Whether you're a longtime reader of my column or a new one, it's never a bad idea to review some of the questions and concepts that can confuse new couponers. In the next few columns, I will answer some of the most frequently asked questions I receive from new readers. I have addressed some of these topics in earlier columns, but in some cases it has been more than a year and the topic is worth discussing again.
In short, we have new readers asking old questions that I'll answer with a fresh perspective. Ready to get started?
I have a question about using multiple coupons. Recently, I tried to use multiple coupons to purchase a personal care product. The coupons stated: "Limit one coupon per purchase." The store insisted that even if I purchased more than one package of this product, I could only use one coupon — not one coupon per item, but one coupon for the whole purchase!
I believe that the manufacturer meant one coupon per item, and that if they meant one coupon for an entire order, the coupon would have stated: "Limit one coupon per transaction." What's your take? — Denise H.
You're absolutely right! Couponers and cashiers often misunderstand the words on a coupon. Let's start by breaking down the difference between a purchase and a transaction as they relate to couponing.
Every individual item that you buy is a purchase. Each trip through the checkout lane, in which you pay for all of your purchases, is a transaction.
Manufacturer coupons are limited to one coupon per purchase, meaning one manufacturer coupon for each item that you buy in the same transaction. If you buy three items, you can use three manufacturer coupons — one for each item — in the same shopping trip.
It's always important to pay attention to the wording on a coupon. When a coupon carries the statement "Limit one coupon per transaction," you will only be allowed to use that coupon on one item in your grocery cart. It's more common to see this wording on a coupon for a free product versus a coupon for dollars or cents off.
You may also see coupons that state: "Limit four like coupons per transaction." Assuming you bought multiple newspapers and have several identical coupons with this wording, you may buy four of the same item with your four coupons. If you have additional coupons and you want to buy more, you'll have to use them during a different transaction.
The next reader has a question about coupons for multiple items.
I know that you can use one-per-purchase coupons on every like item you buy during the same transaction. I was buying cereal and I had two $1 coupons good for the purchase of two boxes of cereal. The cashier would not let me use both even though I was buying two boxes and had two coupons. — Rachel L.
If you have a manufacturer coupon that applies to multiple items, the coupon attaches itself to each of the included products. A $1 coupon good for the purchase of two will apply to two individual boxes of cereal, taking 50 cents off each one.
While it might seem like you should be allowed to use one coupon per item, you have to think of these coupons as two separate 50-cent discounts. Once that discount has been applied to the items, the store's register won't let you use a second coupon on the same two boxes of cereal. In order to use two of these same coupons, you would be required to purchase four boxes of cereal.
Next week, we'll look at another frequently asked question regarding coupon overage: When the value of a coupon exceeds the selling price of the item, what happens to the extra money?
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, http://www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.