Step 4 - Learns the Rules of Coupons

Now’s a good time to take a time out and talk about the rules of couponing. Yes, coupons have rules. I know, you’re excited to get to the part about actually using the coupons, but before we do that I think it’s important to understand how coupons work. The good news is that once you know the rules you can use them to your advantage.

If you aren’t already familiar with coupon lingo head here for a list of common terms and abbreviations.


*Read your coupons carefully!

  • Determine if it’s a manufacturer coupon or store coupon

Manufacturer coupons will say “manufacturer” on them and have a bar-code starting with 5 or 9. Even if they have a store logo, they are still put out and reimbursed by the manufacturer and can be redeemed anywhere. The manufacturer will reimburse the store the face value of the coupon plus a small overage (usually .08 cents) to cover labor.

Store coupons will say “store” or “redeem only at” and have the store name. Often times they have a code rather than bar-code on them. Some stores take competitor coupons, in which case you can use another store’s coupon.

  • Look for size limitations – for example, excludes trial size, or 4.0 oz or larger

Make sure you watch these limits. There’s nothing worse than getting to the checkout and having your coupon refused!

  • Know how many items the coupon applies to

It may be spelled out or written like this – $1/2

  • Know the limitations

Some coupons say “one coupon per transaction” – this means you can only use one like coupon per stroll through the checkout. Some stores will ignore this, others will refuse the extras. Conversely, “one coupon per purchase” means one coupon per item being purchased.


*Use your coupons “legally”

  • You can stack one manufacturer and one store coupon per item as long as your store does not prohibit this practice
  • Printable coupons may be either store specific or manufacturer coupons – read them carefully and remember, only one of each type per item
  • Do not copy or scan coupons – each coupon has a unique code, even the printed ones. Stores do not get reimbursed for duplicate coupons, and using them is illegal


*Be familiar with your store’s policy

For links to individual store policies, click here

  • Each chain has its own coupon policy, and even individual managers are sometimes allowed to determine limits. Here’s some things you’ll want to know to get the most out of your coupons -
  1. Does your store limit or cap the number of coupons you can use at one time?
  2. Does your store double or triple coupons? Up to what amount? If they do, is there a specific day or limits in the number of coupons or total amount in savings you can redeem at one time.
  3. Does your store allow stacking?
  4. Does your store take competitor coupons? If so, from whom? Some grocery stores will take drugstore coupons for items they carry, other will only take coupons for nearby grocery locations.


*The dreaded DND

  • You will at some point very soon in your couponing venture come across a coupon that says Do Not Double or DND. This is the manufacturers way of saying “we aren’t giving the store any more money than what we said, even if you give the customer more”. Now, because the store is the one agreeing to double in the first place (and thereby the one eating the cost), you’ll find that most will continue to double these coupons as long as they are within the store policy.
  • You will inevitably find a cashier who will take it upon him or herself to suppress the coupon because it says “Do Not Double”. At this point you can either eat the change and let it go, or ask to see the store manager to confirm that this is the store’s policy (which it may or may not be).
  • Also, there are some coupons that will be automatically suppressed for doubling by computers. You’ll know you’ve got one of these if the coupon bar-code starts with a 9 rather than a 5. Store scanners don’t recognize them as needing to be doubled. Some stores will allow the cashier to manually double, others will not. Check with your store to find out where they stand on this.


I’m going to continue to update this page as I come across other rules and nuances you need to know, but this should give you a better understanding of how to properly use your coupons.


Let’s get to the shopping part!



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