Coupon Shopping 201 – Learn the Terms and Policies

For the 13th consecutive year, National Coupon Month serves as a reminder that clipping coupons is an easy and fun way to save at the grocery store. Whether you shop at Albertsons, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Food Lion, Publix, Save-a-Lot, Sam’s Club, Sedanos, Sweetbay, Walmart or Winn-Dixie, Americans have become more frugal when shopping for groceries in these tough economic times.

Both coupon distribution and use have increased substantially this past last year. A recent study shows that 89 percent of Americans have regularly used coupons when shopping for groceries and general household goods seatgeek coupon. With over 164 billion coupons offered by retailers in the first half of 2010, this growth builds on the record-breaking trends of 2009 when 311 billion coupons were distributed in the marketplace.

While retailers continue to allocate the largest share (85 percent) of coupons to the free-standing insert cooperative coupon booklet, Internet distribution continues to grow faster than all other media distribution. Among the more popular Internet coupon sites are smartsource.com, coupons.com, valpak.com and redplum.com

Many of my friends, co-workers, and social networking acquaintances continue to wonder how I save between 50 and 60 percent on my weekly shopping trip to Publix. Although I have started accumulating printable coupons from the Internet, the Sunday editions of the Miami Herald and Sun sentinel remain my favorite. Accumulating coupons from multiple papers, including the Spanish languSge edition as the coupons are generally different, I have plenty for use when an item goes on sale or becomes a “BOGO.”

Understanding the following grocery store terms and policies will assist you in obtaining the most “bang for the buck” when using coupons:

BOGO’s or Buy One – Get One Free: Grocery stores offer one free item with the purchase of another at full price. Considered a “store rebate,” shoppers are welcome to match with a manufacturer’s coupon on each item as the incentives are split between the store and the manufacturer. Coupling the multiple coupon method with the BOGO will drastically reduce the sale price and may even result in free food.

Double Coupons: Grocery stores will “double” the face value of the coupon. This means you will receive a discount equal to twice the face value of the coupon. Considered a “store rebate,” they are not reimbursed beyond the face value. Although some stores limit the number of coupons they will double at one time, the benefit is an additional incentive for purchasing at that particular store.

No Doubles: Grocery stores will only accept these specially marked “Do Not Double” coupons at face value. No additional rebate or price reduction is allowed.

Coupon Stacking: Most grocery stores will allow you to “stack” their store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon for additional savings. These store coupons can arrive by email, snail mail, store ads, flyers or monthly magazines. In general, these store coupons should be viewed as a “sale price,” with an additional discount for your manufacturer’s coupon.

Store Loyalty Cards: Some grocery stores offer one-step rebates, where all store and manufacturer coupons and are tracked through a loyalty card with a single check issued back to you as a rebate on a monthly or quarterly basis. You can apply coupons to items as you purchase them, essentially “stacking” the deals. The rebate check is wonderful, but only if you have already purchased the item at a lower price. If it is not at a discount before the rebate and coupon, it might not be a “real deal”.

Competitor Coupons: Certain grocery stores, such as Publix, will accept traditional competitor’s coupons, while others, such as Albertsons, Sweetbay, Walmart and Winn-Dixie do not. Although no longer common and not to be expected, it does not hurt to inquire as to store specific policies while shopping at your favorite grocery store.

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