How to Coupon

5 Quick Tips to Help You Spot a Fake Coupon

Posted on Thursday, February 11th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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5 Quick Tips to Help You Spot a Fake CouponHow can you tell a fake coupon from a legitimate one? There are several clues that can help you spot a fake coupon. Experienced couponers might already be aware of some of these tips. For them, the trick is to prevent themselves from getting so excited over a coupon that looks too good to be true, and realize that it is actually a fake.

1. No Expiration Date
What is the expiration date on that coupon? There should be one.! The only exception to that rule is with coupons that come directly from the manufacturer. Even those have the words “No Expiration Date” on the front of them. Typically, it is not easy to find those kinds of manufacturer coupons. If you found a coupon with no expiration date – it is probably a fake coupon.

2. It Wasn’t Free
Coupons are supposed to be free. They come to you via the inserts in your Sunday newspaper, or through an email from a legitimate brand. You can find a bunch of free coupons on the website of the grocery store that you have a loyalty card with. It doesn’t make sense to spend money in order to obtain coupons.

If you are asked to pay for coupons – say no! It is not legal to sell coupons. There is no consumer protection option for people who buy coupons and end up with ones that are expired or fake.

3. It Looks Photocopied
It is not legal to make additional copies of a coupon. (Doing so is called coupon fraud). Most coupons are printed in two or more colors. If the coupon you found is black and white, that is a sign that it is a fake coupon. There is no good reason to try and use that coupon because the cashier isn’t going to accept it.

4. It Came from Facebook
Ok, that probably sounds a bit cynical. However, there is good reason to avoid the coupons that you find on Facebook. Thieves have started using Facebook to trick honest people into giving the thief their personal information by offering what appears to be a fantastic coupon. It may be safer to just skip the coupons that are on Facebook and stick to more legitimate coupon sources.

5. It Came From a Pop-Up
Have you ever been online, browsing the internet, when a pop-up ad appears? It might cover over part of the website you were looking at, or it could appear after you close your browser. That pop-up might have what looks like a great coupon on it. The pop-up may tell you to click a link in order to get the coupon.

Don’t do it! There is no way to know what that link is connected to. You may think you are about to receive a coupon, but could end up with a nasty computer virus instead.

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How to Keep Your Coupons Organized

Posted on Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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How to Keep Your Coupons OrganizedCollecting coupons is a great way to save some money. Of course, those coupons won’t do you any good if you cannot find them. You can be a more successful couponer if you find a way to keep your coupons organized. There are several methods to choose from.

Keep the Inserts Intact
It is common for couponers to grab the inserts that are in the Sunday newspaper and quickly clip out the coupons. The problem with this method is that you might end up misplacing some of those coupons before you go shopping.

The simple way to prevent this problem is to keep the inserts intact. Bring the entire insert with you when you go grocery shopping. You may want to bring a scissors so the cashier can remove the coupons that you ended up using. It is also possible to carefully tear out the coupons while you wait in line.

Use a Coupon Binder
A coupon binder is a necessity for extreme couponers. It is easy to put together. Any three ring binder will do. Pick up some plastic sheets that were designed to hold baseball cards. They are great for holding multiple copies of specific coupons.

Make sure to put your newly clipped coupons directly into the binder. Schedule time once a week to sit down and weed out the coupons that have expired. This method will only work if you remember to bring your coupon binder to the grocery store with you.

Use Digital Coupons
Most grocery stores offer free loyalty cards to customers. The loyalty card automatically gives you a discount on a bunch of products that are located throughout the store. Those special sales can function similarly to coupons.

In addition, the grocery store may offer digital coupons on their website. Log in and browse through the coupons that are available. Select the ones you want to use, and they will be automatically uploaded to your loyalty card. Expired coupons will automatically be removed from the card. Now, all you have to do is remember to bring the card with you to the store.

Use an Envelope
What if you aren’t an extreme couponer? People who tend to bring a small amount of coupons with them to the grocery store do not need a coupon binder.

Instead, consider using a simple, household, envelope to hold your coupons. Just toss in the coupons as you find them and bring the envelope with you when you shop. Make sure to read the expiration date on the coupon before you try and use it.

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Another Reason to Avoid Counterfeit Coupons

Posted on Thursday, February 4th, 2016 at 10:06 am
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Grocery CouponsCoupons give people a quick and simply way to save some money. It has become popular to use coupons for grocery shopping as well as for other products. Unfortunately, the popularity of coupons has inspired some people to break laws.

A man who is a Louisiana resident has been sentenced to 41 months for running a counterfeit coupon operation online. He was doing this through an anonymous online network. He worked with co-conspirators to make fake coupons that used the trademarked logos of several well known and easily recognized coupon distributors.

This case is a very good example of the seriousness of coupon fraud. Creating fake coupons can result in a lengthy jail sentence. What some people do not realize is that buying and attempting to use counterfeit coupons can also get a person into serious legal trouble. Using fake coupons is a form of coupon fraud – even if you were unaware that the coupon was a fake.

It is never legal to sell coupons. The Coupon Information Center (CIC) points out that consumers can protect themselves from counterfeiters by never paying money for coupons and by using only coupons that they have obtained from authorized channels, such as their local newspaper.

The Coupon Information Center very clearly states that there is no legitimate way to sell your unwanted coupons. It also points out the following information:

The sale or transfer of coupons is a violation of virtually all manufacturers’ coupon redemption policies. These policies are generally printed on the coupons or are available from the manufacturer upon request. Any sale or transfer voids the coupon.

People purchasing coupons have often been associated with organized criminal activities. They often purchase the coupons as one aspect of a scheme to defraud the coupon issuers/manufacturers, usually by seeking to redeem coupons without purchasing any products. Individuals selling coupons to such crime rings have been charged with and convicted of criminal violations.

There will be some people out there who assume that they will get away with creating counterfeit coupons or selling coupons. The Coupon Information Center notes that “not one defendant has been acquitted in a CIC related coupon fraud case since operations began in 1986.”

One way to avoid a counterfeit coupon is to check the list of counterfeit coupons on the CIC website. They also advise that you should not download coupons from internet forums, and that you should never pay money for a coupon. They also point out that giving your personal information, or credit card information, to a stranger could result in identity theft.

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Brush Up On Your Coupon Lingo

Posted on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Coupon Lingo ExplainedThe most efficient way to get the most out of a coupon is to make sure you understand what the wording on it actually means. Every so often, it is a good idea to take a few minutes and brush up on your coupon lingo. Doing so might help you stretch your dollars a little bit farther, and can prevent you from being embarrassed at the cash register.

Expiration Date
The most important thing to know about the coupon you hold in your hand is its expiration date. The majority of coupons will have a specific date printed on them (often next to the words “expiration date”). Has the expiration date already passed? If so, that means you cannot use the coupon anymore.

Sometimes, you will find a manufacturer’s coupon that says it does not expire. These are extremely rare and are only issued by the manufacturer (and not via Facebook or other social media). In general, if the coupon doesn’t have an expiration date – it is a sign that the coupon is fake.

One really simple way to remember to use a coupon before it expires is to organize your coupons. Put them into an envelope or a binder (if you have a lot of them). Periodically go through them and weed out the expired ones before you go to the store.

Per Visit
When a coupon says “per visit” it is telling you how many of the exact same kind of coupon you are allowed to use during one shopping trip. For example, if the coupon says “limit 2 coupons per visit”, it means you can use up to two identical coupons on today’s shopping trip. It is telling you that you cannot use 3 or more identical coupons – 2 is the limit!

BOGO
A coupon could say “BOGO” or “B1G1”. Both of those abbreviations mean “buy one, get one”. These coupons tend to come in two varieties. One type of coupon will say “buy one get one free”. This means that you must purchase a specific product (typically a certain brand, a specific flavor, and a particular size) in order to get a second one for free.

The other type of “BOGO” coupon will say something like “buy one, get one 50% off”. This coupon is telling you that if you purchase a specific product (again, of a certain brand, a specific flavor, and a particular size) you can get a second one for half of the price.

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Tips to Help Millennials Save Money

Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2016 at 6:35 pm
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save moneyA report led by iQuantifi found that Millennials have financial goals that include increasing their savings and paying down their debt. These are admirable goals that are not typically easy to accomplish. What worked for the Baby Boomers when they were young might not apply to today’s world. Here are some tips that will help Millennials to save money.

Use Coupon Apps
You can find plenty of coupons in the inserts of the Sunday papers. However, coupons are going mobile now. This is great for Millennials that tend to prefer digital media to paper. Stores like Starbucks and Target each have apps that offer special savings, deals, and coupons (or that function like coupons).

Get the Loyalty Card
You can sign up for the loyalty card of your favorite grocery store for free. Doing so gives you access to a bunch of digital coupons that can be loaded onto the card. Pick the coupons you want from the store’s website. Those coupons will automatically be used when you are at the register.

In addition, the loyalty card from your favorite grocery store will make you eligible for a bunch of special deals that are attached to products from all over the store. Since you cannot realistically choose to stop buying food, you might as well use tools that let you buy food for less than full price.

Choose a Designated Driver
Going out for the night with your friends? Choose a reliable and trusted person who is willing and able to be the designated driver for the night. That person will make sure everyone gets home safely. Everyone in the group can buy the designated driver a soda – and it will end up costing less than a cab ride home.

Consider Staying In
Going shopping, dining at restaurants, and hitting the bars with friends can be fun. Unfortunately, it can also be expensive. One way to save money is to consider staying home instead of going out. Watch a movie on Netflix. Play some video games with online friends.

Pay Yourself First
This tip is for Millennials who have an employment situation that enables them to pay at least a minimum amount on all of their bills – and to have some “fun money” leftover. When your paycheck arrives, make sure to pay yourself first. Put some money into a savings account. Next, pay off your monthly bills. This technique forces you to start saving for emergencies.

Plan a Budget
Have you ever gotten to the end of the month and wondered where your money went? A budget can help with that. It forces you to be very aware of what you spend your money on.

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Is the Sell-By Date Reliable?

Posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 at 9:57 am
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Is the Sell-By Date ReliableWhat’s the first thing you do after picking up a carton of milk or a package of meat? You probably check the sell-by date. We have been taught that the sell-by date is the best way to ensure that the food you are about to consume is safe. What if the sell-by date isn’t as reliable as we have all been taught?

We all want to be sure that the food we are buying is safe to eat. People check the sell-by date because they believe it gives a good approximation of how long the food will stay “good”. People check it again at home before consuming food that has been in the refrigerator for a while.

How reliable are those sell-by dates? The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has some useful information. It may surprise you to learn that, with the exception of infant formula, product dating is not required by federal regulations. However, if a manufacturer wants to put a date on a product, it has to include the month and the day of the month.

There are different types of dates. A sell-by date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before that date expires. Once you bring that product home, the sell-by date is pretty much useless in terms of safety.

A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date. A use-by date is the last date recommended for the use of the product at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

The FDA says that products dates don’t always pertain to home storage or use after purchase. Use-by dates refer to best quality, but are not a safety date. The food may still be “safe, wholesome and of good quality if handled properly”. Of course, you should not consume foods that have developed an odor, flavor, or appearance that makes it clear the food has spoiled.

What does this mean for consumers? It means that you may have been throwing away food that is still perfectly safe to consume. This leads to a lot of unnecessary food waste (and wasted money).

The FDA website notes that you should always purchase eggs before the sell-by date. Refrigerate the eggs in their original carton. They recommend putting the eggs in the coldest part of your refrigerator (and not in the door). Eggs that have been properly stored can be safely used within 3 to 5 weeks of the date you purchased them.

Still not sure? The FDA website has a chart that tells you how long certain foods stay good. Keep in mind that the sell-by date is there to guide grocery stores about when to get rid of food. It does not mean you cannot safely consume food past its sell-by date.

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Carefully Check that Coupon for Restrictions

Posted on Thursday, January 14th, 2016 at 7:05 am
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Grocery CouponsDid you find an excellent coupon that you are excited to use? Everyone loves to save money, and coupons are an easy way to do that. Make sure you take the time to carefully check that coupon for restrictions. What looks like a great coupon at first glance might turn out to be so limited that it isn’t very useful at all.

Some coupon restrictions are easy to spot. Coupons that say “buy one, get one free” in big letters on the front of the coupon make it clear that in order to get the freebie, you need to buy one of the same kind of product. Coupons have expiration dates that restrict the time frame under which it can be used. Most people understand how those restrictions work.

Unfortunately, not all restrictions are easy to see. Companies are making coupons that have a ton of teeny tiny fine print on them. In that small, hard to read, portion, are additional restrictions. This tactic is a mean trick played by stores.

The stores know that people will come in if they have an excellent coupon that they want to use. They know that consumers who visit a store in order to use a coupon will very likely make additional purchases. So, the store produces what appears to be a really good coupon.

Unfortunately, the store also chooses to be sneaky and load up that coupon with tons of restrictions. Those restrictions are listed in very small print that is frequently located on the back of the coupon. Consumers don’t learn about those restrictions until they are already at the register. Obviously, the result is a lot of angry people who feel like they were tricked by a coupon.

Here are a few things to look for in the fine print restrictions part of a coupon:

Restaurant coupons might restrict what days of the week the coupon can be used, or may restrict use of the coupon to dinner, only.

Department store coupons might have restrictions that prevent a consumer from using that coupon to get a discount on items from certain sections of the store. Often, the coupon cannot be used on electronics – but it is not unheard of for other sections of the store to be restricted as well.

Is the store having a sale or a big clearance? The awesome coupon you got that influenced you to come into the store more than likely has a restriction that prevents you from using it on items that have already been discounted.

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When Should You Pay Full Price?

Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 at 4:51 pm
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When Should You Pay Full PricePeople who frequently use coupons are doing it because it is a way to save money. Extreme couponers take this concept and run with it. It is obviously important to save money, but there are situations where you really should pay full price.

When You Need to Buy Staples
The foods that your family most frequently uses are called “staples”. For many families, these include things like milk, eggs, and bread. It’s great when you can save money on these foods with a coupon or when there is a sale.

When the sale is over, and you don’t have a coupon, you should pay full price for the staples your family needs. Your family can’t really do without those foods. It’s normal for prices on these foods to fluctuate, so you will get to buy them for less than full price again in the future.

When You Love a Specific Brand
There are a lot of people who strongly prefer a specific brand of soda. That works out just fine when the preferred brand is on sale. Many grocery stores will have a special deal that makes a pack of soda cost less when you buy three or more packs.

Eventually, that special deal is going to end. If your family is not going to drink a different brand of soda, it won’t do you any good to buy a non-preferred brand, even if it is on sale. Foods that do not get consumed end up being a waste of money. You should pay full price for brand your family likes.

When Quality is the Most Important Thing
You’ve got a coupon for a brand of cheese that you don’t often use. When you read the ingredients, you discover that it contains a lot of stuff that you would prefer not to eat. There are other brands of cheese that have more natural ingredients, but you don’t have a coupon for any of them.

It is understandable that the quality of the ingredients in the food are important to you. In situations like this one, it is best to pay full price for “the good stuff”.

When Someone has Food Allergies
Is someone in your family allergic to dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, or wheat? There are now several products that are made without (at least some of) those ingredients.

Unfortunately, some (but not all) of the brands that are allergy-friendly tend to be more expensive than the “regular” version of the same food. It can be difficult to find coupons for these brands. You should pay full price for the allergy-free product that you, or a family member, can safely eat.

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Coupons Are Not Worth Fighting About

Posted on Thursday, January 7th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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Coupons Are Not Worth Fighting AboutThere are some couponers who will get extremely excited when they find a good coupon. They look forward to using it and saving money.

It is understandable that a person could feel disappointed, upset, or embarrassed, when the cashier refuses to honor their coupon. No matter what emotions you are feeling in that situation, coupons are not worth fighting about.

Some people believe that the best method of ensuring that they get the customer service they want is to throw a fit. They think that fighting with the cashier, demanding to speak to a manager, and holding up the line at the register is going to influence a cashier to take an expired coupon.

Why do people behave that way? It is probably because doing so has worked for them in the past. Some stores have policies in place to placate customers who are loud and disgruntled.

There are very good reasons why coupons are not worth fighting about. We live in a world where nearly everyone has a smartphone. People no longer hesitate to whip out their smartphone and take a video of a person who is behaving badly in public. The couponer who throws a fit may find a video of their bad behavior being circulated on the internet.

It is also possible that the fight a person chooses to start with a cashier could lead to legal issues. A grandmother and grandson discovered this after they started an argument with a cashier who would not accept their Coca-Cola coupon.

The grandson, who was a teenager, allegedly became very upset. The grandmother allegedly continued to yell at the cashier. Someone called the police. It is unclear who it was, but another shopper told police that he was offended by the profanity the grandmother was using. Long story short, the grandmother and grandson were booked on two counts of disorderly conduct (and other charges).

There are other reasons why you shouldn’t start a fight with a cashier over a coupon. Keep in mind that your cashier is not the person who created the store’s coupon policy. He or she has no authority to change it – not even when a customer starts screaming about a rejected coupon. Pushing a cashier to take an expired coupon might save you a little money, but it could cost that cashier his or her job.

What can you do when a cashier refuses to accept your coupon? Most people just shrug and recycle the coupon. One rejected coupon is not the end of the world. Your other coupons probably were accepted, so you ended up saving money anyway.

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Are You Couponing Correctly?

Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016 at 7:00 am
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People use coupons because they are a quick and easy way to save some money and stretch their dollars. Our love of coupons makes it easy for us to make mistakes that could end up costing money (instead of saving us money). Are you couponing incorrectly?

Your Family Doesn’t Like That Brand
The members of your family strongly prefer a specific brand of soda. You brought home a different brand because you had a coupon for it. Maybe it was the store’s version of that flavor of soda. Perhaps it was a similar soda from a competing brand.

You probably thought that coupon was going to save you money on soda this week. Instead, your family complains about the unfamiliar or unfavored brand of soda you brought home. The next day, your spouse brings home a case or two of the preferred brand. That coupon cost you more money than it saved you.

You Didn’t Do The Math
Busy people who have to rush through grocery shopping might not take the time to do the math and work out the best deal. You came to the store with a coupon for a specific brand of cereal. You find it, toss it in your cart, and continue shopping.

If you had taken a moment to look, you may have discovered that there was a better deal than the savings that the coupon gave you. That coupon saved you fifty cents on the cereal. The competing brand may have been seventy-five cents cheaper than the brand you selected (even with the discount from the coupon). The store brand might be even less expensive, especially if the store’s loyalty card gives you an automatic discount.

You Bought More Than You Can Use
Something happens when people see “Buy One, Get One Free” on a coupon. Everyone loves the opportunity to get something for free. At first glance, it sounds like that coupon saved you a lot of money.

Look closer, and it becomes clear that these kind of coupons are usually for the largest sizes of the product. If the product is something that your family uses, and consumes quickly, then the coupon may have given you a good deal. If not, you may end up throwing both products away before they got used up. That coupon made you waste money!

You Aren’t Using Couponing Apps
There’s nothing wrong with getting coupons from your Sunday paper. But, if you aren’t using at least a couple of couponing apps – you are really missing out! Couponing has gone mobile, and those apps offer special coupons, sales, and deals that you will never find in the Sunday paper.

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