Thursday, June 16, 2011

Couponing 101: Coupon Fraud

What is coupon fraud, and how does it happen? Is it really that serious? YES. Coupon fraud is very serious. Coupon fraud is using a coupon in any way it was not intended, and when you do so, the store you used it at will not get reimbursed for that coupon. It may not seem such a big dea, I mean its only a .50 cent coupon right? Wrong! imagine 500 people using that .50 cent coupon wrong, thats $50 that store loses because a few people didn't want to follow the rules. Coupon fraud is one of the reasons stores are now tightening up their coupon policies, so when you commit coupon fraud, it hurts everyone else. 

This was taken from and I could not have said it any better, so I am instead quoting it for you to read! 

What is coupon fraud?
This definition is taken from the Coupon Information Center:
Coupon fraud occurs whenever someone intentionally uses a coupon for a product that he/she has NOT purchased or otherwise fails to satisfy the terms and conditions for redemption, when a retailer submits coupons for products they have not sold or that were not properly redeemed by a consumer in connection with a retail purchase; or when coupons are altered/counterfeited. These activities are almost always in violation of Federal, State or local laws.

Why Understanding & Avoiding Coupon Fraud is Important
  1. It’s illegal!
  2. The Coupon Information Center has not lost a case since they began in May of 1986, so you don’t want to be up against them.
  3. 3-5 years in prison is a common sentence for committing coupon fraud (longest sentence: 17 years)
  4. Fines are often in the excess for $200,000 (highest fine: $5 million)
  5. Coupon fraud hurts everyone – the stores, the manufacturers, and  consumers.
So how do you commit coupon fraud? Here are a few ways you can commit coupon fraud:
  • Using 2 manufacture coupons for 1 item, unless otherwise stated in the coupon terms and conditions
  • Matching barcode numbers. This became popular after Extreme Couponing aired its permier in December. Because Extreme Couponing showed a person doing this, many have thought that you can infact do this, but you can not! Use each coupon only for the item(s) it allows. 
  • Making your own coupon. Its surprisingly easy to make a coupon with a good computer program, but I do not recommend it. If you happen to think it might be a good idea, just take another look at the penalty of coupon fraud! 
  • Making copies of coupons, either coupons from inserts or copies of coupons that you printed from the internet is illegal! Stores are checking the coupons now at the time of checkout, so make sure you know where your internet printed coupon came from!
  • Using expired coupons, unless the store specifically states in their coupon policy that they do accept expired coupons.
  • Using a coupon for a product or size excluded by the fine print on the coupon (e.g. using a coupon that says “excludes trial size” on a trial size product).
  • Using the coupon when purchasing a different quantity than specified on the coupon (e.g. using a coupon for $0.50/2 on a single product instead of 2).
  • Using a coupon any way other than how it is specified on the coupon.

Now as I told you, TLC's show Extreme Couponing did show one person commiting coupon fraud. Concerning that, this was also taken from and I find this very important to any new couponers who use the show as a guide to couponing:

On a side note… If you haven’t read, the Coupon Information Corporation and other industry experts have offered to work with TLC to make Extreme Couponing more educational and help them avoid teaching questionable and illegal techniques on their show.  TLC declined.  That tells me that they are more interested in the drama of the show, then actually teaching families to save.

So please know the rules, know how your using the coupon and be aware! I would hate to see anyone get in trouble for coupon fraud! 

Couponing 101: Doubling Coupons

 So what really makes your total go down? One of the great things grocery stores like to do is have double coupon days and triple coupon days. 

Start off nice and easy with doubling. Doubling a coupon is when a store will double thte face value of a coupon up to a certain amount. some will do it only .49 cents or less, some will do it $1 or less. When you put your stuff up at the register, hand the cashier your coupons, and as they scan your coupon, they automaticly double! So now your .50 cents off coupon just became $1 off! Isn't it wonderful?

Tripling coupons. Tripiling a coupon is just the same as doubling, but you triple it! The stores that do triple coupons usually do them up to about .35 cents or so.

Not all stores double coupons so check your store's coupon policy first before you go in expecting it. Most only double on certain days, so make sure to ask! 

 And if you are in the north west, mainly Washington like I am, you will probably not find any places that double coupons. However, you still have a chance at this. Albertsons sends out 'Twice the Value' coupons every now and then in the sunday papers (you can also get them at the customer service desk). They will double a manufacture coupon $1 or less! You can only use 3 of these Twice the Value coupons per transaction, and 3 transactions per visit. A visit is considered when you step out of the store, take your items out to your car, unload and come inside. This is how I save the most and my average savings for Albertsons is 89%! 

Couponing 101: What is a Matchup?

A matchup is taking the sunday ads of the grocery stores, big box stores (like Walmart) and drug stores you shop at the most and going through, checking out each item to see if there is a coupon for it. Seems like a lot of work right? Well lucky for you, many websites do this for you! This is the easiest way to make the most out of your coupons, money and time! AND many of these websites will also let you know when something is a stockup price! (We will get to the subject of stockpiling later).

So what wonderful websites do this? I am in the North West (Washington to be exact) and I use Amber Bustanoby was on TLC's Extreme Couponing and she is so amazing for doing these matchups! She always finds me the best deals for my area. 

Here are some other great matchup sites! 

Anyway, so that is just to name a FEW. :] The people who take the time to do this for us are amazing, and when stopping by their page for a matchup or to find a deal, dont forget to thank them for their hard work! Its people like them that make it easy for us busy moms and dads and business women and men and college going students to save money quick and easy! 

Couponing 101: Stacking Coupons

  Now I am sure you have heard the term "Stacking" and are probably wondering what that means. Or, maybe you are wondering how do people save so much money with coupons, when coupons only take about .50 cents to $1 off a $3 item? They must be using more then 1 coupon for the item right? Well, if you thought this, you would be both right and wrong. 

You can use 2 coupons on 1 item (at certain stores, check up on your store's coupon policy to be sure) when you stack a store coupon and a manufacture coupon together. So say you have a $1 off Target coupon for Colgate Total toothpaste, and you have a $1 off manufacture coupon for Colgate total toothpaste. you can use those together on that 1 item to maximize your savings! Thats $2 off your Colgate Total toothpaste! 

You can not use 2 manufacture coupons, or 2 store coupons together on one single item. However, there is one, and only one exception. Say you go to Walgreens and from a previous purchase you recieved a $2 Registar Reward. This is Walgreen's idea of a Catalina. You can use that Registar Reward with a manufacture coupon as long as the registar reward and the coupon does not exceede the number of items you have, and as long as it does not exceede the total. 
At grocery stores like Albertsons, you do not have to worry about a catalina and a manufacture coupon exceeding the number of items you have, this is a Walgreens only restriction. And how do you get around it? Use Fillers.

A Filler is a small priced item you can add to your transaction to even out the number of manufacture coupons and the number of items. My walgreens has many fillers around the front registar including .10 cent snack size candies like the ones you will get for halloween! These are great for fillers, as they dont add too much to the overal total.

Couponing 101: Where can I find coupons?

So just where can you find coupons? EVERYWHERE! Everywhere you look you will see coupon! Here are the most popular palces to find coupons:

Blinkies- As explained in the previous note, Blinkies are little black machines in stores, usually with a blinking light to catch your attention. They are stationed next to the item they are promoting. 

Sunday Inserts- The sunday paper puts out booklets called inserts with tons of coupons in them!

Magazines- Magazines like 'All You' found at Walmart have coupons in them! 

Online- Websites like Red Plum, Smart Source and allow you to print out coupons from their websites! You must first download their program that allows you too print the barcodes, and then you are ready to go! 

Store Websites- Store websites like have coupons you can load onto your store loyalty card and use when you buy that item. An ecoupon is usually a manufacture coupon. Usually you can not stack coupons when you use an ecoupon though, so before you load, make sure there are no store coupons that match up with that manufacture coupon, in order to get the most out of your coupons! 

FACEBOOK! - Yep, facebook. Many companie's facebook pages offer high value coupons. You must 'Like' their page and check out the tabs to find coupons. Not all companies will offer coupons through their facebook pages, and the ones that do, dont offer them all year round, so make sure to watch their posts for announcements from your favorite companies! 

Snail Mail- Have you ever written a company in a complaint? I am sure many of us have. Now have you ever written a company to give a compliment? Many people dont realize that when you write a company, tell them how much you love their product and simply ask for a coupon, they will send it to you via snail mail! (snail mail-your at home address). Companies LOVE hearing how much consumers like their product! Some companies will even give coupons for free items! So go to your favorite product's website (mine is, I love their hummus!) and let them know how much you love their products and ask for a coupon! 

Product Packaging- Products like cereals and powder laundry soaps like to give out coupons inside the product packaging! Be on the lookout! 

Manufacture's Websites- Manufactures just love advertising their products! Websites and have coupons you can print straight from their website! Remember, to print any coupon, you must first install the barcode printing program you can find

Ebay- Maybe a coupon came out and because it was regional, you didn't get it. But its a high value coupon and you really really want it right? Well ebay is a great place to buy these coupons! You can buy whole inserts or just single coupons. Yes you do have to pay for them, but its usually cheaper than a whole insert from a newspaper stand!

Coupon Clippers- Websites like offer a service of cutting the coupons for you and sending them to you! You can buy these coupons for around .12 cents a piece I think, with a minimum of 5 of the same coupon. So when you find a high value coupon, this is another great way to get them without having to dish out $1.50 for 1 like coupon out of the sunday paper! 

Recycling Bins!- This is my favorite place to find coupons. First, before you go checking out the recycling bins around you, make sure to check your local laws that it is legal, as it is illegal to go through recycling bins in some states. Also, if you want to go through the recycling bins in your area, call the company that owns that recycling bin and get permission if you can. That is the best way to do it, therefore if someone confronts you and tells you its illegal (or even worse, an officer of the law comes up asking what your doing) you can let them know you got permission from the company to do this! (I would also reccomend printing off the letter they send you or email they send you giving you permission as proof). 
So why is this my favorite place to find coupons? Isn't it dirty and gross? NOPE! However, from time to time people do throw food or other items in the recycling bin that do not belong, so if the bin smells funny or if there are many items that should not be in there, for safetys sake I would just skip it and go onto the next. 
The newspaper recycling bin is just that, for newspapers. And trust me, there are tons. instead of paying up to $1.50 for your single sunday newspaper, why not get them free? Arent we all just trying to save money? At the recycling bin I go to, I can get up 200 of the same insert if I wanted it. But I dont. I know many in my area are trying to save money just like me, so I try to limit myself to about 30, depending on how many papers are in there. Call me crazy for getting 30, but when a coupon comes out that makes an item free or even possible money maker, it is worth it in the long run! 

Couponing 101: Types of Coupons

Ever Wonder what types of coupons there are? What is a Manufacture coupon, Store coupon and what is the difference? Here is a list of the different types of coupons! 

Types of Coupons:

Manufacture- you can find these coupons pretty much everywhere, but the most commom place we find them is the sunday paper. The sunday paper has inserts (Red Plum, Smart Source and P&G) that are little booklets that have coupons inside them! 

Blinkies- A blinkie refers to a machine in the store with coupons inside it. They are found near the item they are for and cacn be used at any store, just the one you got it from. These coupons are manufacture coupons. 

Catalinas- A catalina is a coupon that prints with your reciept. In my opinion these are the best coupons, and usually the highest value coupons. Catalinas can only be used at the store of which printed the catalina (unless otherwise specified). Walgreens has a special name for their catalinas-Register Rewards. And Rite Aid calls their catalinas +UP rewards. Rite Aid's +UP rewards are tracked by your Wellness card and usually limit about 2 per card. CVS calls their catalinas ECB-extra coupon bucks. Catalinas can be either store coupons or manufacture coupons, depending on the promotion.

Store Coupons- Store coupons are just that, coupons the store puts out to promote products! Depending on the store you go to, you can stack a store coupon with a manufacture coupon to maximize savings! 

Peelies- Peelies are coupons that are attatched to the product when you buy it. Make sure you peel the coupon off as they can be used right away and they are usually manufacture coupons! 

Hangtags- A hangtag is a coupon that hangs from the product and are usually found on items like soda, laundry soap and oils. These are also usually manufacture coupons

Internet Printables- These coupons you can find at places like, smartsource and redplum. Some will be manufacture coupons and some will be store coupons. Usually you are allowed to print 2 coupons per computer. 

E-Coupons- These are digital coupons that you can find online. You pick the coupons that you wish to use, download them onto your shopper loyalty cards and when you get to the checkout, scan your card and the coupons pop up! The coupons are usually manufacture coupons and cannot be stacked. 

Tearpads- These are just that, tearpads that are hanging from the shelves of the product they are promoting. you can tear one and use it for the item it is promoting if you wish to buy it. 

Why Coupon???

Why use coupons? People everywhere know that you only save pennies when you use coupons right? Couponing takes hours each day, and you could be doing better things anyways. WRONG When you use coupons you save dollars, you could even get items normally priced at five dollars or more for free. It doesn't take hours, imagine watching TV with your significant other and cutting coupons at the same time. Your daily routine hasn't changed in fact your actually burning calories while sitting on the couch. <please note that calories lost will not compensate for the chips eaten during sitting> What could you do better for your family then feed them and save money? Providing food and other basic needs for them while saving enough to make the mortgage payment? If you spend 400 dollars a month on food for your family can you imagine spending 300 less? You could use it to get health insurance if you don't have it, get repairs done on your car, and even start using that savings account for something more then direct deposit.

New Beginnings

My wife and I are your average parents. I work sixty hours a week supporting my family while she tends to the daily grind at home with our wonderful son Stanley. Like you and many others we have to sacrifice things in order to make ends meet, however with couponing the gap between poverty and prosperity is shortened significantly. You can continue to buy name brand items such as Tide, General Mills, Pillsbury, and many others while saving thousands of dollars each year. It doesn't take hours, and its a hobby that will support your family.