Top Couponing Mistakes
If you are new to couponing, you are bound to make some mistakes along the way. Even experienced couponers can get caught up in the process and slip up. If you know the likely mistakes, you will be less prone to commit these errors.
1. Not planning ahead
The casual couponer may merely pick up a flyer in the store and save a few bucks here or there. However, even a half-hour or so of planning before you get to the store will really pay off. Planning your list ahead of time and finding the right coupons will pay off significant dividends in savings. Check out our article on how to prepare your weekly list here.
2. Not factoring in the value of your time
As a caveat to the first rule, make sure that you don’t spend TOO much time planning or executing your weekly shopping list. Yes, you may be able to save a little bit of money by traveling to several stores. Yes, you may be able to get more coupons if you spend more time searching for them. But do not forget that your time is valuable, too. It isn’t worth hours of your life for a few more coupons. Carve out some dedicated time to plan, then get on with your life and other responsibilities. The same applies to the shopping portion. If you have to travel across town to save a few cents on a deal, that is a bad overall decision. You will waste your time, not to mention your gas money, if you try to chase down every sale you see. Keep it to two or three stores, maximize the savings within those stores, and let the other deals go.
3. Buying items just because they are on sale
It is tempting when you begin couponing to buy whatever is on sale. The thrill of the deal can be so alluring that you may be inclined to purchase foods just because they are cheap. However, if you and your family will not eat those items, they aren’t a good deal. Food spoiling in your pantry or fridge is a waste of money, just as paying full price would be. Similarly, if you are only buying junk food because that is on sale, your diet and overall health will diminish. You cannot change your diet drastically, solely based on the sales in your areas! Stick to your family’s usual foods and find coupons and deals for the items you know you will enjoy.
4. Never buying anything full price
At the same time, you don’t want to get into the mindset that you can never buy anything full price. Sometimes your family’s favorite foods will not be on sale. Sometimes, you will need a treat or an opportunity to relax. Couponing is great, but you cannot let it consume you. Give yourself some leeway to buy full price items if you need to, without thinking you have failed at couponing.
5. Clearing the shelves
If you find an excellent deal for something you know you’ll use, you may be tempted to buy all of it in stock so that you can build your stockpile. Resist this urge! Don’t forget that other people may need that box of cereal to feed their kids breakfast. Leave some items behind as a common courtesy to your other shoppers.
6. Shopping during rush hour
Speaking of being courteous, skip the peak shopping hours if you’re planning on using several coupons. You don’t want to slow down a whole line of shoppers while the cashier rings up all of your discounts. Keep in mind that you will take longer and go during an off-hour if you plan on using many coupons.
7. Not understanding the policies and the fine print
There can be a lot of rules involved with couponing. Store chains have policies that vary even from store to store. Then each coupon has fine print, which contains more rules! Not understanding these rules can hurt you in one of two ways. First, if you think the rules are in your favor, you may be disappointed to find out you cannot use the coupons like you were anticipating. On the other hand, if you don’t use the rules to your advantage, you may be missing out on valuable deals! Make sure you know your favorite chain’s policies and read the fine print on every coupon you plan to use.
8. Lack of organization
A lack of organization can be harmful to your couponing in a couple of ways. Once you spend the time to find the coupons you need, if you don’t have a sound organizational system, you could lose or not use the correct ones. Make sure you note which coupons you have on your shopping list and make a system to ensure that they make it to the store when you go. Disorganization can also be a hamper to your pantry. If you don’t structure your food storage correctly, items may expire in the back. Expired food is always a waste of money! Make sure you rotate the oldest items to the front, so this doesn’t happen to you.
9. Setting expectations too high
When you see tales of extreme couponing, it is easy to start thinking that all of your shopping trips will be game show-esque, with lights flashing, buzzers buzzing, and the store paying YOU after all of your brilliant savings has added up. The truth is a little less exciting. Sometimes you will pay a very low amount for hundred of dollars worth of groceries and toiletries for your stockpile. Other times, you will only get what you need for the week, still at a discount, but nothing in the realm of what you see on TV. Keep your expectations low and focus on the savings you do receive, and you will be less likely to be disappointed.