Coupon Policies Are Not Always Enforced

Have you ever looked at store coupons and seen rules and stipulations a mile long, and said “Forget it” to the whole thing?

Not so fast!

At least if you’re shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

We’ve had a couple instances of very good luck using coupons that, according to the rules on various coupons, shouldn’t have worked.

Two Bikes

Last year, my wife was in the market for a new bike.  I think this was prompted by the fact that my sister-in-law had just got a new bike, and while usable, the aqua green 10-speed from the 1990’s just wasn’t alluring.  We do quite a bit of bike riding during camping trips, so she used birthday money to get her bike.

My sister-in-law actually came up with the suggestion to try to use our Entertainment Book coupon, where Dick’s has a few entries.  I looked at the coupon and it had some brand exclusions, one of which was the bike my wife wanted.  I asked my sister-in-law and she said that they took hers without a problem, even though she bought a bike from the same manufacturer.

Sure enough, when I went to the store to pick up the bike, they took it without so much as a second glance.

We saved $15!

Two Canopies

Last year when we had my daughter’s first birthday party, we borrowed a couple of 10×10 canopies from my aunt and uncle.  They worked great.  So much that we thought it would be a good investment to buy a couple for ourselves.  We knew we’d have parties and gatherings at various points, plus we also figured it’d be good to take one on camping trips, as it could be good to add covered space in addition to the awning on the camper.

They typically retail for $100, but we saw one for $80 and were thinking about getting at least one.

Then, my wife hit the jackpot.  There was a coupon in the Sunday insert that allowed you to buy one for $50.  That’s half off!  We asked my parents for their coupon, and went in with the age old strategy of deciding to buy one each, since the coupon clearly stated ‘One per customer’.

Then, I remembered what store I was working with.  I looked in this year’s Entertainment Book and saw that they had two coupons that we might be able to work with.  One was $10 off $50 and the other was $20 off $100.

I looked at the coupon and it also said ‘Cannot be combined with other offers’ but what harm did it hurt to try, right?

We took all the coupons with us, and walked up to the register.  Our first option was to use the $20 off $100 coupon, so I asked if we could put both on the same order and use two coupons.

“Let me check,” the cashier said.  She scanned both items in, scanned one of the coupons…and both of the items immediately went to $50.  So, they don’t even program their computers to match the written policy.

We then asked if we could use the coupon from the Entertainment book.  She looked at it, scanned it, entered the value, and we got an extra $20 off.

All told, with tax, we paid slightly over $84 for two canopies.

Earlier in the week, we had been prepared to go get one for a sale price of $80.

So, even with what we were prepared to pay, we got two for the price of one!

Just goes to show that the fine print which is written on coupon policies might not always be enforced, so next time you think about tossing that coupon, think about giving it a shot.  You might be surprised.

Readers, have you ever had luck using coupons that you didn’t think you would be able to?  What deals did you score?

4 Ways For Beginners To Save With Coupons

There are many different ways to save on coupons.  Many people argue that coupons aren’t worth the time it takes to collect and use them.  Others say that coupons actually make people spend more because they use the coupon as an excuse to buy something that they wouldn’t.

I think coupons are great and that they can be used quickly and in ways that save you money.

Here are a few effective ways to use coupons:

  1. Clip them from the Sunday paper – If you get the paper, look through the coupons.  You’d be surprised to see what’s in there.  Chances are, you’ll find something that you were planning on buying during your next trip to the store.
  2. Look online – and are great sources for grocery and home care coupons.  If you don’t get the paper, this is a great way to save.  All you need is access to a printer.
  3. Look before you check-out online – If you shop online, there’s a pretty good chance that you can find a coupon for your purchase.  Say you’re buying something from Gap.  Add your items to your cart, but before you check out, do a Google search for “Gap coupon code” and you could find a code that will save you a percentage off or free shipping, all for typing in a few characters!
  4. Keep it simple – Saving money with coupons doesn’t have to be a hard process or involve lugging around a bunch of coupons.  Start with just a couple of coupons here and there, and soon you’ll find that saving money doesn’t have to be complicated or take a lot of time.

What are your favorite coupon strategies?  Have you ever passed up a coupon because it was just too much trouble?

Cut ALL Your Coupons With Scissors

Jill Cataldois a coupon expert who provides great resources with anything and everything couponing.

In this article, she talks about ‘gang cutting’ coupons, which was prominently featured in the TLC Extreme Couponing episode that I watched, which basically involves cutting multiple copies of the same coupon at once, with scissors, a paper cutter, or some other device.

Read Jill’s article to find out why that’s not allowed, and why if it continues, it could hurt everybody who does use coupons (including most of us who use them properly), including the stores.

I also loved the story in the middle about ‘Breen Laundry Detergent’.  Does anybody remember this product from back in the 1970’s.  Probably not, but you’ll have to read the article to find out why.

Have a great weekend and Happy Easter!

Extreme Couponing (aka Unleash The Inner Crazy)

My wife clued me into Monday night’s showing of ‘Extreme Couponing’ on TLC.  For those who might not have caught the buzz, each 30-minute episode features two stories of individuals (or families) who save outrageous amounts of money at the grocery store by use of coupons.

My wife and I both watched it, and while the savings by each of the two women featured in the first episode was impressive (98% off their bill in one case), the show didn’t inspire us to start following any of the trends in the episode.

In fact, I walked away feeling more annoyed than anything else.

First, we do use coupons.  My wife goes through the Sunday paper inserts every week.  I print out coupons from various websites, and we use a local site called Bargains to Bounty to match coupons with sales to yield even better savings.  We don’t come close to 98% savings for any week, but we do save some good money.

Now, onto why the presentation of these ‘extreme’ couponers annoyed me:

  • The time factor – One woman spent over five hours in the grocery store.  Another said that she does four shopping trips per week and spends four hours per trip planning.  That’s an awful lot of time to commit to shopping.
  • The processed factor – So much of the food that they showed them loading up on was processed foods.  Now, we’re not perfect by any means when it comes to processed food, but I simply don’t see how you can get $500+ worth of groceries for $6 and walk away with any fresh fruits or vegetables.
  • The gross factor – One deal saw a lady buying package after package of hot dogs. My wife saw the type they were and said ‘Eww, those are disgusting.’  Hot dogs that start off at $1.39 a package to begin with, well I don’t care how cheap you can get them for.  No thanks!
  • The ‘junk’ factor – One of TLC’s more popular shows was right after ‘Extreme Couponing’ and I don’t think it was an accident.  I get the feeling that, with all the clutter that these people accumulate, some of the people featured on this show will soon be featured on ‘Hoarders’.
  • The intensity factor – Apparently, to coupon to these extremes, you  have to be a very intense person.  At least the ladies all were that I saw.  Their intensity was a little unsettling, not to mention that one lady kept referring to her family as a ‘litter’.
  • The ‘throwaway’ factor – Even taking into account a large number of children, I just don’t see how you buy 40+ boxes of cereal, 27 bottles of mustard, or similar quantities of anything without having stuff go bad.  If you’re getting things that you can and will use, that’s fine, but if you’re getting things just for the sake of getting them, I don’t see the point.  I simply refuse to believe that all the people they show are going to use everything that they buy.

I recommend coupons.  But, I don’t recommend using this show as a guideline for those who might want to get more involved with clipping coupons.  Most people aren’t going to be able to approach the savings that these people do (and most people don’t have the house to store all this stuff without it ruling their life), but the way I look at it is that saving anything is better than saving nothing, especially if it’s a product that you’re planning on buying anyways.

What did you think about the show?

This is a show that was interesting for awhile, but that I quickly found myself unable to watch, and I certainly don’t think I would watch every day.

Shopping Tip: A Legal Way To Get Around Costco Coupon Limits

I’ve posted in the past about Costco coupons, and how they track and combat people trying to skirt the limits that they impose on their monthly coupons.  Many products have a quantity limit, usually the better the deal, the lower the limit you can buy at the discounted price.

One thing I’ve found is that there’s a completely legal way to get around this policy and take advantage of the savings: Call on your friends and family for help.

Since Costco tracks purchases on your account, you can’t simply exchange coupons.  Instead, if you want extra coupon savings, you have to call on those you know to purchase items for you, then collect the items and pay them back.

This assumes, of course, that the person you’re exchanging with would have no need for the coupons themselves, and there’s always the matter of having to go through the hassle of exchanging the product and the money, but sometimes the deals are so good, it’s worth it.

And the best part is that Costco can’t punish you for exceeding your coupon limit, because they never know!

My parents drink Taster’s Choice instant coffee.  We never do, so whenever the coupon comes around, we usually purchase it for them and then exchange the money and coffee when we see them (which is regularly).

We’ve also done this exchange with my parents getting stuff for us, as well as a recipricol exchange with our in-laws.  In the end, this has helped us all save a great deal of money.

Many products have such a high limit that this doesn’t come into play, but on those items where the limit is one or two, and you can benefit from saving more, doing such an exchange can be a very saving savvy move.

Are Internet Coupons The Future Or On Their Way Out?

A local supermarket chain (and I use that term loosely since they only have a few stores) recently instituted a policy that they will no longer accept coupons from the Internet.  This means coupons from,, or other sites that offer legitimate manufacturers coupons will no longer be accepted.

I’ve heard for a long time that Internet coupons will eventually take more and more market share from the traditional Sunday paper inserts.

Our household uses both.  We clip coupons, and I also go onto the coupon sites once a week and print out offers from there.  We print all of our coupons from one computer so we don’t game the system by over-printing or copying coupons.

This, apparently, was what led the grocery store chain in question to prohibit these coupons, as they said some customers were using them in ways that they shouldn’t, so they decided to stop accepting them altogether.

Only one time have we ever had a problem with Internet coupons.  At a Meijer store, a rather difficult cashier wouldn’t accept one of the coupons, claiming it was a fraud.  This was odd because she accepted other printed coupons in the same order.  A manager later apologized after we complained.  Other than that, we’ve had no problems.  But this concerns me a bit.

Just a bit, though, for now.

The chain in question has never been one of my favorites.  As I said before, they only have a few stores so their influence is not all that great.  I’ve never been impressed with their stores, layout, or pricing, but apparently they do well enough to stay in business for decades.

Still, when you see something like this, you wonder if they’re bucking the trend or if other stores will take notice.

Personally, I think internet coupons are great, but I can see where stores or manufacturers might get burned if customers start using them improperly.

Have any of you used Internet coupons regularly?  Have you had any times where they’ve not been accepted or heard of policies where they might not be accepted?  I’m curious what experiences others have had.