Written by Brooke Wagner
DENVER (CBS4) – It’s a scenario depicted on a national television reality show; coupon clippers hunched over circulars or tangling with a sales associate over extreme discounts. Can you believe couponing has become so popular it has its own TV show? In this economy it’s no wonder we all want the best possible deal — down to the last few cents. But when does it go too far?

Newspaper publishers report skyrocketing paper theft rates, which they attribute to overzealous couponers stealing the latest coupon circulars. Meanwhile, some retailers are putting the brakes on certain coupon practices, such as “stacking,” or using several coupons at once.

As an avid coupon user I see a tug of war emerging. The economy is rough, and the retailers want to keep their profits and their customers. Meanwhile, the consumer wants to be smart and get the best possible deal. How do we co-exist peacefully? In my opinion it’s all about fairness. There must be some ground rules.

First, always read the fine print. If the coupon says it can’t be combined with another offer, don’t try to slip one in under the cashier’s nose. They’re just doing their job and it puts them in a bad position. On the flip side, I’ve also been told I can’t use a coupon when there’s nothing at all in the fine print that outlines the supposed problem. That’s frustrating too. It’s my policy to keep a smile on my face and be kind when asking if a manager might also take a look at my coupon. Sometimes it’s best just to walk away.

Like many of you I keep my coupons in an organizer envelope, which I clean out every month or so. I get rid of expired coupons to avoid any discrepancy down the line. My husband pulls up coupons on his phone, which I think is an exceptionally smart idea. No paper coupons to schlep and they’re always there when you need them. Many stores can even scan them right from your phone. I also request coupons directly from companies when there’s something specific I need. Just go to the company’s website or do a brand search with “coupon.”

Read up on coupon policies for the stores you frequent. Walmart has recently lifted its restriction on how many coupons one can use during a transaction, while Target and Rite-Aid have tightened their coupon policies. These are fluid times, so you might do a search and check up on store policy every once in a while. If a coupon says “not eligible with any other offers,” they usually mean it. I’ve found only a very few websites and retailers that allow coupon stacking. A few sort-of exceptions include grocery stores that double coupons, or where you can use a coupon on top of another promotion, same thing at Walgreen’s, and at Payless (for instance, you can use a coupon on top of their BOGO sale).

I’ve said this before, and it’s a simple point — don’t clip coupons for things you don’t need. If you were just about to buy salad and King’s happens to send you a free bagged salad coupon (this just happened to me last week) then, by all means, clip away! But we all know stocking up on things you might use, discount or no, is not a bargain. That said, if I find my favorite detergent for $1.99, you bet I’ll be stocking up, because I know it will get used eventually and save my family money.

Please check out our CBS Moneywatch partners’ take on this issue at this link: http://moneywatch.bnet.com/saving-money/blog/so-money/extreme-coupons-tv-show-draws-extreme-backlash/2141/

Don’t forget our CBS4 Deals of the Day, and please pass along your thrifty tips in the comments section! I’d love to hear from you.

About The Blogger

– In her Brooke’s Bargains blog Brooke Wagner writes about finding bargains and saving money for her family. She calls it one of her favorite hobbies. Blog entries cover everything from the latest steals, deals, and freebies to cheap family activities, saving for college, and what to buy right now.

Comments (5)
  1. Brian says:

    How are the stores losing profits? They get rembursed for the coupons. Also if it were not for coupons I doubt anybody would buy anything from drug stores, they are so high on all thier products that the only way you can afford it is with coupons, combined with their rewards and stacking. When these drug stores start being tight with coupons they will suffer.

  2. arnie hillman says:

    you have got to be kidding me…the stores are the ones that created this monster, now they want to control it…here’s a novel idea…how about we just do away with coupons altogether and let real competition set the prices…and no, i have never used a coupon in my life…

  3. Ken says:

    what nonsense – stores get paid 8-12 cents for every coupon they receive PLUS reimbursement based compensation for the product itself. Grocers operate on slim margins which makes the extra 8-12 cents a significant source of additional revenue. The real story here is how the media creates scare based teases without regard to the facts or impact they have on regular, everyday viewers. On its own merits, the fact that a few stores are revising their coupon policies would not exactly be hot news. So, let’s leverage a recent showing of “Coupon Lady” to generate interest, couple this with an implication that couponing is doomed for the scare element , position it as some kind of veiled threat to housewives trying to make ends meet, and leave out the part where retailers love the extra cash to make sure the scare isn’t diluted. Come on Brooke – you’re better that that aren’t you?

  4. Erica hall says:

    I have noticed the back- lash too, even to the point of being scolded by a cashier with my 10 year old daughter present. Not because I had tried to use any bad coupons or too many, just because he hates having to scan all of them. After couponing for three years and building a decent reserve, I can get away with buying smaller quantities and have less frustration- in most cases. Basically, I shop like a normal person and buy reasonable quantities and take a few extra minutes to check out, saving about 70% more than I did before I started using coupons. And like you mentioned- not buying things you won;t use, no matter how cheap, will save you a lot in the long run.

  5. A Coupon Queen says:

    Extreme coupon clipping goes beyond the average Sunday coupon clipper. In order to get the best deals and save as much as possible, when a sale comes around you need to buy multiples of that item. This is in essence what Extreme coupon clipping is all about.

    Not to sound like a bad Jeff Foxworthy joke, but you know you are an extreme coupon clipper when you buy at least 4 copies of a newspaper.

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