ABC’s of Couponing: A is for “All About How Coupons Work”

Apr 22 2014
Posted by deidre 33 Comments
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Part of the ABC’s of Couponing Guide

UPDATE:  I am re-posting this for those who are new to couponing

Have you ever worried you are costing a store money by getting freebies? Or how exactly getting free items with coupons can be legal and ethical? Let’s start at the very beginning:

Manufacturer’s create food products, beverages, household and personal items.   It costs a lot of money to do ads on t.v or elsewhere to inform consumers of these products, so another form of advertising for them is a coupon. Manufacturer’s create a coupon for an item to get the word out about the product, and get it directly in the hands of the consumer.  They want you (the consumer) to use the coupons. What a better way to get the word out about your product then having people try it out!

Manufacturer’s pay for the coupon to be distributed in Sunday coupon inserts, online, or through magazine ad placements.  This is to get the coupon in your hands.

After you get the coupon in your hands, you create your shopping list and may even choose to use the coupon.  After you scan your coupon on the register, the store takes the amount off the total purchase.  You are stoked – if you follow my site, you may have just scored a freebie by combining a store sale/coupon with the manufacturer coupon! But the store is not reimbursed yet.  The coupon is sent to a coupon clearinghouse to verify it was used correctly.

What is a coupon clearinghouse?
A coupon clearinghouse is a third-party independent of the manufacturer and the store the coupon was redeemed at.  They determine the amount each manufacturer owes each store.  The manufacturer takes the “hit” for the coupon, not the store.  The store should get reimbursed for the amount of the coupon…but…if you scan a coupon on the wrong item, the coupon clearinghouse may find out and decide the manufacturer doesn’t owe the store that amount for that coupon.   Also, if a coupon is a photocopied coupon, the clearinghouse will know and will not reimburse the store for the coupon.  This means if you use coupons fraudulently, stores don’t get reimbursed and they lose money.  That is stealing from the store!  Some stores have already decided that too many fraudulent coupons are being used, and they have stopped accepting coupons printed from the internet because they are worried they are photocopies and won’t get reimbursed.  So please don’t photocopy coupons; as a general rule, coupons can usually be printed twice online and should never be photocopied.

Store coupons (coupons released by a store) are not reimbursed by the manufacturer.  The store releases these to attract customers. We’ll talk more about why you can “stack” a store coupon or sale with a manufacturer coupon in the next ABC’s of couponing story.

It’s not all bad news for the stores! Many people uses manufacturer coupons legitimately and stores are getting reimbursed by the manufacturer – plus eight cents for handling.  Manufacturer’s are getting their products in the hands of consumers and are happy their ads were successful.  They hope once a consumer tries a new product, they may try it again even if they don’t have a coupon next time.  Consumers are getting to try products they may have never tried before at great prices.  In the end, if coupons are used properly then the consumer, manufacturer and store are stoked.  Using coupons to score freebies can be done completely legally and ethically without hurting anyone involved!

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  • susanjones

    Do stores get reimbursed for expired coupons? My publix always takes them…

    • deidre

      No they don’t. Overseas commissaries get reimbursed for expired coupons up to 6 months. But not here.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for posting this. It helps me see how things work after I use the coupon. Lisa:)

  • sandra

    my name is sandra this information helped me out alot im new with coupons and having so much fun with savings but at the same time i was a little curious about what happens after vi use them thnx for the info it helped out a lot now i will have even more fun.

  • rebecca shockley(becca33)

    You learn something new everyday, I believe this 100%, thanks for the tips!!!

  • Patricia Mohl

    Just started couponing. Trying to gather all the useful info I can get to help along thanks.

  • Angelia

    Thank you for explaining the process, I am knew and hope to become a pro .

  • kris

    the photo copy thing is definitely true i actually had safeway tell me they will not accept printed off coupons because of this issue?
    anyone else get told the same or have been able to use printed coupons at safeway?

    • Pat

      Last yr my local Walmart cashier refused to accept a printed off coupon. She said they were not allowed to accept them. I pd for my purchase and then went to the mgr and politely relayed what had just occured and asked her about the situation. She actually had to get the manual out and search for the answer. She verified that YES WM does take them, then she gave me the amt back for the value of my unused coupon and then asked me to point out which cashier I had gone to and she said she would give her the proper info.
      It pays to either research the policy before you go or even question when you run into that situation before you leave.

  • Linda

    i wanna coupon but my husband doesn’t…..can I leave him now! I think this is a deal breaker in our marriage

    • deidre

      Work it out :)

  • karen

    I have looked through the Sunday paper coupons and have not found any coupons for products I use regularly. How can I find coupons for products I use?

  • liz

    hello, im going to start couponing i just was lost in the process, i had like 19 i believe diaper coupons for $1.50 but i wasnt sure what and how to use them. i was reading the back and they had all these restrictions one i remember is no doubling. ok here is where i was lost if i have more than 1 coupon can i use my multiple other ones for each box of pampers i were to buy??

  • Karen

    I went to Giant Eagle Yesterday 6/15 my bill was 239.74 and after coupons and food perks my bill was 31.65. The lady at the register was truly annoyed she acted like the money was coming out of her pocket. Then a lady stood behind me with one pack of meat the whole time. And then the Cashier informed me that Giant Eagle is changing their policy and going to limit double couponing to 12 coupons. I thaught that was going to happen every time something good happens they do something to stop it. I have Buehlers and Super Kmart I have to find out what their policy’s are. If any one can help this was only my second shopping trip. and I sent for the book from Krazy lady .

  • telisa

    Can I use a coupon that says 55cents off of somethingand get the item and use another coupon just like it and not get the item?

    • deidre


  • Tambra Coons

    Woah! You know your stuff woman!!

  • Morgan

    How do we find out how to send coupons overseas?

  • Catrina

    I’m still learning how to save big on coupons… but it seems where I live coupons are a rare item and sometimes don’t even show up in newspapers… I am determined to learn this thought :)

  • Lisa Moffett

    Good explaining!

  • charleigh

    What I think is sad is the fact that I subscribe to a major Newspaper where I live. I use coupons but for 3 months haven’t received any. I called the paper and while they did give me a credit? I found out on the news last night that there are people going around, & stealing our inserts and guess who has to pay? The person who delivers our paper! Had I known that? I would never have complained. But, I did go buy a camera syatem and got hold of our paper carrier and apologized and told her what I had done. So, for those of you that think it’s ok to take them out of people’s Sunday papers? I will tell you now it is called THEFT! And be sure of one thing. If you get mine now? I will have several views of you and any vehical you are in.

  • Tina Anacleto

    You can send an Email to and request a family to send expired coupons to.
    I hope everyone does this. Couponers Unite and Support Our Troops.

    My family is in South Korea!!

    Thank You
    Tina Anacleto

  • Lorrie

    Is there anyone out there that can help/show me how to do the couponing step by step, plz thanks

  • Craig

    Just getting into this couponing thing.. Yep that is right a guy doing it… Now pick yourself up and e-mail me tips on best practices and where to build my coupon stash. Thanks in advance!

  • Willow Scalisi

    I am new to the couponing world. How do you double coupons? I also would like to know what your site is called. Please do not answer to me e-mail! I never check it!!! (:

  • Shayna

    I had a question about using a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon. If the manufacturer coupon says it cannot be combined with other offers can you use it with a store coupon? After reading about how the coupon clearing house works I seems like you should be able to since the store isn’t losing money. Does anyone know??

  • Alexis

    I’m sorry, I couldn’t even finish this video because the way you say “coupon” made me grind my teeth.

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