Over the past 18 months, I have come to love the great savings that couponing can provide, not to mention the satisfaction of putting a deal together. However, I have also noticed that I get upset with myself when I miss things. Why, oh why, did I leave that coupon at home? Why did I forget to have the cashier scan my CVS bag tag?

On a recent coupon forum, I read a post about a great deal. A couponer commented, “I wish I hadn’t already used my coupons!” But when she used the coupons, I'm sure she thought she was getting a good value — she just wished she could also participate in this deal. I’ve often felt the same way, and I realized how important it is to be kind to ourselves and others when couponing. Here's how:

1. Make the best couponing decisions you can

Make the most educated decision you can with the knowledge you have at the time. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your family like frozen smoothies?
  • Is your store offering half-price frozen smoothies?
  • Based on your coupon knowledge and experience, including the store sales cycle, is this a good deal?

If you answered yes to these questions, then use your coupons, even though a new, slightly cheaper deal could come along at any time. If it does, adjust your "average sale price" in your mind as you plan for the next deal.

Holding off on using coupons because a better deal might come along later just leaves you with expired coupons and thoughts of savings that might have been.

2. Ask for a do-over

Does your grocery store allow do-overs? 
Two of my local grocery store chains will give me a cash refund for a coupon I forgot to bring or use (yep, both things have happened) if I bring it back to the store with my receipt. To be courteous to the store and store staff, I do this within a short period of time — ideally within a week of the purchase. One of these stores has even honored store coupons days after they expire. Check your local stores and see if they have policies in place that will allow you to be human and goof up but still capture maximum coupon savings.

3.  Help others as you pursue great deals

Be kind to the people who work in the store and other couponers. Pass on coupons you will not (or most likely will not) use.

I'm a big fan of leaving about-to-expire coupons on the shelf near the products. And when I got a pharmacy coupon I couldn't use, I asked the pharmacist to pass it on to the next person who was buying that medication. It makes me feel better to think that the coupon itself would get used, even if I'm not the person using it.

4. Keep being kind – and learning

Instead of saying "I should've…." or "I could've…" just chalk it up to experience and remember that you've learned something new. Apply your lessons learned as you prepare for your next shopping trip.

The next time you're about to yell at yourself, take a deep breath and let it out, savoring the savings you've earned and the things you've learned as a couponer.

This is a guest post by Joanne from Lawrenceville, GA
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