Not surprisingly, coupon use has skyrocketed since the economy plummeted due to the recession. In 2010, Americans redeemed 3.3 billion packaged goods coupons, saving the equivalent of $86.40 per hour spent clipping coupons. If you could use an extra $80 or more in your purse, make sure you avoid these seven coupon mistakes.

1. Not Sending in Rebates. Store rebates are easy cost-cutting measures you may miss out on for various reasons. For instance, you may lose the coupon, forget to submit it before it expires, or lose a receipt that is mandatory with your submission. A good rule of thumb is to send in the rebate coupon with your receipt as soon as you get home. Make sure you follow the directions for submission exactly, and keep a copy of your receipt and the rebate form.

2. Passing by In-store Coupons. Chances are you’ve walked by many coupons hanging in the aisles of your supermarket, pharmacy or other stores. Next time you’re out shopping, don’t just look at the products, keep your eyes peeled for coupons hanging near shelves that offer savings on items ranging from breakfast foods to desserts to personal hygiene products.

3. Not Asking for Rain Checks. When a store runs out of an item for which you have a coupon, you can usually ask for a rain check, which is a ticket or stub you can use to get the product at the same discounted price at a later date. Don’t be in too much of a hurry or too proud to ask for yours. Once you get it, put it in a safe place in your wallet.

4. Not Understanding the Terms. Besides the expiration date, some coupons come with additional terms beyond those regarding the product. For instance, some coupons may not allow you to get additional discounts on a product which the store has on sale. In such a case, do some quick math to figure out if it’s worthwhile to go ahead and buy the product on sale or wait until it’s back at its regular price and use the coupon.

5. Being Afraid of Online Coupons. There may be some cases where a coupon can only be used online, and you may worry about the safety of shopping on the Internet. To ease your fears and become a savvy 21st century shopper, search out only reputable sites and check their shipping and return policy. Also, make sure the site has a Secure Sockets Layer (or SSL) certificate, which means the site protects its customers’ identities and transactions. It should process sales only through a secure server, which starts with “https” as opposed to just “http.”

6. Tossing out Coupon Books. Don’t mistake coupon books sent through the post as junk mail. Throwing these out without so much as checking out the offers is tantamount to throwing your money out the window. It only takes a few minutes to glance through the offerings, but the savings can be huge.

7. Not Contacting Companies Directly. If you have a favorite product you use over and over, contact the company and ask to be put on their mailing list for coupons and other promotions. The companies appreciate your loyalty and understand that repeat buyers are their bread and butter. You can find their contact information on the product labels, or you contact them through their websites.

This has been a guest post by Andrea from Ontario, Canada
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53 thoughts on “Extreme Couponing: Seven Costly Coupon Mistakes”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I do the exact same as you! After being burned at the checkout numerous times by coupons not being rung through, I started handing them to the cashier one at a time to make sure that they go through. I also count up the amount in coupon savings before I hand my coupons and subtract that from the total. This is my double check that all coupons have gone through.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I use a paper cutter to clip multiple coupon inserts at a time. My most costly couponing mistake was accidently cutting off expiration date lines and not being aware that it had happened until shopping – YIKES! A coupon is worthless without an expiration date. The paper cutter saves so much time though. My advise is to double-check expiration dates and bar codes on each coupon before moving on. Finding a missing piece is so much easier that way.

    • That’s the same thing I do (and I, too have cut off expiration dates) – using the paper cutter saves so much time!! I definitely suggest getting one.

      • Anonymous says:

        I had suggested people use the 40% off Hobby Lobby coupons to purchase one. You can also pick up the blades cheap this way too.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I do the same thing. You’re safe to ring them up individually.

  4. Anonymous says:

    One of my biggest mistakes are not asking for more high-value, and 2013-expiration date coupons from my Optometrist and Dentist. My Dentist has some pretty high value Listerine and Reach coupons, and my Optometrist has some pretty good Refresh/Systane/Opti-Free coupons for contact lens users!

  5. Help needed please, I’m new at couponing I have my COUPONBINDER that I am very happy about ( : } thanks KCL,but what does everyone use to carry it in? yes it was zipper but I would love info.@ what other kcl use such as cute tote or bag & where should I look for one at? The coupon clutch is really nice,but I don’t have extra money to buy one.If anyone has DIY info that would be great. thanks for any&all help. God bless you.

    • Anonymous says:

      You can go to a dollar store, or DAISO. I bought 2 tote bag @ DAISO for $1.50 each. After more than a year of couponing, I’m still using it. The other bag, I used it as my recycle bag instead of the plastic bag. Just make sure to choose the one with a thicker & stronger texture, and make sure to double stitch the lining especially the handle part to make it stronger. I have a 3inch binder with game card holder & 3-pocket photo holder as well, but still, my coupon bag is still on-the-go =)

    • Anonymous says:

      Consider purchasing a “green” bag from your local grocery store. My 5″ binder fits fine. It’s not fancy but it’s practical.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have only recently begun to contact companies directly and started doing that after joining KCL.

    Often when I access a product’s website there is an option to signup for their newsletter and future promotions. I am already getting emails from these companie but they don’t always have coupons but at least I am in their network. It is worth the time to sign up for the email newsletters.

    My latest effort at securing coupons for a favorite product has already been successful and I only contacted the company- Plumrose- 2 days ago. Plumrose does not have a list of customers who will be sent coupons periodically but if you contact them at consumer@plumroseusa.com and comment on products and request coupons (provide your mailing address) you will be sent what you have requested. Don’t know how long that will take. By the way, the Plumrose fully cooked baby back ribs is good. My local Tom Thumb currently has them on sale for $5 each (1# package) but after this initial promo ends the price will jump up to $10.99.

  7. Randi Spurling O'Keefe says:

    A costly mistake I always make is being too chicken to go back to the cashier when I noticed that one or two of my coupons didn’t scan. I have missed out on up to $5, but usually $1-$2 because I was worried that if I made a point of making sure I got credit for the missing coupons, the store would think couponers were a pain in the neck. Plus I hate holding up the shoppers behind me while the cashier goes through every purchase I made to match up which coupon is missing. I have even watched while the cashier scans every coupon, only to find one or two missing on the receipt.

    • Anonymous says:

      That happens to me all the time,too, so now I hand over the coupons one at a time and make sure it’s scanned and I also alternate the dollar amounts of the coupons when I hand it to the cashier. It’s usually when I have multiples of the same coupon that those get missed. And when this happens, it can totally ruin the entire shopping trip.

  8. Anonymous says:

    My single biggest mistake as a newbie coupon was not knowing that if you bought every “FREE” item, then you’d spend a LOT of money. Many things are LIKE FREE in that you will take money out of your account that you can’t put back. Sure you get Rewards Bucks, but certainly not cash. Rolling Rewards is ESSENTIAL to low out of pocket expense. I judge my couponing success by how much I get with the LEAST amount removed from my checking account/Cash.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah I definitely here you on the Like FREE stuff. Noticed I wasn’t doing too well in the beginning with those. I got the hang of it eventually. You do better to roll ECB, RR, and UPs. I love to hand over a ECB for $4 and get one for $4 back. Feels great to break even on those.

      • Anonymous says:

        I had a sister AND cousin new at this call me and tell me they were spending too much. I knew right off what it was because I had done the same thing. Walgreens is the first place to look for over spending also because of not having the hang of the whole “filler” item thing. You can get more stuff at Walgreens but you have to watch your OOP. Rite Aid are different because you can break even by rolling Rewards no fillers needed.

      • Anonymous says:

        I roll my EBs over as soon as I get them. I break my purchases into two or three transactions (I make sure there’s not a line first), and roll the EBs as I get them. I don’t feel pressured to use them before they expire, and I don’t forget or lose them.

    • Imona Budget says:

      For that VERY reason, I usually don’t pay particular attention to those….UNLESS I need the item and the original price is reasonable…then I consider the RR/ECB a bonus….

    • dayna lloyd says:

      While trying to build up ECBs, RRs, or UPs it will take some money up front, but once you keep rolling them it makes a difference. A way to start out is trying to buy something cheap with a coupon that will produce a ecbs, rr, or up. I usually only stick with CVS because I don’t feel like juggling ecbs & rr or figuring out the best deals with Walgreens and I don’t have a Rite Aid in my area.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed. While it takes a few dollars out of pockert at first, if you try to keep your lists to essential “needed” items, and are a little bit flexible with what you are willing to buy (one brand vs another) you can typically roll over those RR’s and +ups. I have been rolling over my +ups at Rite-aid for a few months now. I typically rollover apx 15-20 +ups per week, get back something similar, and take home anywhere from 50-100 buck of product a week for only a few bucks in tax! I have a harder time at Walgreens, due to all of the RR rules and restrictions, and ususally have to spend a little more out of pocket (or end up with WAY too many candy bar fillers, lol) but can usually score some pretty good deals. It definitely gets easier with experience, and good planning. :)

      • Anonymous says:

        It does get tricky at Walgreens when the stock is so variable, and you plan out your transactions based on the ad then get there. Hard even after a year to refigure it all. Spending way too much but hoping end of year credit card reports show overall reduction in spending.

  9. I think a BIG one this article missed is: you don’t have to buy something just because you have a coupon for it. Even if its a good deal, if it’s not something you would have bought anyways (either now or in the future)–then you didn’t “save” any money. You just spend less extra than you would have.

    • dayna lloyd says:

      I agree with this to an extent. If I’m going to get something for free or near free and know I won’t use it then I put it to the side and once I have collected a fair amount of items I will donate them. Sometimes it is hard to pass up a good deal, but I just remember that other people that need these items may not know about couponing or don’t have the time to do it and that’s why I will sometimes pick these items up. I was able to donate toys, toiletries and food this past Christmas because of this.

    • Anonymous says:

      And if you pay taxes, that $10 item could cost you up to $.60 (even if it’s “free”).

  10. Some says:

    Been a couponer for lil over 2 years now and I must say it is alot of work however I have gotten to the point I dont mind spending a lil on my self or my kids even if its not on sale etc…..yes I have a closet full of diapers and body wash…however I know its there and I dont mind one bit…I butreally try and remember the rain checks….one time here not that long ago at publix I got a rain check for the shick razors that were bogo becuase I love those…and when I went to go use it…publix had a green ad coupn free shaving cream…total score….so just know as time goes by you will get better and then there will be times you dont feel like couponing….we have all been there and done that….I was just there over the holidays…didnt feel like doing anything…however got served with papers from my ex about vistiation and had to drop 2500 on a lawyer….so yep that made me jump back in full steam lol……great tips love your site!!!!

  11. Izabelle says:

    I get rain checks for everything I can since most don’t expire and coupons are recycled. I have more rain checks than coupons most of the time Lol

  12. I’m new to couponing, but getting the hang of it. I was wondering if you guys knew who I could send my expired coupons too? I came from an overseas base, and I know that is one way some people would get their coupons.

    • google your area for a location. Many of the agencies have smaller offices or people who will do this. I found one two miles from my home. The lady volunteers at the agency, I checked her out, and I go and drop them off in a ziplock bag at her home since the office is not convenient for me.

    • Amy Zuck says:

      If you go up the right side of this page there is a thing you can click on that says something about sending them to the troops. Click on that and it will give you an address to send them to : )

  13. Anonymous says:

    The best thing about ‘rainchecks’ is that you can use them even if it isn’t raining out.

  14. Another tip is making sure you check all the products you buy for coupons inside the packages. Also, some brands have codes you enter online to earn free things. One example is I am pretty particular with my cat litter and have found a favorite, I enter the codes so that I can earn enough to get a free box. We rarely buy Stoffer’s products, but when we do I make sure to enter their codes which will eventually ad up. Certain cereals right now have codes that if you enter 4 you can get a $5 gas card. Nature Made vitamins have codes to, I have gotten quite a few high value coupons using these and end up getting free vitamins. Too me it’s worth the time.

  15. Newbie here…. If Walgreens is out of an item that you have a coupon for and that gives back Register Rewards, will the Rain Check grant you rights to the RR also?

  16. Steven says:

    I have emailed several companies over a two day period. Each one responded within 24 hours and they all had pretty much the same answer. “Thank you for your inquiry, we appreciate your business however, we no longer send out coupons please check your Sunday paper.” Needless to say I was disappointed and discouraged. How do you send your request snail mail or email and which one do you feel works the best?

    • Anonymous says:

      Some say that in email and still send you coupons in the mail. They just don’t advertise it. Just make sure you include a shipping address every time in case they do this.

    • dawnbdh says:

      Steven,
      I have felt that way in the past. In my experience many of the bigger named companies do respond in an automated way. I have received coupons from some of these companies even after their email response. Also, I have found better luck with slightly smaller companies or brands that come out with a new variety of a product. I sent an email to Pam Cooking Spray when they came out with their new spray button on their cans saying that I was interested in trying them out but was disappointed that I couldn’t find any coupons for them. They mailed me 1 free coupon and 2 $1 coupons with a note to let them know how I liked the new container.
      Also, I’ve never sent a letter in the mail for these requests. I find it easier (and cheaper) to send an email. I have a basic draft of a coupon request email that I save and fill in the blanks for each company, saves a lot of time.

  17. How about getting the register and forgetting to give the cashier your coupons.

    • Kate says:

      Ouch! I have done that, too!

    • I have done that before. As I am shopping I pull out of my binder what ever coupons I am going to use and I put them in my wallet with my store loyalty card and Debit card so I don’t miss out.

    • dayna lloyd says:

      I have done that with ECB’s that are about to expire at CVS…the whole reason I made the trip up there!

      • Imona Budget says:

        Turn right around and show them your receipt, do a return, and have them re-ring you and THEN give them your ECBs….they usually can do it pretty quick….

    • Imona Budget says:

      If you do that, swing right around and go to Customer Service! Show them your receipt and coupons, and MOST will give you the coupon amounts in CASH! Right there on the spot!

      • Anonymous says:

        Very true. I have done that, and have never had an issue getting customer service to fix it, lickety-split!

  18. Tomika B says:

    As a new couponer, I am having trouble retraining myself to look for tear pads and coupon machines throughout the store. I forget to look for them every time, as I’m so conditioned to ignore them.