Stack coupons, match sales and save more

So, you’re ready to take a serious crack at couponing. You are learning the lingo. You know where to find coupons and have a basic understanding of each store’s coupon policy.

Now it’s time to put those coupons to use.

The keystone of any coupon user’s money-saving strategy is matching and stacking. Matching means marrying a coupon to a sale-priced product, while stacking is pairing one manufacturer’s coupon with one store-specific coupon to double or even triple savings.

Learning how to hatch a successful match or stack can streamline couponing and net significant savings. But before we dive into the details, let’s break down the two types of coupons once more.

Manufacturer coupons are money-saving strips offered by manufacturers and companies who hope you’ll add their products to your regular grocery rotation. They are available on online coupon printing sites and Sunday circulars. They are nationally distributed and can be used at any store that accepts coupons. They will explicitly state “manufacturer coupon” along the top. When you redeem a manufacturer coupon, the retailer is reimbursed the face value of that coupon.

Coupons that are store-specific will clearly state so across the top. These are produced and parceled out by individual retailers and can only be used when shopping at one of that merchant’s stores. Locally, Target, Price Chopper, ShopRite and the various drug stores offer “store” coupons. Funded by the store, they are typically found in weekly sales flyers. They can also be printed on in-store kiosks. Digital store coupons are available on a store’s website or shopping app.

Remember, you can only redeem one manufacturer coupon per item. Likewise, you can typically only apply one store coupon on a single product.

Using those two distinct forms of coupons in practice is the essence of matching and stacking.

Matching is fairly basic. Flip through a weekly store ad, and see if you have a coupon that corresponds with a sale-priced product. Say Cheez-Its are on sale for $2.49 at Hannaford. They are regularly priced at $3.99. If you have a coupon for 50 cents off and “match” that clipped slip to the sale-price you ultimately save $2 on the snack, extending your savings.

If you aren’t sure if a coupon exists, or if you simply don’t feel like thumbing through piles of clippings, find an online “coupon database” to see if there’s one available.

Coupon stacking requires slightly more finesse. A successful “stack” means layering the savings by redeeming two coupons – one store-exclusive and one nationally distributed manufacturer – on a single item. If said item is on sale, then it’s dubbed a “triple stack.”

Last week Price Chopper’s print ad featured a clippable store coupon that reduced the price of four boxes of Quaker Oats Chewy Granola Bars to $1.88 as long as you purchased four. They are regularly priced at $2.99. If you also printed two copies of the $1-off-two-boxes of Quaker Oats Chewy Granola Bars coupon found on Coupons.com, you would have saved an additional $2 (you can apply two manufacturer coupons since you are purchasing four boxes in total). In the end, you would have paid $1.38 a box, a savings of $1.61 on the non-sale price.

The matching and stacking doesn’t have to stop there (though admittedly, it does for me). Rebate apps offer cash back for items you buy at the store when provide proof of purchase by uploading a receipt. Download apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51, “clip” coupon offers for groceries you plan to purchase. When you purchase those items from a participating retailer, you scan your receipt and product bar codes with your smartphone.

And this wraps up our little crash course in couponing. Maybe you don’t aspire to spend hours a week clipping, sorting, matching and stacking. And, maybe you have don’t have the time or the ambition to appear on the television series, “Extreme Couponing.” That’s fine. Even spending just 30 minutes a week couponing can pay off and hopefully you’ve at least developed the foundation for greater — easy to achieve — savings.  Every little bit helps.

Grocery shopping with a list is a must if you want to save time, stay organized, reduce impulse purchases and stick to a budget. Sixty-nine percent of women and 52 percent of men shop with a list in hand, according to personal finance site CreditDonkey.com. Here are some tips:

  • Using coupons? Utilizing a list will help you to keep your coupons organized.  Make a notation next to each item that has a corresponding coupons. 
  • Organize your list by department. If you tend to start in the produce department, your list should start there as well. Map out your list based on how your grocery store is set up.
  • Keep your list handy throughout the week so you can swiftly jot down items you’ll need as you run low. You’ll be less apt to forget items and have to make a second (or third) trip to the store. 
  • If you’re not sure how best to format a shopping docket, look to the web. There are hundreds and thousands templates that you can download and print. Anylist, Our Groceries and Out of Milk are just a few popular apps. 



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