A past Frugal Family column described step-by-step instructions designed to turn novice and intermediate bargain-shoppers into expert “Extreme Couponers.” Today’s goal is to provide details about an important aspect of couponing, the art of “stacking,” and to demonstrate how to apply stacking to local shopping opportunities.
Stacking is the practice of doubling or tripling up on discounts to lower the price of an item. Stacking combines sale prices with manufacturers’ coupons, store coupons with manufacturers’ coupons, or sale prices with both manufacturers’ coupons and additional savings from a retailer.
Two excellent stacking opportunities presented themselves in the last week. I was able to take advantage of both.
The first involved savvy shopping as well as luck. CVS had Zyrtec on sale. The 30-count bottle was offered at $18.99. I had two Zyrtec coupons: one for $5 off and one for $4 off. When I got to the store,there on the shelf labeled 30-count bottles were bonus packages with 15 additional pills in each. In effect, this was the equivalent of buying two bottles and getting one free. With a competitive sale price and $9 in savings, this was an excellent deal.
The second, also a CVS find, involved an initial purchase of $50 worth of Itunes gift cards. After purchasing the gift cards, I received “Extra Bucks” in the form of a $10 register coupon. I took the coupon and used it to stock up on Speed Stick deodorant, which was on sale. The price was 2/$5. Using four “buy one, get one free” coupons, I walked away with 8 deodorants without having to pay a penny for them.
Every week, there are deals like these at the drugstores and grocery stores in town. Only the drugstores issue instant rebates on a regular basis; the supermarket chains do occasionally. All offer sales and accept coupons, however, so stacking is possible.
Here are some tips for Acton shoppers who want to take advantage of multiple discounts and pay the lowest possible prices for grocery foods, health and beauty items, paper goods and cleaning supplies.
Get your hands on coupons. One way: get a Sunday-only subscription to the Boston Globe. (Right now, new subscribers are only charged $1.75 per week for the first twelve weeks; using a credit card to pre-pay adds an additional four weeks). On all Sundays but those that fall on holidays, hundreds of dollars’ worth of savings are included with the newspaper. These include manufacturers’ coupons and store coupons from Walgreen’s (there’s one in Maynard) and Rite Aid, both of which offer rewards similar to CVS’ Extra Bucks. Kmart also prints store coupons which can be stacked.
Another option: Visit websites that feature coupons that can be printed at home. My favorite: Coupon Mom, which has hundreds of product coupons and links to other savings. The runner-up: How to Shop for Free, which has articles about the art of saving as well as links to sites that provide coupons and free product samples.
Review paper flyers or websites to find sale prices. The goal is to combine discounts, so be aware of sale prices and store coupons that can be paired with manufacturers’ coupons.
Pay attention to special deals. Right now, the grocery stores in town double coupons with values of 99 cents or less. Coupons with a face value of $1 or more are credited at that amount. However, Roche Bros. will double up to five $1 coupons for customers who shop on Tuesdays and spend $25 or more.
Combining sale prices or “Buy One, Get one Free” offers with coupons is a great way to pay less for items.
This week, for example, Roche Bros. is featuring Arm & Hammer laundry detergent and giving away a free 50 oz. bottle for every one purchased. The usual price is $4.99. Anyone who showed up on Tuesday with the $1 off two bottles manufacturer’s coupon (from Sunday's paper) reduced the cost by $2, making the before-tax price for each bottle $1.50. This is an 70% savings off the sticker price of $9.98!
Look to Ebay for coupon “lots” for often-purchased items. Individuals are clipping coupons and sending them to purchasers all over the country. Therefore, if you find a great coupon in the Sunday paper and want more copies of it, you need not buy out the local newsstand. Instead, get ten or twenty more from Ebay sellers for pennies apiece.
Consider stocking up. People who take couponing seriously hate to overpay for items they know will cycle on sale. Instead, they buy more than they need when the products are at their cheapest, always keeping some in reserve.
Bargain-hunting with coupons can be addictive. Luckily, this habit has no side effects that warrant any type of intervention or treatment. By spending less on consumable products, we all have the option to save for a rainy day or redirect our money toward other goals.