Coupon Queen: Fine print woes and free product coupons

Dear Jill,

I am tired of seeing advice to ‘read the fine print.’ The amount of fine print on coupons these days is so tiresome. It’s also miniscule and nearly impossible for anyone beyond a certain age to decipher. I am able to easily read the offer, such as $2 off detergent, but as for what varieties, sizes and scents might be excluded, I am at a loss. How can people like myself lobby for larger coupon print?

Evelyn C.

The size of the print on our coupons is a topic that never ceases to generate reader email. I can unequivocally state that this is the most common complaint I receive from coupon shoppers: The fine print is too darn small!

Unfortunately, this is an issue that isn’t likely to be resolved in a satisfactory way. In order to fight coupon fraud, coupons have a large amount of restrictions and terminology they need to print on the coupon without making the coupon larger than shoppers are comfortable carrying and using. When brands have so much text to pack into such a small space, the text size suffers.

Unfortunately, this is not an issue that is likely to be resolved. One simple solution that I can suggest though is to purchase a magnifying glass bookmark. These typically cost less than $3, and you can find them online or at a bookstore. They’re made of flexible plastic and take up very little space in your coupon wallet. If you keep it in the front of your coupon wallet, it’s convenient to take out and read that tiny text, whether you’re at home or in the store.

Dear Jill,

What is the best way to handle free product coupons? I have recently done some offers on social media and received the following coupons from different brands: A free tub of guacamole, a free pint of ice cream, a free dozen eggs and a free pasta meal kit. Some of these have longer expiration dates six and seven months away.

Bridget M.

While you may be tempted to use your free-item coupons right away, I usually hold onto mine for a while. I have one pocket in my coupon wallet that’s marked “FREE,” and I store any free product coupons here, keeping them in order of expiration date so that the one that’s soonest to expire is in the front.

Then, I keep an eye on sales in the stores that I shop. While a free item coupon guarantees you will get one free, I like to hang on to them and try to maximize these offers. Here’s what you can keep an eye out for.

Buy One Get One Free sales: If you spot guacamole tubs on sale Buy One Get One Free, and you’re holding onto a coupon for a free tub of guacamole, guess what? Buy two. Your free coupon pays for the first tub, making it free, and the store’s sale makes the second tub free. You’ll have doubled the value of your free-product coupon by taking home two instead of one!

Catalina and spending-threshold sales: If your store has a Catalina or instant savings sale, such as a ‘Buy $20, Save $5,’ see if any of your free product coupons line up with items that are part of the sale. Let’s use the free guacamole coupon as an example again here: If the guacamole’s selling price is $2.99, and it is part of this sale, its $2.99 price will count toward your spending goal of $20.00, even though you will get the item free with your coupon.

Of course, you should use any free item coupons before they reach their expiration dates. You know that you can always get one item free with these coupons, but why not try for more? I am always pleasantly surprised when I’m able to save even more by combining these valuable coupons with in-store offers.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to [email protected].


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