Coupon Rules: For the Newbies

As I mentioned in a previous post, this weekend I wanted to give all the new couponers a heads up on coupon usage. I think it’s absolutely wonderful that people want to start using coupons but you cannot go crazy.

My advice to you: pick one drugstore and one grocery store to start out with. Please don’t try to do CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens every week, you will get more than enough for your family with just one or two drugstores, PLUS your OOP is going to be more with an added drugstore. (You’ll also be known as the lady that runs around trying to tackle every deal every week, and that’s really not so cute. I promise, within a few months you’ll have plenty of things your family needs that you were able to get cheap). Also, pick stores that are conveniently located near home, work, school etc. I love ShopRite, but if ShopRite (or another great grocery store) is 40 minutes away, don’t count on that being your go-to store! We have very busy lives, and couponing needs to be convenient if you want to stick with it. Get familiar with a more convenient store, you’ll score the deals one way or another.

And now I’ll move onto the “legal” issues with the coupons. First of all, if you break a coupon “rule” the store might not get its money back! That’s stealing, people! And it’s wrong! Be very, very cautious starting out. Don’t go crazy and start using and buying without knowing what you are doing. The reason some stores are not coupon friendly is because of people like this that abuse the system. Those people are the reason I struggle to coupon shop at many stores without being looked at as a criminal. We shouldn’t have to go through all this crap because some people can’t respect the coupon rules.



LIMITS: Some coupons have limits. Almost all Procter and Gamble coupons state: Limit one per purchase. Limit 4 like coupons per transaction. This means you can buy 4 toothbrushes and use 4 coupons, not 5, that would be wrong. Some coupons state: Limit one coupon per transaction/customer. This means you need to get in line again to be able to use more than one coupon. ALL coupons say limit one per purchase, which means if you have a $1/1 coupon and find a $1/1 peelie on that product, you choose ONE OR THE OTHER, not both.  Only one coupon can be used per item bought.

Some store policies limit you the number of like coupons. The ShopRite coupon policy limits 4-like coupons per transaction. It doesn’t matter if your store/cashier enforces it or not, it’s the policy, and we should respect it. The new Rite Aid coupon policy has the same limit.

Restrictions: This may seem silly, but I hate to see people abusing this. Many coupons have size/variety exclusions! If you aren’t allowed to use the coupon on anything less than the 10 oz size, then don’t! It doesn’t matter if the register “didn’t beep” or if the cashier didn’t notice. That’s wrong. Use the coupon on what it says. If the coupon is for “Quick Cook” pasta, don’t use it on the normal stuff! Also, read the coupon. If you have $1 off any Tide, then yes, it can be used on travel size, even if the picture is of a bottle. If the coupon says $1 off 2, then you must buy two. Read it carefully.

Shelf Clearing: Shelf clearing is wrong. With the economy the way it is today and the “Extreme Couponing” show I’m seeing new couponers pop up everywhere. It’s really difficult to watch some people in the store try to shop like them. The show is staged. They don’t make those trips every week. And they order stock and coupons to make the show “extreme”. With some time, an ad-preview, and lots of coupons, anyone could do what they do, I promise. Clearing the shelves isn’t cute. There are so many other shoppers out there that would really like that item. It’s really not their fault if they can’t wait in front of the store at 6 AM every Sunday for it to open. Why do you want to be known as the “lady who waits for the drugstore doors to open every Sunday morning”  anyway? There are so many better things to be known as in life, really. I love my deals as much as the next couponer, but sales cycle all the time! If the store is sold out, get a rain check or wait for the next sale. It’s okay. And if you do get there early, don’t clear the shelf!

Expiration Dates: Another simple rule, but one that may get looked over. Coupons expire, some within a week after you receive them! The majority of places will not let you use expired coupons because the store doesn’t get reimbursed for them after awhile! So just double check the dates before you use them. If a coupon isn’t listed in my match-ups, make sure it isn’t expired before you think you got yourself a deal.

Copying Coupons: Copying coupons is a big, big, big NO-NO! Every printable coupon has its own ID Number. Copying a coupon means there are multiples of the exact same ID# floating around, and that’s wrong! Copying coupons is FRAUD; the fines are hefty; and you’d be a criminal (We’ll add that to the not-so cute list, too). Typically, you’re allowed 2 prints on each printable coupon per computer. Of course, some coupons are limited to one per computer, sometimes more, but NEVER copy them. You can print your coupons in Black and White, I do it all the time, I’m frugal. Yes, many times I’ve been accused of copying my coupons, but when I point out different numbers on each coupon the cashier needs to stop their accusations. Do they realize they make color copiers too? Jeeze. Anyway, don’t copy your coupons. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.


Doubles: (And Triples!) My local readers and I are extremely lucky that the majority of our grocery stores double. Many, many states/regions are not this fortunate. Do not take advantage of the store with these doubles and triples. With Triples, your store could potentially be paying for two thirds of your grocery bill! Please be respectful! Doubles/Triples is a very, very kind gesture these stores are doing for us. Yes, it gives them more business, but it’s their own money they are losing. It’s even more money loss for them if you use those coupons wrong. Also, some coupons say “Do Not Double”, if the barcode starts with a 5, they should automatically double. If the barcode starts with a 9, they will not double, like the Excedrin coupon pictured.

Store Policies: Almost every store has a corporate coupon policy. Print them out and bring it every time. (CVS does not have a coupon policy, fyi). When there’s a problem at checkout, pull out the policy and let the cashiers know. The cashiers (and even managers –Walmart-) may not know the policy. I can’t guarantee that they’ll listen to you or even look at the policy in your hands (Good ‘ol Walmart, right there) but keep the policies in your binders, purse, bags, etc at all times. Better to be safe than sorry. And when all else fails, call/write/email corporate. Don’t let the stores get away with treating you that way for trying to save your family money.


I hope this will help the newbies out there start out their savvy coupons adventures, while couponing with integrity! Always start small (BABY STEPS) and cautious. Don’t jump into every store and every deal. Take some time to read deals and skim coupons before even heading to the stores. Get familiar with coupons, deals, and policies before taking the plunge. I researched couponing for months before making my first appearance with coupons at the stores, and it paid off very well. I wasn’t afraid to do anything wrong and I knew the policies well because I researched first. And always remember, your OOP (how much you spend) is ALWAYS more important than how much you saved. If buying huge quanities and going to 7 stores every weeks means you saved $758, how much was your OOP? Did you really save any money? Or did you still spend the same last week without coupons?Stick to buying what you need and you’ll see a difference in your spending in no time.

As always, Happy Couponing! And if you have any questions shoot me an email. I’d much rather you ask me a “silly” question before doing something wrong at the store and hurting all of us. Next up, a post on how to organize those coupons!


3 replies
  1. Kayla says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I find it so irritating when I get to the store at 10:00 am on Sunday and the shelves are already cleared. I’ve been couponing more than ever, but so many people frown upon it because of people like this! Glad to hear that I’m not the only one who feels this way 🙂

  2. Meaghan says:

    I have a question about the coupons that says “must buy 2”. Can I buy 2 items and use a “must buy 2” coupon on each of the items?

  3. april says:

    at rite aid they have limits for items with up rewards, but i need more than the limit they set. i have 5 in my family and need to buy toothbrushes but it says i can only get one up reward per house hold. Is it possible to get 5 toothbrushes and all the up rewards, or different transactions. i am not sure exactly how this all works since im new to using coupons and on a tight budget. if you can help me that would be great!

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