Pay attention to the wording on the coupon," said Christina Brown of Bovey, Minn., who writes the money-saving blog www.northern Sometimes coupons don't have size exclusions, meaning you can get the smallest size for free. Other times, the fine print reveals that several items work with the coupon, not just the premium-priced item pictured on the coupon."


"Mistake: You only clip coupons from your Sunday paper. Your newspaper is still a great place to start, but it's the 21st century. Head online."

See how many little rules there are to using coupons (and rebates) BEYOND just clipping and using? That's why I don't bother--besides, I find I get just as good or better deals shopping MY way.

Ever notice there aren't any coupons for generic items? Those coupons are meant to enslave you to brand loyalty, and when the coupons are gone, what are you left with? What if the company making that particular product goes out of business, gets bought by another company, or simply quits making that product due to poor sales, and the product itself disappears from store shelves?

Don't be a slave to BRAND loyalty--if you're going to be a slave, be a slave to LOW PRICE loyalty. Bullet-proof yourself to marketing. Marketing = want creation, and invented reasons to get you to spend when you usually wouldn't or shouldn't.

To make the most effective use of coupons (by this I mean getting groceries for free, or having the store pay YOU), you have to match up a coupon with in-store sales, and have a rebate, BOGO, or some sort of bonus package attached to the original product--AND THESE ALL HAVE TO HAPPEN SIMULTANEOUSLY. The chances of this happening nowadays are once in a blue moon. These used to happen with some frequency in years past, but retailers and manufacturers always learn from their money-losing mistakes. Now, store sales seem to PURPOSELY occur before or after the coupon/rebate emerges or expires--timing is everything to making money!

UPDATE: My two cents on The Grocery Game and Drugstore Game.


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