Couponing for a Cause: Say No to Shelf Clearing

Couponing for a cause

Say No to Shelf Clearing in the Name of Charity

I have always had a strong opinion about couponing for charity but I tend to keep it to myself to avoid conflict. I hate contention! However, after some thought, I feel it is time to share my opinion and open this subject up for discussion.

First off, I think that it is very noble to give off your sustenance to help other people in this world. I believe that if you have extra items in your coupon stockpile it is wonderful to give them to others in need. Heck, that is one of the reasons I love couponing. I love having an abundance and being able to share it with others.

What I do not believe in is clearing the shelves in the name of charity. Some people go from store to store clearing out the deals to take the free items to the local shelter or food pantry.

The reason I have a problem with this is that there are people who are couponing to survive. People who use coupons to keep their family off of welfare. People who use coupons to keep their homes from going into foreclosure.

When the shelves are empty of the good deals these people are robbed of their ability to remain self-sufficient.

couponing for charity

Couponing for a Cause Done Right

It is all about keeping things in moderation. Just like we never recommend shelf clearing for your personal stockpile building we do not recommend it for giving to charity. So, just as we recommend stockpiling at a moderate pace, we also recommend couponing for charity at a moderate pace.

When you see a fab deal on free deodorant, grab a few extra to donate, but be sure you are leaving some behind for others. You can also call your store ahead of time and place an order so that you are not taking away from the product that’s on the shelves.

How do you feel about couponing for charity?

I do not want to see any fighting in the comments, but I want to know your thoughts. How do you feel about couponing for a cause? Have you seen any cleared shelves before or other unethical couponing behavior?

Finally, I want to thank those of you that donate your time, talents and stockpiles to charity, but let’s also remember the fellow couponer who just might be couponing to survive.

More Couponing Tips:

how to coupon for a cause the right way


  • I totally agree! Thank you for your post.

    • Patty Lockhart-Castillo

      I think you said it all in this article,moderation is the key.It’s good that someone shares my same views.Thanks for all the bloggers that help out with sharing the deals. 🙂

    • Thank you for writing this. I am one of the couponers who coupon to survive. It’s bad enough that the coupons in my area are horrible and are mostly for makeup and vitamins, and have my mother’s co-workers bring me their sunday coupons so I can get better coupons. I have to travel (usually a friend drives me) outside my area to get the best couponing deals. It aggravates me that when I finally get to the store, someone has cleared the selves. I had actually caught someone clearing a shelf and asked her to at least leave 4 so I can take them and she had the nerve to laugh at me and say I should have gotten there earlier.

      As a single parent, I coupon to feed my children, not because I want to stockpile and show off to my friends on all the free items that accumulate.

      So I ask any shelf clearer’s please leave some behind so that I can feed my family.

    • AGREE COMPLETELY….. I do think that it is better to work for what you get… and I would rather help someone get and use coupons than to hand them the items…

  • i also agree! i hate how proud a person can sound when they say they got 100 free tubes of toothpaste to donate to a shelter…thats great good for you..too bad the person behind you that has to buy their own stuff no longer can get the 2 they wanted at that deal.

  • I agree with you, and you put it so well, that I will be following you more closely from here on out.


  • Agreed, no clearing, not even for charity!

  • I have purchased multiples of items – as in 50-60, for charities but always left plenty on the shelf. I try to look at it like this – if there are 20 items, taking 2-4, 10%-20%, is reasonable. So if there are 200 items, taking 20-40 is also reasonable. Just my opinion.

    • I agree with you Jenn. 10-20% seems reasonable.

    • It’s great to give, but why does it have to be 50-60? Is 5-10 not worthwhile? I guess it feels a bit like giving to some by taking from others. You (and obviously others) feel comfortable taking 10%-20% of what is on the shelf, but if a handful of other coupons go to the same store as you, you have managed to clear the shelf. Why don’t you be generous with the extras from your stockpile? We all have stuff that we can easily spare. I just don’t understand the need for grandiose giving. Unless it’s socks. You can never have enough socks.

      • Well said, Mommyof3.

        • yea cause no matter how many socks you buy they always wind up missing. But the Deoderant and toothpaste on the other hand is always there waiting to be used EVERYDAY. No body needs 30 tubes of toothpaste just because they got it for free. really how many tubes of toothpaste are you really going to use in a coupon cycle? Well said, STOCK THE SOCKS

  • I am in complete agreement. IMHO there is no excuse for clearing a shelf (and when I say clear I don’t mean taking the last 2 or 3 of an item..) Regardless of what is being done with the product such action screams “HOARDER” to anyone watching.. especially to those folks who don’t coupon. Pre-ordering is the way to go whenever you need a quantity, be it for your household or for a worthy charity. Monica, I too am a tremendous conflict weenie, thanks for putting this in such an open and clear manner.

  • I totally agree! Thank you for posting. I hate when I can’t get in on a particular deal for my personal use because the shelves have been cleared. I have been to my local flee market where people are selling these items, it really makes me mad. Yes it is nice to donate to charity/food banks and shelters but leave some for those who are trying to save money in these hard economic times.

  • Well put! I agree!

  • I also agree, however ordering can also be a form of shelf clearing. A few times in the past year the warehouses have ran out of items due to people ordering so many. I think we all have to be reasonable in that area as well. I think donating to charity is noble but it shouldn’t be an issue of taking from everyone else just so the needy can have some.

    • Wow, that’s a very interesting and valid point. I have also run into the issue of wanting to get in on my 2 or 3 items when a great deal comes along, but the warehouse is empty for the forseeable future. When Catalinas are involved, we all know those cannot be handled with a raincheck, too.

      I also agree with the article. Get what you need. If you can get a few for charity and aren’t clearing the shelves, that’s great, too. But, never be a shelf-clearer. Everything was well said.

    • GREAT point, Meg!

    • I would also like to point out, with the word “needy”….I think that also applies to those that Monica mentioned…those keeping food in their family’s mouths, from homes going into foreclosure, etc. Just my opinion 🙂

  • I think a lot of people who say they’re donating it don’t. I’ve taken a lot of people to the food bank and they’ve never gotten anything like this.

    • If you have ever volunteered in a food bank, you know the turnover of the items there is very fast. A big bunch of something that was donated can be gone in a matter of a week in some cities, sadly.

    • Ashley, I think you are right on the money with that comment. I really do not think a good amount of people that say they donate, really do. They just say they do to avoid any confrontation.

      I have never cleared a shelf and I never will. I always see people mentioning pre-ordering, but have never come across a store that will allow that many multiples to be purchased in one shot. If someone knows of a store in NY, please let me know.

      BTW…well said. I think the next time I see someone clearing a shelf, I will use your words…….” there are people who are couponing to survive. People who use coupons to keep their family off of welfare. People who use coupons to keep their homes from going into foreclosure. When the shelves are empty of the good deals these people are robbed of their ability to remain self sufficient.”

    • I imagine not everyone donated to food banks. Personally, I prefer to donate to Domestic Violence shelters when my stockpile gets a little overwhelming.

  • Agreed, Monica. What I’ve seen: Although this is a bit different than couponers for charity, my coupon pal & I got to Albertson’s at 6:10 AM a few months ago when there was a great deal on Emerald Breakfast On The Go’s. 2 women had already cleared the shelves (2 shopping cars stacked full) and the look on our faces led them to tell us it was for their kids’ soccer team.

    Tip: This is a little different twist on the charity topic: my daughter had a bad experience with that (they had a huge mountain of stuff & told her brusquely “just throw the bag on the pile”). So I started thinking about how many people I actually knew that had fallen on hard times like me, and just started privately asking them during chats if they could use this or that because I had so much of it now. They were so grateful and now I’m supplying at least 5 families on and off from my stockpile. It helps me keep in touch with my acquaintances (& family), stops them from having to get assistance, and keeps my stockpile tidy & under control. If you just look at your Facebook page & think it over, I’ll bet you’ll be able to find a similar situation. Just an alternative giving method I thought would be worth mentioning.

    • Love it Tracie. I have done this very same thing. Thank you for mentioning it.

    • I love this, i do this too, I had quite a stock pile from about a year ago of deoderant and body wash for men. My husbands fav brand,(old spice) but he wasnt going through it as fast as i thought he would when i bought it. now my brother was struggling to keep a roof over his head and i could clearly see that he needed these items more then i did. Alot of us have the time and knowledge for couponing, if we helped those closely around us there would potentionally be less people at the food bank asking for assistance, that some cant give. I have started only buying things that i know i can use and i know that others around me can use. I have been to the store many times, to find the shelf cleared. I’ll use the Allegra coupon from a few weeks ago. WOW, that was a warehouse cleared situation in my area. I just wanted one box, the sign at the store said NO RAINCHECKS, the warehouse was cleared.

  • I agree completely, Monica. There are people who are couponing to stay out of the food bank and off welfare, and it is counter-productive to clear the shelves and take away their right to do that, in the name of donating to charity. Not to mention that it also robs those of us who coupon to save money and live within our means of the ability to do so. And I have to add that I think a lot of people claim that their shelf-clearing is for donating, when that is not the case.

  • I absolutely agree. I tend to go through my stockpile monthly and look at expiration dates. If I have stuff coming up in the next month or two and I know I’m not going to be able use all that I have, we will donate it. The food at the food banks can get used very quickly so I have no worries that someone will get good use out it before it is no longer good.

    I also agree with Meg that even though you can pre-order and not clear the shelf, sometimes that still severely limits the amount of product that is left for everyone to buy. I think you still need to be courteous and thoughtful of others and limit what you are getting to a useable amount for your family whether you pre-order or not. I think Albertson’s is doing really good lately about not running dry on every good deal, but I cant tell you how many times in the past Ive been told “the warehouse is out”.

  • I disagree. Whether you think shelf clearing is wrong, or that it’s alright to get items with coupons in moderation ( that in itself is very subjective), the bottom line is that manufacturer’s do NOT give out coupons for either of these reasons, and that includes keeping you out of foreclosure. They issue coupons to increase sales by allowing you to try a product at a discounted price…that is the inducement. They do not intend for you to accumulate 5, 10, or whatever number of the product, no matter what your intentions are.
    So really, this entire debate is mute, because it is not why coupons are issued in the first place.

    • Unless you are reading what you typed verbatim from a rule book of couponing, I think your comment is kind of subjective. I usually buy four or five of one item (when I can find it on the shelf.) If my family likes it, I would buy it without a coupon.

      Manufacturers aren’t naive. With the advent of Extreme Couponing, and the surge in newspaper sales, they still do ok.
      They find ways to make their money. I remember about 8 months ago, you could get Tide and Cascade in sample packs for free with a coupon. Both of these companies exclude trial sizes now on their coupons. They also change their packaging and alter the size of the contents to save them money.

      Not to mention, a good store sale where someone gets something for next to nothing is likely going to push a person into taking their saved money to buy something else for full price.

      Manufacturers and stores know how coupons are used. They know how to work around it. If you find someone who only uses one coupon per item for only ONE ITEM out of respect for the manufacturer’s bottom line, well, I’d love to hear about it.

      • I agree. Companies give out coupons to get people to try new products. I can’t tell you how many products I have tried because of coupons and ended up loving the items and have purchased more. There are also products I have purchased that i didn’t care for, that ended up going into the donation pile. My rule is that I won’t purchase an item (even a moneymaker) if I don’t plan to use it. I buy a few good deals every week. If my stockpile gets too big I take a bag to our local foodbank.

        • Tracy, I like your policy. I have adopted it, too. I live in a coupon-hungry city and every time there is a good deal on eczema products, it seems like it is a money maker and no matter how early I go to the store, they are out. Why would you buy a product you really don’t use and deny the person who really needs it?

          Yes, it is a money maker and offsets the other costs, but what a waste.

    • If a manufacturer is worried about anything you describe, they put a limit on the coupon itself. All P&G coupons are limited to 4 like coupons per transaction. The Nissin Big Noodles coupon is limited to one per customer per transaction. If manufacturers were concerned about this in any way, they have the power to stop it. They are not concerned.

  • BRAVO Monica! This is coming from a 41 year old, mother of two, who is a full time Nursing Student. I use coupons to provide my kids with the essentials on a very tight, very fixed income.

    It doesn’t seem right to me, to take 40 tubes of toothpaste, and donate it to a charity, when you are leaving someone in a lurch, trying to figure out how they are going to buy their kids a tube of toothpaste, full price, and put the only ten dollars in their purse in the gas tank so they can get to school. And nope, I don’t use any kind of public assistance.

    Please charitable couponers, listen to this post. I think the idea of buying slowly and sharing with families is a great idea. I had 8 extra degree deodorants, and I took them to school and gave four each to two different friends whom I knew could use them and would appreciate them.

    Remember, not all people who are in need go to food banks. I am a GREAT couponer and don’t need to take food from people who don’t coupon and use a food bank. Most couponers have a heart of gold. You don’t have to supply the world with toothpaste!

  • This is the way I deal with it!!!! I go out on my regular days and get my deals, usually Wednesday for the grocery stores and early Sunday for the drug stores. On Saturday if there is a really good deal that I know I can donate (to my kids school, football team, local womens shelter or put in my xmas donation boxes ) I let the manager (usually at Walgreens they’re the best)that I will be back Saturday night at 9 pm they usually already have it all loaded in a cart and I do my transactions and take off. We do not have a lot of couponers here and most of the time the same product that I leave on Sunday mornings will still be there Saturday night but I would never want to take from others that needed too!!!!

  • I had LARGE hopes and dreams for couponing. I was going to buy many items all at once and have a large stock pile etc…etc….While I completely respect people that do these things the right way, I’m a “buy 1-2” items kind of person and would REALLY appreciate a few good deals left on the shelf. I went to Albie’s last night and was met with empty shelves. I knew deep down I’d get there and shelves would be cleared. The closest Albie’s to me gets a lot of couponers. I still got great deals but not the best deals. It would be nice if people stopped and thought about everyone else couponing also but I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen. I was in Target tonight grabbing a few things and had a fellow couponer in front of me and just by her stance and facial expression I could tell she was going to be trouble. Sure enough she was arguing with the cashier and wasn’t even trying to be nice. As much as we’re all saving money it’s kind of fun to coupon also so why have a bad attitude and ruin things for other people that are having a good time?

    • Yep. The way couponing has changed in the last 8 years has made me so sad. Really. I just can’t compete like that anymore. I do Albies doubles, but I don’t have time to coupon anymore on a regular basis because things are rarely on the shelf when I get there. And my time is too valuable to waste driving around. If everyone would just take what they need and a few extra to stock up on and not clear the shelves, we could all get in on the deals. So for now, I ad match at Walmart when I go every Tuesday (while my daughter is at dance) and I do doubles when they come out. That works for me right now. And all the other drama is gone.

    • The worst time to shop at Albertsons would be on or right after the first of the month. If you check the shelves at other retailers you will also see some empty shelves. there are a large number of people on assistance with the economy the way it is and many of them have their benefits used up before the end of the month and are waiting for them to reload so they can shop.
      I don’t know if there is any way for you to avoid shopping on the 1st, but you might have a little bit more luck if you are able to. I live in caldwell and I usually have the best luck couponing right before the end of the month.

  • From someone who is couponing to survive, thank you! Both for sharing your knowledge and for publicly stating that shelf-clearing shortchanges the others who need the deals. I live in a town where practically everyone extreme coupons and shelf clearing is a real problem. The stores have started compensating by not restocking the shelves once they’ve been cleared. It’s so frustrating to not even be able to pay full price for something I need. One store stopped accepting coupons entirely. The others have changed their policies to severely restrict coupon use. Whether or not the items are actually donated to charity, shelf clearing is a practice that impacts all shoppers.

  • Here’s how I think (especially at drugstores): imagine the low income, little old ladies, who just need a decent deal, walking in and seeing an empty shelf because someone NEEDED to donate 100 flosses. Donating is AWESOME, but so is leaving a few for others so that they don’t need to resort to food banks. If you really want to make a difference, maybe try donating the $$$ you saved by using coupons 🙂

    • Yep. It is actually better to leave some on the shelf than it is to donate a handful to charity. I have family on food stamps and who go to the food bank…and they always get plenty. But it is the regular every-day Joe who is struggling to survive and makes $75 a month too much to qualify for assistance who needs that floss to be there. In the 10 years I have been couponing I have seen it happen. Couponing has been made into a game, and all it is really about is being smart with your money. Period.

    • PERFECTLY PUT! Call ANY charity and ask them what they need most and it is cold hard cash! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen people clearing shelves and they are telling all of us other coupon moms who are standing there peeved that it’s for charity. A few weeks later I go to a yard sale and guess who it is selling those free items for a little less than retail? Plain rude! I hope all the other couponers out there let these yard salers and flea market vendors, return to another store to make money, etc. know how we feel about this, classless! It’s jerks and thiefs like this who are ruining couponing for us ethical couponers.

  • I agree, don’t clear the shelves in the name of charity!! Clearing the shelves in the name of “charity” is an oximoron if the person who comes in behind you is two steps away from being said charity. A very good way to give to charity is to volunteer. Don’t have time you say? Spend the time you would have used to clear the shelf. Be kind, we are all couponers. Don’t be the reason coupons become a thing of evil…

  • I know of people who always have to get the “freebies.” They say they are going to donate them…but usually they just sit on the shelves of their stockpile room. My response when someone says, “Oh, you’ve got to get this! It’s FREE.” …I say, “I prefer to leave it on the shelf for the person who NEEDS it and isn’t going to the food bank or other local organization for help.” Just give them something to ponder…donating is GREAT! All for it! I am helping several people who need the help. Great!

    • I have not heard about people claiming that on their taxes. Yikes. Being in trouble with the IRS is bad, bad, bad. I sure hope no one does that.

  • I am soooo excited to read this article and very proud of those who have commented before me. People are starting to get it! THANK YOU!!!!

    When you clear off a shelf in the name of chairty or any other time, you are costing people money! A trip to the store is not cheap these days and when you have to go back or come up empty handed, money was spent.

    Thanks again for the great post. I have been wanting an article like this to be written on a blog for years. I hope other bloggers pick-up on it!

  • Thank you for saying something about this Monica. I think we all really appreciate it.

  • Very well said Monica!
    When I hear about clearing shelves for people to “donate” items, it makes me sad. I’m sad for the older people on a fixed income who need the deals to remain self sufficient. I think of my little sister who stays up late clipping coupons for her shopping trip the next day- after going to college all day and working all night….only to find cleared shelves…she relies on deals to survive and put herself through school.
    I was so happy to see this topic brought up. It is SO important for us as a community to help each other remain self sufficient. We don’t want to see more and more people bogging down our communities resources.

  • I have often found that if a store is reluctant to give a raincheck or allow me to put in a pre-order I just explain that I’m doing, who I’m donating to and why. Managers are much more willing to work with me when I respect them and their desire to keep the shelves from being cleared. Sometimes I miss a deal but deals come around again. More problems come up because shoppers lack communication with store management.

  • Well said! Thank you for being willing to put it out there! We need to be caring for our fellow couponers as well and leaving some for the next person! Gas isn’t cheap either.

  • Monica, I am curious to know if you have heard of charitable couponers who get product for free, donate it to charities, and then claim the full price as a write off on taxes. Pretty sure this should be a NO in all of our books.

    • I have not heard about people getting free stuff and claiming full price on their taxes. Yikes. Being in trouble with the IRS is bad, bad, bad. I sure hope no one does that.

      • I see it as unethical (lying) but not illegal. You can donate to a charity and claim fair market value for the donation. I don’t do it for the very fact that I am the one going to Albies hoping to get 5 boxes Hamburger helper and there are none, to read a few days later on this couponing sight that a reader got 175 boxes to donate to their church.

        • I agree. It would make me sick to read Mondays with Mavis and see her boxes and boxes of food (even though she pre ordered it) because there was no way her family could possibly eat 100 boxes of hamburger helper (or whatever the freebie was that week). Sure she said she also donated often and she would have to with all of her weekly free boxes, no way her family could possibly eat it all. It was like a sport to her to see how much free she could possibly get to prove she was the best couponer ever or something even though as she said “lived in a McMansion” and they were very well off and didn’t need to coupon but did saving money. I would have loved to hear about her either donating her time or saved money to causes over taking bargains out of the hands of others who literally needed them and weren’t just doing it for the sport or to show off to try and get on a reality show or whatever self serving reason she was doing it.

  • Wow! Look at all the feedback. Obviously an emotional issue. Yes I believe that we spend valuable time couponing. This is time that we use to care for our family to make ends meet. Many of us have given up our jobs to care for our children while our husbands work. This makes it economically tight for us. My time is valuable and it goes to buy products from couponing to put food on our table. It makes me really mad that others are donating these items. Please leave them on the shelves for struggling couponing families.

  • I agree. I think it’s great for people to give to charities, but there is a lot more people couponing and spending a lot of time getting everything together. Then to go to the store and to find that there is nothing there. That is very frustrating. I spend a lot of time couponing along with a lot of other people and I would like to be able to get the deal just as much as you! I do not think that even taking %10-%20 is ok considering how many other people are trying to get the same thing I am.

  • I have used coupons for 30 years, ever since I’ve had to do my own shopping. I raised a son on my own, and couponing helped me make ens meet. I took flack for clipping coupons to save a few pennies, but it helped tremendously. Couponing has changed so much. I used to write to manufacturers of my favorite brands and tell them I loved their products. They said they appreciated the feed back. They would send coupons and sometimes samples, often full size products. Most people looked at couponing as odd, time consuming, too much of a bother. I was DEFINATELY in the minority. I’ve been appalled the way things have progressed. People get upset that they don’t get EVERY cheap or free deal. I hear people saying they are getting things they don’t use or need because it’s free. The latest was a menopause treatment that was a “money maker”. As I waited for an RX to be filled a woman who needed That poduct and was willing to pay full price, was looking for it and found an empty shelf. An “extreme couponer” standing in front of her with all of them off the shelf in her cart wouldn’t give her one! I don’t understand this at all. People think they are entitled to take “Extreme Advantage” of the system. I can’t afford to stock up the way these people do, I’m on disability now and I just need enough to get through to the next month. I have seen coupon values go down and become scarcer for items I’ve always used. I think this is a trend we all better get used to, thanks to this unadulterated greed. They are ruining it for all of us.

    • Last week the same thing at Walgreens,,,,,,you could make 1$ buying depends. Well thats just great but for the people who actually use them there were none.

      Laura, for what its worth there are still a few of us that dont buy it if we dont need it. I am still a few years away from menopause and hopefully incontinence too, I did not buy either of them.
      And for those of you that bought 30 boxes of Kotex tampons at Walgreens because they were free (and you could)…..shame on you

      • I clipped two depends coupons and two kotex coupons and decided not to even try and go. I’m glad I didn’t lol..

      • please don’t assume that just because a younger person bought depends or menopause pills that they don’t need them or got them just becasue they were a MM. I coupon for my family PLUS others! In the same breath, I don’t clear shelfs, there is NO REASON TO! I get usually 2 of each deal, and have been couponing now for a year. I’ve got a good stock pile of toothpaste, deoderant, floss, lotion etc, just by getting a couple of the sale/freebies each week when I go shopping. Cycles come around CONSTANTLY. what I have noticed is the lower value of coupons now. .25 off tide? really? what happend to 1.00? Now you also have to buy TWO of something to get the discount instead of just one? It will be interesting to see what the next year brings in the coupon world.

        • Shelby,

          I did not specify any person or their age. I would bet you that right now the menopause support and the depends are instock now that they are not free. I know for a fact reading other couponing blogs the people are buying those items because they are a money maker, and not because they need them, they state that while they are bragging about their trips to Walgreens. My point that you obviously missed is that there are people who need that stuff and some of us dont think its ok to buy it because we can make a buck on it. It should be left for the people that need it.

  • Thank you for speaking up on this. I think some people are addicted to the high you get from the “deal” and use giving to charity as an excuse for their behavior. A “coupon shopaholic” or something like that. Next reality TV will be on intervention for the coupoon mom.

  • I do agree about not buying massive amounts at one time, however some people are afraid to buy the last 3 of an item because they will be called a shelf clearer. I dont think that is the case. That is not shelf clearing.

    • yep. that is me. my brain just won’t let me take that last one of something unless it is something I need right at the moment. I guess I figure someone else needs it worse than I do. I wish my stores would pre order. they used to but most of them won’t do it any more. I used to be able to get a year supply of certain items my family likes best when they were on sale (sometimes with a coupon but usually not) Now since I can’t pre order I can’t always get my year supply. but I do try to do that kind of stock piling late at night just before the item goes off sale then I don’t feel so bad about taking what is left because it usually means everyone that wanted it have already gotten the items they need.

  • My husband and I are retired and living on a fixed income so couponing is very important to me. I also like to give to charity because it makes me feel good to know my skills at couponing are helping others. I have done very well getting a few deals at a time but doing it consistently week after week. I don’t empty the shelves and I really appreciate the other couponers who don’t empty the shelves either. It is very disappointing to go to buy toothpaste mid-morning on Sunday and find the store has already been emptied out for the week from their stock of an item that is a great deal with a coupon. When I give stuff away I pull it from my own stock and I feel really good knowing I have the items in my own house to help others. Thanks all for your posts. I see so many valid comments.

  • Thank you for sharing this. My husband and I got laid off last summer and had no income for 2 months. I was the person using coupons to survive, and by the time I would get to the store in the A.M. hours non the less. The deals were gone. It is so frustrating trying to survive and then to head over to the store for a good deal, and someone has cleared the shelf. Most of the time the shelf has been cleared just so the customer can walk out of the store and brag about getting $500 worth of products for almost nothing, or in some cases even walking out getting paid to use the coupons. I believe in charity also. But I would like the opportunity to be self sufficient in a crisis and the shelf clearers just don’t make that possible.

  • Hurray for this post! I’m a working mom who coupons, and finding an empty shelf always kills it for me – I just don’t have time to go back over and over…. That said, I love a good deal, and a free one is always the best. What I do if I have too many good coupons for an item that has a great deal, rather than clear the shelf, is leave the coupons behind for someone else, or even directly give them to someone who at the shelf at the same time. That way, they have the chance to get the deal as well. Just a thought, but it’s a way to help, and a way to share the product more effectively, too.

  • I’m new to couponing. Have only been doing it about 5 months. I’m getting discouraged quickly. I do it to make ends meet, to help my mother on a fixed income, and to help my daughter who is out on her own on a very tight budget. I am discouraged by shelf clearing. I am discouraged by the sales clerks who treat me like I’m “ripping them off”, I’m discouraged by the competitive nature of couponers who rush into the store with a cart in a race to get to a product before anyone else. I love that I can save big money, but I have tried to get products I really need only to find the shelves bare. Repeated trips to stores make me frustrated to continually find empty shelves. I applaud everyone for trying to make ends meet in these tough times. I really hope that those who clear shelves will take a few moments to reflect on their purchases. Maybe the depends that you cleared off the shelf because they were a “money maker” could have gone to an elderly person who truly needs them, lives on a fixed income, and doesn’t go to food banks for donations. I will continue to coupon, but my patience is wearing thin. Very very thin.

    • I feel the same. I also started about 5 months ago and find that some deals are just not worth it. Usually if it is listed as a MM or a double deal I don’t even attempt it. I will glance over the match-ups before I go now but take my binder with me and look for my own deals. They may not be as good as what these ladies find but I don’t have to get into a boxing match for a can of green beans.

  • I try to pre-order when I know I will be buying a lot of one item, but when I can’t pre-order due to not finding out about a sale early enough or coupons expiring quickly, I let the store manager know as soon as possible. They’ve been able to place an order and restock the shelves the morning after I shop. I also try to shop on the least busy days, not as soon as the ad came out but closer to the end of the sales end. That way other shoppers have usually gotten when they need on the first day or over the weekend. I’m lucky my mangers have been very accommodating. If I let them know what I need they will get it on the order for me quickly.

  • I have been couponing for the past year ever since our family lost almost everything in this depressed economy. We are just above the limit for public assistance and struggling every week to make it. I understand that coupons are not intended for survival but some of us are using them for this purpose so we dont have to go to the food bank. I spend many hours every week trying to clip coupons that we can use. I can afford 1 Sunday paper and when i find a coupon i can use i can print the 2 limit and i am happy. We don’t have enough to build a stock pile but i am so happy when i find coupons for items for products that we actually use. It is disappointing to find items cleared out the day when the sale begins. I had a lady the other day in front of me clearing a shelf and turned to me and apologized for taking them she said i hope you don’t think i am mean…i just wanted one, just one i guess we live in a society now that doesn’t consider others even if they are standing in front of your face…I was able to save $6.00 yesterday with my coupons and it let me buy lunch meat for my kids sandwiches and deodorant for my teenage son. I now have the $6.00 i would have spent that i can now use to buy my son a much needed pair of shorts for the summer. Couponing allows me to do the simple things like get the kids hair cuts and buy them clothes that others have money for. I’m thankful every time i get coupons and can use them its a simple joy that helps our family so much. Thank you for your post .

  • I’m new to couponing and I get very frustrated seeing the cleared shelves on Monday’s! I agree, whether for charity or not, shelves should not be cleared. I go to the store to get a good deal on 4 boxes of breakfast bars and there is nothing, absolutely nothing left–causing me to make another trip later on during the week in hopes the item has been restocked so I may purchase them. This causes me to waste gas and when I’m trying to cut costs in our budget its almost not worth it. I think purchasing four items of any product should be enough for most households. Perhaps stockpiling might take longer but taking just 4 of anything would benefit other couponers in your area.

  • Thanks for doing this post and showing those that being selfish isn’t helping your community. I shop at stores (rite aid, certain walgreens) that enforce limits to make it fair to all and so that i have a better chance of leaving with something and not wasting gas. It’s not fair that the first person to arrive at the store sunday morning gets it all, claims it for charity when people speak their minds and gets upset then you see this person having a yard sale and saling pet food when they don’t even have pets and there are tons of animals that are put down everyday because the shelters can’t afford the food to keep em alive. I’ve ran into many shelf clearers and whatever the excuse some people are just plain being greedy. I’ve actually seen shoppers fighting over who had the better excuse to get all of the product on the shelf, the “we’re a one income family become of the economy “vs. the other who was “buying for a bunch of relatives” I went in there for my one freebie and left empty handed. I guess everyone has their justification of why they are doing it but i think it comes down to the stores to try and spread the wealth by imposing limits and making it harder for the shelf clearers to be greedy.

    • I do think there should be some sort of limit on most things. Tampons for example: I have coupons for 10-15 boxes, they don’t expire and I will eventually use them all….Do I seriously need 15 boxes of tampons? How about the broke mom behind me that REALLY needs them? I would rather give her my coupons than steal a deal out from under her in the name of charity or anything else. I coupon to keep my family off assistance and be able to stay home with my 2 youngest rather than have a daycare raise them. I get 5 papers a week. If me using 5 coupons is going to clear the shelf, I won’t use them all, usually only 2. I can use the rest later. So when I go to use my doubles for cereal that my kids ARE GOING TO USE and there is not a single box of the sale item left I am ANGRY. There just is no reason for it. Thanks for the post. I hope these “charitable people” get bored with couponing soon, otherwise we that depend on it will no longer be able to save enough to keep going.

  • Thank you! I just saw on FB that Extreme Couponing is starting up another season soon & although i liked the show the first year it came out, now I am mostly disgusted by it. It seems like the show promotes shelf-clearing in the name of “donating”. Come on, no charity needs 300 bottles of hot sauce! I am tired of watching people spend $20 for $1000 of stuff because they bought 200 of the same items and then used “free items” coupons and/or shop at a store that doubles every coupon. I appreciate your arricle! I have linked to it on fB for my couponing friends. A good reminder for us all!

  • Good article. I have a couponing acquaintance who is a very sweet, decent person, but is overly aggressive in the name of donations. Her rationale is that the stores should stock enough of the “free” products to satisfy all comers. (I doubt that would work, as the extreme couponers would continue to raid the shelves.) The cashiers know and love my friend because they all tell me that she “donates”. My rebuttal is that the rest of us often miss out because of the donors. And this is not to mention how the hoarders tie up the cash registers with their dozens of coupons and rolling rewards certificates from one transaction to the next, while the rest in line simmer.

  • “Charity” is the practice of benevolent giving and caring. It is also a Christian theological concept of unlimited love and kindness. I know that performing acts of charity is important to many of us.

    When you take only that which is useful to you and are considerate of others, you are, in fact, practicing charity.

  • I certainly agree that their are shelf clearers and hoarders out there. However, it seems to me that from the vast amount of replies here that many are blaming empty shelves solely on hoarders. That is just not true. Many stores only carry a limited amount of stock. All it takes is a dozen or so people a day to pick up one or two of an item, then the stock is depleted until that item can be reordered. Secondly, stores are really trying to push their items so they run a 10 for 10 sale. Mix or Match. (just an example but I know you all have seen them) The stores themselves are ENCOURAGING you to buy in quantity. Also, you are going to see depleted stock AFTER the weekend is over. Many working people only have time to shop on weekends.

    Also, what makes those receiving charity/donations any less qualified to receive than those trying to coupon because they can’t make their mortgage, they lost a job or whatever hard times they have fallen on. The fact is that you are not going to find every deal you are going for. It’s just the law of

    I know exactly how this whole topic came to be. Read it in the heading of this article. A gal made a comment that she got 44 free deoderants at Albies this last week. Mind you she didn’t initially clarify it by saying she went to several stores instead of clearing the shelves in one store. But even so, to many of you. because of the volume she was able to get, she will still be labeled a shelf clearer.

    I donate but I try and do it responsibly and respectfully. No shelf clearing but driving to several stores in my area. Pre-ordering when necessary (although once again from the comments, even that is considered hoarding) If I buy 20 or 30 items of the SAME item does that make me a hoarder? Please note that I said “buy”, because I am not out there strictly for the freebies. You won’t see me with a 12 inch thick coupon binder or a shopping cart overflowing with free treasure. What you see in my cart is about a dozen items or less (probably all the same as I almost always go in for one specific item) Then I hand over my hard earned cash to pay. Then I drive these items to my church every Saturday so that the needy (those that cant pay their mortgage, lost their job, etc, etc,…) can hopefully have a decent meal.

    Their are always two sides to a coin. And hoarding is not always the case.

  • I have a family of six and buy four papers a week. I usually have enough for all of us and then some to help out my sister when she needs things. Good deals on same types of things seem to roll around about every three months. I like the rule of buying a paper for each person in your family. I have been the one behind the 6 a.m. shopper at Albie’s who cleared the shelf and it is frustrating and kind of sad for us who also work so hard to get a few good deals. I say buy what you need and if you have extra then share!!

  • I have a friend who buys (gets free with coupons) multiple items, when she said she gives it all to a shelter, I was sorta impressed with her. Then in the next sentence she said that they get receipts for full value of items and deduct this on their income taxes. Well, so much for being impressed….I agree with all who say – leave some for everyone who coupons…

  • When I watch an episode of Extreme Couponing and the shopper says they are getting it to donate to charity, I can’t help but wonder if charities would have as much need without the extreme coupons. It seems a little self-defeating to me. First of all, all of those people have tons of extras already that they themselves admit they could never use. Why not donate what you already have instead of buying more? Also, without people taking advantage of the system the way these shoppers do, stores would not have the need to up prices and restrict coupon use, making it easier for everyone to do in moderation, thereby reducing the need for food banks.

  • My husband and I have been couponing for a little less than six months. Recently, we decided to use what we’ve learned from couponing to give to local charities for Christmas. We don’t have much in our stockpile, but we are giving it away. However, we will need more to meet the needs of the community. I have read some valid points in this discussion, but would what be your advice? In my area, we have quite a few couponers who do clear shelves as well.

    • It is sad when couponers clear the shelves. If you want to give to charity I would buy a few more than you need each week when you find a deal and set them aside for donations. It is important to consider that we should leave some good deals behind for those people couponing in order to stay off assistance or be more self sufficient.

  • I am a strategic couponer and this year will be couponing more to donate to charity. I fell on hard times last year and cashed out a 401k to avoid foreclosure on my home. I will owe the IRS next year and am using charitable donations to help soften that blow. I certainly am not a shelf clearer. I purchase three of a product and keep it moving. Strategic couponing takes time and dedication. There is nothing wrong with accepting a tax break for it. Does not make giving any less appreciated. I have always donated to charities even before couponing and always took the tax break. I don’t judge anyone for doing so.

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