I challenged you last week to put your new couponing skills to the test by completing a shopping trip.
I hope you did well. My first trip with coupons was to Tops in January. I saved 55 percent off retail, which left me feeling like I had won money in a casino. However, I soon felt stress over a series of small mistakes that had me doubted whether I was cut out for couponing.
In case you’re feeling similarly, here’s how to overcome these common mistakes:
- I thought I’d save more. Celebrate any savings of 40 percent or more. If you buy sale items with your loyalty card, you should be at about 30 percent immediately.
Establish reasonable expectations. “Extreme Couponing” suggests anyone can haul home hundreds of dollars in groceries for mere pennies. But that’s not reality. Rules are bent routinely on that show.
Maintain perspective. If you were saving 10 or 20 percent routinely before couponing, don’t suddenly expect to now save 90 percent or more every trip. I saved 55 percent off retail price in my first month of shopping, doing nothing more than following the advice in this series.
Also: Check your receipt. Items occasionally ring up incorrectly. Hurried cashiers can miss coupons too. Before you leave, crosscheck your receipt with your shopping list. Take mistakes to customer service. Our local managers are friendly and eager to fix errors when they happen.
- I bought more than I needed. Saving money is pleasurable. Too many times, I’m tempted to use a coupon on an item I don’t need just to feel that rush. Don’t do it. We’re not hoarding. We’re buying what we will legitimately use before it expires. Don’t waste food. Don’t waste space. And most importantly: Don’t waste money.
- My coupons weren’t accepted. Always read the fine print. I accidentally tried to buy a dozen eggs with a coupon that offered 55 cents off two dozen eggs. In a second incident, the Tops cashier didn’t double my 50 cents off because it said, in small print I hadn’t seen, “DO NOT DOUBLE.” I tried to buy toothpaste that was smaller than 4 ounces with a coupon that was only valid on toothpaste more than 4 ounces.
If your coupon beeps at the register, it means the computer doesn’t think you met the requirements. Double check your work. If they’re wrong, politely ask the cashier to override the computer. If you’re wrong, apologize and ask the cashier to pull the item and give you back the coupon – or run and grab the right item.
Coupons that are valid in certain stores aren’t accepted in other stores. Remember to read each store’s coupon policy before shopping there.
- I forgot my coupons at home. It’s totally frustrating. And it’s totally normal. Don’t despair. Certain stores will allow you to have your coupons applied after you’ve made the purchase, provided you do so in a timely manner and the coupons haven’t expired in the interim. It’s 7 days at Price Chopper and 3 days at Walmart. I know, because I’ve forgotten at both places. Again, check coupon policy.
- I pulled out my coupons and the cashier gave me a dirty look or the person behind me sighed real loud or oh my God people are staring at me like I’m buying lobster with food stamps.
Couponing is not a crime.
It is not welfare.
It isn’t an admission that you’re poor, a loner or weird.
Couponing is a smart way to save money on items you need.
It makes you smarter than people who waste money buying the same exact items without coupons.
Everyone should use coupons. Most don’t for one of three main reasons: They’ve determined they can make more money doing something else in time it would take to coupon. They’re lazy. Or they’re ignorant.
If people give you dirty looks or make comments, maintain your composure. Remember: you’re not senselessly blowing money. And if you’re bit bolder, tell them: “It sounds like you don’t know about how easy it is to save money with coupons. Would you like me to teach you?”
Next week: The excitement of the first trip has worn off. And now you’re staring at a pile of coupons that need to be cut, sorted and filed. I’ll offer advice on how to keep the momentum going.