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So How Does This All Really Work?
Now that you know the basics of the coupon strategy, the basic principle of applying coupons to sales transactions is really quite simple. In general you may use 1 manufacturer’s coupon, 1 store coupon, and any other coupons/discounts that the particular store will allow you to stack per item in your transaction. So the goal is to stack as many coupons that are allowed to get an item for cheap, free, or the ultimate trifecta of moneymaker which I explain more below.
So as an example say that Cottonelle toilet paper is on sale at Target. So I find there is a Cottonelle manufacturing coupon in the newspaper inserts, a Target Store Cottonelle coupon on their site, a Cottonelle promotion on Target’s cartwheel app, and a store promotion where if I buy 2 packs I get a $5 Target gift card. In Target’s world, I am allowed to use all of these promotions on each individual item, in essence, what I would call a 4 way stack. Plus I have a Target REDcard which allows me an additional 5% off my purchase.
PLUS Plus PLUS
Still following? Let’s break it down in a little more detail:
So if I buy 2 Cottonelle packs then I receive a $5 Target gift card. So in order to receive the gift card I must buy 2 Cottonelle packs. Which means that I may use 2 manufacturer’s coupons – 1 for each pack of the toilet paper (This also assumes that the coupon is for a single item – for example $.50 off 1 Cottonelle instead of $.50 off 2 Cottonelle). In addition I may use the store coupon and the cartwheel promotion within the parameters set by each coupon/promotion. Plus I plan to pay with my REDcard.
Breaking it Down
Let’s show a concrete example of what this coupon stack would actually look like:
Target Promotion: Buy 2 Cottonelle get $5 giftcard
Purchase 2 x Cottonelle 18ct Double Roll Bath Tissue at $9.99/each
use 2 x $.50/1 Cottonelle manufacturer coupon
use 1 x $1.00/2 Cottonelle Target coupon
use 10% off Cottonelle cartwheel promotion
pay with REDcard and get 5% off the subtotal after the coupon discounts
receive $5 Target giftcard
So $9.99 x 2 = $19.98
minus 2 X $.50 = $18.98
minus 1 x $1.00 = $17.98
minus 10% of $18.98 = $16.08
minus 5% of $16.08 = $15.28 out of pocket cost
minus $5 gift card received = $10.28 final cost
or $5.14 per pack of 18 or $.29 per roll
Now, to clarify here the $10.28 is the final cost of the toilet paper after applying the $5 gift card that you will receive AFTER the transaction. You may not use the gift card towards your purchase. So your upfront out of pocket cost will actually be $15.28 and then you will receive the $5 gift card to use for a FUTURE purchase.
This is a common way of calculating the total cost of your purchases and savings in the couponing world. Personally I do not like to do it this way, but instead prefer to calculate my upfront out of pocket cost. In situations where I have received a register reward for a future purchase, I like to use that reward in a future transaction where I will again receive another reward of the same amount. In that way I can actually apply the reward I already have to my out of pocket cost and actually only pay what I described as the final cost above. And I receive another reward to continue to roll into future transactions. Don’t worry if this part seems confusing right now. I go into more detail in this post.
Sometimes promotions and coupons will line up just right to be considered a “moneymaker”. Sometimes the moneymaker aspect is through receiving a store coupon, gift card, or rebate after the transaction which would not be considered upfront savings. However sometimes the store coupons will work just right that you essentially make some money by purchasing that item. In these instances the store will not pay you money to buy the item, but the final cost of the transaction will be zero. In order to best take advantage of this, it is best to apply your overage towards the purchase of another item. I give a more concrete example of this in this post.
Additional Coupon Info
Just a couple more general rules regarding coupons:
- The coupons in your insert vary from region to region. Inserts distributed in larger cities and areas are more likely to have more and higher denomination coupons.
- If your manufacturer’s coupon is for more than the cost of the item, the store will generally mark the coupon amount down to match the item. For example if pasta is on sale for $.89 and you have a coupon for $1/1, then the coupon typically will be marked down to $.89. Do not expect the store to pay you because your coupons are worth more than the transaction.
- Remember, if you have a deal that is considered a moneymaker, use the overage wisely towards other products in your transaction. Again the store will not pay you money back.
- Some stores will double or triple coupons up to a certain amount. Check with your store to see if this is available in your region.
- As stated above you cannot use any register reward you may receive from a transaction on the same transaction. You may only use on FUTURE transactions, which could apply to a second transaction at the same register – called a rolling transaction.
- It is illegal to copy or reproduce coupons in any way, including pulling up a picture on your phone. Only certain stores will allow scanning a barcode on their registered app for store coupons only or downloading a manufacturer coupon to your loyalty card. Please be ethical and follow the rules and terms of the coupons to avoid coupon fraud.
- The most effective way to coupon is in store. Unfortunately you are not able to use manufacturer coupons or most store coupons online. The coupons must be physically redeemed at the register.
Learn the Lingo
So great, now I know how to stack the coupons, but what do all the abbreviations mean? Well, not to worry my friend. I have broken down the most common couponing lingo below. And for a full list see the Appendix.
$1.00/1, $2.00/1, etc – Refers to one dollar off one product, two dollars off one product, etc.
$1.00/2, $2.00/2, etc – Refers to one dollar off two products, two dollars off two products, etc. You have to buy 2 items to receive any savings; you cannot redeem the coupon on one product for half the value.
BOGO – Buy one, get one. Will usually end with “free” or “half off” meaning buy one, get one half off, or buy one get one free. You may only use a BOGO coupon on 1 item. You may not use on 2 items in the BOGO deal, meaning you must purchase one item at full price to get the BOGO. You may not use any other manufacturer coupons on the full priced item.
B1G1, B2G1 – Another way to write ‘buy one, get one’. The “B” stands for “buy”, the G stands for “get”. The numbers indicate how many of a product you must buy to qualify and the number of products you get when you redeem the coupon or offer. B1G1= Buy one, get one. B2G1= Buy two, get one B2G2= Buy two, get two. Same rules apply for applying the coupon as BOGO.
EXP – Expires or Expiration Date
MIR – Mail in Rebate, refers to rebates which must be submitted by mail. These are the traditional rebates that require you to mail in both your receipt and proof of purchase in the form of UPC bar codes.
MFR – Manufacturer abbreviation.
P&G – Proctor & Gamble manufacture a wide range of consumer goods and puts out a monthly coupon inserts filled with coupons for a variety of Proctor & Gamble produced brands, some of which include Crest, Tide, Pamper, Gillette, and Tampax.
RP – Red Plum. Formerly known as Vallasis, Red Plum coupon inserts and website feature coupons from a variety of manufacturers. Red Plum is part of Valassis Interactiv.
SS – Smart Source. A marketing company, like RP, Smart Source coupon inserts and website feature coupons from a variety of manufacturers. Smart Source is part of News America Marketing Co.
UPC – Universal Product Code. The bar code printed on product packages that can be scanned electronically.
WYB – When You Buy. Some sales or coupons require purchase of multiple items. For example: For a $1.00/2 coupon, you must buy 2 in order to use the coupon – so $1.00 off WYB 2.