Although couponing is certainly not rocket science, understanding how to really use coupons to your advantage can take a little bit of time. Not only are there a number of rules dictating which coupons can be combined, what those specific rules actually are tends to vary from store to store. And as well as understanding what coupons you are not allowed to use, there are also many coupons that you simply shouldn’t use. If you are only just starting out your couponing journey, here are seven common mistakes that you should do your best to avoid.
Spending More, Not Less
Without doubt the most common mistake made by those new to couponing is purchasing things that they do not need, or necessarily even want. It's important to remember that manufacturers don't provide coupons out of the goodness of their hearts, they do so in an effort to make consumers purchase things that they otherwise wouldn't.
And when you start purchasing things that you otherwise wouldn't, your couponing hobby can begin to cost you money instead of saving it. Therefore the most important mistake to avoid is impulse purchases based solely upon the fact that you are getting an attractive discount.
Only Looking for Certain Coupons
Although you should not purchase things that you otherwise would not, there is no harm in collecting coupons for such items. The reason for this is that there are many coupons that can be used to get things for free. Such coupons are of course well worth taking advantage of as they can be used to give your family and friends gifts at no expense to you. Many people new to couponing miss out on such offers as they automatically look away from any coupon that is not related to a product that they like.
Failing to Understand Coupon Policies
A beginners mistake to couponing that can often lead to embarrassment is failing to know, or to correctly understand, your favorite stores coupon policies. Although coupon policies are rarely all that complicated, many mistakes are made due to the fact that each individual store has different policies.
Some allow coupon stacking whereas others do not. Some allow coupon overage whereas others do not. Knowing which stores have what policies is not only essential for avoiding embarrassment at the checkout, it's also essential for experiencing maximum savings.
Overestimating How Much Coupons Can Save
Many people start couponing in the hope that they can spend less each week at the supermarket. Doing so is of course very much possible but you cannot expect to start eating for free each week. When you are setting goals in terms of how much you hope to spend at the supermarket in future, it's important to be realistic. Many people new to couponing set unrealistic goals because they overestimate just how much coupons can save them. And as you are likely aware, unrealistic goals rarely lead to anything but disappointment.
Not Realizing When Coupons Can be Stacked
Another common beginners mistake is failing to understand when two coupons can be used on the same product. Although you can never use two store coupons on the same product, most stores do allow consumers to combine both a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on a single product. This is known as stacking and opportunities to do so are more common than you would expect. It is after all perfectly natural for both a store and a manufacturer to be offering a coupon for the same product simultaneously.
Keeping Coupons in a Shoebox
Another sign that somebody is new to couponing is that they keep all of their coupons in a shoebox. Once you start to really build up a collection of coupons, attempting to find the one that you are looking for can become pretty difficult unless you actually keep your collection somewhat organized. While most people use binders, even simple envelopes dividing up your coupons according to their purpose will do the trick. You just can't expect to keep a big box of paper scraps and expect to be able to find a specific one in a hurry.
Letting Valuable Coupons Expire
Finally, a particularly painful mistake made by those new to couponing is to forget about the small matter of expiry dates. Coupons are not the same as hard currency and many times they come complete with expiry dates. Therefore before putting any coupon into your binder, make sure that you check when it’s going to expire. When it comes to couponing, there is nothing more irritating than heading to the grocery store with a valuable coupon only to realize that it has already expired.
Paul Barker works with Gold Buyers, a London based gold buyers' portal that aims to buy gold at the best prices. They work in a similar fashion to the the cash for gold commercials you've seen on TV.