- Always compare the per-unit pricing. "Per-unit pricing" (which can also be called "cost per ounce," "cost per count," or "cost per serving") is usually found on the shelf label, for most products sold in grocery stores. This simple price breakdown allows you to do the math and figure out whether a product is truly less expensive than a comparable product with a coupon.
- Beware of "BOGO." "Buy-one-get-one-free" deals can often be a good value, provided that you can actually use two of the same item. Remember, it's sometimes possible to save even more and use two coupons when taking advantage of a store-sponsored BOGO offer, since technically you're buying two of the items, even if one is "free."
- Downsizing can pay off with coupons. If a coupon is for a fixed value (that is, not a percentage off) and doesn't specify the size of the product package, the best value oftentimes is buying the smallest, least expensive size. That's when you can sometimes pay only pennies, or nothing at all, for an item when using coupons.
- Print coupons online. A growing number of Web sites have sprouted up allowing you to print out manufacturer coupons online. Online coupons frequently have higher value than the ones you find in the newspaper. Check out CouponMom.com, SmartSource.com, and Coupons.com for special online and in-store coupon offers.
- Earn the grocery-shopping trifecta. It's hard not to get excited when you can use a coupon for an item that is already on sale, and you top it off by using your supermarket loyalty card for additional frequent-shopping perks. That's once, twice, three times the savings!
Jeff Yeager is the author of the book, "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches." His Web site is www.UltimateCheapskate.com.