Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What The Fine Print On Your Coupon Really Mean

Today I want to talk about how to read, and decode the fine print on your coupon. Most of us have heard the coupon fraud warnings, stories, and dire predictions if people don't stop stop. Hold on, before we go any farther we'll do a quick definition of coupon fraud. Coupon fraud is simply using your coupons in an illegal way. Okay, but WHAT is an illegal way? Well, we'll get more into coupon fraud in a later post, but essential to NOT committing coupon fraud is properly understanding, and using your coupons.

There is some basic wording that is used coupon, to coupon. Which we'll go ahead and cover now.

  • One Coupon Per Purchase - This ones tricky for a lot of beginner couponers, including myself! It does not mean you can only use 1 coupon for an entire TRANSACTION (keep this difference in mind), it means one coupon per ITEM purchased. Of course, if a store wants to offer store specific coupons, and they allow you stack coupons, then that is allowed. But using 2 Manufacturer coupons on 1 item is not.
  • Only X Amount Like Coupons Per Transaction or Trip - This simply means that you are only allowed to use the # of the SAME coupon they say on the coupon per (depending on the wording) transaction or shopping trip. For example: P&G coupons all say "limit 4 LIKE coupons per shopping trip". This means that I can go to Dillons and buy four Crest toothepaste, four Aussie hair shampoo, and four Old Spice bodywash, and use four coupons for each PRODUCT. Not, four P&G coupons total, just ones that are the same. 
    •  Small side note, some coupons say per trip (entire trip to the store) and some say per transaction (cashiers totals your purchases, and you could possibly have another one entirely to do afterward). Just read carefully, and know the difference.
  • One Coupon Used Per Day - This one is weird to me. Not, per shopping trip, or transaction, or even store (which I've never seen it's just an example) but DAY. How the company could even track that I have NO idea???? How do they know if I used one at Walmart, and then went to Target and used one?? Regardless, that is what it says, so that is what I do. 
    • Even if I do think it's a bit harsh, and silly really!
  • Purchase, Transaction, Trip (Oh My!) - Yes, this treading ground we already covered but it's very important to understand the differences very well. 
    • Purchase means the purchase of the ITEM, as in singular. Two items, two coupons, one per item.
    • Transaction is a single transaction in which the cashier scans all your items, and then totals them up. You could have another one (or more) transactions to do after each one is done. Using those handy dividers on the conveyor belt.
    • Shopping Trip is one trip to the store. I know some couponers consider loading their groceries into their vehicle as one shopping trip and then go back in, but I don't like it. 
  • Expiration Date - Always, always, always pay attention to the expiration date on your coupon! Once it's past that magic day, the coupon is DEAD!
    • Some stores take expired coupons within a certain time frame after they expire (say a week) but it's increasingly rare anymore. Always ask your store, or read their coupon policy closely.
    • Also don't just throw those coupons in the trash. Overseas Military families are able to use coupons for up to 6 months after they expire. You can "adopt" an overseas military base and send your coupons there.
  • This isn't fine print but I'm also going to caution everyone to double check really good deals they read about online. Some people purposely commit coupon fraud, and share that with their readers. Good deals happen (after all that's what we couponer's live for) but double check first.
So, why does any of this matter, if it beeps it's fine right? WRONG! This is important because if we don't use these coupons the right way, the company may not reimburse the store for them. Which means stores will be more resistant to coupons, and make tougher and stricter coupon policies. And really, that just hurts everyone. Pull out your glasses if you need them, and make sure you understand what your coupon is telling you before you step out of the house to shop, and everyone wins! Happy bargain hunting everyone!

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