Thursday, July 8, 2010

Frugality- Hot button Topics of the World of Coupons

Click here for more on couponing.

Sorry this is a little late today, somehow the time on the post got changed to later in the day! 

You realize there is a great deal to be had that isn't listed on your favorite deal site, so you share it in a comment. Next thing you know someone makes you feel like you just committed a serious offense. That's what this entry is about. We'll look at both sides of a few key issues to help you establish your own coupons ethics code.

Taking Peelies off a product that you are not purchasing in that shopping trip
Against- Some say it is stealing as the manufacturer placed them on that product to be used when you buy it.
For- Some say that these are just another manufacturer's coupon that the manufacturer's don't care when you use it as long as you buy their product.
My view- Taking one or two is fine, as the reality is most peelies are placed by third party groups and therefore may place them on only one type of an item (for example recently there was a $1/1 Ritz Cracker Item peelie that at my store was only placed on the cracker chips, but at another store were on the Ritz crackers.) When manufacturer's are serious about a coupon being only for that item the coupon usually says "Coupon must be removed by cashier" or something to that effect. People who take all the peelies though are not cool in my book.

Buying, trading, and selling coupons.
Against- Some feel it is a violation of the fine print on the coupon.
For- Some feel it is a way to gain coupons not found in the paper or larger quantities of coupons they want. They also say they are not selling coupons, but rather charging for "clipping."
My view- I tend to fall more against it. I feel like companies spend a lot of money to print coupons only in certain areas for a reason. However, if a family member or friend offers me coupons that's fine. I also feel that obtaining coupons through sources other than original ups the chance for fraudulent coupons. I don't go out of my way to get coupons I don't have. All of my savings come from printing from two computer's, one newspaper insert, and home mailers, and I do just fine that way.

Buying large amounts of items to get overages.
Against- Some feel it is misuse of the system to do it this way, and often results in a bad taste for coupon users.
For- Some feel there is nothing wrong with it because they're manager lets them.
My view- I'm against it. Buying one or two items to get an overage is fine. Buying 50 to get $100 overage is not fine. I've seen some people buy 50 of an item to get overage to buy everything else on their list. Some of these people claim to donate it, which is great, but this also happens to cause problems with stock at other stores. To me it is also not realistic for others to reach the same savings. These people also often buy coupons from online to do so. Rather than going for the highest percentage of savings I just try to spend under my grocery budget.

Shelf-clearing (essentially the same concept as above)
Against- Save some for the rest of us!
For- If my store cared, they would limit me.
My view- If you are going to buy a lot of something, then order it at customer service. However, unless you have a large family or need a lot of the item there isn't many cases I could see for shelf clearing. Ordering it does help so that other people can get some, but sometimes it also causes a depletion of stock at the warehouse. I also feel like most things go on sale about once a month, so really I don't think there is that great a need.

Taking as many booklets, tearpads, and blinkies as you want
Against- Save some for the rest of us.
For- They are there, so why not!
My view- Only take a couple, and certainly never take the whole stack. Greediness with these items has led a lot of stores to keep them behind the customer service counter and only give you one per visit. And it's definitely not cool to take the whole stack and then sell it online.

Using a coupon not for the item listed (for example a coupon for Tide with Febreeze for regular Tide)
Against- It's coupon fraud
For- It worked when I used it. 
My view- This is called coupon decoding. I think it is complete misuse of a coupon. A lot of coupons work for different items then the one listed because of their coding and how the computer reads them, but it is still misuse of a coupon.  Some deal sites will show these in match-ups, but I don't think they are trying to misuse the coupon, but rather do not know exactly which items are on sale. For example, the ad may say Mueller's pasta, so they list one for Smart Taste, but it turns out not to be in the sale. They listed it because they didn't know not because you can use the coupon.

The best advice is to decide what is right for you and check with your store on things you may be worried about. There is a spectrum of opinion in the coupon world on what is and isn't right. Keep in mind that abusing coupons or coupon policies only ever leads to higher prices, less coupons, and stricter policies.

Come back next week for more frugal tips, as I talk about one of my favorite things: mail in rebates!


  1. As far as taking "too many" coupon books, blinkies, etc. goes, I "adopt" unwanted blinkies (the ones people stuff into the holder on top) because to me it's no different than if the original person took it. However, I think there's a HUGE difference between that and standing by the machine for 20 minutes to get 20 coupons. There's good reason that after 2 or 3 pulls, the machine waits to give out more.

    A good rule for coupon books is one per member of your family per trip. For example, in our family, we have only my husband and myself and we shop once per week, so we get two of a book, tearpad, blinkie, etc. per week so anybody else that wants/needs the coupon source has a whole week to get it before I will get another two, if I need them.

  2. Agreed, it's a pretty good rule to just grab one per member of your family. I usually only grab 2 and if they are still there next time I may grab two more. The only exception was yesterday while we were down at my FIL's house doing our bimonthly mail grab and house care, I decided to go to the Publix there to get diapers and do some blinkie/tearpad/booklet scouting. I grabbed two of this one booklet at the Apron Simple Meals table and the guy there said, "please take more!" I think it's because that Publix is in a very high socioeconomic area and therefore most people don't bother with coupons. I seem to find every tearpad/blinkie/booklet I've heard about there.

    I added my view, so that people know what to expect in terms of coupon advice from me (i.e. I won't be sharing places to buy coupons online or doing a post on how to buy 100 Gas-X so you can get all your groceries for free)