Thursday, July 1, 2010

Frugality- The rules of using coupons.

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Here are the basic rules of couponing. Keep in mind during this post that some stores have different policies, I will note where I know of differences. Most of these rules will be true for most grocery stores, but again check with your individual stores to be certain. Follow the rules, and you will be ensured that you will have a happy relationship with your store, and the store will have a favorable view of coupons.

  1.  Quantity, sizes, and product type- read your coupon to know which product to use it on. It may not match the one on sale.
  2. You can use only 1 manufacturer's coupon per a product. For example, on many match-ups you will see several manufacturer's coupons listed, you must pick the best one to use. When a manufacturer's coupon say $1/2 or $1/4 you must buy whatever amount it says. You cannot combine it with a $1/1 manufacturer's coupon. 
  3. Store coupons- You can use one store coupon per product. If the store coupon says $1/2, you must buy two. You cannot combine two store coupons ($1/2 and $1/1) for the same item.
  4. Most stores allow you to stack a manufacturer's with their store coupon. (Target, Publix, Walgreen's, CVS, Winn-Dixie all do.) For example, you buy shampoo and use $1/1 manufacturer's and $1/1 Publix or you buy two shampoo and use $1/2 manufacturer and (2) $1/1 Publix coupons.
  5. Some stores will allow use of a competitor's coupons. You will need to know what the store considers to be a competitor. In most cases, you can stack a manufacturer's with a competitor's. A few stores allow you to stack a manufacturer's, store, and competitor's. For example, at Publix $1/1 manufacturer's and $1/1 Target. In some cases, you may be able to do $1/1 manufacturer, $1/1 Publix, and $1/1 Target.
  6. Doubling and tripling- Some stores will double or triple coupons up to a certain coupon value. Publix (not in Florida) doubles coupons up to 50¢.  Some stores (Harris Teeter) occasionally offer super doubles and triples. This generally means they are doubling or tripling higher value coupons.
  7. True BOGO's and coupons- If your store has a true BOGO (you have to buy two of an item) then you can use a manufacturer's on both items. Your store may also allow stacking coupons on BOGO items. If you have half-price BOGO, then you can just buy one and stack coupons.
  8. BOGO's with a free item coupon or BOGO coupon- if your store offers true BOGO, then you get both items free because the store is paying for the one, and the manufacturer is paying for the other. If you have half-price BOGO then the coupons work as they normally do.
  9. Read the fine print on your manufacturer's coupon- If the coupon says do not double, then if your store does doubling the coupon will not double. If it says one coupon per person, it means one coupon per person. 
  10. Fine print on store coupons- this one is generally up to your store to decide how strict they would like to be. (For example, most Publix coupons read one deal per coupon per purchase, which should mean only 1 of that coupon per purchase, but many Publix stores allow you to use as many as you have).
  11. Expiration Dates- Most stores will not allow you to use a coupon after it has expired. Some managers will allow you to do so if it is only a day or two expired. Some in very rare let you use it for a week or more. Check with your store to know.
  12. Internet Printables- make sure they come from legitimate sources. Do not just stick an internet printable coupon on a copier, they have built in security codes. Many stores do not accept internet prints for free items or high value coupons (usually more than $5/1). Some stores do not allow internet coupons at all.
  13. Overages- Some stores allow it, some do not. You need to check with your store to know.
  14. $X/$XX purchase coupons. Usually for the value of groceries before coupons. Rarely a store will allow you to use more than one if the combined pre-coupon total is enough for both coupons. For example, you have two $5/ $25 purchase coupons, some stores will allow you to use both if your pre-coupon total is $50.
  15. WYB coupons. These can be the trickiest to figure out. It's easiest if you attach the coupon to a product in your head (this works for all coupons actually). So if it says "$1 milk wyb 2 packages of cookies", then it attaches to the milk meaning you can use coupons for the cookies. If it says "save $1 wyb milk and a package of cookies", then it attaches to both the milk and cookies.
The key rule is always when in doubt, ask your manager/customer service desk!

Hopefully that helps some. Feel free to ask me if you have a question about the usage of a coupon.

Next week we'll look at the hot-button issues of coupon etiquette.
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