Did you know that most stores accept two coupons for the same item? The coupon policies of many stores allow stacking, the term couponers use for pairing a manufacturer coupon (found in newspaper inserts and on the Internet) with a store coupon that the store offers in a local flyer or on its web site.
Pairing the manufacturer coupon and the retailer coupon results in significant savings for you. Often, a shopper who stacks coupons in this way, can get items for free.
I know what you're must be thinking: Free? Yes, free. Completely free. Let me give you a few examples of sales that I've recently enjoyed.
Shampoo is on sale for $3. The store's flyer has a $2 store coupon for the shampoo. I have a $1 manufacturer coupon for the same brand of shampoo. Using both coupons together results in $3 savings, and I go home with a free bottle of shampoo.
Frozen vegetables are on sale for $1 a bag. The store's web site has a store coupon for 50 cents off, and I have a 50-cent manufacturer coupon for the same brand of vegetables. Using these together saves me $1 -- my vegetables are free.
Even when items aren't free, they're often significantly cheaper with stacking.
A half-gallon of organic milk is on sale for $3. The store's web site has a store coupon for $1.75 off this brand of milk. This milk also has a web site with a printable manufacturer coupon for 50 cents off a half-gallon. Now, my carton of organic milk is just 75 cents.
Learning that stores allow customers to stack coupons is a revelation to new coupon users, and stacking is a big factor in bringing your total grocery bill down to a manageable level.
When I go to the grocery store, almost every item I buy is significantly less than the price most other people pay. I buy items with coupons when the items are at their lowest point in the sales cycle, and I stack store and manufacturer coupons together to achieve the lowest prices possible.
Inevitably, people ask me if the store loses money when people use coupons to get items for free or at extremely low prices. The answer is no. The product manufacturers that offer the coupons reimburse the store for the full value of the coupon, plus an 8- to 12-cent handling fee.
So, the store actually makes more money when people use coupons. If I use 30 coupons in one shopping trip, the store will make an additional $2.40 just in handling fees alone -- plus, they will be reimbursed the full face value of each coupon. Coupons pay for a big part of my grocery bill, and my store earns more because I use coupons regularly.
It's best to think of your coupons as cash. When my Sunday newspaper arrives, I immediately bring it in, pull the coupon inserts out, stick them in a folder ... and that's it. I don't waste time cutting them out or sorting them by product or type or even looking at them until I'm actually ready to go shopping for the week.
You don't have to be a highly organized person to use coupons, but when you start viewing them as cash, you treat them with the same care and organization that you would paper money.
The average Sunday newspaper has at least $40 worth of coupons inside. Would you leave $40 cash lying around the house to get lost among other papers and magazines?
So what happens when you have a $1 coupon for an item that's on sale for 75 cents? Couponers call this overage, and overage is when the real fun begins! Next week, I'll explain it to you.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.