The next step in beginning to save money on groceries is to find out the coupon policy at all of your local stores. I recommend this step even if you don't plan on using coupons at all or very much. This way, should you change your mind in the future and decide to use coupons, the information is already at your fingertips. You don't have e-mails and phone calls to make before you even know how you can use coupons in your area.
The reason I think this is vital is because the situations that would most often throw us into needing to use coupons (as opposed to choosing to use them) are sudden situations that bring on a certain level of stress (an unexpected job loss, accident, chronic illness, or other such situations). At that time, the LAST thing you want to have to do is try to figure out how and where to use the coupons that you need to be using right away.
The BEST thing to do is to print the policy directly off of the store's website. (You can often find it by searching "coupons" or "coupon policy" in the FAQ section of the store website.) If it's not there, you can e-mail them and request a written policy. You'll only get it about half of the time, but that's still worth the effort in my opinion.
Even if you get a written policy, I would recommend that you either go in or call the store itself and confirm the policy. This way, you know what to expect from YOUR store when you go in to use your coupons. Ask whoever you talk to what their name is and what department they work in (Guest services, etc).
When you e-mail to ask for a written policy, your e-mail would look something like this:
I am new to couponing in your area. Could I please receive a written copy of your coupon policy? This way, I can ensure that I am following proper store procedure regarding coupons and their usage. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.Here are the specifics that I make sure are answered by a written policy, a return e-mail, phone call, or visit to the store:
Bob the Tomato
- Do you take coupons? (I know this seems like a no-brainer, but there are some stores like Fresh & Easy here and Aldi in many areas that do NOT take coupons. I shudder at the thought. The rest of the questions of course assume that the answer to this question was "yes".)
- Do you take expired coupons?
- If so, is there a limit to how old they can be? You can expect one of the following answers:
- No. We take any expired coupon regardless of age. (This is, by far, the best answer.)
- We only take them for up to 6 months past the expiration.
- We only take them for up to 90 days past the expiration.
- We only take them for up to 30 days past the expiration.
- We only take them for up to 1 week past the expiration.
- Do you double coupons?
- If they do double coupons then...Which coupons do you double? The limits will usually be one of the following answers:
- All coupons up to & including $.50 (would be worth up to $1)
- All coupons up to & including $.75 (would be worth up to $1.50)
- All coupons up to & including $1 (would be worth up to $2)
- Occasionally (but not often)...All coupons up to & including $2 (would be worth up to $4)
- Do you triple coupons? (Yes...some stores actually do this. Excuse me while I go day dream for a minute...)
- If they do triple coupons then...Which coupons do you triple? The limits will usually be one of the following answers:
- All coupons up to & including $.35 (would be worth up to $1.05)
- All coupons up to & including $.50 (would be worth up to $1.50)
- All coupons up to & including $.75 (would be worth up to $2.25)
- If they don't do regular double or triple coupons then I ask if they hold temporary promotions where coupons are doubled or tripled.
- If they do have temporary double or triple promotions then I ask when and how often they have them and when the next promotion is.
- Regardless of whether they double or triple all the time or just during temporary promotions, I then ask if there's a like-coupon limit. In other words, can I buy 5 of the same product and use a coupon for each item and have each coupon double or triple. (Many stores will limit you to 2 or 3 like coupons when doubling or tripling.)
- Do you accept competitor's coupons? (i.e.-Will you take a Target store coupon for Old El Paso taco shells?)
- Will you allow me to combine a store coupon AND a manufacturer coupon on the same item?
- Do you accept manufacturer coupons that have another store's name on them? (An example would be the coupons that print at the register that are a manufacturer coupon but have "Von's" on them...and you're calling to ask Smith's about their policy.)
- Do you price-match? (This isn't coupon-specific, but I always ask this question when calling about coupons so I know what I can and can't do in each store.)
- If they do price-match, then I try to get specifics on what they price match:
- Do you price-match everything?
- Do you price-match b1g1f offers?
- Do you price-match % off offers?
- Do you price-match loss-leaders?
- Will you price-adjust a coupon if the item is $.99 and the coupon is for $1?
- Will you take 2 coupons on a b1g1f store sale? Do you if the 2nd item rings up as $0 or free?
- Do you require a store card for sale items?
- Do you give a credit or rewards points for using re-usable bags?
I have had some customer service people tell me that I had to talk to a front-end manager. I've also had some just offer to copy the policy for me. I'd gratefully accept and then only ask questions on any areas that I felt needed clarifying.
Most stores are just happy that you're clarifying the policy before trying to use coupons in a way that is against their allowed policy and then getting mad about it!
If you have any questions please post them here, e-mail me, or message me on Facebook or Twitter.
Missed old posts in this series?
- Using Coupons and Saving Money On Groceries Part 1: Why Not To Be a Brand Snob