Wednesday, September 23, 2009

5 Secrets to Maximizing Coupon Savings

I didn’t realize she was talking to me, at first. Undeterred, she tapped me on the shoulder and repeated her emphatic question, “How did you DO that?”
"That" was checking out with two carts overloaded with groceries with an initial total of $498 and then paying only $187 for all of it while receiving a handful of coupons from the cashier.
I looked at my questioner's shopping cart with a few store brand items and then back into her imploring eyes and I knew what she was thinking. I had been there myself only a few months before. But that was before I learned the five secrets to taking home carloads of brand-name products for much less than I used to scrimp and save on generics.
Though I had some dairy products that I needed to get home quickly, I was able to quickly share with this desperate mom a few of the secrets I had discovered.
  1. Buy lowIt’s the classic investment strategy: Buy low – Sell high. With a slight variation. In this case, you’re going to buy low and USE high, meaning: You will use the products you bought at a low price later, when the price is higher.

    Every week, grocery stores drop a portion (about 1/12) of their merchandise to its lowest offered price. Over a three-month period, almost the entire store goes to its rock-bottom price. And that’s when you should buy your groceries from that portion of the store.
    You’ll use it later; when the price has gone back up.
  2. Stack savingsMultiply your savings by using a store coupon in conjunction with the rock-bottom price. Throw in a manufacturer’s coupon for more savings. Use a store loyalty card, store rebates, and manufacturer rebates, to stack on even more.

    All of these savings can be stacked on one product, making your groceries pennies on the dollar!
  3. Buy more than you needWhen you need it right now, you’re willing to pay more for it. But if you can plan head and buy all you can use between rock-bottom trends, when you need it, you will already have it.

    Known as stockpiling or food storage (though many more items than food can be stored for future use), buying more than you need is simply a continuation of “buy low.” You don’t want to run out of something before that low price cycles back around, so buy more than you need, but not more than you will use.
  4. Use a coupon for every itemLeave no product un-couponed. Even on “free” items, use a coupon. When you’re taking advantage of a buy-one-get-one (BOGO) deal, you are getting two products; use two coupons. Although it seems you’ve already gotten one item for “free,” what you really have is two products that have been marked down 50%. You can realize additional stacked savings by using a coupon for each item. Alternately, if you have a “save $ on two” coupon, you can use it in a BOGO deal because you have bought two items.

    Bonus: if your coupon is a manufacturer BOGO and the store is offering a BOGO sale, both items are free. This works because the store marked it down 50% and the manufacturer gave you 50% off, for a total of 100% savings!
  5. Understand the fine printStacking savings is great, but not always allowed. Understanding the fine print on your coupons will let you know when you can—and can’t—stack savings.

    One coupon per customer means you can only use one coupon, regardless of how many items you purchase, or how many transactions you go through. But, do you have other “customers” in your family?

    One coupon per transaction means you can only use one coupon per payment. Check with your store for their preferred method of allowing you to make multiple transactions to multiply savings. Typically, you can make multiple transactions during one visit to the checkout counter.

    One coupon per purchase means you can only use one coupon per item. An individual item is a purchase, not your entire shopping cart, and not everything you ring up in one transaction. If you buy two bottles of shampoo and have two “one coupon per purchase” coupons, you can use one on each bottle of shampoo; each of which is a single purchase.

    Not to be combined with any other offer means any other “offer” from that entity. In this case, you wouldn’t be able to stack a manufacturer coupon with a manufacturer rebate. But if the store puts it on sale, a manufacturer coupon is still redeemable with the store’s “offer.”
Now that I have it typed up, I’m going to print this list and keep some copies with me when I go to the store, for the next person who asks, “How did you DO that?!”