Dear Novice Couponer,

I have spotted you at the store—loaded coupon binder, stacks of ads and inserts, matchup list balancing on the handle of the cart…off you go, seeking the best deals, trying to beat your previous savings record. But with such laser-sharp focus, it’s important to remember to watch your manners.

Yes, you're a new couponer, a deal-seeking missile stealthily moving through the aisles saving money but getting bothered by fellow customers, frustrated at finding a cleared shelf, downright angry with an ear-piercing cash register beep that means your 55-cents-off coupon may be in jeopardy.

I'm a veteran couponer with one question for you: is this fun?

If the answer is no, you're probably trying too hard. It should be fun, after all. So take it from me: follow this advice to enjoy the experience and be a kinder couponer in the process.

Tip #1: Remember that you are a guest in the store

When you are invited into someone's home, you enter with manners, with poise and with a smile. Entering a store should be no different. You are a guest there, so mind your p’s and q’s. A noisy child? Try smiling, not seething. A wobbly wheeled cart? Be happy one is available for loan. No free samples in store that day? Maybe next time! If you think like a guest, your demeanor will automatically become more pleasant, setting yourself up to enjoy the experience.

Tip #2: Remember that you are part of a larger system

No one likes paying more than they have to for products. But don't let the KCL mantra "never pay retail" cloud your judgment of honest payment for goods. Never try to use coupons maliciously or scam a store or manufacturer into giving you something you know is contrary to the coupon or policy. Unethical coupon use hurts everyone: fellow shoppers who may miss out on a deal destroyed by unethical practices; store employees who may face disciplinary action for honest mistakes made at the hand of a greedy, pushy couponer; and companies who may withhold future coupon distribution because of repeatedly unfair use. There are a lot of moving parts to the grocery and retail systems, so play by the rules.

Tip #3: Remember that the store doesn't owe you anything

All KCLs have been frustrated in store at incorrect or misleading signage, a cleared shelf, a too-long wait in line or a coupon that doesn't scan. These frustrations can lead to a false sense of entitlement. We may think we're justified in a refund for a coupon we left in our car and retrieve after checkout, entitled to a rain check or owed a special order of a product for one temporarily out of stock—but these are courtesies. Stores sell goods, and sometimes those goods have price changes, are specially packaged, or get sold before we get there. Smart KCLs eliminate entitlement thinking, learning to enjoy the process and enjoy the deals they get.

Tip #4: Remember that it's okay to not get every deal

Veteran KCLs know making a child's season opening soccer game is more important than being the first one in line for a new drugstore shipment BOGO deal. And if you can't score another great deal of the week? Don't worry. Sales follow predictable cycles, so it's easy to be a coupon psychic. So even if you miss that stockpile price on paper towels or that pennies-per-bottle ketchup deal, rest assured it's likely to appear again in 3–6 months' time.

I know saving money is important to you, and I know learning to coupon can take focus, concentration, and time. But don't let precious personal enjoyment slip away during this process. Relax, readjust, and have fun as you coupon. Everyone will benefit from your kinder approach in the process.


A Kind Coupon Veteran



To New Couponers: Advice from a Veteran