Couponing can be a complicated hobby -- store policies, coupon apps, and fine print change all the time.
If you want to save the largest amount of money you can, it's a lot to keep up with!
So the one thing you DON'T want to do is sabotage yourself by making a easily-avoided mistake.
Here are six ways I often see couponers get frustrated AND spend too much money -- and simple ways to avoid these common errors.
Six Mistakes That Can Cost Couponers Big Money
- Assuming your cashier knows the store's coupon policy. It's sad to say that many cashiers don't actually get trained on their store's coupon policy -- even if they know one exists! If you're relying on the cashier -- or sometimes even the manager -- to interpret coupon policy for you, you are probably losing money. Plus, arguing at the register is the fastest way to put ANY couponer in a bad mood. Simple Solution: Make sure you have the coupon policies for your favorite stores either printed in your binder OR saved on your phone. That way it's easy to refer back to when there's a question at the register! I have a list of the big coupon policies here for my readers.
- Venting on social media about bad shopping experiences instead of following up with the store. I get it -- it feels goood to get on Facebook and let a cashier/manager/store have it, especially after someone's been rude or dismissive with you. The problem is that info doesn't get to the people who can actually change experiences at a store. And when problems don't get fixed, you're much more likely to stop couponing there (and thereby missing out on savings.) Simple Solution: Follow up with management as necessary, either by phone, by email, or in person. The people who can improve experiences for you going forward are a store manager (not a manager on duty), a district manager, or a corporate customer service professional. Give those folks a chance to fix things for all of us! Southern Savers has a good article on when you should be calling corporate (and a bunch of the corporate 1-800 numbers are listed at the bottom of the post.) Lifehacker has some good suggestions too.
- Not having a routine to receive inserts. You know that saying, "You can't win if you don't play"? Well, you can't coupon without getting coupons -- and if you don't get newspaper inserts week in and week out, you're going to eventually start missing out on deals. And if you wait to see all the deals online BEFORE you track down coupons, you are letting all the other couponers in your area get a jump on you at the stores! Simple Solution: Get a newspaper subscription (you can often find discounted subscriptions through Groupon) or build time into your schedule each week to buy a newspaper or two at the store. For me, it's a routine that I get up each Saturday morning and go to Starbucks for my favorite latte and the weekend paper (and yes, here in San Antonio, the Saturday edition of the paper comes with inserts!)
- Not stocking up at the lowest possible sale price. If you're not buying enough to last you from one sale to the next, you're going to wind up paying full price in between sales -- and that costs money. The good news is that most sales and coupons come along pretty routinely, so you don't have to get caught off-guard (assuming you know how much product your family goes through from sale to sale.) Simple Solution: Learn your sales cycles. I have a list here of the common sales we see month by month. If an item is NOT on the list but you've been able to coupon for it before, it's likely on a 8 to 12-week turnaround. So when in doubt, buy three months worth when you see a great price pop up!
- Avoiding coupon apps. Sure, you can skip learning the ins and outs of Ibotta, Checkout 51, Shopmium, and the rest -- but know you're leaving money on the table each and every month, both from actual coupon offers and from possible referrals to your social network. For example, I personally have made more than $6000 through the Ibotta app alone since it launched! Don't have a smartphone? Some of these apps have desktop sites that you can access at least some of their offers through. Simple Solution: Set aside some time to practice with these top 5 coupon apps. If you're anxious, there are a ton of YouTube tutorials available on the various apps -- and local readers can even come to a live in-person class that I'm hosting next month!
- Relying on social media for couponing ideas. Regular readers know I love, am obsessed with, and can routinely be found on Facebook. But if Facebook (or IG, or Pinterest) is the ONLY way you track deals, you are going to be losing money. First off, other people's hauls may not be a perfect fit for the items you need to buy for your family -- and secondly, by the time you start seeing all those haul photos pop up, the items might already be sold out at your local store! Also, most social media networks don't share posts chronologically, but instead using an algorithm that makes educated guesses as to what you might want to see. That means a deal might be posted in a bunch of groups, but you could still miss out on it if you aren't online at the right time. (And we all know the search functions on Facebook and other networks are less than perfect.) Simple Solution: When you find a blog you like, subscribe to its email digests. That way, you get daily emails sent straight to your inbox and you'll never a miss a deal. (You can go here to sign up for mine!) Remember that most blogs require a two-step verification process -- so when you subscribe, check your inbox for a verification email to make sure you joined correctly. Hate using email? Some blogs even have free apps you can load directly to your smartphone! Just make sure you're checking your app daily so you don't miss anything.
Been couponing for awhile? What other mistakes have you made in the past that other couponers should avoid? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments!