This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.
I’ve been couponing now for almost 15 years… no matter how long you’ve been saving money there are always things to learn. Through the years I’ve noticed that their are common couponing mistakes that many new (and sometimes experienced) couponers make. Deals don’t always work right, you forget to use a coupon, or get flustered. I don’t want the few bad moments to spoil the fun though. The reason you are saving and how much you are saving are the big things to stay focused on!! Let’s learn from each others mistakes and hopefully help you save more time and money.
For more, watch this past Monday’s live Q&A on common couponing mistakes.
Common Couponing Mistakes
Starting Too Big
When folks decide to start something new they usually dive in and go a bit overboard. From starting a new diet, renovating a room, and even to couponing this doesn’t always work out for the best. When you first get started couponing you need to keep it small. Pick one or two deals to try at the drugstore or make a short grocery list of 10 deals and focus on getting those deals right! Do one deal at a time for items that have lots of stacking parts. It’s easier to see mistakes or how it works on a receipt with just a few items. Once you get the hang of it, you can always add more deals.
Trying to Catch Every Deal
You’re never going to be able to get all the deals there are. You’re better off limiting your trips and choosing a few stores that you already shop at. Running out to grab one deal at a time wastes time and money!
A side note here: Most stores will have similar deals if you just wait. They don’t have identical ads each week so what is on sale at Kroger may be on sale in 2 more weeks at Publix. You just shop your store, and don’t feel the pull to hit multiple sale ads.
Overbuying (and grabbing things you don’t need)
It’s not about the deal and how good it is; it’s about the budget. Seriously. We are all trying to save money here, sometimes the thrill of the deal makes us forget why we are deal hunters! Mustard may be 45¢ a bottle, but how many are you really going use in a year? Probably not even 3… Stick to only getting what you need for 6 weeks. Sales run on a 6 weeks cycle, meaning if it’s on sale this week it will be back on sale 6 weeks later.
Not Setting a Budget!
Speaking of budgets, you should have a grocery budget! Setting a budget per week helps you know when to turn off the amazing deal hunter inside for a few days. No matter how great a deal is, there is still a cost. Grabbing 20 deals at 50¢ each still means you spent $10. I’ve met many couponers who share that they now buy way more groceries but spend the same amount as before… they got it half right I guess, but totally missed the other purpose of couponing!
Picking the Wrong Organization System For You
You have to figure out what works for you. Some people are going to do their best couponing only with digital coupons that they can keep on their phones. Others are happy to buy coupon inserts online, cut the coupons they want, and putting them in a binder with dividers. For more, see my post on How to Organize Coupons? If you don’t choose the right system, you won’t make the most of your coupons, and you won’t save as much money as you could.
This is actually what we’ll be discussing on next week’s Monday night Q&A.
Join in at 8:30 pm Monday night.
It may seem like a strange mistake for couponers, but a very common couponing mistake is to forget to use all the coupons. This might mean you didn’t add app offers or digital coupons before your purchase, or that you left coupons at home. A big way though, is forgetting that you can stack offers in most stores. If you have a manufacturer coupon but forgot the store coupon, then you won’t save as much money as you could.
I highly recommend planning your list out before you get the store. Mark on the side how many you want to buy, if there are special types you need to get that match the coupons etc. This saves you time in the store plus helps you make sure you grab the correct products.
Extra Tip: For mobile offers, always use the barcode scanner that each app offers. This helps you know the item matches the offer and helps you not forget to load any offers.
Buying the Bigger Sizes When You Could Go Small
Most of us grew up thinking that bigger is always the deal. In couponing land that’s rarely the case. Generally our coupons are good for all sizes. A $3 off coupon covers a lot more of the price on a $5 product rather than a larger $11 size. Another thing to help you remember, we tend to see sales on smaller sizes more frequently than large bulk sizes. Now you’ve got a sale and coupon!
Buying the Wrong Item
Organize your list before shopping! I’m pretty sure I already said that… Really this is key to not having a checkout meltdown. Generally the biggest issue at the register is that you grabbed the wrong item or size and honestly a few extra minutes before you leave the house will solve this. To spell out my routine even more:
- I make my shopping list from the lists on Southern Savers.
- Cut the coupons the list tells me to get.
- Sort the coupons and count how many I need to buy for each item (for example I have (3) $1/2 coupons, I would write a 6 next to that item on my shopping list).
- Look over the coupons to see if they are for certain flavors or types (cereal is a big one) and mark that on my list too.
- Put all my coupons in a ziploc bag. That’s all I take to the store!
My list tells me what to buy and how many to get. I really don’t need the coupons while I shop. I’ll pull over in a quiet spot and go through my coupons one time before heading to checkout. Pull out any you didn’t use and be ready to hand the stack over!
Not Watching the Register
So many couponers spend time getting their coupons together and shopping, only to zone out at the register. This is crunch time and when you should be paying the most attention! You’ll be able to see that coupons scan correctly, that sales ring up the right price and hopefully catch the error before you pay. If you realize there’s a mistake, don’t be afraid to let the cashier know. Or if you don’t realize it until you get home, you can call corporate and see what they will do to rectify the mistake.
Not Knowing Store Policies
Make sure you know how coupons work at the stores where you’re shopping. Do they take coupons on both items of a BOGO sale? Do they let you stack store coupons with manufacturer offers (most do, but not all)? Do they issue rain checks? There are key parts that will help you save more money and avoid issues at the register. This will be easier to do if you start with the first tip on this post and keep your first trips small. If you start couponing at one store, you can get to know that store really well, and you will make the most of your couponing by knowing the policies really well.
Tip: I have direct links to each store coupon policy on that stores deal page. Look in the upper right corner of the page and you’ll see links to policies and other important pages for that store!
Looking for more about couponing? Check out previous posts on extreme couponing!