RSSSuper-Couponing Tips By Jill Cataldo
The latest tips and advice in couponing and all money-saving pursuits from renowned coupon expert Jill Cataldo.
Coupon doubling, the practice of a store scanning coupons at twice the value, is a popular promotion in some areas. While scanning a 50-cent coupon and receiving a $1 discount is attractive to consumers, it isn’t quite as attractive to retailers. Who pays for the doubled value of that coupon? In most cases, the store does. With stores operating on tight profit margins and facing increasing operating costs, many large chains have phased out or begun phasing out coupon doubling. Other retailers restrict doubles to certain days of the week or transactions over a certain dollar amount.
In my experience, doubling depends on a lot of factors. Certain parts of the country tend to have more stores that double coupons than others do, and market areas considered to be “affluent” (whether we agree with that term or not!) tend not to offer as many double coupon promotions. In some regions, retailers double coupons simply because a competitor store in the area is also doubling coupons — they’ve decided to “play along” and double coupons, too, so they don’t lose market share to their competitor.
My readers continue to share their questions and observations on coupon doubling:
My readers have been sharing some of their favorite money-saving tips recently, and it’s always fun to see how folks are spending and saving!
Why are greeting cards so expensive? I think the price has been creeping up every year, and the last time I bought one for a friend’s birthday, many of them were $3.99, $4.99 and more! If no one says anything, I feel like they will just keep going up and up. I can’t stomach paying that much for cardboard, but I find the free electronic greeting cards a bit impersonal. I go to the dollar store now, which has a wonderful selection of cards for $1 each. Sometimes they have sales where the cards are 2-for-$1 or 3-for-$1.
Each week when I peek into my email inbox, I’ll see reader questions like these:
“Any tips on how to get coupon inserts? I’m new and missing the last few weeks of inserts.”
“I need more coupon inserts than what comes in my paper. How can I get a bunch more?”
With summer vacation season in full swing, I’d like to devote some column space to talking about travel and vacation savings. One of the benefits of my being so devoted to couponing is being able to save or spend the money we’ve saved in other areas of life. We love to travel, and our family’s vacations are always planned with a budget in mind. Whether we’re camping in tents at a local conservation area or flying to one of the coasts, I’m always looking for the most economical ways for our family to see the world and make memories together.
When I was a child, my family took a lot of road trips. Getting to our destination took several days filled with long drives, stops at roadside attractions and educational experiences. (I’ve long joked that my Dad couldn’t drive us anywhere without stopping to tour a cave or a power dam. We always had to see at least one educational spot on every trip!)
I first flew on an airplane at age 14 (I’m 40 now) and I remember that first plane trip being a grand adventure. We were traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles, and one of the reasons we flew was to save several days’ drive time. After that trip, though, we returned to driving around the country for our vacations.
We think about coupons in relation to groceries quite often, but do you use coupons when shopping for clothing? Clothing coupons are out there, and I use them as often as I can find them. Major department stores, such as Kohl’s, J.C. Penney and Macy’s, often send out high-value coupons to their shopper base. It seems that nearly every week, I receive an attractive offer from one retailer or another, and they’re usually high-value offers, too. Coupons like $10 off a $25 purchase, 25 percent off an entire purchase or $10 off a purchase of $10 or more (my favorite!) are great motivators to encourage me to make a special trip to the store.
In addition to coupons I receive directly from retailers, I also look for promotional loyalty cash opportunities, where reaching a spending threshold triggers another reward for a future trip. These promotions, often advertised as a “Spend $50, Get $10 for your next shopping trip” sale become even more attractive when paired with coupons.
I’ve long said that I have clothes shopping down to a science – when I go to a department store, I’m typically armed with the best, highest-value coupons available at that time. Most clothing coupons do not exclude clearance items, so I’ll head to the clearance racks and look for items that are already at bargain prices.
Last week, I featured emails from readers who professed to be in favor of food and beverage product shrinkage for various reasons. While many of us are dismayed when we see less ounces in a package of frequently purchased foods, others felt it helped them maintain portion control or consume less product.
There’s one product, though, which very few readers want to see downsized – toilet paper. Recently a reader complained to his favorite bath tissue brand that the rolls had gotten smaller. The brand replied with an unintentionally humorous email, which read in part:
“We added some fibers back into each sheet – so you have more fibers per square inch in the center ‘performance zone’ where you need them most to get the job done. The reduced width improves the flushability because being slightly narrower allows the tissue to clear the bowl and drain lines more easily.”
The topic of product shrinkage has long been popular with my readers, and it’s still the topic I receive the most mail about. Overwhelmingly, people state that they’d rather see the price of an item increase a bit versus seeing the product’s size decrease. And, most recently, I’ve received a few notes from readers who actually like product shrinkage:
I like the downsizing of products. Ironically, I have three kids, two of whom are teens and all of which are taller than me *sigh*. Because I tend to cook many small batches of multiple items, instead of really big batches of one or two things, I don’t need warehouse-sized packs of perishables.
Gift cards are enormously popular with consumers, as they’re an easy way to give another person a memorable night out at a restaurant or theater, or perhaps a shopping spree at a favorite store. It’s been a long time since I saw a paper gift certificate, that’s for sure, though I know some stores still issue them. Paper has largely been replaced by plastic due to convenience. Gift cards make it easy to use part of the balance at one time and the rest on another occasion. So, what are the downsides to gift cards?
I wanted to get your perspective on giving gift cards. I used to give these all the time until I got burned a few months ago! I bought a gift card for a popular store in our area, and I probably should have used it all at once, but I didn’t. Well, the store filed for bankruptcy and as part of their restructuring, they invalidated all of their gift cards that were out there. I am so disgusted about the money I lost and had no idea they could just declare my gift card void like that. It has turned me off from buying any future gift cards.
I always enjoy hearing from my column readers, and they’re very vocal about letting me know when they feel I’ve given a less-than-adequate piece of advice – or a good tip. Here are a few emails that appeared in my inbox recently:
Regarding your column today about reviewing sales receipts in the car before you leave the store – absolutely not! How many stories have you seen about women being carjacked and robbed doing something just like this? Both men and women need to get in the car, lock their door and leave. Check your receipts in the store. You blew it with this advice.
When I travel around the United States to teach my Super Couponing workshops, I rarely teach coupon doubling as a method that’s essential to saving with coupons. In my experience, the market areas that don’t offer coupon doubling outnumber the areas that do.
It’s quite possible to significantly cut your grocery bill in any area, whether your supermarket offers coupon doubling or not – I do this every week in Chicagoland, where I live. None of our major supermarkets offer coupon doubling, while a smaller chain will double five coupons on Wednesdays if you spend $25 in the store. (As you may have guessed, that isn’t exactly a coupon doubling policy that has me racing to that particular store each week!)
Coupon doubling tends to be very regional. Some areas of the country double coupons, while others never have and likely never will.
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