FAQ: How are you using so many coupons?

Today is the last day in a mini series I’ve simply called “FAQs” because, well – they are FAQs I get in my inbox! I’m hoping that if you’ve asked one of these questions you now have some clarity.

In case you missed the previous ones:

Today’s question is one I get from people that are either on the fence about couponing, or skeptical all together: how are you using so many coupons? This question is sometimes followed with: how do stores let you get away with this? (Implication: I’m pulling a fast one.)

It’s time to set the record straight on this.

I’m not a thief, I’m a couponer.

First, please understand that I don’t practice or teach people to steal. Couponers are just smart shoppers. If you’re still not convinced, consider:

  • Manufacturers put out coupons as incentives.
  • Stores run sales to get people in stores.
  • On a personal note, I’ve been in communication with just about every store in our area including Fred Meyer, WinCo, Albertsons, Safeway, and Rite Aid. These people know who I am, and read my site. In most instances, they initially reached out to me.
  • I’ve clarified coupon policy issues with many of the stores above and in some instances, recommended policy changes. I believe in direct, open communication with stores.

Shoplifting is wrong. Using coupons incorrectly is wrong. This site teaches you to do neither.

Using Coupons the Correct Way

When people watch certain TV shows, or hey, maybe just see a couponer approach check out with a fist of coupons, it’s possible to make assumptions about what’s happening.

First, let me illustrate what’s not happening:

You are not using multiple manufacturer coupons against the purchase of a single item. (Couponers, again, this is why I feel the B1G1 and cents-off stacking is very questionable.)

Here is what is happening:

Couponers stock up on their shopping trips by using many coupons, yes, but note it’s ONE COUPON PER ITEM PURCHASED. Some people may get confused thinking that it’s one coupon per your entire trip, but that is not the case. The fine print is telling you that you can only use one coupon per item you buy! So you can buy 5 tubs of frosting as pictured with 5 identical coupons. They are appropriately matched as pictured.

A couple quick caveats.

  1. Some stores or coupons may indicate a limit of how many like items you can buy. For instance, Rite Aid’s coupon policy allows no more than 4 like coupons in a single shopping trip. Fred Meyer recently imposed a similar limit. And P&G (Procter & Gamble) coupons limit you to no more than 4 like coupons. However, you could use additional coupons in the same shopping trip. Do read the fine print!
  2. You can stack a store and manufacturer coupon. Most stores (including Fred Meyer, Safeway, Albertsons, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Target) permit the stacking of a manufacturer and store coupon. In this case, it’s very much like using the manufacturer coupon on a store sale. (For more information on the difference between these two groups of coupons and how this stacking works, see my post on stacking coupons.)
  3. Some couponers may act unethically. Are there ways to fudge things? As with just about anything else in life, yes, there are. However, I believe the overwhelming majority of people that use coupons do so wanting to play by the rules.

Why Would You Shop this way?

Simple.

A couponer stocks up when prices are low to avoid paying full price. 

Stocking up involves buying items your family needs and uses and in quantities you can reasonably store and use up before expiration dates. (You might want to watch my short YouTube video on how to stockpile.)

That’s why couponers collect multiple copies of the Sunday Newspaper! (Such as this fabulous Tacoma News Tribune subscription deal.) More similar coupons = more chances to stock up.

Are you a bit closer to getting off the fence and learning how to do this? I hope so! I recommend my Getting Started page for more.

I hope I’ve answered some of your questions with this series! If not, feel free to shoot me an email at angela @ thecouponproject dot com.

PS a huge thank you to Michelle for letting me use images from her presentation! I thought they perfectly illustrate how to use coupons and I asked her if I could use them. ;)


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