Get creative with BOGO and save big

Q: "I enjoy your column and have found some very helpful tips by reading it. I have a question. If I have a buy-one-get-one-free coupon and an additional $1 coupon for the same product, can I use them in the same transaction? For example, I have a BOGO coupon for a jar of peanut butter and I have a $1 coupon for the same brand of peanut butter."

A: It's up to your store. To understand why some stores allow it, let's review the wording on each coupon. As we've discussed frequently in my column, each item that we buy is a purchase; each trip through the checkout lane is a transaction. Manufacturer coupons typically state "One per purchase" or "One coupon per item purchased."

If your store allows you to use both a BOGO coupon and a $1 coupon on two items, they're interpreting this situation in this way: You are purchasing two jars of peanut butter. Each "one per purchase" coupon is applicable to one jar of peanut butter. You can apply the $1 coupon to the first jar and the BOGO coupon to the second jar. This is a fantastic way to bring down the price of both items! If the jars of peanut butter were on sale for $1.99 each, you would pay 99 cents for your first jar after the $1 coupon was applied -- and you'd also get the second jar free with the second coupon, resulting in two jars of very inexpensive peanut butter!

Be aware, though, that some stores interpret this scenario differently. If they regard the BOGO coupon as applying to the purchase of two items (buying one and getting the second free), they may not allow you to use the $1 coupon. The way they see it, you would be using more coupons than you have "purchases." Technically, this isn't the case. The BOGO coupon truly does apply to the free item (note the space on the coupon for the cashier to enter the sale price of the free product) while the other item is a qualifier to get the second item free. But again, this is an area that's open to interpretation.

A similar situation arises with coupons that require a qualifying purchase. Recently, my grocery store had boxes of corn flakes with peel-off coupons attached. The "peelie" coupons stated, "Buy corn flakes and get $2 off any produce item." It's always nice to get some cheap strawberries or bananas to go with those corn flakes, isn't it? But what if I also had a $1 coupon for this brand of corn flakes? Again, how this is handled really is up to your store. One of my local grocers would have no problem with this -- again, because the $1 coupon is being applied to the corn flakes while the $2 coupon (with corn flakes as a qualifying item) will actually be applied to the produce I choose.

The best way to determine how your store will handle this situation is simply by trying. If the register is set to accept both, both coupons will scan. If they don't and the register returns an error, you'll know that your store will not allow you to use both a BOGO coupon and a $1 dollar coupon on two identical products. Look for details on how your store handles various coupons and coupon-related situations, including free or BOGO transactions, in the store's coupon policy.

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 jill@ctwfeatures.com.