The word “deal” is SO overused.
Everyone and their mom thinks they got an AMAZING deal on the latest thing-a-majig they bought from so-and-so.
Psssssst. Here’s a little secret:
You likely got an average deal at BEST.
At worst - you got taken for a ride and paid an inflated price for something that was camouflaged as a deal.
Marketers are so good these days they know what you’re thinking even BEFORE you do - if you caught a good “sale” - then you paid exactly what they wanted you to.
Don’t get me wrong, smartly shopping sales and clearances can land you some pretty good deals, but that’s just the start of what’s possible.
The real secret?
In one word ... STACKING.
What Is Deal Stacking?
Let’s be clear.
There is only one true secret to saving money that can be applied to almost ANY purchase you will ever make in your life. And that is deal stacking.
It’s an art form really - something that you become really good at over time with lots of practice.
EXACTLY what is deal stacking?
It means applying as many discounts, rebates, coupons, rewards, cash back, promotions, and sales as you possibly can to a single purchase or transaction.
Because when you by combine all of these small to large discounts together you can often turn the most mediocre of purchases into an amazing one-of-a-kind deal.
There are 22 different types of deals that can be stacked (don’t miss my complete list below). There are limits though - not every type of deal can be applied to the same purchase.
But, that’s part of the FUN. This is when you can use your creativity and resourcefulness to craft the perfect deal for you.
And if you hit a homerun? You can even walk away from a purchase with extra money in your pocket. You have to admit, there is nothing quite like getting legally paid to take an item off a store’s shelves!
My Best Deal From Stacking
Extreme stacking takes dedication, so I can’t always manage a full stack, but I do try to stack at least one or two deals on every purchase.
One amazing deal stack sticks out in my head though. It was a $1,000 LCD TV purchase from years ago. At the time, $1,000 was actually a really good price for the model I was buying.
Here’s the deal stack:
- $1,000 sale price was already reasonable.
- The TV was advertised on clearance for $850.
- The store was having a 50% off clearance electronics sale - it was questionable if it should apply to TVs or not, but I talked them into it. New price - $425.
- The TV manufacturer was offering a $100 mail in rebate at the same time on that model - now $325.
- But wait - don’t forget to swipe the store rewards card for more points - I forget the points value at the time.
- Finally, pay with rewards credit card for roughly 2% of the higher $425 purchase price in rewards - another $8.50 in value.
FINAL PRICE: $310 + tax roughly.
What Deals Can Be Stacked?
I’m sure your wheels are already turning picturing the different stacking opportunities you can dream up. Here’s the full list to put your mind into overdrive:
- Sales – a good sale is the foundation of any potential deal. Start by finding the lowest possible price you can by comparing prices at many different stores, watching flyers, reading online deal sites, and doing online searches.
- Clearance Items – timing your purchases after major holidays or at the end of seasons can result in substantial savings. Buying what you need for next year, this year, can save you a bundle.
- Credit Card Rewards – the easiest deal to stack! Don’t just use any credit card though, use one of the top Canadian cards to maximize your return on spending. If you’re having trouble choosing, the HTS Credit Card Quiz can help.
- Cash Back Sites – it may sound too good to be true, but there are a few legit sites that give cash back for your online purchases at almost any store. I’ve earned more than $1,200 in cash back over a period of about 5 years. Great Canadian Rebates (sign up here) is the most popular one for Canadians.
- Cash Back Apps – cash back sites don’t work offline but cash back apps do. You just snap a picture of your receipt with your phone and you can get cash back applied to some of your purchases.
- Rewards Programs – if the store you end up buying your item from has a rewards program of any kind, you might as well be collecting the points and earning those rewards. But, don’t change your shopping habits just to collect rewards. Unless you’re getting a big bonus, it usually isn’t worth it.
- Rewards Bonuses And Coupons – timing your on-sale purchase with a high value rewards promotion, like Shoppers Drug Mart 20x Points Days, can really pay off. Additionally, watch for rewards coupons that give you large lump sums of points or multiply the points you earn. Coupons may apply to a specific product or your entire purchase. You may even be able to use both types of coupons together.
- Rewards Apps – apps that reward you in a variety of rewards points are starting to become popular. You can stack bonus rewards when making purchases (like with drop) or just for making “healthy choices” (like with carrot rewards).
- Price Matching – many Canadian stores will either match or beat the prices of their competitors (here’s a big list). Price beating is a great way to get an extra stack. Price matching helps if you have a coupon, gift card, or rewards card for a store that has higher prices. Read our guide to price matching for more info.
- Price Errors – store both online and offline make pricing errors. Sometimes they move a decimal point or simply type in the wrong number. It’s up to them if they honour the “incorrect” price, but sometimes they will. If you spot something that looks like an error, act fast because it will disappear soon.
- Bulk Discounts – some stores have buy one get one free sales (BOGO) or discounts when you buy in bulk. This is another great way to lower your price before applying other stacks.
- Negotiation – most Canadians treat prices like they are written in stone, but negotiation still works. It’s doubly true if you received subpar service or some mistake was made by the store or company.
- SCOP – the scanning code of practice (SCOP) is a voluntary oath some stores take to keep their prices updated and accurate for consumers. Using SCOP wisely, you can get free items or a $10 discount if you spot a mispriced product.
- Manufacturer’s Coupons – companies that want to entice you to buy their new or existing products often issue coupons for those products. Coupons are treated like cash by the stores because they get reimbursed for the full value of the coupon. That means they can ALWAYS be stacked with any other offer! If you look in the right places, you can find high value coupons or Free Product Coupons (FPCs) where you pay nothing.
- Store Coupons – stores themselves can issue their own coupons in their flyer, magazines, or inside their actual store. If these coupons apply to a specific product, you should even be able to stack it with a manufacturer’s coupon or a rewards coupon.
- Coupon Books – unlike free coupons, you must pay a reasonable price to buy a coupon book. The upside is that the coupons inside or much more valuable than regular coupons and can cover the cost of the book by using just 1 or 2 of them. Coupon book savings usually apply to dining, entertainment, and services instead of groceries and retail purchases. Using a coupon book is much easier than hunting for coupons by yourself.
- Online Coupons – whenever you are checking out at an online store, it is very common to see a box labeled “coupon code” or “promo code”. If you spend a little time searching for online coupons before you checkout, you’ll often be rewarded with a nice discount. The best site to use when looking for online coupons is RetailMeNot.com, but Google searches will often produce good results as well.
- Competitor Coupons – some stores, like Walmart, will accept coupons for competitors. This can open up more opportunities to stack as it is easier to combine coupons and sales.
- Discount Gift Cards – every now and then it is possible to buy gift cards for your favourite stores at a discount. For example, If you have a credit card that gives bonus rewards at grocery stores, you can buy gift cards at the grocery store gift card mall for your favourite stores, earn the bonus rewards or cash back, and then use the gift card to make your purchase at the store. Read the guide I wrote to discount gift cards here.
- Gift With Purchase – beauty product vendors are famous for giving away gifts when you purchase their expensive products. If you are going to be buying the product anyway, you might as well wait until they offer a free gift that goes with it. Other stores do this as well, like Shoppers Drug Mart will offer $10 or $20 gift cards to gas stations, stores, and restaurants when you purchase a $50 or $75 in the store on a special day.
- Trade-ins – you’ve seen it before. Bring in your old video games and get a discount on a new game. Or drag in your old clunker car and save thousands on a new model. Trade in deals are rare and not always worth it, but they are still worth considering.
- Mail-in Rebates – once a cornerstone of scoring hot deals, these rebates have mostly disappeared. Keep your eyes peeled though as some good ones still surface from time to time and the process for redeeming them has gotten a lot simpler and more reliable. Keep in mind that you'll usually need to send in a copy or scan of your receipt and UPC code by snail mail to qualify.
What’s Your Deal?
Now you know my secret weapon to produce the biggest savings. There’s always “just one more thing” that you might be able to add to make your already great deal even BETTER.
Now you can go out and experiment with it yourself. Get creative - and see what you can come up with.
And if you’re a deal-stacker…
Tell me what one-of-a-kind deals you come up with - share in the comments below.
First Published: September 13, 2010