You already know all about basic couponing. You already know how to scan the flyers for special coupon offers. You’ve got the knack of hunting down coupons online for the things you like to buy. You already have a sorting system so that you’ll use coupons before their expiry dates. You’re a dedicated coupon clipper, and you’re ready for the budgeting big leagues.
Do use coupons only when what you want to buy is already on sale. Using manufacturer’s coupons on top of store sale prices gets you a double discount. If you find the item for sale at close to the same price as the manufacturer coupon discount, it’s like getting it for free!
Even better, do buy lots of sale items with coupons when there’s a special store-wide promotion or a good loyalty program points multiplier going on. If buying $75 worth of stuff gets you a free turkey, there’s nothing saying that the $75 can’t be made up entirely of things on sale, with coupons on them to boot! In some stores, you can even use manufacturer’s coupons to reduce that total, but you’ve really got to be careful here, and not all stores will let you do that. By the way, the total you’ve got to reach for these kinds of promotions is always a subtotal before tax.
Do stack coupons whenever you can! You’ll always be allowed to combine a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon, but there’s also other ways of even more extreme coupon stacking.
However, when you’re stacking coupons, you’ve got to watch out for manufacturer coupons which are store-specific. Some places do this deliberately so you can only use one coupon for a coupon item. There’s also a few stores which set their cash registers so that you can only ever use a single coupon on a purchase. Sometimes you’ll be able to argue your way out of this afterwards at the customer service desk, but don’t count on it.
Do make sure the cashier rings your coupons in correctly. The cash register has separate codes for manufacturer coupons, store coupons, and manager coupons, which are usually stuck on items which are getting close to their best-before dates. Some of these are applied pre-tax and others are applied post-tax. You can also only use one of each, so it matters how the cashier rings them in!
Don’t go shopping without a purchase plan. That means you’re heading into the store with a detailed list, along with how you’re going to apply coupons to each item. This is also a good way of sticking to your budget. After all, if you’ve got a list, you know exactly what you need, so you’re much less likely to make an impulse buy which breaks your budget.
Don’t use a coupon without reading the fine print. It’s best to do this even before you head out shopping. Pay close attention to the expiry date, the exact types of product you can use it on, and the rules of how to use the coupon.
Some coupons are very specific. With these kinds of coupons, you’ve got to make absolutely sure that you’ve got the right brand, the right type of product, and the right size. Other coupons are much more flexible. Usually these kinds of coupons specify the brand and a minimum size, but leave the rest up to you. You may even be able to use them on any size except travel sizes and testers!
If you see the phrase “one per purchase,” you’ll probably be able to use one coupon for every coupon item you buy. However, some stores read this as allowing only one of these coupons for the whole transaction.
Do watch out for the phrases “one per customer” and “one per transaction.” Those mean that you can only use one of those coupons when you’re going through the cashier. If you find one of these phrases, you’re best off to buy just one of the coupon items.
If you run into this problem, there’s one trick that always works. Just send your spouse through the grocery line separately with another of the sale item and a coupon for it.
The bottom line
If you’re using these extreme couponing tips correctly, you’ll be able to save 25 to 75 percent (or even 90 percent if it’s on clearance) just from the sale price. You’ll save another 5 to 15 percent from the coupon. A good promotion should save you another 10 percent, and a good loyalty points program gives you a base of another 1 to 5 percent but can get as high as 10 percent.
Of course, if all your discounts mean that you’re getting it for cheaper than free, the store won’t give you back the difference in cash. It’s really pushing it to go to the customer service desk and ask for a refund when you’ve couponed it to cheaper than free!
You probably won’t be able to do this with every single item every single time. There’s basic items like milk where it’s really, really difficult to get coupons. However, if you do it more than half the time, just imagine the savings!