Extreme couponing isn't for everyone. Most of us feel pretty good if we clip a coupon or two and save a few dollars on a trip to the supermarket, but it's difficult to work up the time and energy for hard-core couponing. Stacking, OYNOs, mail-in rebates, double coupons -- it just seems like too much work.
And it's true -- extreme couponing takes a level of organization and dedication that most people just don't have. But there is one major couponing strategy that's woefully underused by casual shoppers, and it takes hardly any work at all. We're talking about double coupons.
The uninitiated might think that double couponing means you have to seek out special coupons or constantly carry around two of every coupon, but that's not it. It means the store gives you twice the discount on whatever coupon you use. When a store doubles coupons, your $1 coupon is worth $2. All you have to do is hand a coupon to the cashier and the register will automatically double it. Simple, right?
Yes, but not as simple as it used to be. Before the days of extreme couponers, many stores gave double coupons every day. Now, though, stores are tightening up their policies and making customers jump through more hoops to get their double discounts. Some are even ending their double-coupon programs.
There are still plenty of double-coupon opportunities out there, but you might have to do some digging to find them. Read on to learn how to develop a double-couponing strategy.
Before You Start Using Double Coupons
If you're ready to take the leap into double couponing, the first thing you need to do is find out which of your local grocery stores offers double coupons. As we mentioned, stores have been adding more and more couponing regulations, so it'll be tough to find a supermarket that offers double coupons every day, no questions asked. Once you've figured out which stores do double, you should call each one to get the details on their policies. Here are a few questions you'll want to ask:
- When do you double coupons? Some stores double only on specific days or weeks, and some only during special promotions.
- Do I have to be a member of your rewards program to get double coupons? Some stores require cashiers to scan a customer's rewards card before they scan coupons (and thus give the double discount). It's almost always free to join these programs, so definitely sign up before you check out.
- What's your doubling limit? Most stores double coupons up to a certain amount, usually 50 cents, 99 cents or $1 (although $1 is rare). This means that if you have a 75 cent coupon for a bottle of shampoo and the store's limit is 50 cents, you can use the coupon, but it won't double. Many manufacturers' coupons are for $1, so stores can easily avoid a lot of doubling by setting a limit of 99 cents.
- What's your limit on doubling "like" coupons? Some stores will double only a certain number of coupons for the same amount and the same product.
Now that you know when and where you can shop with double coupons, it's time to start clipping and collecting.
How to Double Coupon
Not all coupons are created equal -- some double and some don't. Check out the back of the coupon: If it says "do not double," well, you're out of luck. Another, lesser known, way to find out is to look at the coupon's bar code. If it starts with five, it will automatically double at the register. If it's a zero or nine, it probably won't.
In a perfect world, at checkout time all of your coupons would double automatically and you'd sail through. But it isn't always a cakewalk. Sometimes coupons don't double automatically, and not every cashier is an expert on the store's ever-changing procedures. Even if you've verified the store's couponing policy on the phone, it never hurts to bring a printed copy with you. Don't back down if you know you're right, but remember to always be polite and mindful of the shoppers behind you in line.
Hopefully, you'll save enough money in your first double-couponing experience that you'll want to go back for more and perfect your plan of attack. Next time, keep tabs on store sale cycles and strategically use your double coupons on sale items. That's where you'll really get the most bang for your buck.
On the next page, you'll find more information about couponing.
- Couponing 101. "What Does 'Doubling Coupons' Mean?" April 8, 2010. (May 1, 2012) http://www.couponing101.com/what-does-doubling-coupons-mean/
- Grocery Coupon Guide. "Double Coupon Grocery Stores." (May 3, 2012) http://www.grocerycouponguide.com/articles/double_coupon/
- Money Saving Queen. "Couponing 101: How Double Coupons Really Work. May 16, 2011. (May 3, 2012) http://moneysavingqueen.com/April-2011/Couponing-101-How-Double-Coupons-Really-Work/
- Tuttle, Brad. "The War Against Couponers: Double Coupons Going the Way of the Dinosaur." Time, April 3, 2012. (May 1, 2012) http://moneyland.time.com/2012/04/03/the-war-against-couponers-double-coupons-going-way-of-the-dinosaur/