It's time to answer some questions from readers like you, who are learning to Super-Coupon:
Q: I read your column about stockpiling groceries that you find on sale. How much of something do I need to buy at one time to stockpile it? I'm not comfortable doing bulk buying.
A: "Stockpiling" is a term that many coupon enthusiasts use to refer to the practice of buying ahead of schedule. When we stockpile, we attempt to beat the stores at their own pricing games by buying enough of an item to sustain our household's needs until the next time that item goes on sale. It doesn't necessarily refer to bulk buying but rather just buying more than you immediately need.
If an item is non-perishable, or has a long shelf life, buy as many of that item as you have coupons for. Add them to your stockpile, and use them over the next few weeks, instead of running to the store for that item.
Here's an example. If pasta sauce is on sale for $1.29, and I have six, 75-cent coupons, I will buy six jars of sauce and pay just 54 cents a jar. While my immediate needs for this week's meal would only include one jar, the price of the pasta sauce will likely be back up to $2.99 next week. When I decide to make pasta again, I can go down to my pantry and get another jar, which I bought at 54 cents. I don't need to go to the grocery store and pay full price, because I bought a little more than I needed last week when it was on sale.
When you think about doing this on a larger scale with everything we buy, it's easy to see how we can save in the long term. It's not bulk buying so much as it is buying just a little more than we need in the short term. You will become comfortable with "shopping at home" for those items from your own pantry, versus running to the store and paying that higher price. Stockpiling teaches you to shop on a price-based basis, versus a needs-based basis.
Q: One of my local grocery stores will not accept Internet coupons. Why wouldn't a store take them? Should I be wary of using them?
A: While most stores accept Internet coupons, it's true that some do not. Counterfeit coupons have always been a problem for stores. With the advent of the Internet, new problems have arisen, especially when counterfeiters make realistic-looking coupons and post them online. If many people print and redeem the fake coupons, stores lose money because they cannot redeem the fakes with the manufacturer. To avoid these issues, some stores have issued a blanket No Internet Coupons policy.
Do you need to be afraid of using Internet coupons? Not at all. There are hundreds of legitimate coupons available on the Internet every day. To know whether or not an Internet coupon is legitimate, look to see where the coupon originates. If it is posted on a manufacturer or store web site, it's legitimate and perfectly fine to use. If it is posted on someone's personal site or a file-sharing site, you have no way to verify its origin, so you shouldn't use it. If you're looking on manufacturers' sites for coupons in the first place, you won't come across any coupons that are fraudulent.
It's important to note, too, that you cannot make a photocopy of a coupon that you printed from the Internet, a common misconception among new coupon users. Some people assume that because it printed from their printer they can copy it and make as many as they would like. But can you copy a dollar bill? No. And you can't copy a coupon, either. Internet coupons have unique serial numbers and bar codes. While you might get away with passing photocopies at your store, your store will ultimately pay the price when they go to redeem them, since they'll only get credit for one coupon with that serial number.
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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 email@example.com.