Split up your purchases to maximize use of multiple coupons

Submitted by a LOZO expert
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Shoppers who have The LOZO know that they should always use coupons whenever they make a purchase. Some stores are stingy with the coupons they offer, so you're happy to get your hands on any of them at all. But some stores are known for frequently issuing coupons with various discounts and minimum spend thresholds, so you might have several available at your fingertips. When that's the case, the question becomes: "How do you maximize your coupons to save as much as possible?" LOZO has the answer!

Most stores have a policy that you can only use one coupon per transaction, so to get the best discount you'll have to split up your purchases. If a store is not busy they are usually happy to ring up the transactions separately at the register, one after another. In other cases you might need to take separate trips or go back in line. Once you figure out what the extra savings will be worth, you can decide whether to go through any extra hassle.

STEP 1: Assess the Value of Each Coupon

The first thing you need to do is assess the value of each coupon to figure out which is worth the most. That's easy to do when you are comparing coupons like $5 off $25 vs. $10 off $25, but harder when the coupons are in different "flavors", such as:

  • $5 off $15 purchase
  • 20% off $50 or more
  • 10% off any order
  • and so on.

STEP 2: Adjust the Discounts so They're "Apples to Apples"

LOZO recommends first adjusting everything to the equivalent "percentage discount" so you can compare apples to apples. So in this example:

  • The "$5 off $15 purchase" is worth 33% ($5 divided by $15 -- use a calculator at home or on your cell phone if you need to). This is your BEST coupon.
  • The "20% off $50 or more" is worth 20%. This is your 2nd BEST coupon.
  • The "10% off any order" is worth 10% of course. This is your 3rd BEST coupon.

For this step, ignore any minimum purchase requirements.

STEP 3: Try the Best One First...

Then you start by trying to use up the best coupon first. 33% was the best discount so start with that one.  Pick out as close to exactly $15 worth of items from your basket--as long as it adds up to at least $15). You will probably buy just those items in one transaction (we'll need to do a double-check at the end).  Note: usually coupons and thresholds are applied after any in-store discounts. So if you have $30 of items that are marked "take 50% off" then that will count as $15.

Now you are on to the next coupon. In this case, the "20% off $50 or more" is the best remaining one, so you will use that for the rest of your items (assuming you are above the 50% threshold).

Keep in mind that if you are close to $50 but in your basket but not quite there, you may find it's better to add another item to hit the $50 threshold. This way you won't have to downgrade to the smaller 10% off coupon.  Here's an illustration:

  • $45 in your basket = use the "10% off any order" coupon to save $4.50 (10% * $45). Total cost after coupon: $40.50 ($45 - $4.50)
  • $50 in your basket = use the "20% off $50 or more" coupon to save $10 (20% * $50). Total cost after coupon: $40.00 ($50 - $10). You got $10 more items, and saved 50 cents in the process!


There are a couple of cases when this approach might not be the best strategy for you, so we recommend double-checking before you checkout!

  • Case 1: Your coupons expire at different times. Generally speaking, for stores that issue lots of coupons, you shouldn't hesitate to use up your best coupons as soon as you can, even if it means that another one might expire in the meantime. But if you shop at a store often and are concerned that coupons might dry up, you might want to use up the coupons that expire the soonest first, and hold on to the better ones until later.
  • Case 2: Splitting up your transaction puts you below the coupon threshold. If you try to use a great coupon on a small order, but that means you won't have enough in your basket to use your other coupon, then it's probably not worth doing. For example, if you have $50 in your basket and want to use your "$5 off $15" coupon on $15 of it, you will only have $35 left in your basket. Then you won't be able to use the "20% off $50 or more" coupon on the remaining items. That means you are losing out on a $7 discount (20% * $35) in order to save $5. In this case you'd be better off keeping your entire basket together, use the 20% off coupon, and save $10 in total (20% * $50).
  • Case 3: The coupon discounts are very close, and it's not worth the hassle to split up the orders. This of course is a personal choice. LOZO just wants to make sure you know how much you COULD save, then do what's best for you!
So what is it really worth to take these extra coupon steps? It depends of course on how much you are spending, but here's a simple way to think of it. If you can get an extra 5-10% savings each time by using the best coupon combination, that's $5-$10 extra in your pocket for each $100 you spend. If you ring up $500-$1000 per year in situations like this, that's  worth up to $100 savings to your budget annually!

A LOZO expert posted this tip.

User Comments

posted by GroceryExpert (Contributor | 120 Points) on 07-05-2011 08:48 AM
this also works at the grocery store, so if you have a $5 off $50 coupon, try to get as close to $50 for each order and use a separate coupon on each. Just put up the divider at the register. Some stores ask you to wait back in line for separate transactions though.
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