Coupons 101 – Ethics

There is one more thing about coupons that isn’t necessarily a “how-to,” but more of a reminder. Ethics and doing what is right.

When a store has a super sale going on, and you can get things for really cheap or even free, go ahead and take advantage of it. Buy what you can and put some back for later. Most sales go in cycles, but it could be quite a while before you see a price like that on an item again. If it’s not something perishable (toiletries come to mind here), then put it away for later when you need it.

Most of the places I’ve seen call it stockpiling. The goal is to have enough in your stockpile so that you don’t ever have to pay full price for an item. By buying extra when an item is on sale, you can go for longer periods of time before buying more. It’s nice to avoid paying full retail price for something when you know you can get it for whatever your target price is.

One of the things for me is toothpaste. Stephen prefers one brand, and it happens to be a brand I can get for free with coupons. There is enough stored at our house that I shouldn’t ever just have to run to the store to buy more and actually pay out of pocket for it. That’s not been by buying a lot at any one time – just by getting 2-3 tubes when they’re free with coupons. When I notice the number of tubes on my shelf is getting low, I start looking for more sales to get more free tubes. You can do this with quite a few things.

A person’s stockpile is limited by one main thing – storage space. We don’t have a lot of extra storage room in our house, so I try to be careful with how much I bring home to stockpile. Some say that a good rule of thumb is a year – keep a year’s worth of any one item in the house so you can always get it at rock-bottom price. For our house, that’s just not practical. For others, it is.

There’s one thing I want to caution you about with stockpiling though. It actually applies to couponing in general, not just stockpiling. It’s greed. Don’t just buy items because they’re free. Just because you can buy 40 bottles of window cleaner at once, doesn’t mean you should. If you really need the cleaner, then yes, buy it. But don’t just get it because it’s cheap and you have a ton of coupons. If you buy so much that you end up having to throw some away after a while, you’ve bought too much. Be careful that your stockpiling doesn’t become hoarding.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to discourage stockpiling at all. It’s the mindset behind the stockpile and the tendency for greed that is the problem. It’s a heart matter. Some people will have bigger stockpiles than others. No problems there. But when the stockpile is built because of greed, there is the problem.

Also, be considerate when you coupon. Please be mindful of others who are doing it because they need to. There are people who may be depending on those deals to stretch their grocery budget enough to afford everything on the list. If you buy a bunch, just because you can, you may be depriving others of getting what they need.

That is something I’ve seen repeatedly during the triple coupon promotions around here. My store’s policy is that there’s a limit of 3 like items per customer, so people get around it by going multiple times a day or sending other people in their family to go get more. Unfortunately, by doing that, they clean the shelves of the really good items, leaving very little for others.

I don’t say that as a guilt trip – just as a reminder to be considerate. People so easily get caught up in “I bought 347 boxes of cereal for only $2 today and they had to clean out the back of the store for me to get them! What a deal!” Yet somehow they don’t realize how that can affect others when they’re just being greedy.

Another thing to be mindful of is store policies. If the limit is 3 of an item, then stop at three. Don’t try to go back into the store 14 more times that same day just to get more. The store employees know who is abusing the system, and the stores that double or even triple coupons can easily stop those promotions. I’d hate to be the one that the store manager dreads seeing every time I walk through the door! Please follow the rules, so that everyone else doesn’t have to suffer when stores tighten the rules about couponing.

7 thoughts on “Coupons 101 – Ethics

  1. HI! I just found your website from IFB1000.
    I was not looking for couponing, but it is interesting that I found you, as I just started couponing this week!
    One observation:
    If you have extras (of almost anything) your local homeless shelter could probably use them. While I don’t think anyone should be buying humdreds or even dozens of one item, if you do end up with extras, don’t throw them away as was mentioned above!!! Donate them.
    Thanks!

  2. Angie, you go right ahead.

    I never thought about mentioning the rush and panic of people, but you’re right. I’ve seen it in stores myself. It’s amazing how some people don’t think and just panic.

  3. May I add this because I think it is kind of coupon/sale/ethics related?

    As a former cashier, I dreaded working Saturday opening shifts. As the first day of the week’s sale it was always a madhouse as people (mostly repeat shoppers) lined up to be the first to buy things like toilet paper, tuna, peanut butter or apple juice. There were even occasional shoving matches at the door to be the first in to buy this stuff.

    These were items that went on sale at those prices all the time and were well stocked, and consistently carried so rain-checking was an option. The rush and panic of these women was pointless and caused the store and other consumers problems needlessly.

  4. Great post, Melody!

    I have a friend at church who is really into couponing, and she says when it is something like toilet bowl cleaner, for instance, she does buy for her stockpile, but only as much as what one bottle would cost w/o coupon/sales. I thought that was a good rule of thumb.

  5. Thanks, Sunny. LOL about the razors. That’s one thing I need to do better on instead of paying full price – but I’ve not done so well matching those coupons to the CVS sales. It’s not like we’re far from one, I’ve just been slack on it.

  6. Very well said. I know that I have struggled with the greed of couponing in the past. Now, I barely coupon. I have $0 in ECB at CVS! And I am feeling the pain now, we are low on razors. Last ones… Anyway, I think that it is all about balance and moderation. Thanks for posting.

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