I went shopping at the mall last week. Sears had a coupon good for only two days for $10 off a $20 purchase of apparel. I had printed two coupons, one for me and one for my shopping companion. Even though it was my friend's purchase, I wanted to break up the purchase two ways to redeem two of the coupons.
To my surprise, our cashier let us break our purchase into five purchases using the $10 coupon five times, ultimately saving my friend $50.
When I teach my money-saving classes, I have heard a variety of stories about couponing — some good, some bad. In all my years of couponing, I have had many more positive experiences than negative experiences.
Here's a quick lesson in Couponing Etiquette 101 for those who need an update.
1. Be organized when you get to the register. And, if you can, remember to use the self-scan register, so you can check prices as you go. That's what I do. You would be surprised how many times items ring up wrong.
If you use a cashier, be friendly. He or she might have to put a little extra effort into making sure your coupons work. If you can, let the cashier know in advance if you have coupons for buy-one-get-one-free items. Otherwise, the cashier will have to go through the register tape to find the original price of that item.
2. Make sure you have the right item for your coupon. Sometimes, a coupon is for only a certain size of a product. Look at the fine print on the coupon. If the cashier doesn't want to honor the coupon, ask to see the store manager. Most of the time, a store wants you to leave happy.
3. There are many opportunities to get in-store coupons, but there is no reason you need to take all of them. Be polite and take what you need, not all of them. Leave a coupon for the next person. I have given coupons to someone who I have seen buying an item for which I have a coupon. Share the wealth.
4. When printing coupons online, you can sometimes print multiple copies, but each time, there is usually a unique access or security code. This is to stop you from copying more on a copy machine. Using coupons as the manufacturer intended will help coupon users receive more online product deals.
6. I've been asked if I feel uncomfortable when I go to checkout with many coupons. It doesn't take much time to check out if you use the above tips. I have apologized to the person behind me when my coupon use holds up the check-out line.
Thinking of others
I want to wish all my readers a wonderful holiday season. Remember that it is a season of giving. And speaking of that ...
■ St. Jude's Ranch for Children turns used Christmas cards into "new" cards. Only the card front can be used (please check to make sure the flip side is clear of writing). Mail the fronts of cards to: St. Jude's Ranch for Children, Recycled Card Program, 100 St. Jude's Street, Boulder City, Nev. 89005.
■ We Give Books and the Opportunities for Children to Help Others Project puts books in the hands of underprivileged children across America.
■ Expand your vocabulary on Freerice.com, and the United Nations World Food Program donates rice to the hungry.
■ Send a free printed postcard to military personnel stationed overseas showing your support and appreciation.
■ Send a personalized best-wishes message to a friend and select two teas from Yogi tea.
Free or reduced
■ Get 25 free black-and-white, single- sided letter or legal size self-service copies.
■ Get 25 percent off your bill at TGI Fridays.
■ "Like" CVS on Facebook and receive a 20 percent off holiday shopping pass.
■ Share and print a personalized ESPN poster.
■ Get a free tote from Yankee Candle when you buy two candles and get two candles free.