I recently had a friend ask me to do a post on the basics of understanding coupons. Of course, I have my Coupon Lessons and a number of other helpful posts in Getting Started, but I don't know that I've ever done a post on just understanding what coupons are telling you and how to make sense of the weekly drugstore (Walgreens, Rite Aid) and grocery deals (Albertsons, Fred Meyer) that I post. Well, no time like the present!
Let's take a real-life example. Here is a deal I included on my Fred Meyer post this week:
DiGiorno or California Pizza
$3.99 each with in-ad coupon (first 4)
Stack with $1/1 DiGiorno coupon from 1/24 SmartSource
Bottom line: $2.99 – $3.99 each
What does this mean? Let's take a look, line by line. First line: the item. In this case, the sale item is good for EITHER brand – DiGiornia or CPK. The second line indicates you should look for a coupon in the ad. Unless otherwise indicated, in-ad coupons are issued by the stores. Think of these as sales. These are discounts the store is giving you. In this case, you can present that ONE in-ad coupon and receive the $3.99 price for up to 4 pizzas!
The third line reads "Stack with $1/1 DiGiorno coupon from 1/24 SmartSource." This is telling you that I was able to locate a manufacturer's coupon that also relates to the sale. In case you were unaware, you CAN stack a manufacturer's coupon with a store coupon at almost every retailer that I can think of – or at least the ones that I cover on a regular basis. In this case, the $1/1 means you'll save $1 off 1 pizza. (If it read $1/2, it would mean you'd save $1 when you buy 2, and so forth). The 1/24 SmartSource reference simply means where I found the coupon – in the SmartSource insert from the January 24th Sunday paper. In order to do this deal, you'd head to checkout with both the store coupon (from the ad) and the manufacturer coupon (from the 1/24 SmartSource).
I like to include a "bottom line" on my posts. This is simply what you should expect to pay after all discounts. In this case, if you bought a DiGiorno Pizza and used the store and insert coupon, you'd pay $2.99. If you decided on a CPK version, you'd pay $3.99. Make sense?
Here's where your thinking cap is important! When matching sales, coupons, rebates, and any other promotions, it's important that you overlap your deals correctly in order to yield the best savings. Let me give you an example. I'm making this one up, but it's similar to deals we see all the time.
$0.50 each with in-ad coupon (first 4)
Stack with $1/3 coupon from 1/24 Red Plum
Bottom line: $0.17 each
Pay attention here. The store coupon says you can buy up to four at the $0.50 price, yet your manufacturer coupon will save you $1 on 3. The best savings would be to simply buy 3 cans – you are not obligated to buy 4. This will yield you a price of $0.17 per can. If you bought four cans and then presented your $1/3 coupon, you'd end up paying $0.25 per can. Of course, you might feel that the slightly extra savings is worth having an extra can on hand. The important thing is that you understand how to weigh the costs and your family's personal needs so you can make the smartest decision.
Let's talk about one more kind of deal I'm likely to post: one that involves a lot of coupons. In fact, I posted one like this over the weekend:
$1.99 each when you buy 10
(10) $1/1 coupons from 1/24 SmartSource
Submit for $10 Nabisco Rebate
Bottom line: FREE after coupons and rebate
This is what I'd call a "deal suggestion." In other words, how you'd be able to yield the greatest possible savings out of this deal. Notice however, in order to make all 10 boxes free, you'd need 10 coupons. Do I think most of my readers have 10 coupons? No. But I know some of them do. It's how you'd ideally do this deal…how much you could potentially save if you had the coupons to do it.
Then why, Angela, would you post such a deal at all? Just to frustrate your readers? Not at all! Remember, most of my savings come from store sales. Coupons sweeten things up. Use your head a little, and you'll see this would be a great deal, even without coupons. Consider: $1.99 for a box of Ritz isn't a bad deal to start with. Nabisco is offering you a $10 rebate, which would make the boxes $0.99 apiece. For every $1 off coupon you have, your price per box drops $0.10. Make sense? I bet I had 3-4 coupons myself. If I would've done this deal, I would've ended up paying $0.60 – 0.70 per box. Definitely stock-up worthy, in my opinion.
My goal is to do more than just show you deals – I want to help you make sense of the bigger picture. I want you to become Savvy Shoppers, capable of making common sense decisions to save you money.
I'm going to add this post to my Getting Started tab for future handy reference.