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Double the savings, double the fun

I've mentioned before that dollar sales paired with dollar coupons are one of my favorite ways to get free items at the grocery store. Another easy way is through double-coupon promotions.

Double-coupon promotions are exciting! Many stores will match a coupon's face value and pass the savings on to you, the shopper. Some stores double coupons every day, while others run special double coupon promotions certain days of the week or times of the year. In some cases, stores may even offer triple-coupon days. Regardless of how your stores handle double coupons, they are a great way to save even more money and get items for free.

Here's how coupon doubling works. If you have a 50-cent coupon, the cashier will scan it at the register and give you $1 off your item. Coupon doubling becomes even more fun when the doubled value equals the value of the item you're buying. Let's say you are buying a 2-liter bottle of soda that was on sale for a dollar. With a 50-cent coupon doubled to $1, your bottle of soda is free! The store matches the coupon's value of 50 cents and you pay nothing.

So what happens if your doubled coupon value exceeds the cost of the item? During a recent double-coupon sale at a major retailer I purchased a $3.50 bottle of shampoo. I had a $2 coupon; the store doubled the coupon's value to $4. Now, as I've mentioned in a previous column, many stores do allow what couponers call overage, when the value of a coupon exceeds the cost of an item. In the case of overage, the extra value is applied to the rest of your total. However, stores that double coupons typically do not give overage. In this instance, the $2 coupon would double to a $4 value, but since the item is $3.50, the store will "adjust down" the value to match the cost of the item, making it free.

It's important to check your store's policy on doubling coupons, too. Policies on coupon doubling vary by store and retail chain. Some stores may double all coupons up to 50 cents or $1. Other stores may double coupons up to $2. Some stores will not double printable Internet coupons. Ask your store for a copy of its coupon policy, either at the store's service counter or online via the store's Web site.

What if your store doesn't double coupons? Don't worry. You can still be a Super-Couponer even without double coupon promotions. I have noticed that double coupons tend to be a regional phenomenon. In many markets, grocery stores may not offer double coupons at all. This is the case where I live, in the suburbs of Chicago, where major grocery stores simply don't offer double coupons. In fact, to find grocery stores that offer double coupons I travel 40 minutes away from the city, so I rarely get to take part in these promotions. I shop every week at a store that does not offer coupon doubling, and I still do very well at cutting my grocery bill significantly.

At least one major retailer has started offering double-coupon promotions nationwide during certain times of the year. They're definitely worth watching for! With the current state of the economy, I would guess we'll see other retailers taking part in similar promotions in the weeks and months ahead.

(c) CTW Features

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, http://www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your couponing coups and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.