Everyone once in a while I get talked into teaching a coupon class, and this is the most important principle I try to share. Saving money with one method on a purchase is great, but the true deal ninjas are always thinking “How can I stack multiple discounts?”
For instance, at the grocery store you can only use one manufacturers coupon per item, but you can use both a manufacturers coupon and a store coupon for the the same thing, if you have them.
There are several components of a transaction where discounts might be available:
Your discount stacking toolkit should include:
2. AT THE REGISTER
Manufacturer’s Coupon – Issued by the manufacturer. Can be printed or digital
Store Coupon – Issued by the store, often sent via email or printed at the register on a previous purchase.
Quantity Discount – Is there an extra discount for buying a larger quantity?
Loyalty Programs – Become a member to receive the full discounts; scan you card or enter phone number at checkout.
3. AFTER THE REGISTER:
Loyalty Programs – Sometimes receive a freebie, discount, or other reward for a certain amount of purchases (Like Kroger or Martin’s fuel rewards)
Rebates – Additional savings on a product by submitting documentation of purchase by mail or online. Doesn’t count if you always forget to submit them
Cash Back Websites – Every November I do my plug for Ebates. (Mr. Rebates is a good one too) If you are shopping online and are not registered with a cash back site, you are paying too much. You just follow the link from Ebates to the retailer you are shopping at, and make your purchases. Ebates tracks your purchase and credits a percent of your purchase to your Ebates account, then sends you a check periodically for the balance. Right now, you can earn 3% from Walmart, 6% from Lowe’s, 5% at Old Navy, etc. (Two notes: Use of some coupon codes may invalidate the cash back – a coupon code listed on Ebates will definitely be able to stack with cash back. When in doubt, use the coupon code because it usually is worth more than cash back. Secondly, by using cash back websites, you are basically getting paid the “referral” fee that might otherwise be paid to a blogger or website referring you to a site. That is not unethical, but if you want to support a site like mine, follow its links to products when making a purchase and skip this step of using Ebates)
4. PAYMENT METHOD
Discounted gift cards – If you can, scoop up discounted gift cards to your favorite retailers and restaurants, like the $5 Groupon for $10 at Starbucks that was recently available. I call this gift card discount laundering, which definitely has an illegal sound to it, but it just means that to businesses, your gift card is the same as paying with cash or credit. Whether you paid less than face value doesn’t affect your ability to use coupons or other discounts that might state “not combinable with other discounts or promotions” in the fine print.
Alternatively: Gift Card Bonuses – Now is the time to pick these up! Through mid-December, some retailers and many restaurants will give you a bonus amount or a freebies when purchasing a gift card or gift certificate. For instance: Barnes & Noble will give you a $10 bonus for a $75 gift card purchase by Dec. 3. Check this list for more ideas.
Tax Savings – Make healthcare-related purchases with pre-tax dollars using your Flexible Spending Account
Frequently, at least one discount from each category is available. (Always read the fine print of any discount to find exclusions.)
Here are a couple of examples of how this principle can play out:
Sneakers for my son at Gymboree:
Clearance tagged 60% off original price
30% off storewide sale
20% off coupon from mail
1.5% cash back credit card
What are some of your favorite ways to stack?
I was talking with my friend Tara last week, and she mentioned that she had already racked up $30 in cash back by shopping through Ebates since Thanksgiving!
Today, Ebates is running a “Cyber Monday 2” double cash back day, with double or more the usual cash back available at over 500 online retailers. Get 10% back from Barnes & Noble, 6% at Walmart, 10% at Sears, and 20% at Snapfish.
Also, you can order a Richmond Entertainment book for just $13 after cash back (currently $19.99 with free shipping, plus 35% ($7) cash back available)
(If you haven’t used Ebates before, you’ll get a $5 bonus for signing up and making your first $25 purchase through Ebates. Just search for the name of the online retailer where you want to shop and click on Ebates’ link to be directed the retailer’s website. Ebates will automatically track your purchases and place a set percentage of cash back in your Ebates account!)
“Free Shipping Day” is this Friday, so keep Ebates in mind if you’re shopping then as well.