Monday, August 1, 2011

Stack ‘Em Up: Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun

The coupon world has a language all its own, with abbreviations and terms like BOGO, Peelie and Catalina (not just a tasty salad dressing anymore). My favorite, and one you should familiarize yourself with and embrace, is stacking. Stacking is the act of using both a manufacturer coupon and a store-specific coupon on one item. It is a rare opportunity to use two coupons on one item, and it’s what gets my blood pumping. Not all stores allow stacking, so read your coupon policies carefully. A tip I picked up from another blogger is to print the store’s coupon policy and keep a copy with you when you shop. If a question arises at the check-out, you’ve got your backup right there in your bag.

So how does one get their stack on? It’s simple, and requires only a small amount of organization. First, gather your manufacturer coupons via Sunday paper or the internet. Next, collect store coupons from the store’s website, ad circular, in-store displays, etc., you get the idea. My stacking destination of choice is Target; you can find me roaming the health & beauty aisles on a weekly basis. Target’s coupon page is a great resource for printable store deals. Just log in, and select which coupons you’d like – you can print each one two or three times before reaching the limit, and the site will reset the expiration dates, so don’t max out your print limit right away. Think Donna Martin; take it slow, no need to rush things, just look where that got Brenda.

I like to clip my coupons and keep them organized in a wallet-sized file folder. Through some trial and error, I’ve discovered this works best for me and allows me to flip through them quickly and keep them from getting lost. You figure out what’s best for you and run with it, start small and build from there to keep from getting overwhelmed. Anyway, I go through my stash and match the printed store coupons with my manufacturer coupons, clipping them together so they’re bundled up and ready to go when I hit the store.

Now, let me show you how it works and what kinds of deals you can get. The latest Sunday paper circulars contained a $2 off Nivea’s Goodbye Cellulite, I also have a $3 off Target coupon for certain kinds of Nivea lotions (Goodbye Cellulite among them). I put them together and now have $5 off, giving me a savings of almost 50% the $10.98 price.

Cellulite isn’t an issue? You lucky devil, good for you. Try this on for size; a couple of months ago I became obsessed with Ritz Crackerfuls – seriously Nabisco, you complete me. Okay, Target had a $1 off printable coupon, and I had a $1.50 off manufacturer coupon squirreled away from a past circular. Target had the Ritz crackers priced at $2.40… do the math with me: $2.40 retail price, $2.50 in stacked coupons means that box of heaven was free. You feeling me now?

Stacking coupons for freebies is the ultimate high, but 90% of the time you’ll just be stacking for extra savings. Getting items for free, or nearly free, is awesome – but it’s not going to happen every time. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment!

You can also practice a form of stacking by using a coupon on items that are already on sale. This is a great way to multiply savings at stores that don’t regularly offer printable coupons, like the grocery store. My local Vons has a few available in their weekly ads, but their weekly sales are a goldmine for the coupon cutie willing to put in a little time to prep for a shopping trip. Since I’ve started using coupons and researching store sale to create my shopping list, my average savings has been consistently at or just slightly above 50%. Much better than my previous habit of running to the store without a list and grabbing things at random, without bothering to check for deals.

Yes, it does take some time to clip and match coupons and to go through store ads or blogs for weekly deals, but it will pay off. It’s not about being a crazy coupon lady or gent, it’s simply about putting some effort into making your dollars stretch as far as they can. If you could use an extra $20 - $50 to blow on a 3D movie and popcorn night, or maybe that bottle of Miss Dior Cherie you’ve had your eye on, take a couple of hours out of your week to devote to organizing your shopping trip. And you don’t have to go it alone! There are countless blogs (ahem, you’re on one now, surprise!) devoted to the subject that will do a big chunk of the research for you. Explore them, use them as resources, you won’t regret it!

A big thanks to This Frugal Life and Totally Target for keeping me up to date with all the best deals.

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