Episode 4: August 28, 2009
Today, we’ll be discussing the ins and outs of double coupons, and how you can use them to save even more on your next shopping trip.
What are Double Coupons?
You may have heard of double coupons and how they can get you the stuff you buy everyday for much less-- or even for free-- but do you know what they are? Simply explained, double coupons are the same coupons you find in your local Sunday paper or magazine for everything from beauty supplies to food and diapers. When you redeem them at your local retailer during a double coupon promotion, the retailer will give you two times the face value of the coupon off the purchase of that item. So, for a coupon on a bar of soap for 25 cents off, you’ll get 50 cents off your purchase of the soap. Mostly any coupon can be doubled, assuming that it is a legitimate coupon and the words “Do Not Double” aren’t printed at the top. (You can usually find any doubling restrictions next to the expiration date.)
It’s quite possible for the savvy shopper to save up to 100% on the cost of an item. A great example of this would be a bottle of shampoo that’s normally priced at $3.50. If the item happens to go on sale for $2 during the double coupon promotion, you could use a $1 off coupon to get it for free!
How Can You Find Stores that Double Coupons?
Perhaps the easiest and most reliable way to tell if your local store will double is to ask. My local grocery store has been doubling for years even though it doesn’t advertise this practice. Only after I redeemed coupons for the first time did I notice that I was given twice the savings on my receipt. It turns out that they have always done that, but didn’t promote it well.
Other stores (your local Mom and Pop drug store, for example) may have a doubling promotion on certain days of the week , and large chain stores, like Kmart, frequently hold a week’s worth of double coupon events a few times a year. These double coupon promotions are often advertised in their weekly circulars or on their company website, so sign up for email updates from stores where you shop frequently to be sure you stay in the savings loop. Another way to find out about the next doubling promotion is to check online message boards and blogs that cover your retailer exclusively. Free sites that follow these closely include CommonSenseWithMoney.com and DealSeekingMom.com, as well as the popular forum FatWallet.com.
What are Some Things I Should Know Before I Shop?
Like many great opportunities to save, there are usually rules and regulations associated with most double coupon promotions. They can include:
Limits to the number of coupons redeemed per visit - The store may limit your total coupons used to no more than 75 (or another number) per transaction or day.
Limits on the number of coupons redeemed per like item – For example, you can use no more than 4 coupons for the purchase of 4 particular breakfast cereals.
Limits on the face value of each coupon used – Stores commonly won’t double any coupons worth more than a $1, or in some very rare instances, $2.
Limits on the total (or doubled) value of each coupon used – The store may state that the total doubled savings can’t be greater than $1 or more.
Some other common restrictions involve the type of item purchased. Alcohol, cigarettes, lotto tickets, or some kinds of brand-name merchandise may not always be eligible for double coupon savings. Retailers may not always honor double coupon savings on clearance items or trial-sized products (like those little travel shampoos.)
Tips for Shopping with Double Coupons
Keep in mind that you are not the only shopper out trying to score the best deals. Chances are good that if you’ve spotted a deal for getting free merchandise with double coupons, so has someone else. It’s always a good idea to go early, have a list of the best deals in hand, and hit those items at the beginning of your shopping trip. (Stores have been known to keep a limited stock of their best deals to entice shoppers into the store. They are hoping that you spend the bulk of your dollars on their regular, higher-priced merchandise.)
The key to getting the best deal with your double coupons is to try and get an amount off that’s as close to the price of the item as possible without going over. Stores cannot often honor coupons that, if doubled, will exceed the price of the item. They can, in some cases, type in the savings up to the price of the item, but in most instances they’ll reject the coupon altogether. If you have a high-value coupon that will give you a discount that’s over the price of your merchandise, it’s best to save it for a time when coupons aren’t doubling.
What About Taxes?
Even if your item is free after coupons, some registers will still ring up the total tax due. For the most frugal shoppers, tax can be the highest item on their double coupon shopping bill. Be sure to factor this in when budgeting!
Quick and Dirty Double Coupon Tips
Shopping on double coupon days can be hard work. If you’ve done your research, clipped your coupons, and mapped out your shopping routine, it’s possible to walk away with many products you use regularly for pennies on the dollar. Determined shoppers know that even with the best plans, however, things can go wrong. To avoid some of the most common problems, I suggest the following quick and dirty tips:
Bring the promotional ad that mentions double coupons. Some cashiers may not be aware of the promotion or policy, and this will ensure that you can ring up your purchase at the discounted price without hassle.
Put like items together on the checkout line, and have the coupons in the same order as the merchandise. If a coupon doesn’t match up automatically when scanned, having the coupons in the same order as your purchases will make it easy for the cashier to find it on the register tape and manually apply the discount.
Be sure to bring several methods of payment. If one of your credit cards can’t be read, or they are unable to take a personal check, you’ll need to be prepared to pay another way. (Nothing is more embarrassing than not being able to pay for two carts of groceries and asking for your 75 coupons back after an unsuccessful sale.)
Perhaps the wisest tip I ever learned for shopping with double coupons is to stay within budget. Buying things you don’t need or bringing home items you can’t store isn’t savvy. Practicing self-control and careful planning can keep it fun, frugal, and fabulous!
This has been an episode of Dealista’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Getting More for Less, brought to you by Wise Bread, a personal finance blog that helps you live large on a small budget.
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Until next time!