Dear Jill,

Maybe you can answer this for me. Why must we be forced to buy multiple items to get the sale price? My store is having a 'Buy 8, Save $8' sale. I know it's good to stock up, but I just don't need that many items! Can you please let the manufacturer know we don't like this practice of getting us to buy in excess? Thank you!

Ruth W.

It’s beyond my ability to ask anything like this of manufacturers or stores. Both are free to create any kinds of promotions together that they’d like, and these kinds of sales do appeal to a lot of people. To be honest, the sales you’re describing are some of my favorites for getting incredible deals and stocking up. Let me explain some of the reasons I enjoy these sales, as well as how to take advantage of getting the best prices for the items in which you’re interested.

Any sale structured as a “Buy 5, Save $5 Instantly” or other number/dollar amount typically includes a variety of items showcased in a store’s weekly ad. Buying eight items drops the price of each item in the purchase by $1. Typically, these sales allow shoppers to mix and match items from the ad. You do not have to buy eight identical items to take part in the promotion, so you do not have to buy any single item in bulk — you can buy in multiples of five, but not all five items need to be the same.

Here’s my approach to these sales: I first look at the lowest-priced items and take note of the lowest-priced items in the ad in which I’m interested. Take note of that — I’m not purchasing something just because it’s cheap. I’m looking for the best prices on the items I’d buy for my household and use regularly. I typically circle these items in my ad so it’s easier for me to focus on what I want to buy.

Next, I’ll go to my library of coupon inserts from the newspaper and look for coupons for the items I’ve selected. I like to use a coupon database for this purpose — it’s easy to type “toothpaste” or “soap” or “cereal” into the database, and then look through the resulting list of coupon inserts to clip the coupons. The database will also tell me if there are printable or electronic coupons available for my items, so I’ll get those ready as well. (You can find a free coupon database on my blog at JillCataldo.com.)

If I’m able to pair a coupon with an item on which I’m also saving $1 off the price, I’m often able to take things home for incredible prices. One of my local supermarkets recently had a “Buy 5, Save $5” sale, and name-brand liquid hand soap pumps were on sale for $1.89. When bought in a group of five participating items, the price of each soap pump dropped to 89 cents. I had two of these coupons, so by pairing them with the $1 instant savings on each item, I dropped the price of each soap to just 14 cents! I purchased three other items that were also part of the Buy 5 sale to make sure I saved $1 on each item.

I got some good deals on the other items I bought during this sale, too. Packages of name-brand disposable razors were on sale for $6.99. With the “Buy 5” savings, the price dropped to $5.99. With a $4 coupon, I paid $1.99 per 5-razor package!

While I understand some people do not like sales where they are required to buy a certain number of items, the reality is that savvy shoppers are often able to utilize these sales to score even deeper discounts on the sale’s featured items.

Instead of viewing these sales as “I must buy” a certain amount, I see them as “I get to buy” a certain amount at lower-than-normal prices. Perspective is everything.

Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.