Couponing for Beginners: Challenges in Couponing

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I can’t remember when I first tried to dip my hands in the couponing world.

Well, let me rephrase that. I can’t remember when the first time I took couponing seriously.

You may be wondering why I decided to create a post on the challenges in couponing when there are number of posts out there touting its wonders.

I know couponing has a glorified status especially for people who want to save a ton of money. But the reality is, couponing is not easy and it takes time to master.

I can say that I am really good with couponing as I can get a lot of products for free. I don’t quite often do it because it’s time consuming and it’s almost a full-time job.

The truth is it can also be a total waste of time (at times).

Just the other day, my wife decided to try couponing. I decided to let her do it all by herself from clipping coupons to price-matching.

I have to say that her couponing experience was kinda sorta a disaster. You will be like “What a bad husband?”.

You are definitely right. I wish I helped her so she didn’t have to feel frustrated.

But before I go deeper into the challenges in couponing, I would like to start by defining what a coupon is and a couponer.

What is a coupon?

Coupon is a discount that can be used to reduce the price of products. In a more formalized definition, a coupon is a ticket that can be redeemed for a discount or a rebate when a product is purchased.

Coupons can be found online and in newspapers. I particularly like and I always use SavingStar and the coupon database I have in my blog.

Last year, I saved more than $3,000 using the coupons I got from SavingStar.

What’s better is that it provides valuable information on grocery shopping, cooking, healthy eating, coupon clipping, saving money,  and more. I find a lot of coupons here that I don’t find in other sites like Coupons.com.

What is a couponer?

A couponer is simply the person who uses the coupon to get product discounts.

Now that you know what these two terms are, we can now go to the meat of this post.

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Couponing for Beginners

For people who are thrifty or who want to be thrifty, couponing really works. Having said that, there are challenges in couponing that you need to know.

The more you know about these challenges, the more you can better prepare yourself with the ups and downs that come with couponing.

 

1. Reading the coupons.

Couponing for beginners dilemma#1: Reading the coupons.

When you want coupons, you either get them from RedPlum, Smart Source, P&G, or coupons.com.

I know the feeling of getting excited when you see the coupons for the products you want to buy. Yehey! You went to the stores, bought the products, and used your coupons.

Unfortunately, your coupons didn’t work.

Now, the question is, did you read the fine print or the inclusion and exclusions for the coupons? A lot of times, newbies in couponing tend to be visual.

This means that when they see the images on the coupons, they think those products are what the coupons are for. The answers are yes and no.

This is what happened to me when I first started. This is also what happened to my wife the other day.

Coupons are like contracts. They have certain limitations and exclusions that you and the stores need to follow to make the coupons work. If you use the coupons for something that they are not intended to be used for, then, they will be unusable.

Couponing for Beginners' lesson learned: Check the fine print. You’ll save time and headache when trying to buy the products using the coupons you have.


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2. Using coupons like they’re applicable to all stores.

Couponing for beginners dilemma#2: Using coupons like they applicable to all stores.

So you’ve got a ton of coupons with you. You go to the stores, purchase the products you have coupons for, use your coupons, and pay your bill.

Unfortunately, the store only stacks a few at a given time. So, you went to a different store and go through the same process. Unfortunately, the cashier doesn’t allow you to use all your coupons.

It’s not uncommon to see these situations happen. Just because you get to use a lot of coupons in one store doesn’t mean you can use a lot of coupons in a different store.

I’m not talking about two different Walmarts. I am talking about one Walmart and one Harris Teeter, just for example.

Your coupons may be valid but stores have coupon policy in place.

Some stores will let you use all coupons, some will ask you to use them in batches of transactions, among others.

Couponing for Beginners' lesson learned: Before you shop or get upset when you cannot use all your coupons, always take time to read the store’s policy.

It is in your best interest to read it first before making any transactions involving the use of coupons.

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3. Filtering the junk coupons. 

Couponing for beginners dilemma#3: Filtering the junk coupons

Companies use coupons to market their products.

They use these coupons as ways to entice you to buy the product that you think you really need and will save you money.

The truth is most of the products that have coupons for tend to be the ones you don’t need. They are products that you want or will want because of the enormous discounts as stated in the coupons.

I consider filtering out junk coupons as one of the challenges in couponing in that you have to look through a ton of coupons to find what you really need.

Chances are you will come across with some coupons for products that you don’t really need but you think you need them because of the potential savings.

For me, successful use of coupons is more than just clipping and using them. It takes skills to filter through the junk coupons to find what you need.

Couponing for Beginners' lesson learned: Before opening the coupon inserts or going to coupon sites, determine what products you really need to buy.

Stick with them.

If you ever find coupons that will help you get the products for free even though you don’t need them, still get them. You can always donate the products to churches and other charitable organizations.


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4. Thinking you know how couponing works. 

Couponing for beginners dilemma#4: Thinking you know how couponing works

I used to watch TLC’s Extreme Couponing. That’s where I got my idea to use coupons like crazy. I don’t know if it’s still on air or not just because I have not had cable for at least 4 years.

If you have been watching this show, you probably have gotten an idea on how couponing works.

That’s good. But the truth is it looks easy the way these couponers do. You think you know the ins and outs of couponing because you learned a lot from them.

If it’s your first time or you are just starting with couponing, chances are you will make big mistakes even though you feel confident in what you are doing.

This is where my wife made some mistakes. Although she didn’t watch the show, she has seen me work my couponing magic.

It’s my fault that I didn’t orient her or give her tips and tricks on better couponing strategies.  This is also the reason that she got upset when we went to the grocery store and many of the coupons didn’t work.

She did nail the preparation and thought she would do the same with the execution but it didn’t.

Couponing for Beginners' lesson learned: Don’t beat up yourself when you make a bunch of mistakes once you get to the register. This is perfectly fine and common.

Learn from your mistakes and be better at what you do so you don’t have to undergo the same experience the next time you shop.

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5. Assuming prices are the same for all locations. 

Couponing for beginners dilemma#5: Assuming prices are the same for all locations.

Before I go to the stores to buy the products I have coupons for, I always look at websites to see the final prices of the products. I love going to KCL, RichLivingWithCoupons, TargetDeals, just to name a few.

I made a mistake of not telling my wife to use the websites’ information as a gauge of the prices.

Remember, same stores may have different prices for the same products. In addition, stores have different prices and selections for clearance items.

This is the reason I say that couponers especially newbies need to use website information as a gauge. Chances are prices and selections will be different from one store to another.

Couponing for Beginners' lesson learned: If you look at coupon sites and see the products are on deep discounts once coupons are applied, do not always assume that you will end up paying the same cost as what you see there.

There is a chance that you’ll either pay more or less or exactly the same.


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Final thoughts:

These are the challenges in couponing. If only I had told my wife all about these before she put time and effort in her first couponing experience, she probably would not have gone through such frustration.

But anyways, the challenges in couponing are really common especially for those who are just starting out. As a fact, even the experienced couponers will sometimes experience these challenges.

What’s your first experience in couponing like? Are you still couponing? What have you learned from your couponing experience?

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