0

Gather ye coupons ... and multi-stack

Last week, I introduced you to the concept of multi-stacking, a term I use to refer to any deal at the grocery store that involves applying multiple discounts to the purchase of the same items. Through multi-stacking, shoppers can enjoy even greater savings at the register each week, leveraging the power of store coupons, manufacturer coupons and additional sales or special promotions being held at the store.

My favorite deals are "money-back" supermarket sales, in which part of what you pay for your items is returned to you at checkout in the form of a Catalina coupon good for money off your next purchase. One of the stores I shop at recently had a "Spend $30, get $15 back" sale on a variety of items. I get very excited when I see these sales, because that $30 is the total before coupons are factored in -- pre-coupon, I call it.

This particular deal included a variety of cereals. All of them were priced at $2 a box. By buying 15 boxes I could reach the $30 spending mark and qualify for the special sale.

Now, right away, I suspect a few of my readers may be snickering a bit. Fifteen boxes of cereal? In one shopping trip? You bet! At my store, these great, high-level, money-back sales tend to come around only once every few months or so. When they do, it's a great opportunity to stock up on the cheap. Cereal is an excellent item to add to your grocery stockpile at home. It typically doesn't outdate for 11 months or more. And when you buy more, you save more.

I always take advantage of these sales when they come along. And I can't remember a time when I paid more than a quarter a box for a name-brand cereal. Really. That's actually the high end of what I'll pay. I typically pay much less than that for cereal, as you'll see during my story of this $30/$15 sale.

As I entered the cereal aisle, I was on the lookout for in-store coupons. It's always a good idea to scan for coupons that may be in dispensers or on the shelves of your supermarket. When I see coupons for products I like, I always take a few because I will have those coupons on hand next time a sale comes around. Sometimes, the coupon you need to sweeten a deal is hanging right in front of you on the shelf. Keep your eyes open.

That was the case with my cereal buy. As I added 15 boxes to my cart, I spied a tear pad of $1 coupons for the cereal hanging on the shelf right under the boxes. So, I took 15 of them. I never clean out a store of coupons; there are typically more than a hundred coupons on a tear pad. Don't be afraid to take what you will use. Remember, coupons are placed there in the hope that you will use them and try the product.

I headed to the register with my 15 boxes of $2 cereal and 15 $1 coupons. The cashier scanned my cereal and the register total came to $30. I handed the cashier my $1 coupons. After they were redeemed, my bill was $15. I paid $15 ... and I received $15 back in Catalina coupons good for my next shopping trip. So, I got back the same amount of money I spent on the cereal. My 15 boxes of cereal were, essentially, free.

I've stressed this point in previous columns but I can't say it often enough: Shoppers must think of coupons as cash. They are essentially a form of cash, for shoppers and for the stores where we do business. When a supermarket has a sale like a "Spend $30, get $15 back," shoppers still spend $30 on the items. My $1 coupons "paid" for $15 of my $30 spending and the store will get that $15 back from the manufacturer when it redeems the coupons.

The $15 in Catalina coupons that I received function just like cash in the store. They're good for anything I want to buy on my next shopping trip. So, I view this as having exchanged one form of cash for another ... but I'm still holding the $15 in my hand that I just paid for the cereal. It's just in the form of a coupon now. And you know how much I love coupons!

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 couponing coups and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.