Although you may carefully plan and organize your shopping trips, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed an error-free transaction. Too often (in my case anyway) incorrect transactions occur—possibly my fault, possibly the store’s! I’m sure we can all attest to the fact that we’ve made mistakes that have cost us time and money. The great thing about couponing is that you can quickly learn from your mistakes and turn a negative into a positive.

1. Accept it

Mistakes are going to happen, and I can guarantee that they’ll happen if you coupon for a long period of time. You can control your response to these mistakes, learn from them, and teach yourself how not to make the same mistake again. For example,  I’ve been couponing for almost three years, and I can honestly say that I was very hard on myself when I first learned this new way of shopping. If I made a little mistake, I would return the item to the store for even a quarter. But now, I read the fine print of each coupon and make sure I have a sales receipt with me to ensure my items were processed correctly.

2. Keep it

Many times the decision on what to do about a mistake solves itself. I live far from my job and most of my favorite stores, so for me the decision to keep an item that was incorrectly rung up is related to my time and gas money. If it’s a dollar that I’ve lost, I usually let it go. If I make a ten dollar mistake, that amount of money can be a game-changer for me. Also, if I’ve already left the store, I’m usually ready to move on to the next transaction. Suppose you purchased a bag of M&M’s for $3. You used a $1 manufacturer coupon but forgot to use the $1 store coupon. If I were you and had already left the store, I would take those M&M’s home and eat them—lesson learned for next time!

3. Get back in line and do it again

The best lesson I’ve learned is to examine the receipt before I get in the car. Chances are, if I find the mistake by then, I can make a quick decision about what to do. Most times, I go right back in the store and correct the transaction. For example, the Rite Aid I frequent always gives me a Catalina. One day I visited another Rite Aid and expected a Catalina with my purchase, but I didn’t get one. Luckily, I realized it when I got in my car. I went back in the store and was told that that particular Rite Aid didn’t have a Catalina machine. This lesson has stuck with me. Now I avoid that Rite Aid because I love my Catalinas!

4. Return it

If I make a transaction mistake that would have saved me 25% or more, I take the item back. I pretty much have the same routine visiting the same stores each week. If I find the mistake after I get home, I put the item and receipt aside to be returned. I’ll be going back to the store within the timeframe for a return, so I won’t waste gas—just the minute to return it. If the line is backed up, back in the car the item goes for the next trip. Most receipts have the store’s return policy on them. I have to tell you that I make mistakes fairly often, so I’m pretty good at knowing these policies. I once made a purchase at CVS for makeup. I purchased the amount that I needed to get the ExtraCare Rewards but didn’t check my receipt until I got home. I didn’t end up getting the rewards because one of the items I purchased was on clearance. I decided $15 was worth returning the item.

5. Donate it 

Your mistake can be someone else’s blessing. Maybe you purchased an item because you thought you would pay little out of pocket. Or maybe you bought five items based on someone else’s recommendation but ended up not liking the product. Give them away to a friend who loves the product, or donate them. I got a great deal on Celestial tea K-Cups, but I don’t like tea. Instead of just keeping them, I passed them on to a friend who loves hot tea. Your loss can be someone else’s gain!

This is a guest post by Tammy in North Carolina.

5 Ways to Recover from Couponing Mistakes