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Archive for the ‘Coupon tips’ Category

You know I love coupons. A year ago, however, I had yet to see the coupon light. I didn’t know it was possible to get items from grocery and drugstores for free. Now I know it’s not only possible to get things for free, sometimes you can even profit from buying certain items.

I went grocery shopping at Harris Teeter this past weekend for a bunch of items. I’m a member of their VIC program — their equivalent of a frequent shopper’s program. They also have a program called e-VIC which is basically an amped-up version of the VIC program. As an e-VIC member, I get additional savings on certain items and access to electronic coupons that can be downloaded directly to my VIC card. The coupons get deducted automatically at the register when I buy the corresponding items.  The fun thing (yes, I think coupons are fun — don’t you?) about the e-coupons at Harris Teeter is that you can use them in conjunction with paper manufacturers’ coupons for extra savings. When you combine an e-coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon with a store sale, well it’s like winning the lottery.

So this past weekend I bought this salt.

I would have taken a photo of the actual container of salt I bought, but Charlie recently broke our digital camera. That's a whole other yikes money story though.

The salt retails for $1.99, but Harris Teeter had it on sale as a buy-one-get-one free (which, by the way, means that it’s half off; you don’t actually have to buy two to get one of them free). I had a paper manufacturer’s coupon for $.50 off which I knew Harris Teeter would double to $1.00 off (their coupon policy is to double paper coupons with a face value up to $.99). I also had an e-coupon for $1.00 off Diamond Crystal sea salt. Now, if you’re using a manufacturer’s coupon, Harris Teeter won’t let you profit off an item; that is, if the item is $.75 and your coupon is for $1.00, they’ll only deduct $.75 from your total. So I was curious what would happen if I used a manufacturer’s coupon with an e-coupon — using either of these would make the salt free, but combined, I stood to profit by $1.00. Well, the e-coupon system and the manufacturer’s coupon systems clearly don’t talk to each other at the register because both happily deducted from my total. Thus, it was like Harris Teeter paid me $1.00 to buy the salt.

I came home so, so proud of my profit. I told Mark about it and, while impressed, he said that next time I stand to make money off an item, I need to buy only that item to see what would happen. Mark reasons that the real excitement would be to walk out of a grocery store with more money in my pocket than when I went in. Oh yes, indeed, that is a titillating prospect.

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Ah, how life changes. The last time our local grocery store, Harris Teeter, offered a week in which they tripled the value of manufacturers’ coupons up to $.99, I wasn’t even using coupons. Now, 14 months later, I can’t imagine shopping for groceries without coupons. In fact, I keep my coupons in my purse at all times just in case I need to make an impromptu run to the store.

If you’re a Harris Teeter customer and have not yet been convinced of the incredible savings to be had with coupons, this is the week to start flexing some money-saving muscles at the grocery store. The triple coupon offer is good now through next Tuesday, May 24. In effect, the triple coupon offer means that $.50 and $.75 coupons triple in value to $1.50 and $2.25, respectively. It doesn’t take sophisticated math skills to realize that using coupons this week could translate into a lot of free or deeply discounted items.

I’ve written some tips for maximizing coupon use here, here, here, and here. If you’re eager to get started scoring good deals at Harris Teeter this week, here’s what I’d recommend. Go to southernsavers.com and check out three separate lists of Harris Teeter deals to be had using coupons (available here, here, and here). The woman who runs Southern Savers lists items Harris Teeter has marked on sale for the week and, where applicable, lists manufacturers’ coupons that can be combined with these sale items. If there’s a printable coupon available, she provides links to the coupon. She also offers a list of items that, even without being on sale at Harris Teeter, are just good values when purchased with an available manufacturers’ coupon. So here’s an example of a good deal pulled right from the Southern Savers site:

This is a great deal. Stock up! Newman’s Own Salsa, 16 oz, $2
Manufacturer Coupon -.50/1 Newman’s Own product printable
(makes it 50¢)

This example above is pretty self-explanatory, but Newman’s Own salsa is on sale for $2 this week (it’s usually about $3, I think). Currently, there’s a printable manufacturer’s coupon available for $.50 off one Newman’s Own item and if you click on “printable” from Southern Savers, you’ll be taken directly to a website where you can print the coupon (if you’ve never printed coupons before, you’ll need to install a driver. It’s quick and easy). When you purchase the salsa, give the cashier your coupon and the computer system will automatically triple the coupon and deduct $1.50 from your bill, thus making the salsa $.50. Since Newman’s Own is Mark’s favorite salsa and we routinely buy it, it’s in our best interests to buy it now for $.50 rather than later when it will be $3.00. The printable Newman’s Own coupon should print two or three times, so when I go to the store this weekend, I’ll buy however many jars of this salsa I have coupons for since I know it will keep and we’ll definitely eat it.

If you don’t want to use the Southern Savers lists, you can also just go looking for printable coupons on your own. I like coupons.com, allyou.com, redplum.com, smartsource.com and, for organic deals, mambosprouts.com. And, of course, if you happen to have coupons from your newspaper inserts, start clipping those too.

So Harris Teeter customers, go forth and conquer coupons this week! You won’t regret it.

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Over the past year since starting this blog, I’ve done a lot of things to try to save some money. Few, however, are as satisfying to me as using coupons. I now use coupons for so many things I buy that I absolutely loathe paying retail for anything. If you’re thinking about ways to save money but don’t know where to begin, start with coupons. Chances are you’ll get hooked when you see how much money you can save on items you normally buy.

This week through next Tuesday our local grocery store, Harris Teeter, is offering “Super Double Coupons” (which I wrote about previously here). Harris Teeter ordinarily doubles manufacturer coupons up to $.99, so if you have a coupon for $.75 off an item, you’ll actually save $1.50. During Super Double Coupons week, however, coupons up to $1.98 are doubled. So yesterday I sorted through my coupons and grabbed all the $1.00 and $1.50 off coupons, plus all the coupons that were expiring in the next few days, and went shopping. I had no shopping list — I just used my coupons as my list. I made two rules for myself though before my shopping trip:

  1. No buying items I wouldn’t use simply because I had a coupon.
  2. No buying items that weren’t good deals simply because I had a coupon. For example, I had a coupon for $1.00 off a box of a specific cereal, but the retail price of the cereal was $4.49 which, even with my $2.00 discount from my doubled coupon, was still more than I wanted to pay for cereal. (I rarely pay more than $2 for cereal now that I’ve started using coupons. When buying cereal, I almost always wait to use my coupon so that I can combine it with a store sale in order to get the best deal.)

All told, I bought 14 items using coupons and paid $12.25 (which averages to $.88 an item). Had I paid full retail for these items, they would have cost $46.75 (my savings using my Harris Teeter frequent shopper card was $10.91 and my coupon savings were $23.59), so I saved 74% overall.

While the average cost of my items was $.88, I got a few items absolutely free using my coupons: Advil (22 count), Reach dental floss, and Athenos Greek yogurt. I bought organic almond milk for $.25, tuna for $.22, soup for $.34, and pantiliners for $.49. I bought soy milk for $.99 and two boxes of cereal for $1.50 each. The most expensive thing I bought (by far, in fact) was organic eggs for $2.69.

While these savings are fantastic, I must confess that they are not typical for me, so don’t get discouraged if you try using coupons and you can’t immediately replicate 74% in savings. I normally save between 25% and 50% when I use coupons, savings that add up quickly.

If you’re new to using coupons, check out some of my coupon tutorials (which you can read here, here, here, or here). If you want to start quickly printing coupons, try to coupons.com, smartsource.com, or redplum.com. You’ll likely need to download a coupon driver to print coupons, but it’s quick and easy. If you’re interested in organic food, I often check out organicdeals.com for links to coupons for organic items. Finally, many grocery stores allow you to load electronic coupons directly onto your frequent shopper card. I do this for Harris Teeter as well as Kroger (you can also add e-coupons to your Kroger card through cellfire.com). Just be aware that e-coupons do not double (although you can use them in conjunction with a paper manufacturer’s coupon for some big savings) and I’ve had problems with the scanner not automatically deducting the e-coupon when I check out, so now I always print at home the list of coupons on my frequent shopper card and bring it with me to the grocery store. If a coupon fails to deduct, I just show my print out and the teller manually deducts it).

Now grab some coupons and go shopping!

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Though I haven’t been using coupons for very long, I am now a faithful user and regularly reap the benefits. If you’re a Harris Teeter grocery store customer and have been thinking about beginning to use coupons, this week is a great time to start. Harris Teeter’s normal coupon policy is to double coupons up to $.99, so if you have a coupon for $.75 off, Harris Teeter will double it to give you $1.50 off. But, if you have a coupon for $1.00 off an item, Harris Teeter won’t double it. This week from 1/5 through 1/11, however, Harris Teeter will double coupons up to $1.99 which means all those $1.00 off coupons will double to $2.00 off and $1.50 coupons will double to a whopping $3.00 off.

If you do try out the Harris Teeter super double coupons, there are a few rules you’ll need to be aware of (you can see the complete Harris Teeter coupon policy here).

  1. Harris Teeter will only double 20 coupons a day. If you’ve amassed more than 20 coupons, only the first 20 will be doubled (but you could save them and shop on another day this week and they’ll be doubled).
  2. There are no “money makers” so if you have a coupon for $1.00 off an item and the item is $1.55, Harris Teeter will only double the coupon to $1.55.
  3. You can only redeem two internet coupons for a like item per day (that is, if you have printed three coupons for $1.00 off Philadelphia brand cream cheese, you can only use two of them per day).

Please note, however, that some manufacturers’ coupons specifically say “do not double,” so you’ll need to be aware of those coupons (just to complicate matters further, some of these coupons actually do double; if you want to know how to tell which ones will double, leave a comment and I’ll explain further).

No need to fret if you haven’t been collecting coupons from newspaper inserts. There are lots of websites that offer printable coupons. I like coupons.com the best, but I also use redplum.com and smartsource.com (you’ll need to download a coupon driver in order to print them from any of these sites, but it’s quick and easy to do). If you have a favorite brand, it’s easy to do a quick Internet search to see if that brand currently offers coupons from their website. I just did a search for “Pacific foods” on Google because I know they often have coupons for some of their organic products. Sure enough, their website offers printable coupons, although you do have to enter your name and email address. Stonyfield and Organic Valley also regularly offer coupons on their organic dairy products, but you have to register to be able to access the coupons. If you really get excited about printing coupons from the Internet, many people recommend creating a new email account just for coupon use in order to avoid getting spam in your regular email account. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with spam from the coupon sites where I’ve signed up.

I’ve written about strategies to maximize coupon use here and here, which you can review to get some good tips. Here’s a quick nuts and bolts guide to score some great deals this week at Harris Teeter. First, go to one of the many blogs that detail all the current coupon deals. For my area, I like Southern Savers and Madame Deals; both of these sites cover sales for two of the grocery stores I visit the most (Harris Teeter and Kroger).

A great way to save money with coupons is to use them in conjunction with a store sale, which is where Southern Savers and Madame Deals really come in handy. Sites like these take the weekly sale items from Harris Teeter (which you need to be a VIC member to take advantage of) and match them with currently available manufacturers’ coupons; they even offer links to printable coupons where applicable. So for example, this week Southern Savers not only details all the Harris Teeter advertised sale items and matches them with available coupons which you can check out here, but you can also see a list of unadvertised deals here, and here you can see regular priced items that, with available coupons, you can get for a great deal. There are quite a lot of items that you can get for free or under $1 if you have a coupon. You can even generate your shopping list and print it out directly from the site. Finally, you can check out a list of available $1.50 off coupons here to see if any are for products you’re interested in.

If you’re at all interested in trying to use coupons, I really encourage you to just go ahead and start. I know that some of these coupon tricks can be confusing at first. Maximizing deals takes some practice, but it’s definitely worth going through the learning curve. Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions you have and I’ll be happy to answer them as best I can. Good luck and have fun!

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Online retail coupons

It was not too long ago that I never used coupons. Now I’m a giddy couponing fool. For the most part my coupon use has been confined to grocery stores and drugstores (which I wrote about here and here). I do use coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond and occasionally for Kohl’s, but that’s mostly because they just show up in our mailbox and I don’t actually have to do anything to get them. Also, despite having expiration dates printed on them, Bed Bath & Beyond coupons don’t expire so I just put them in a drawer and grab them when I’m heading over to the store.

This weekend, Mark and I decided to buy some new clothes for Charlie. In theory the weather around here will start getting cooler soon (although you’d scarcely know it by the never-ending summer we’re having) and Charlie has outgrown most of his pants and long sleeve shirts from last season. We decided go to Old Navy to see what they had to offer in Charlie’s size. Inspired by a recent Kohl’s trip where I saved a ton of money on clothes using a coupon they’d sent in the mail, I did a quick Internet search for “Old Navy coupons” and found several options. The first was $10 off a purchase of $50 or more that I found here. The second was for 30% off a single item that I discovered here at retailmenot.com. I printed both and off we went. Old Navy had great options for clothes for Charlie and we ended up with about 7 or 8 items. The two coupons I printed couldn’t be used in the same transaction, so I took one of our more expensive items and bought it with the 30% off coupon, and Mark bought all the other items with the $10 off coupon. We ended up spending $56 and saved $14.50.

In addition to retailmenot.com, there are lots of different sites that offer printable retail coupons as well as discount promotions that you can use when ordering online. Here are just a few I found recently (as well one site I just happen to be aware of since I know the guy who runs the site): ultimatecoupons.com, couponclock.com, myretailcodes.com, and fatwallet.com.

Do you have any recommendations for how to get retail coupons? If so, do tell!

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I’ve recently started to clip coupons in an effort to save money on our groceries and toiletries. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about tricks I’d gathered from other bloggers about how to be coupon savvy. Since then, I’ve learned a few more tips to maximize savings through coupons.

As a recap, here are the tips from the first post (where each is explained in detail):

  • Coupon stack
  • Give up brand loyalty
  • Shop for bargains, not items
  • Shop at multiple stores
  • Make multiple purchases at the same store

Here are some more tips that I’ve recently learned, followed by their full explanation:

  • Let others do the work for you
  • Shop when other people don’t
  • Shop the same store at the same time each week

A. Let others do the work for you. I’ve been getting coupons from the Sunday paper for several weeks now. I have amassed a lot of coupons and it’s hard for me to keep them straight (serious couponers have sophisticated sorting systems, but I’m not yet sophisticated — in many ways!). But it turns out that I don’t really have to be so organized because there are lots and lots of people who blog about coupon savings (for example, see here, here, and here). These people are the really serious couponers, and they do the work for me. They write posts each week about the best deals at the major drugstores and grocery stores. So, for example, CVS drugstore changes their weekly deals beginning on Sundays. By Friday or Saturday of each week, the serious coupon bloggers have learned what items CVS will be offering for sale for the coming week, and have posted about the best deals — the ways to stack coupons by combining manufacturers’ coupons with items on sale or items that offer ExtraCare Bucks. These bloggers detail the source of the coupon to use to get the deal, and if available, they’ll even link to a coupon you can print online. Here’s a small example of a CVS deal for this week as posted on Frugal Coupon Living:

Old Spice or Gillette Body Wash – 10 to 18 oz $4 (get $4 ECBs) Limit 2
B1G1 Gillette or Old Spice P&G 5/2
= $4 MONEYMAKER wyb 2 with B1G1 coupon

Here’s what the above deal means in non-experienced-couponers’ language: CVS has Old Spice and Gillette Body Wash on sale for $4. If you buy one of these, you’ll get $4 ExtraCare Bucks (ECBs) back; but you’re limited to purchasing two body washes. The next line details the coupon to use: a buy-one-get-one-free (B1G1) coupon on Gillette or Old Spice from the Proctor & Gamble (P&G) coupon insert from the May 2nd Sunday paper. The third line details the savings: you’ll essentially be up $4 (MONEYMAKER) when you buy (wyb) two with the buy-one-get-one-free (B1G1) coupon. (Frankly, even if you don’t have a B1G1 coupon, this is still a good deal — buy a body wash for $4 and get back $4 ECBs to use on another purchase).
Now that I know about these serious coupon bloggers, I search their sites for the biggest store deals each week. These are deals for things that I can get for free (or close to it) or for items that will pay me back (the “moneymakers” like the Gillette deal above).

On Saturday night, I reviewed the CVS deals posted by the bloggers and went looking for the corresponding coupons I had. Luckily for me, I had the Old Spice/Gillette Body Wash coupon. While we don’t normally use body wash, if it is free or if CVS is essentially going to pay me to buy it, then I’ll buy the body wash, water it down, and use it as hand soap (or I could always donate toiletries to a local homeless shelter). In my online search for CVS deals, I found that I also had another coupon for cereal that I could use in conjunction with a sale at CVS. Finally, I wrote down a list of the deals I was going to get at CVS the next morning so that I wouldn’t get confused once I got there.

Here’s the step-by-step of what I did yesterday at CVS so you can get a sense of how I maximized some deals:

1. Scanned my ExtraCare card when I entered the store. I received 5 coupons which, although I didn’t use them yesterday, I’ve put aside for another time.
2. Bought two Gillette Body Washes using my B1G1 coupon. The retail price for each was $4.99; CVS was offering the body wash on sale for $4 and offering $4 in ExtraCare Bucks for each. The cashier rang up the items and the pre-tax total came to $8. I gave her my B1G1 coupon which, it turned out, was based on the retail price ($4.99) rather than the $4 sale price. So $4.99 was taken off my bill, making my pre-tax total $3.01. The cashier gave me my receipt which had my $8 in ECBs coupon at the bottom.
3. I went shopping for several items. First, I picked up some dental floss that was selling for $1.99 with $2 back in ECBs. Second, I had a coupon for $2.50 off $12 worth of CVS brand items, so I picked up the following:

  • 2 CVS pantiliners on sale from 2 for $1.49 to 2 for $.99
  • 1 package of CVS wet wipes (which, by the way, are the best wet wipes around) for $4.99 (on sale from $6.99)
  • 2 bars of CVS bar soap (knock-off of Cetaphil bar soap) for $3.79 each

I took my items to the cashier and the total came to $15.55. Then I handed the cashier the $2.50 coupon as well as the $8 ECBs I earned from the Gillette body wash. The final pre-tax total was $5.05. But, the dental floss gave me an additional $2 ECBs.
4. Then I completed a third transaction. Kellogg’s cereal was on sale from $4.49 to $1.66 a box. I had a coupon for $1 off 2 boxes of Kellogg’s cereal, which brought my pre-tax total down to $2.32 for both boxes of cereal. I then gave the cashier my $2 ECBs I had just earned from the dental floss, so I ended up paying $.32 for the cereal (before tax). (I hadn’t gone in to CVS knowing about the dental floss deal; I just found it while I was there. Had I known about the deal, I would have bought the dental floss with the Gillette body wash, received my $10 ECBs in one transaction, and then just bought the rest of my items in a second transaction rather than having to complete three transactions.)

Here are the items that earned me money: 

I paid $5 for these three items and earned $10 in ECBs

My $10 in ECBs (plus CVS sales and my two additional coupons) got me these seven items for $3.38:

Had I bought all of these items at their original retail price, I would have paid $35.02. Instead, my entire visit to CVS cost me $8.38 plus tax (which represents a 76% savings).

In addition to the weekly deals that coupon bloggers post, CVS also does the work for me to find special deals. Their weekly flier, which is included in the Sunday paper, not only lists their sale items for the week, but also lists which of their sale items have corresponding coupons in that Sunday’s paper. For these items, there’s a little black icon next to the sale item in the flier which depicts a pair of scissors and says “coupons in Sunday’s paper.” Couldn’t be simpler.

I’ve been consulting the coupon bloggers for weekly CVS deals for several weeks now, but I only just realized that there are also coupon bloggers who post the best coupon deals for my local grocery store. I found them yesterday by googling, “Harris Teeter coupon 5/19” (Harris Teeter changes their weekly specials on Wednesday of each week, so I knew the latest deals began on May 19th). Google returned several hits of coupon blog posts for current Harris Teeter deals (like this and this; if you’re near a Harris Teeter, both of these sites show some items you can get for free along with a link to printable coupons for those items). To find deals at the stores where you normally shop, just do a similar Google search for bloggers writing about those stores. I’ve routinely seen posts about weekly specials at Target, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens, just to name a few.

B. Shop when other people don’t. As a novice coupon user, at times I get confused by deals, especially when I’m trying to stack store coupons with manufacturer coupons. Store salespeople are very knowledgeable about coupons and, in my experience, are happy to help clear up confusion. I shop at odd times rather than during busy periods so that if I have a question or if I want to make multiple purchase transactions during a single visit, they will help me and not get annoyed.

C. Shop the same store at the same time each week. This tip goes hand-in-hand with shopping when other people don’t. I try to go to CVS first thing Sunday mornings. I’ve been doing this for several weeks now. I started going on Sunday mornings because it was convenient for me and I knew the store wouldn’t be crowded. An unexpected benefit of shopping on the same day and time each week is that the same salesperson is always working. She now knows me and we’ve developed a friendly relationship. She knows I’m trying to save money with coupons and has started pointing out deals to me or offering tips on how best to maximize the coupons issued by CVS. Frankly, who better to offer tips about the CVS deals than the cashiers? They see people successfully saving money all the time. Also, cashiers have the ability to override the register; that is, if a coupon doesn’t scan properly, the cashier has the ability to enter the discount manually. This happened to me twice yesterday and both times the cashier pleasantly gave me the discount herself. Though I’m sure she would have done this for any customer, she seemed particularly nice about it because we now have this friendly relationship. I, in turn, helped her out because she was trying to train a new cashier and needed someone to act as a “guinea pig” customer. I was more than happy to oblige because I got to hear her explain coupon stacking to the cashier trainee, which was certainly beneficial to me.

So that’s it for my newest tips on how to be coupon-smart. But what about you — are any of you experienced coupon users? Are any of you just starting out like me? Or, do some of you completely hate coupons (in which case, thanks for reading this crazy long blog post — you must really be Yikes Money fans!)?

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Many years ago I routinely clipped coupons, but over time I found that I wasn’t really saving any money. Instead, I fell into a trap wherein I’d buy an item just because I had a coupon for it. Sometimes I’d buy things I wouldn’t ordinarily purchase and didn’t really need. Other times I’d buy something I needed, like toilet paper, but would buy the name brand I had the coupon for even if the store brand without a coupon was less expensive.

With our new budget, however, I’m particularly interested in saving money on our groceries and toiletries. So I’ve been looking for tips online about how to maximize the use of coupons. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Coupon stack. Coupon stacking refers to using manufacturers’ coupons in conjunction with store discounts. When coupons are released by manufacturers, stores often follow suit by discounting the same item. Experienced couponers don’t use their valuable manufacturers’ coupons without additional discounts from the store. Manufacturers’ coupons are usually good for about 4-6 weeks. Grocery stores and drug stores offer discounts on items for one week and will rotate their discounts about every six weeks. If you have a coupon for an item that isn’t currently on sale at the store, wait to use your manufacturers’ coupon until it is on sale.
  2. Give up brand loyalty. If Colgate toothpaste is on sale and you have a coupon for it but you normally use Crest, well, buy Colgate. This makes sense to me, of course, but there are some products I’m not willing to give up because I love them. Below I detail how I broke this rule during my recent trip to CVS (although I still managed to get a pretty good deal).
  3. Shop for bargains, not items. By reviewing the coupons you have in conjunction with store discounts, choose to purchase items because they’re bargains, not necessarily because you need them at the moment. This is a tough idea for me because we are trying to live on a weekly budget. Why would I buy toilet paper this week if I don’t currently need it? The answer is because for items that will necessarily be needed and used at some point – like toilet paper – buy it when there is a bargain and stock up.
  4. Shop at multiple stores. To get the best bargains, it may be necessary to shop at multiple stores. For me, I do this sparingly because I just don’t have the time to drive to several different stores to do my shopping. That being said, I do routinely go to the grocery store for food items and the drugstore for toiletries in the course of a week. Also, I sometimes will go to our big chain grocery store followed by a trip to Trader Joe’s a few days later. I could easily plan better to save more by shopping for specific sale items at the different stores.
  5. Make multiple purchases at the same store. I address this money-saving technique below as I recount my recent trip to CVS pharmacy.

Putting My Coupons in Action

Using the tips above, I decided to see whether I could score some good deals using coupons. Mark bought a Sunday paper for $2.00 just so we could get the coupon inserts (I think if you’re really savvy, you could get the inserts for free by going to your local library and ask for them from one of the several Sunday papers they get). The Sunday paper also had the CVS flyer that lists the in-store sale items for the week.

CVS offers a free discount program called “Extra Care” which works in the same manner as grocery store customer discount cards. My Extra Care card hangs on my key chain and the teller scans it when I pay for my items. CVS only offers discounts to Extra Care members. CVS also offers Extra Care Bucks (called by experienced couponers “ECBs”) to members. ECBs can be used on anything in the store. An example of an ECB deal might be something like this: buy Dove liquid soap on sale from $4 to $3 and earn $1 ECB. That means that a shopper will pay $3 for the soap and the receipt will show an additional coupon for $1 Extra Care Buck to be used on the next purchase.

With the Sunday newspaper coupon inserts and the CVS flyer laid out on the dining room table, I followed rule #3 above and looked for bargains. First up, I reviewed the CVS flyer for items I knew we could use (either now or in the near future). Then I leafed through the coupon inserts to see if there were any matching coupons for those items. When I found those coupons, I cut them out.

At CVS stores there is a special red machine which scans items for a price check. If you scan your Extra Care card, it will automatically generate coupons for you. You can scan your card more than once; the machine will tell you when you’ve reached your coupon limit. I’d never noticed the machine when shopping at CVS before, but I learned about it while doing my “smart couponing” research. At our local CVS, the red scanning machine is located just to the side of the front registers.

So here is the play-by-play of my recent shopping trip to CVS.

From a previous trip to CVS, I had two coupons:

  • $2.50 off CVS brand items worth $12 or more
  • $1 Extra Care Buck

On the way into the store, I scanned my Extra Care card twice at the red scanner machine and got the following five coupons:

  • $2 off 2 bars of soap
  • $2 off $10 worth of CVS cosmetics
  • Buy 2 Hershey’s candy bars, get 1 free
  • $1 off 2 CVS brand Earth Essentials Cleaning products
  • $2.50 off CVS brand items worth $12 or more

Some of these coupons weren’t relevant to what I wanted to buy that day (and might never buy – I doubt I’ll use the CVS cosmetics coupon or the one for Hershey’s candy bars).

I went to the soap aisle and put the following things in my cart which we routinely use and were either out of or close to it:

CVS was offering a special: buy $20 of CVS brand facial cleansing/moisturizing products, get $5 ECBs.

I went to the register with my items and here’s how the cost broke down:

  • 2 bars of soap: $3.79 each
  • Liquid cleanser: $8.49
  • Moisturizing cream: $10.49

Total without tax: $26.56

Then I used three of the CVS coupons I mentioned above: $1.00 ECB, and the two coupons for $2.50 off CVS brand items worth $12 or more. I tried to use the coupon I had for $2 off 2 bars of soap, but the teller’s scanning machine rejected it (I guess I’d used my coupon limit; I can use that coupon another time).

Total without tax using the coupons: $20.56 (19% savings)

As an aside, the products above are the CVS version of Cetaphil products. I started using Cetaphil products over 15 years ago and I love them. They’re very gentle (the liquid soap is especially good as a body wash for babies and a facial cleanser for people with sensitive skin). As an extra aside, I’m actually not a big fan of antibacterial soaps which these bar soaps are, but CVS was out of the non-antibacterial-Cetaphil-knock-off bar soap. Anyhow, the CVS versions of the Cetaphil products are just as good and about 2/3 the price. But, I broke coupon rule #2 above – don’t be loyal to a particular brand. Had I been willing to purchase any soap and moisturizer, I would have saved a lot more money.

The bottom of my receipt from this transaction had my $5 ECB coupon for spending over $20 in CVS products, so following rule #6 — make multiple purchase transactions at the same store –I tore off my $5 coupon and went shopping for a few more items at CVS. It was time to put rule #1 — coupon stack — to work.

Here’s what I bought:

I had manufacturers’ coupons from the Sunday paper for all of these items and CVS was offering additional discounts on all of them. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Oil of Olay facial moisturizer: $8.99 original price, $2.00 off using CVS discount, and $2.00 off using manufacturer’s coupon. Final cost: $4.99 (44% savings)
  • Nivea shower gel: $6.00 original price, $1.11 off using CVS discount, and $4.00 off using manufacturer’s coupon. Final cost: $0.88 (85% savings)
  • Tampax tampons: $3.79 original price, $0.82 off using CVS discount, and $1.00 off using manufacturer’s coupon. Final cost: $1.97 (48% savings)
  • Always pads: $3.79 original price, $0.82 off using CVS discount, and $1.00 off using manufacturer’s coupon. Final cost: $1.97 (48% savings)

Subtotal: $9.81

Then I gave the teller my $5 ECBs coupon that I had earned in my first transaction.

Final total (without tax): $4.81.

Had I bought all of these items at their original price, the total would have been $22.57. This represents a 79% savings.

Now, truth be told, I don’t normally buy shower gel (we routinely use the bar soaps and liquid soap I bought in the first transaction instead). But, we’re out of liquid hand soap. Since I got the Nivea shower gel for just $0.88, this is substantially cheaper than buying the same amount of liquid hand soap. I’ll just refill our old hand soap dispensers with the Nivea shower gel instead.

Here’s the final cost-savings tally of my trip to CVS:

Total (before tax) on all merchandise before using coupons and CVS Extra Care discounts: $49.13

Total (before tax) on all merchandise after using coupons and CVS Extra Care discounts: $25.37

Total savings: $23.76 (48% savings)

While I’m very happy with this result, I should tell you that this amount of savings is nothing compared to what experienced couponers can save. There are some people who are so sophisticated at this that they can walk out of stores paying next to nothing for a large amount of items. Oh well, there’s a learning curve to being coupon-smart, and I’m definitely still learning.

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