1. The numero uno, very first, most important rule? Don't buy something just because you have a coupon for it! And that can be rephrased to say, Don't be duped into thinking you need it because you have a coupon for it! This is what retailers/coupon puter-outers count on. They want you to see a coupon for an item, think it's a really good deal, scarf the item up for a rock-bottom price, and WHAM! they've just made a sucker out of you. Since something is better than nothing in the business world, that company just made money off your discounted purchase, because you otherwise wouldn't have bought it at all, and you just put an unnecessary dent in your wallet. Not such a good deal now, is it?
2. We stay pretty loyal to our favorite brands. I'm not a fan of jumping brands to buy whatever's on sale. I think this eventually leads to using the coupons for things you wouldn't have otherwise bought (see above). We do a pretty good job of making sure we're only buying stuff we can afford anyway. If a coupon comes up for our favorite brand of toothpaste, then sweet! And if not, we have it in the budget for the stuff we like.
3. If I do get frustrated with a product and want to try a new brand, I don't make the switch based on having a coupon for a new version of it. I need to know that if I fall in love with the new product, I'll be able to afford to keep buying it if a coupon isn't available when I need to replenish the stock.
4. I avoid the temptation of the online coupon (most of the time). I used to get coupon-stuffed emails from one of my favorite online clothing retailers. As soon as I unsubscribed from their emails, I found that I no longer "needed" new t-shirts, jeans, shoes, bags, sweaters, or jackets with such urgency. Turns out that I've only "needed" a pair of jeans once since then, and I found a higher quality, better brand, way cheaper pair from a thrift store. I do however, keep my subscription to sites like SOAP.com. They send out pretty awesome coupons that are usually good for your whole purchase, not just for certain items. So I've started buying the stuff there that I was going to buy at the grocery store anyway (as I just did with skin care products), but with 20% off, and free shipping.
5. I'm totally at peace with the fact that I could be saving more money than I do now. Let's get one thing straight here; I love, love, LOVE, getting things at less than regular retail value. I'm insanely proud of the fact that we're cheap, because it allows us to live off only one income now. But there isn't a chance in hell that you'll find me giving up my afternoons to clip coupons, strategizing my trip to the grocery store, and buying 14,000 rolls of toilet paper at an insane discount. Time is money, people. For some folks, I'm sure it's worth the dollars they're saving to put in the amount of time they do on the process, but it's not for me. So I don't.
There you have it. That's my highly (probably a bit too much so) opinionated take on coupons.
Thanks for stopping by,