Q: "My mom and I get different newspapers, and she saves her coupon inserts for me each week. I have noticed that the coupons that come in her paper are often different from the ones that come in mine. The coupons are usually for the same products, but the dollar amounts are different! On the same day, we both had coupons for automatic dishwasher detergent. My newspaper had a $1 coupon. Her newspaper ran the same ad with a $5 coupon for the same product. Is this normal?"
A: It's no secret that different newspapers may carry different coupons inserts each week. What surprises many new coupon shoppers is that different coupon inserts often have the same front and back covers, so they appear to be the same. But inside, you may find coupons for different products, even in papers in the same market area. Or, as you noticed, you may find coupons that appear to be the same, at first glance, but on closer inspection carry different dollar amounts.
Why is this? When manufacturers run promotional campaigns, they may vary the products and the terms from market to market. They control which products they promote in specific areas. They also may choose to offer higher coupon values in one publication than in another. With regard to the dishwasher detergent coupon noted in the reader's letter above, the week it was issued, the company distributed three different versions: a $1 coupon, a $2 coupon and a $5 coupon. An informal survey of family and friends found that some of us received the highest value coupon while others got lower values. We all receive the same newspaper, but we live in different delivery areas. Those who received the $5 coupon cheered when the detergent went on sale a week later for $4.99!
Another little game manufacturers play: At times, they offer different coupon values to different neighborhoods or segments of a circulation area, even though each household receives the same newspaper. As shoppers, there's not much we can do to ensure we get the "best" coupons, other than to subscribe to more than one newspaper.
People often ask how many newspapers I receive each week. I subscribe to two -- my smaller, local newspaper, and a larger, city newspaper. This helps ensure I receive the widest variety of coupons available in my area.
I see my weekly newspaper subscription as a small investment that results in a big payback of coupon savings down the line.
Q: "Is there any way to get coupon inserts without buying the newspaper every week?"
A: I can't fathom why anyone would not want to buy the newspaper every week for the coupons alone! That $1, $2 or $3 investment can easily net you $50, $75 or $100 in coupons each week. My newspapers pay for themselves after I've used only a couple of coupons -- and then, all of the other coupons I use in the following weeks and months are essentially "free money" to me.
In fact, some weeks, I buy extra copies of the newspapers in order to get the coupons. Not long ago, one of my newspapers offered a coupon for a free, eight-pound bag of a premium dog food. That's a fantastic coupon! The newspaper that carried the coupon cost $1. I bought 10 papers simply for that one coupon, so I spent $10 on 80 pounds of a great brand of dog food that normally sells for $12.99 per eight-pound bag. Not only did my newspapers immediately pay for themselves, but I also have ten extra sets of coupon inserts from that week to help me stock up on many other products.
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.