Is Dumpster Diving for coupons a good idea? Legal? Smart?

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Image credit Sandy Yin

I’m hearing more couponers and bloggers suggest dumpster diving as a smart way to get coupons for free. What disturbs me is how casual this suggestion is starting to come off – or how shows like Extreme Couponing have even tried to make this practice normalized, or even savvy.

Yes, I’ll admit it. I approached this post with my own hangups about the idea of rifling through – essentially garbage – to find coupons. But for the sake of objectivity, I asked my pal Sarah to help me do some digging on this topic (all puns intended) to arm you with some helpful information, and not just a rant-y post. My goal today is to take a complicated topic in couponing and approach it from a number of angles.

What I wanted to learn was: is dumpster diving OK to do? Are there any laws that prohibit it? And if there aren’t any laws, what other considerations should couponers have before they climb into a dumpster bin?

Let’s start at the beginning: legality

I should first mention that I’m in the State of Washington, so most of what I have to share today will pertain to information I was able to uncover for my state. I should also probably give you some sort of general blanket disclosure here that I am not an attorney and my degree is in English/Creative Writing (not law). So basically, don’t hold me liable.

Disclosures aside, let me share that the Supreme Court has stated that trash is public domain. What this means is that dumpster divers cannot be charged with theft.

However, here’s where things get interesting. States and cities have some say in imposing their own rules on this topic. For instance, if you live in Missouri City, MO or Layton, OH, dumpster diving is a crime. And don’t forget, that recycling materials…go in receptacles. Which are generally located on private property. Here is an interesting response found on a legal forum:

Generally speaking dumpsters are on private property and you have the same rights to protect your property interests as you would with someone trespassing/ damaging any other portion of your property. If the dumpster is on property owned by the overall store/ complex owner they have a right to protect their property.

In her research, Sarah ended up contacting the City of Tacoma’s Solid Waste Department to get what their take was on all of this. Apparently, they don’t want you doing this. At all. Not only would they consider it trespassing if you’re there after hours, it poses a liability to the City if someone winds up injured.

Bottom line, while rummaging through trash may not be illegal per se, you could be up against a property owner who wishes to enforce no trespassing. (I was able to find an instance where two Colorado dumpster divers were jailed for trespassing back in 2006.) While most would be unlikely to report, it is a risk you run when you do a belly flop into a recycling bin.

You might not be alone in that dumpster

And I’m not talking about rats, either. Did you know that identity thieves often target recycling bins to obtain personally identifying information?

If a private property owner catches you pawing around papers in their recycling bin, they may very well suppose you are up to no good. In this YouTube video, Mr. Frugal (AKA Nathan from recommends diving when no one is around for this very reason. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer not to have to explain myself to an older gentleman who’s threatening to beat me up with his cane. I also would prefer to not to bump heads with criminals like identity thieves.

Additional considerations

Have you considered what the manufacturers might have to say about all this? Respected coupon guru Jill Cataldo recently shared her thoughts:

With dumpster diving being glorified on TLC’s Extreme Couponing as an acceptable method to get more coupons, look for the coupon distributors like Valassis, SmartSource, P&G and others to further clamp down on what happens to the coupon inserts from unsold newspapers. Many newspapers now have contracts in place that the extra inserts must be “destroyed,” not merely recycled.

While it can be easy to suppose no one cares about what happens to the papers after Sunday, the truth is – the manufacturers do care.

So do the newspapers.

Heather at Queen Bee Coupons wrote a most insightful post recently on the ethics involved of trying obtain free inserts – whether through your mail carrier, “connections,” or dumpster diving. Here’s what she had to say:

Maybe some of you have found a nice “connection” who is hooking you up with coupons for FREE. But it puts the paper at risk to be dropped from the coupon insert network. For example, your Cousin Vinny has a hook-up and he’s getting  you 50 FREE Smart Source inserts from your local Daily News each week, you might think it’s no big deal – but if Smart Source found out they’d likely stop putting their inserts in the Daily News, because it’s a violation of their contract with the paper.

With more and more couponers trying to obtain papers by dumpster diving and other practices, we stand a fair chance of seeing limits and restrictions imposed. The more I learn about stuff like this, the more I feel it my job to share it with you. Because if there is something I can do here to make a positive difference for couponers, manufacturers, and stores alike I want to do it!

My Final Thoughts

After lots of research, I’ve come to realize that dumpster diving is a very complex issue. And, quite frankly, it’s one that not all coupon bloggers will see eye to eye on (do a quick search on “how to dumpster dive” and you’ll find no shortage of posts).

Whether or not your state/city/local recycling center/fill in the blank here would permit it, I feel there is case to argue this is not what the manufacturers or newspapers want us to be doing. Given there is a chance it could hurt couponing for everyone, I have to conclude I am not in support of dumpster diving.

Weigh In

Now that I’ve said my bit – I want to hear from you. What do you think of dumpster diving for coupons? Have you done it before? Are there considerations I’ve missed in my post today? Do you agree with my stance, or do you think I’m off my rocker for not diving for Red Plums?

I’m up for a lively discussion. All I ask is that you keep it clean, and respectful. Other that, you are welcome to speak your mind!

85 thoughts on “Is Dumpster Diving for coupons a good idea? Legal? Smart?”

  1. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Go for it!!! – as long as you are not breaking any laws such as trespassing or theft.

    I’d rather see folks dumpster diving for coupons to put food on the table rather than taking my tax dollars via food stamps!

    • The thing is though, a lot of the people on food stamps, will still be using the food stamps…Coupons, do not stop people from using food stamps. I am curious, and don’t know, can you use coupons when you pay with an EBT card? Anyone know?

      • People using EBT are allowed to use coupons on their purchases in Washington State. Happens all the time at work, they won’t be getting off of public assistance, they will just be enhancing their benefits, just like most of us who are working and trying to stretch a buck. I am not in agreement with people diving in dumpsters to save a few pennies when there are plenty of other options available.

        • Robin,

          Are you implying that people who are on EBT should not be allowed to use coupons? Because you know what that persons life is like outside of that store? Because you know their struggles? Are you one who also doesn’t believe people who need help paying for food should not be able to eat clean, healthy food? That they should be eating garbage? I hope you never have to worry about how you’re going to make ends meet every month, because God forbid you ever have to be on assistance.

          • I didn’t get that out of her comment. How I saw it – using coupons means you are able to stretch those benefits farther. A GOOD thing. 😉

            • I think they are just stretching their benefits to go further. Some families don’t get that much. I remember after 9-11 I just had a baby and hubby lost his job. They offered us 60 bucks for a family of 5. If I knew about couponing I might have been able to stretch it and make it work for a few week.

          • My comments about using coupons with EBT had nothing to do with me being against them using coupons to enhance their benefits, I was just making clarification that in Washington people can use coupons with EBT.

            • I work 40 + hours a week and my husband is disabled and can not work, we recieve EBT benefits and it is not enough to feed a family of five so I have went to couponing. I have a subscription to both newspapers in my area and also go each week and buy two of each giving me six inserts, but sometimes it is still not enough I am going to try this dumpster thing once to see how it goes. Thank you for your insite

        • I must say that people with food stamps work, I work full time, I am also a full time student, I have four kids, and I still need the help of food stamps to be able to make it. I went back to school because I do not want to be in this situation anymore but it bothers me when people assume that people that has food stamps are lazy people

          • Let me tell you that I for one do not see it that way! I can only imagine how difficult your situation must be and I want to tell you I think it’s commendable to have to swallow your pride and do what you have to for the sake of your children. Best wishes on your schooling!

            • not everyone on food stamps is a free loader! Too many people on aid have iPhones, fancy cars etc…. give them all a bad name! A degree can get you a better paying job, a second doesn’t lead to a pay raise! It leads to a parent not being able to be at home to take care of their children! Claudina is an inspiration to me (I’m a full time student working towards my B.S. in adult education) Keep up the good work, and the best of luck to you Claudina! P.S. don’t listen to haters such as d she’s just a bitter old gargoyle! LOL

          • Drop out of school, get a second job instead, pay for your own groceries and stop lecturing those of us who figured out a way to be productive on 12 years or less of education.

            Careful, that’s not a safety net, it’s a web.

            • not everyone on food stamps is a free loader! Too many people on aid have iPhones, fancy cars etc…. give them all a bad name! A degree can get you a better paying job, a second doesn’t lead to a pay raise! It leads to a parent not being able to be at home to take care of their children! Claudina is an inspiration to me (I’m a full time student working towards my B.S. in adult education) Keep up the good work, and the best of luck to you Claudina!

      • YES. my daughter used coupons to make her food stamps go farther and she was good at it. everyone on stamps would benifit from couponing as well as tax payers.

      • A little side note, EBT food benefits are good on all cold food items (as far as I can think of), even deli meat & prepared deli food, junk food, fruits & vegies, some diet drinks – even Schwans & Papa Murphy’s (since both are not hot when purchased). The only things I can think of that they can’t be used for are hot energy drinks, alcohol & hot food (like fried chicken or the Chinese food at Safeway). The food/drinks purchased are not taxed (like bottled water or soda). Other than that, EBT food benefits are used as a debit card & treated like cash (for food only though). Like others have shared, coupons are accepted just the same. That means you can still get rewards when you use EBT like Rite Aid Rewards. I often use mine at Costco, and they are counted toward my end of the year 2% cash return, so I have been able to even earn enough case for my membership & a couple tanks of gas. 🙂 It’s a perfect way for people to be able to afford toilet paper, diapers, shampoo, etc, when they wouldn’t otherwise be able to (so please, people, don’t ruin this whole coupon thing by breaking laws & ethics!!!).

  2. I don’t want anyone going through my trash for any reason, ever. If someone entered on to my property to go through my trash (or recycling) they are trespassing and I would call the police. I would expect that most property owners feel the same way. Buying newspapers more than pays for itself in the savings you get from the coupons.

  3. Another aspect that was not discussed is INFECTION CONTROL!! I have a personal experience with this subject. I am a Regestered Nurse, who while serving on USNS Comfort Navy Hospital Ship received my first and only needle stick in 19 years of practice. Part of shipmate life is sorting and separating trash… I was doing this, when I punctured my hand with a dirty needle that I couldnt see. Since we didn’t know the source patient & couldn’t test them for diseases, I chose to receive treatment. I chose to believe that someone was careless; that it was an unintentinal oversight and an unfortunate accident.
    I had to complete 6 months of medication threapy and 2 years of lab studies that were not fun. The multiple side effects of the medication (I wont mention what one was…. though you could probably figue it out if I told you I had to stay within 10 feet of a restroom) was difficult. The emotional suffering of not knowing if I contracted hepatitis, HIV, etc.. was not only difficult at times, but also made me angry. I was angry because this could have been prevented!
    I also worked with a nurse that put her hand in a patients pocket while conducting a personal belongings inventory upon admission to the hospital. She suffered a needle stick from an IV drug user. This too, could have been prevented. The point is, don’t put your body parts where you can’t see them… So many of times, users dump needles in trash bins… Is it worth being exposed to life threatening diseases for a few coupons???

    • I completely agree with you, Victoria. I am also an RN and the risk of needle sticks from dumster diving is not worth it! All it takes is 1 accidental needle stick to contract HIV or hepatitis. I would much rather buy extra papers and not run the risk of majorly shortening my lifespan.

      • Dear RNs,

        Thanks so much for converting me….Along with your post, I also just thought of two words that put a halt to my recycle bin-diving: Bodily fluids!!! Gross! Never again for me!

    • Thank you for sharing this, Victoria! I guess I just assumed the sanitation thing would be a given, and wanted to “dig in” (all puns intended) into some of the less obvious concerns. I appreciate your experience & insight here!!

  4. I’m with my co-worker, Lisa, on this one.

    If a person or family would like to look through recycling bins for coupons instead of signing up for welfare (food stamps, WIC, state medical, and the like) then have at it!

    I am glad folks are resourceful at ways to save money in this hard economy. Again, like Lisa state, as long as no laws are being broke in the process – my hats off to you!

  5. You won’t find me in the dumpster, and I wouldn’t recommend it to others. I have never seen a recycle bin or dumpster on public property, so no matter what you’re trespassing. Just the way I see it.

    • Then call the the church or who ever has the recycling dumpster on their property first. If they say it’s ok then go for it.

  6. Where I live the recycling bins located at the fire stations. I’d consider this public property – that is the public’s tax dollars are funding it.

    • Also…..
      I am curious, why is it referred to as “dumpster diving” when folks do not look for coupons in the garbage dumpster, but rather the recycle bins? Always wondered that.

      • That is a fabulous question, Amberlynn. Do you – or anyone else here – have thoughts for that?

        • I think the term was coined before recycling was an option – back when we just dropped everything into trash cans and dumpsters.

    • Just because property is used for public services, doesn’t mean it’s public property. The land & buildings are owned by either the city, county, or state.

      I mean, no one would dream to walk onto the property that the Governor’s mansion is located on & peek at his/her recycling. 😉

  7. Once again, you and I seem to feel the same way about a topic. Shocking. 🙂

    It’s so interesting to me that you dug a little deeper and got some answers. I have always struggled with the legality of it, so would NEVER recommend that someone does it. There are so many other ways to get coupon inserts and honestly, my family does just fine with two newspaper subscriptions. My friends and I share coupons sometimes or I ask my neighbors.

    Besides, I truthfully think it’s a little gross. I would love to think that people only put the correct recycling in the labeled bins, but I know that’s not the case. I wouldn’t look down on someone for doing it as long as it’s legal, I could just never personally do it. Therefore, I can’t recommend to my readers that they do it. Especially not knowing exactly what they could be getting themselves into.

    Thanks for another great post!

  8. The stores and businesses in my area of Seattle all went to locked dumpsters several years ago after a series of unfortunately confrontational events between competing dumpster divers.

    The two local dailies at the time played this up heavily, and emphasized that there is a grey area of liability for the associated businesses if bad things happen.

    Unfortunately, since this is Seattle, the city government went entirely reactionarily overboard in their solution, and actually banned dumpsters all together in certain areas of the downtown…and required businesses to only put out officially sanctioned plastic heavy duty garbage bags of the appropriate color for either garbage or recyclables.

    This hasn’t worked as the birds and the homeless just split open the bags all over the alleys and streets, creating even more of a problem. As is typical with reactionary government, the pendulum will flop back the other way, and dumpsters will surely return for those businesses.

    In our residential area, our apartment complex of 50 units has a bunch of recycling bins. Being located adjacent to a wooded area of homeless encampments, and with the dumpsters visible from the major transit pathways north and southbound…

    …our unlocked dumpsters are regular gathering places for people sorting through things.

    The police in our area get called regularly, as most of the diving tend to happen around 6:30am to 8:30am, and this conflicts with a majority of residents coming out to their cars to go to work. There have been some really scary confrontations between residents and a wide variety of persons who are, umm, not all there.

    The police advised our apartment managers to install a very expensive multicamera recording video system, brief residents on caring mace, along with thoughts about situational awareness.

    They also were very firm that ANYONE who comes onto the apartment property who is not a resident, or invited by a resident, or a commercial contractor performing a job…

    …are trespassing, and liable for ticketing and potential arrest.

    We’ve had two arrests so far of the divers, and our rate of car break-ins so far this year has dropped dramatically over past springs/summers.

  9. I say–get to know you’re neighbors or local coffee shops- Ask them for some inserts that they have already payed for but are not using.

    I’m surprised how many people have no use for them and they would gladly give them to you.
    I get 2 sunday TNT ‘s because as a subscriber to the Gig Harbor weekly paper we also get a sunday TNT and 2 are more than enough for us.
    The deals will come around again soon enough.

  10. I have a friend that invited me to go diving with her. She knows of a spot where there are mostly just newsapers and says that it is very “clean”. Honestly by the time I read all the blogs I read to keep up on policy changes, sort the papers I buy, clip the coupons, put my list together, and chase around to the stores I am DONE! Having the paper delivered to me makes the $1/paper worth not getting in the dumpster. This discussion made me think of this clip from the show Portlandia enjoy!

  11. One of my facebook friends recently posted a picture of her 4 sons dumpster diving for her, and though they did score quite a truckload of inserts, I couldn’t help but think it was a gross thing to make your kids do. Have you seen those things? They are huge enclosed metal boxes with these holes that you have to climb into to get the sea of papers and other junk people throw in there. My 14 yr old son would be traumatized if I made him do this and I sure as heck am not getting into one of those! 🙂

  12. As a former recipient of assistance and current recycle bin diver, I’d like to weigh in. When my husband got laid off 2.5 years ago, we were pregnant with #3 and then much to our shock and despite our responsible efforts #4 was born a mere 14 mos later. Because our income situation looked like it did (and unfortunately still does), we received a RIDiCuLOuS amount of assistance. I figured out that purchasing food and receiving OYNO catalinas for other household items (diapers, shampoo, dish detergent) was another way to make your tax dollars stretch. Currently, I grab 6 copies of inserts at my local community center. I have permission to do so. Additionally, I go through the recycle bins at the Post Office for Red Plum inserts. I have no moral reservation about this because I am reasonably certain that the individuals would give them to me if I had the time and inclination to stand there and ask them if I could have their inserts if they’re not going to use them. Because of all of this, I didn’t renew my food stamps with the state after the 6 months they made deposits. I still have money left almost 6 months later. When times are better at my house, I look forward to purchasing advance copies of the paper at Dollar Tree and I will likely order the Red Plums online. (Speaking of which, I do wonder how the clipping services get their inserts???). It is a full-time job taking my crew of 4 to the store during the day by myself. I spend more time researching deals and making my lists than I do shopping. I love the lessons I’ve learned about couponing and plan to continue even when our income is greater. With the extra, maybe I can help others in situations like mine.

    • I appreciate you sharing your story too!!! I have wondered about the clipping services myself, and I do know that they are in deep do-do with the CIC and manufacturers, so that can’t be good right?

      While I don’t agree with everything you’ve done here…I must say that what I loved about your story is how you obtained permission. You were forthright! My goal – whether folks agree with me on any of these issues or not – is that they act from their own conscience. Clearly you’ve done that. Bravo! Thank you for taking the time to share your story and I wish you & your family the best.

  13. Well besides the legal issues, the rats, how about the druggies putting their needles wherever they can. Hep B, Hep C and HIV…
    I have to say, no thank you! I will stick to what I can afford to buy!

    • So agree ! Buy what you can afford ! Stock piling is not that great of a idea to me. I believe in keeping 3-4 items on hand but cases after cases just a dust collector. And if you are digging dumpsters to stock pile no good for the dangers you listed.

      • LDS families stockpile one year’s worth of food and supplies. It is actually a pretty smart idea. The goal is to be self-sufficient during tough times such as job loss or inflation or even natural disasters.

        If you ever face unemployment in your family, then you would realize the benefit of having a food storage. It is more wise to life off of your own food storage than to seek help from the tax payers via welfare programs.

  14. I have a P.O. Box and the cans inside are always overflowing with coupons that have been tossed out. It would be worth checking out, i’m not sure if the Post Office even cares if you grab them. As far as jumping in dumpster, I agree not a good idea. At my last job (This was in Auburn, WA) we found out people were sleeping in ours.

  15. I’m baffled that people think that this is ok to do. Just because something was tossed out….DOES NOT MAKE IT YOURS. It is not ok to take something that you didn’t pay for or given to you.

    If you drove by one of those clothing donation bins, would you jump inside & look for clothes for your family? I mean, following the logic “it was tossed out, so it’s ok for me to take it,” then it would be acceptable for any of us to go digging through the clothing donation bins. Clearly that isn’t acceptable (& rightfully so!), so why is it that some think taking coupon inserts that don’t belong to them is ok?

    Truly, I don’t get it. Add in the disgusting, potentially life threatening diseases, & why anyone would put themselves or, God forbid, theif children at risk is beyond me. A free tube of toothpaste isn’t worth trading moral integrity for.

      • Yes, but just because it is deemed “treasure” doesn’t make it YOUR treasure. Do you think it’s ok to pick up someone’s cell phone that fell out of their pocket? Would you climb into a donation bin for free clothing? Would you take food items out of the Food Drive bins located in businesses?

        I don’t understand how the concept of “it’s not mine; therefore I can’t take it without permission” is so hard to grasp. The sense of entitlement is appalling.

        • We are talking about taking trash (coupons), not stealing donations from clothing or food bins. Taking items out of a trash can/recycle bin it not the same as taking items meant for donation. I would consider taking items out of a donation bin stealing, pure and simple.

          • This is the issue; your interpretation may be different than someone else’s….which is why we have laws governing what is allowed & what isn’t. Some people think the clothing that is donated is trash & that’s why they donate it. So who decides what is ok? The laws decide it for us.

            And Angela went to great length to determine the laws & it was proven that at bare minimum, dumpster diving for coupons is breaking the trespassing law. You can rationalize it however you want, but dumpster diving for coupons is illegal because of tresspassing laws.

  16. My husband worked for a manufacture company for 15 yrs. and one night he fell into a machine and became disabled. Well about 4 yrs ago Social Security came along and stopped his check for a “over payment” . Well I had to apply for emergency benefits ( food stamps) we have 3 children. Well I have couponed on and off over the years and I live in Alabama and I had to pay the sales tax on the items I had presented a coupon for. So if public assisted people in AL use coupons they have to put back into the system by paying the sales tax.

    • The sales tax is to fund state and local gocernment. The ebt cards are funded by borrowing money from enemy nations and now quite simply printing money out of thin air. (google quantitative easing). Our children and grandchildren will be the ones paying for our “compasion”

  17. Honestly, I would call the cops on anyone I saw in a dumpster. Buy your newspaper, ask your coworkers, your neighbors, go to the local coffee place and ask for coupons if you cannot see spending the dollar a piece (yes I have the Tacoma News Tribune coupon subscription) and stay out of my recyle coupons are already gone 🙂

  18. A note on “not being alone in the dumpster” – I own a shop in a strip mall, and off and on for years, we have had a homeless man that sleeps in the trash & recycling bins, especially when the weather is bad. Now, our “resident” homeless man is completely safe and it doesn’t bother me at all that he finds refuge there, BUT other homeless men probably aren’t ones that you’d want to run into! Especially if you’re all alone, in a secluded area.

  19. We need to keep in perspective that only 1-3% of all coupons issued are redeemed. a manufacturer knows at every minute of the day how much of its coupons have been redeemed. Not only do they know how much, but where and what store. It is very easy for them to spot problem regions and stores. So if there is a conterfeit for example they usually are snuffed out quickly… But smart manufacturers will send their own investigators before contacting the store. That bar code carries a ton of data. There isnt anyone in the back sorting out all those coupons and sending them back to the manufacturere. This isnt the 1920s. Some of the recent store changes just make sense. Certainly there some overzealous players but we all know that the reality show is fiction and blurs the ethics of journalism. Im surprised TLC can get away without posting a disclaimer maybe they do that some rules are being bent for entertainment. Nonetheless that show wont put coupons out of business.

  20. What would those people do if they fell and broke their arm doing something like that? I manage to find all sorts of people to get my inserts from and have the paper delivered. The extremes that some people are willing to go through just scare me. I am not in their shoes, but I am sure I would do it if that meant my kids got food every day. I just don’t appreciate the way it has been portrayed by TV. The show though is already causing big havoc with the local stores making many recent changes to their policies from the people that go in and wipe a store out and then not leaving enough for everyone else so they can brag to everyone about what a good deal they got on 100 bottles of children’s medicine and they people that can’t afford it now have to go with out something. I think this is another big issue with me, just being fair for everyone else in the community that is trying to give the same things to their own families.

  21. I live in a place that manages a few complex and they are now using chains to lock the trash and recycle tubs up I am sure that this is part of the reason why so I am guessing soon that this will become a huge trend to keep people out of the trash, I love my coupons but really this its gross to dumpster dive. there are so many swapping site for coupons so if you really need something then trade. If you want coupons maybe try being friendly knock on peoples door. To the person that say’s they know a place that has lots of newspapers and is clean maybe she could take a min and knock on the doors of the people and explain why she is there and how much they would help her family if she could come by once a week and pick them up I am sure people would set them out for her. even if she was to offer to help people start using coupons if there are refusing.

    would you want someone going into your trash, maybe someone would say oh looking for coupons and the hole time there taking your info. have respect for the peoples land and propriety.

  22. I have been guilty of pulling inserts out of the recycling dumpster, but only if I could see them when I was dumping my stuff into the dumpster too. The dumpster is on our local fire department’s property – where my husband is an officer – so I haven’t thought twice about it. I would never climb in, or trolled dumpsters for inserts, etc.

    My suggestions for obtaining extra inserts –

    Tell EVERYONE you know that you coupon, and people will start saving them for you. Believe me. My favorite person featured on extreme couponing was an older woman who lived alone, and she asked everyone she knew for coupons, and got her exercise by walking around picking up the coupons. (She also taught people how to coupon in the store, and didn’t buy more than a few of one thing, which is off topic but I thought she was a great example of how couponing should be done).

    Start a “coupon swap” at your local library. Our library has a box of unwanted coupons – I always go through the box and then deposit ones that I won’t be using. Ask them if you can put a box there for that purpose if they don’t have one.

    Go places that people are reading the Sunday paper. I used to visit my husband when he was working at the fire dept’s bingo on Sunday, there would be a lot of inserts left behind or a lot of older ladies that knew I couponed, and didn’t do that themselves.

  23. I have Recycle dived. With permission and while we were going throught times of Coupon theft in our papers.
    The rules given to me were made clear by the property owner and I follow them.
    NO climbing in. No Leaving papers outside the container and no standing on the bottom rail and leaning in!
    If people would STOP stealing inserts out of papers and buy their own, I wouldn’t do it. BUT! as long as people are stealing them out of the papers I am trying to buy. I will continue. Why wouldn’t I? I have permission, I have been given the rules and I’m in plan view (so no transiants can harm me). I’m VERY careful about what I grab!
    Did you know Puyallup – Bonney Lake – Parkland Area didn’t receive SS inserts last week? Apparently SS didn’t want to pay the Tribune to put SS in them. So what’s a couponer to do? I can ask people for inserts sure, but with everyone needing to “save a buck” they’d rather have me show them how to use them “like on that show” lol

  24. I can give you a little info about what I found out about a local person getting whole inserts and who is selling them. I’m in WA.
    This person has made arrangements with a local publisher who gives their papers away for free. This person and this publisher have made arrangements to get them as a “pre-press” and then this person sells them online. This person gets a huge amount, I was told 600 and she asked for more. When I asked for a small amount to help out a local low income get started. I was told they couldn’t because of the amount she was getting. But they did try to talk to this person and she said she couldn’t give any up.
    I find it disgusting and a horrible not just to me and what Iwas trying to do. ut to those who buy form her. Sure she sorts through and packages them up. But do the math! All I can say is “WOW” I want the job she is doing! But to hoard up all the FREE papers and sell them? NOT GOOD! I find her actions greedy and I believe she is the type that is giving coupo0ning a bad name.

    • Well, what she is doing is illegal. This is NOT the sort of business to be getting into, period. There is a chance these operations will be completely shut down within the year and/or face hefty fines. There are so many other legitimate ways to make money – even regarding coupons! For instance, one can easily earn a small income teaching coupon classes.

      For more information please read:

  25. she claims to give calssess But not one has been posted in a VERY long time. If you do the math. She is making 1200.00 a week selling inserts.
    ::: gasp :::

  26. I assume that the recycled materials belong to the company who collects the refuse. If there was a safe place that allowed me to look through their recycled papers, I would be willing to put forth the effort to do so.
    When I volunteered at the local elementary where my children went to school, I had a great relationship with the faculty. I put a large envelope in the faculty lounge telling them that I was trying to stretch my budget by saving money with coupons and asked if they would be willing to bring in their unwanted inserts from the Sunday paper. As a thank-you, I would leave some of my bargains in the lounge with a note saying something like “Thanks for the coupons, here are some things I got for free…help yourself.” My daughter is at another school now, but it was fun to ‘give back’ to those who took the time to bring in the inserts on a Monday morning.

  27. Why not talk to the owner of the recycle bin/dumpster and ask them if you can make arrangements to have them save you coupon inserts for you. Why put yourself in danger or possibly breaking the law when you can communicate with the owner(s)? I get my coupons from friends who do not use coupons. Then in return maybe you can donate or give them something back like TP, soap, or other things that they might use.

  28. It is very simple to just ASK the place where you want to take the stuff out of their bin. When I worked at a restaurant a guy would come along with a pickup and take all the cardboard from the recycle box. We didn’t mind at all, but he did ask first. He had a route and said he made money off it. Well, good for him. The garbage company charges you extra if you need a second dumpster and this guy saved us the trouble. So ask first people.

  29. Angela,
    I love these posts you do that create interesting discussions. I learn so much about coupons, ethics, and people.
    Kudos for your well researched post.
    For the discussion:
    1. I don’t dumpster dive, it is not for me.
    2. I don’t really care if someone else wants to as long as their actions don’t ruin couponing for the rest of us.
    3. I have a problem with the sites that sell coupons and I’m disappointed in the bloggers who promote these services.
    4. I am inspired by EBT users who stretch their dollar with coupons; these savvy shoppers are survivalists!

    • Thanks for your comment, Carolyn! It’s my goal to foster a community here that is able to have healthy, intelligent discussion (and yes, even debate!) without getting nasty. I believe this is how we grow and are challenged. So I’m not in the least concerned if not everyone agrees with me – in fact, I think by having people who DON’T agree with me comment that the conversation really develops into something interesting! On a personal note, I’ve changed my mind on a few issues over the course of this blog and have learned so much from the readers who choose to participate here.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  30. Hey, Pam,

    My home delivered paper in Puyallup had the insert, but I did notice they weren’t in the ones at the stores.

    I think I read a post (was it here, Angela?) explaining that the papers put the inserts in subscriber papers first, which makes sense.

    I was on the fence for a while because many weeks I don’t coupon at all (gasp!) but I’m finally going to take advantage of Angela’s deal with the TNT.

  31. Ang- I never thought twice about dumpster diving if I had to….UNTIL recently when I moved into an apartment that was infested with bedbugs. Many other residents had this issue too and we all had to throw away things in the dumpster with live bed bugs on them. I threw away all my furniture and many possessions. Personally, my opinion of dumpster diving changed. I will never do it. No coupon, no cool book or knick knack is worth the loss/costs associated with getting rid of them.

  32. GREAT post and great comments. I was thinking about it but you have converted me. I will buy all my papers.

  33. Okay, here’s a question for you…If it is wrong to dumpster dive for coupons is it also wrong to get the cardboard boxes out to help in a move? Isn’t that also “stealing” AND “reusing”? We did do this and I asked the people that ran the place and they said, “Please take them!” I haven’t dumpster dived for coupons, however, know several people how have and haven’t thought much of it until I read your post on what SmartSource and RedPlum had to say about it so I do believe it is different, but to say taking things from a dumpster is stealing is pushing it in my opinion especially if the item is being reused.

    • I truly believe the key is permission. Know who owns the recycle bin. In my town the recycle bins are owned by the Mission, and they make money off of them to help the homeless. My guess is they want to make money and wouldn’t give permission. If this is not the case in your town, great. I will say if I add papers of my own to the recycle box and take a few inserts, I wouldn’t feel bad. I am replacing what I took- it is all paper, and they will make the same money off of it. This may not be what manufacturers intend, but they also don’t intend for people to get them at coffee shops.

  34. Omg…really…some of you..not all of you sound so stuck up like you are better than everyone else!you should take a serious look at yourselves in the mirror..yes..some people (alot) of people take advantage of the system but there are also many families in desperate need for help and peopleike you make them feel ashamed for asking for help.and I saw where someone said she commended a lady for dropping her “pride” to accept ebt to do what she needed to help her family!!!!WOW! Really??!!…I just want to say what
    She should have said..said. You sound like a hard working great mom who is doing the best she can..there is NO shame in recieving help and it doesnt mean your “dropping” pride doing so..your HOLDING YOUR FAMILY IN TACT THERES NO LOSS OF PRIDE IN THAT JUST A tell anyone who sounds a snotty as these women to go **** themselves and there husband or daddys wallets:)

    should have been said to the lady she was speaking to…”you didnt have to lower your “pride”

    • But lowering ones pride is the specific political intention of government handouts. Getting the rugged individual to give up their ambition and turn it over to a nanny state in exchange for a vote is specifically the point of such programs.

  35. While your reaching into that dumpster, keep an eye out for magazines. Your local used book store will buy them for cold hard cash.

  36. First of all, IT IS IN THE GARBAGE CAN!!!! Which means who ever had it in the first place no longer wants it. If someone can put it to use… more power to them!
    Second, Stop all the bickering… if you are against dumpster diving/people on food stamps/etc… than be thankful you don’t have to resort to those options.

  37. Hi,I was very curious about dumpster diving wondering was it legal or not, me personally was never going to do but in fact have someone do it for me. I was even to the point of paying someone to do it for me. But I think that I have a change of heart about it. Paying a few dollars on newspapers and magazines is okay I guess. Besides what’s a few dollars a week. It’s only just me and my husband anyway.

  38. In fact no matter if someone doesn’t know then its up to other users that they will help, so here it takes place.

  39. My husband overpays in child support and until he can put in for vacation days to drive 4 hours there and file a motion and come back for court to get it decreased, we’re using our $96 in food stamps with coupons. Right now, I’m averaging about $250 out of that $96.

    And we weren’t on the system until the system tried to rob him blind for women who don’t work or pay bills! We pay a mortgage, taxes, insurance, health insurance and for our own 3 children as well.

    Not everyone who can or does receive EBT is a freeloader. Some are hardworking invidivuals that pay to live like everyone else. Some like us, are getting the short end of the stick because we’re paying FOR the freeloaders.

  40. It is not illegal to take garbage out of dumpsters, however “recycle” bins (dumpsters) are not garbage dumpsters and they are owned or rented by companies who make a profit off of their contents and taking those profits out without permission is in fact theft! There is huge debate about whether it is an arrestable offense or just a ticket able offense but it is in fact against the law and they do not have to say “keep out” or “private property” on them. They are not garbage dumpsters. So dumpster dive in garbage dumpsters with out risk but “recycle” dumpsters can get you into trouble! A local woman was just fined $500 for “steeling” from a church out of their green and yellow “recycle” dumpster!

  41. Another idea to get coupons from others is to place a wanted ad on Craigslist. I have seen many of those. But then I’ve also seen ads selling items someone obviously got free with coupons, register rewards, etc. I find that aggravating, especially since those items are usually out of stock when I shop for the bargains. Lol. If you want to get outraged, just search on ebay for coupon inserts. You will find multiple listings, selling enormous stacks of newspaper inserts! And they are purchased regularly. Undoubtedly a few have figured out a way to cabbage onto those from the likes of the local newspaper boy or convenience store clerk. 🙂

    I have never “dived” into a dumpster, and hope I never HAVE to. It was bad enough when I once had to meticulously search through a bag of garbage here at home, trying to find a paring knife (from a treasured set) that we lost. Playtex rubber gloves to my elbows, a heavy-duty dust mask covering my nose and mouth, and protective eyewear. LOL And I never did find the darned knife! Grrr!

    That being said, I am an avid recycler and I have been known to take coupon inserts I spotted on top of the pile when recycling my household paper at the local center. I also pulled out a grocery bag full of clean newspapers and donated them to the local thrift store to use when packing fragile items for customers. They are always needing paper and boxes for that purpose.

    I use coupons and recycle as much as possible. It drives me crazy to see a business dumpster overflowing with cardboard boxes and packing items like styrofoam, plastic and bubble wrap that SHOULD be recycled instead of going to landfills, and could be re-used. Really, how hard is it to just take a few minutes to separate those items from trash and recycle?

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