Q: "I really enjoy your column. It is amazing how much money I have saved since I started using coupons! But I have a question. Are you allowed to use more than one coupon on any given item? I feel that if you have more than one coupon for an item, you should be able to use them. Otherwise, where is the great savings that so many people talk about? I have heard of people having their entire grocery bill paid by the use of coupons."
A: Can you ever use more than one coupon on the same item? To answer this, you'll need to first determine what kind of coupon you're dealing with. Coupons fall into two major categories: manufacturer coupons, which are issued by the manufacturer of a product; and store coupons, which are issued by the store itself.
A manufacturer coupon will always have the wording at the top, "Manufacturer Coupon." As we discussed in last week's column, regardless of whether the coupon bears a store's name or logo, it if contains the words "manufacturer coupon," it's been issued by the manufacturer.
A store coupon typically looks different from a manufacturer coupon. The bar code is usually a different size or format than the one that appears on a manufacturer coupon. It also typically contains the words "Store Coupon."
Now that the difference is clear, here are the rules. Manufacturer coupons state "Limit One Per Purchase." This legal wording can be confusing, but what you need to remember is this: each item we buy is considered a purchase. Each trip through the checkout lane is considered a transaction. So, keeping in mind that each item is considered a purchase, the coupon limit statement becomes clear: "Limit one manufacturer coupon per item purchased."
You can always, only and forever use just one manufacturer coupon per item purchased. The register will not accept more than one manufacturer coupon for the same item and the legal terms of the coupon itself prohibit it. If I have two $1 manufacturer coupons for a bottle of juice, I cannot use them both on the same bottle of juice. The coupons are limited to one coupon per item purchased. I would need to buy two bottles to use both $1 coupons.
You may think that just because you have two manufacturer coupons for the same item that you should be able to use them together, but this is never the case. The register will not allow it and neither will the store. When a store redeems those coupons with the manufacturer, the manufacturer can audit the store and ask for proof that it sold as many items as it submitted coupons for. If the store cannot provide proof and if, in fact, it violated the terms of the coupon and accepted more than one manufacturer coupon for the same item, the manufacturer can refuse reimbursement.
Store coupons are completely different. These typically can be stacked with a manufacturer coupon and used on the same item. Store coupons function as sale-price reductions for the store.
If I have a 75-cent store coupon for juice and a $1 manufacturer coupon for the same brand and size of juice, I can use these together. Coupon shoppers call this "stacking." If I stack the 75-cent store coupon for the juice with the $1 manufacturer coupon, I save $1.75 on a single bottle of juice, an excellent discount.
You asked where the "great savings" are if shoppers can't use more than one manufacturer coupon on the same item. Great savings comes by combining high-value coupon discounts with low sale prices on a week-by-week basis. More on this in next week's column.
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.supercouponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.