Lesson One: Realistic Couponing
What is realistic couponing you ask? Realistic couponing is what everyone not on the television show does, I mean come on who really needs an entire shopping cart full of marshmallows anyways.
Realistically one can save anywhere from 90% to 100% at drug stores such as Walgreen’s, CVS, and Rite Aid, I personally aim for 95% so that I am not let down, as for grocery I am still working on that and I aim for 50% at the grocery store. However this is not always possible especially for NEW couponers, also if your family has a special diet there are not always coupons for these items. We eat fairly healthy in our house so I use meal planning to help control the grocery budget. I normally am only able to save about 30% at the grocery store, but I only spend about $75.00 per week on our families groceries.
For instance it is difficult to find coupons for;
These are items found on the perimeter for the store, anyone familiar with how to shop for healthy items you know that the best items for you are on the stores perimeter and all of the other junk is in the middle.Please remember to shop for your families needs, and only take what you need to last until the next time it is on sale at your stock up price ( stock up price is the lowest price you can get this item for).
Lesson 2: Realistic Couponing Part 2
So, I wanted to share some more information on realistic couponing…
Generic VS Name Brands
So in the couponing world it is difficult to find coupons for generic items (except at target) so in most instances name brand is cheaper when paired with a sale and/or coupon. However when shopping for items that you don’t have a coupon for, generic is usually cheaper… But I want to remind you to always read the price tags because this is not always the case, as you can see in the picture above. Remember to look all around, a lot of times the best deal may not be found at eye level of the shelves for instance the best deal here was the name brand on the top shelf. There are times we need something and there are no coupons out for that type of product.
Also, calculate the price per ounce for instance the relish is 9oz, so $0.99 divided by 9oz is $0.11 per ounce on the Vlasic, however Targets brand would be $0.13 per ounce so the better deal is the name brand!
And don’t forget to check sale ads and compare prices, both Walmart and Target price match, (you can check there coupon and price match policies here). I always take my qs that will double or triple to a store that offers that and match it with a sale (if possible)!
I really am trying to limit my trips to one per week to each store… meaning just one trip to Target, one to CVS, and one to either Kroger, Albertsons, or Tom Thumb!
Keep a Price Book
A Price book is used to track what retail is for an item and what your stock up price is for an item, for example my stock up price for cereal is $1.00 per box or less, where retail may be $4.79 per box so I put that down in the price book, I keep my price book in my binder.
I use the price book that Money Saving Mom has here on her site, it is a free printable!
Errors in THAT Show…
So, there were many errors that an experienced couponer could have picked out of last nights episodes, for instance I know for a fact that several coupons were misused as well as several coupons were fake, we know this because there have been news stories about them as well as they are listed on the Coupon Information Corporation’s (CIC) website!
For more information on the errors recent episodes of Extreme Couponing read the article found here.
Also many of you may have noticed that one person was dumpster diving for coupons, not only is this disgusting but it is also very ILLEGAL and in many states you may be fined!
Tracking your savings…
Lesson 3: Types of Coupons
There are 9 types of coupons, this post will explain what all of them are and where you can find them! This is a new post so all of you should find some helpful information in it weather you have followed me for some time or not!
Manufacturer Coupon: Manufacturer coupons are issued by manufacturers as an advertisement to entice you to buy their products. The most common place to find a mfg. coupon is in the Sunday coupon inserts. SmartSource, RedPlum and P&G will each have inserts in the Sunday paper throughout the month. New subscribers can sometimes sign up for a discount newspaper subscription, I buy mine at my local Dollar Tree, anywhere from 1-4 per week and sometimes I get a freebie delivered from out local paper.
Catalinas: Catalina coupons are named after Catalina Marketing who brought us the little box that the coupons print out from at the stores. Catalinas are coupons that print out at the register that are usually handed to you with your receipt. These coupons can be either store coupons or manufacturer coupons (it depends on the store promotions).
Store Coupons: These coupons are issued by the store you are shopping at and meant to be used at that specific store. These store coupons are issued in an attempt to “woo” you to their store. Many times store coupons can be stacked with a mfg coupon for additional coupons so be sure to check the coupon policy at your stores. (Target, Walgreens, and CVS allow this Target also offers many online, more about where to find them further down and in future posts!)
Another great tip to remember is some stores will actually accept “Competitor Coupons” in an effort to “snag” your business away from their competitors. These store coupons that are issued at one store would actually be redeemable at another store that accepts their competitor coupons.
Blinkies: These coupons can be found in the little black boxes hanging on the shelf in front of the product they are for. You may notice a little blinking red light (an thus the name “Blinkies”. They can be found in many grocery and retail stores. Be on the lookout as you head up and down the aisles – this is a good way to keep kids busy while you shop too (have them on the “lookout”). These are usually a mfg. coupon.
Hangtags: These coupons are usually found on drinks, jellies, oils, syrups, laundry soaps and anything else that has a “neck” to hang the coupon tag on. Thus the name Hangtags because they “hang” off the product.
Peelies: These coupons are placed right on products like a peel away sticker. If you notice a peelie on a product you are buying, make sure you peel off the coupon because they can be used immediately on your purchase. These are normally a mfg. coupon. Never take them off a product that you don’t intend to buy at that time, this is just common courtesy to other Shoppers!
eCoupons: These are digital coupons that you will find online. You will pick the coupons that you want to use and then download them onto your shopper loyalty cards. There are many stores that offer eCoupons such as Kroger and Tom Thumb and even Coupons.com has a digital coupons page. These coupons are usually considered a mfg. coupon and cannot be stacked.
Internet Printable: These coupons are found on the Internet from from coupon sites like Coupons.com, Coupon Network, SmartSource, Target and RedPlum. Some will be mfg. coupons and some will be store coupons. You are usually allowed to print 2 of each coupon during the month and companies will reset the coupons at the beginning of each month. Coupon Divas has links to the most popular coupon sites with most current coupons available.
You can also search a Coupon Database to search for all of the printable coupons we know of that are available on the Internet. This will save you a lot of time searching for them!
Tearpads: These are exactly what they sound like and can be found in many stores. They are the pads that are found by the products, sometimes on displays, in the front of stores, by the pharmacy, really just about anywhere in the store and you simply “tear” off a coupon that can be used immediately on your purchase of that product.
Lesson 4: Anatomy of a Coupon
- You may run across a coupon that states “No Expiration Date.” Most stores will not accept coupons that do not have an expiration date. These are very RARE!
- If your coupon has expired, don’t toss it! Collect them and send to our military overseas – they can use at the commissary for 6 months after they expire- I post info on this from time to time around the end of the month!
- May not be reproduced, purchased, traded or sold. DO NOT COPY coupons. The retailers know better and you are wasting your time and ink to do this.
- Limit one coupon per purchase of products and quantities stated. This means one (1) coupon per item. Some retailers misunderstand this term and think it’s one coupon per transaction. Nope, 1 coupon= 1 item.
Limit of 4 like coupons in the same shopping trip. This one is new and printed on P&G coupons.
Lesson 5: Coupon Wording
“Limit One Coupon Per Purchase Per Transaction”.This is printed on most of the manufacturer coupons.
So what does this mean?
Per Purchase = One Item
Every item you buy is considered a purchase. You can use one manufacturer’s coupon per item. You can also stack an in-store coupon.
Per Transaction = Entire Sale
Every time the cashier hands you a receipt. Sometimes you will be doing multiple transaction during a singleshopping trip. Mostly at the drug stores to roll store rewards.
Limit of 4 Like Coupons in Same Shopping Trip =
You can only use four of the same exact coupon per shopping trip. This is to prevent one person from
buying the entire inventory at the store in one shopping trip.
Lesson 6: Coupon Lingo
COMMON (Confusing) ABBREVIATIONS:
Sunday Coupon Inserts:
SS= SmartSource Sunday Insert
RP= RedPlum Sunday Insert
P&G= Procter & Gamble Sunday Insert
GM= General Mills Sunday Insert (Only comes every once in a while)
- $1.00/1: One dollar off one item,
- $1.00/2: One dollar off of two items
- B1G1 Free: Buy one item, get one free
- B2G1 Free: Buy two items, get one free
- B1G1 50% Off: Buy one item, get one 50% off
- Blinkie: Small boxes that dispense coupons with red blinking lights
- Beep: On occasion the register will beep when a coupon is scanned by a cashier. This means that the cashier needs to take an action, like entering in a price or to check to make sure the coupon matches the item you purchased.
- Bricks: Bricks coupons are internet printable coupons, if you hit your back button in your browser after printing, you usually will be allowed to print two coupons.
- Catalina: A small machine next to the cash register that will print a coupon at checkout.
- DND: Do not double
- E-coupon: Coupon that can be loaded onto your preferred shopper card that will electronically be taken off at check out if you purchase that item.
- ETS: Excludes trial size
- Exp: Expires
- Expired: The deal that was being offered is no longer available
- GC: Gift card
- MFG: Manufacturer coupon
- MIR: Mail in Rebate
- NLA: No longer available
- OYNO: On Your Next Order
- OOP: Out of Pocket
- Peelie: Peel off coupon found on product
- R: Regional coupon
- RR: Register Reward, Walgreens Catalina coupon
- Q: Coupon
- SCR: Single Check Rebate, Rite Aid monthly rebate program
- Stacking: Using both a manufacturer coupon with an in-store coupon on one item.
- Tearpad: A pad of coupons that can be found next to some products.
- UPC: Universal product code, or bar code
- +Up Rewards: Rite Aid Reward program that prints on the bottom of your receipt when you purchase qualifying items.
- VV: Video Value coupon you get for watching ad-perk videos at Riteaid.com. These video value coupons can be stacked with manufacturer coupons.
- WYB: When you buy
- YMMV: Your mileage may vary, meaning it may depend on your stores specific coupon policy.Here are a few more that I was just asked what they are..
- ISO: In Search Of
- UFT: Up For Trade
Lesson 7: Where Do I Find my Coupons?
- The newspaper ( I get 1- 4per week)
- online Smart Source Red Plum, Coupon Network, Target, CVS, Walmart, Pillsbury ,and Coupons.com (also try using area code 90210 as well as your own) Most Internet Printable’s or IP’s can be printed twice.
- Many stores offer online coupons that can be printed or loaded to your customer rewards card, check their websites for details!
- I have also participated in RAOK and Coupon Trains
Lesson 8: Coupon Orgnization
Ok so I have tried A LOT of ways to organize my coupons… And while all of them work different ones work for different people and your method may have to change with your life. And well David is now 2 and taking a bulky binder into the store and trying to use it and keep him in the cart isn’t working anymore! I have also worn out a many of binders!
Remember the number one way to be successful with coupons is keeping them organized!
So I have used the binder, I clipped all coupons and put them into the baseball card pages.
I have tried the Hybrid method I clipped what I knew I could use put it in the binder and the rest stayed whole, and were put into another binder in page protectors with the date they came out and the date that the last coupon would expires. This was great till I wanted to hit up a Kroger Mega sale, I couldn’t remember what coupons were out because well I hadn’t clipped most of them.
Next I tried a coupon organizer, I had a large stock only needed 1 paper a week so this worked for a few months till my stock was depleted. It was neat it had Velcro to secure it on to the cart out of David’s reach. I could pull them as I went but yeah I needed 4 papers a week again.
I went back to a binder and well now here we are … I ordered another organizer just like the one above that was larger and thought that between the 2 it would surely work. well boy was I wrong…
So here is my plan I have been watching how some friends who coupon organize and I will be ordering this! (In a print that suites me of course!)
I will fill it with these …
For a copy of my Table of Contents to check out how I will label my folders check out this Google Doc.
With this I keep a 1/2 inch binder with my materials for teaching classes as well as my policies and so on :-).
On a side note when I clip my coupons I stack my 4 like pages together and then staple each q That I plan to clip through the 4 so I cut just once for each q and all of my like ones stay together. Just be careful not to staple through your bar-codes!
(Since this was orginally written I moved on to a bigger organizer)
Lesson 9: ECB: What are they and how do I roll them?
What are Extra Care Bucks (ECB)?
Extra Care Bucks, what are they? I like to think of them as free money or CVS money. Extra Care Bucks print out on your receipt after the transaction is complete.
Here are a few facts about Extra Care Bucks:
- ECB’s can be used for almost anything in CVS with a few exclusions: Alcohol, tobacco, lottery and some gift cards.
- ECB’s are a form of payment not a coupon. This means you can use them with a manufacturers coupon and store coupon.
- ECB’s expire normally two weeks from the date they print out.
- The Magic Coupon Machine will print out ECB’s sometimes, usually every three months when you have spent a specific amount towards select products.
- You can use multiple ECB’s in a transaction or shopping trip.
How do I roll them?
I will explain this by breaking down one of my previous transactions.
Now this was done in just 1 trans action and had a higher than normal oop because I did not want to “burn” ECB (use more than I was earning)
(6) Finish Dishwasher Gel Packs $3.50 each
(3) Milkey Ways $0.75 each (sale crossed over from previous week)
(1) Venus Razor $8.99
(1) CVS Body Wash $2.37
(1) 4/20 CVS coupon
(6) $0.75 off Finish
(1) Buy 2 get 1 free on Mars Candy
(1) $2.00 off any Venus Razor
(1) $3.00 off CVS Body wash (CVS normaly will not produce overage however this one did and the cashier was like well whatever)
As you can see I used ECB that I had previously earned, I also earned more ECB that I now have to use next week! That is “rolling” your rewards!
Lesson 10: Here is a crash course in Walgreens Balance Reward
Kat and Laura are sisters who coupon and share their couponing stories, tips, and deals at:
Lesson 11: Spotting A Fake
So if you follow me on Facebook you know that we found some FAKE coupons floating around… (A WHILE BACK) Now how many of you would know that its FAKE? Do you know what to look for to spot weather or not a coupon that you found on the internet is real?
Well today I scanned in the images and I will show you a real coupon found on Coupon Network, and a FAKE one found on
www.ppgazette.com ( please refrain from using this site as the legitimacy of all coupons comes into question when a fake one is found!)
Spotting a FAKE
Lets start with looking at the real coupon … below is a scanned image of a real coupon from Coupon Network…
1. I have my computer set to print in gray scale to save on ink.
2. Even when printed in gray scale we see the watermark behind the expiration date.
(Also the number above the second bar-code should be different even if it is the same coupon printed a second time!)
Now lets look at the FAKE Coupons…
These are the first ones that I printed
1. As I said I have my printer set to gray scale and these printed in color thus over-riding my settings (smells a little fishy)
2. There is no water mark behind the expiration date…
3. The number that should be unique on each coupon printed … even if a duplicate of the first one! (remember this for the next image)
4. Notice the text is slightly larger here… (This just seemed odd to me)
5. There are three different coupons for the same product each DIFFERENT but for the same sized package.
Now lets look at the next ones that I printed from the same site…
- I was able to print the coupon 4 times from the same computer (this was done by mistake)
- The site claims all the coupons on that page are from Coupon Network… yet I couldn’t find this on their site.
- I was prompted to install a coupon printer by the site that I know I already had.
So how do you proceed?
well I alerted the CIC (The Coupon Information Corporation) that I believed this coupon to be fake, I e-mailed them the site and info on the coupon.
Then I called the manufacture to ask them about it and well they told me that they occasionally e-mail or mail out coupons to those on their mailing list, but that never are they posted on any of the typical online coupon sites that offer printable coupons!
Lesson 12: Stacking Coupons
- Tom Thumb
- And many more!
The trick is using coupons for the item that are from the store as well as a coupon for the item from the manufactures, I do this most at Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Albertsons. As you see in the image above pairing a Target coupon along with a smart source coupon can lead to very cheap or even free Skittles!
CVS is a great place to stack coupons, the “Red Machine” loves to spit out coupons for items that we tend to purchase or that are on sale when paired with manufactures coupons! Just remember to roll your Extra Care Buck!
Formula checks can be stacked with store coupons as well as manufactures coupons which will drastically lower the cost when this can be done, Please remember to know your stores coupon policy, before you try to stack coupons their!
Lesson 13: Rebates… Get the 411
With my big trip planned for CVS this weekend I want to share some info because all of my transactions count toward one of 3 rebates that I am doing…
I wanted to cover rebates. There are quite a few out there right now and are an awesome opportunity to make money.
There are several points I want to cover with them:
- Participating products
- Rebate dates/ Submit by date
- Transaction versus Transactions
- ONE REBATE PER HOUSEHOLD unless otherwise specified!
So the first thing is participating products. All rebates will have a list of products that are included in the rebate. MOST rebates include all products made by that manufacture. Some only include certain products, sizes, flavors, etc.. so be sure you are purchasing the correct items for your rebate by all specifications, otherwise your rebate will be denied by the company and you will not get your receipts back to submit for another rebate.
EXAMPLE: Currently there are approximately 4 rebates being offer by Proctor and Gamble. Two of these rebates include ALL P&G products, the other two only include beauty items such as Olay, Venus, Pantene, etc… So again be sure you know what products are included and plan accordingly.
Second, rebate dates and submit by dates. These are NOT the same thing. Rebate dates are the dates between which your products must be purchased. The submit by date is usually a week after the rebate end date and is the date by which your rebate MUST BE POST MARKED in order to be qualified for the rebate. ****Remember to ALWAYS COPY YOUR RECEIPTS*** before you send them into the manufacture for any rebate. On the off chance you get a letter saying we did not receive a receipt for this or that you can go back in your records and provide them with the information needed to complete your rebate. And I always mark the rebate name and date I sent it out for my own records.
Third, items must be purchased in one transaction versus multiple transactions. Some rebates require all products to be purchased in one single transaction and must appear on one single receipt in order to be considered for the rebate reimbursement. Others will let you break those items up into several different transactions making it easier to obtain the necessary amount over a longer period of time rather than in one single trip. So please be sure to read your rebate forms thoroughly before you complete a transaction or transactions for a rebate.
If a rebate requires you to submit UPC’s they usually require them one of two ways. They will either ask for the original UPC’s to be removed from the product and sent to them, this means ALL upc’s must be included with the rebate form, or they will ask you to write them in on the rebate form. If you purchase multiples of an item for instance shampoo or conditioner you must still list EACH UPC on the form. If you run out of space you are allowed to include an additional piece of paper with the remaining UPC’s on it.
Unless otherwise specified you are permitted to submit for ONE rebate per household. If you send an additional to the same address it will be bumped from their system and you will not get your receipts back.
***** Please please always read your rebates when selecting products… I realized that I bought the wrong product for one and will be re doing it because it is for kitty litter so it isn’t the end of the world but now it is on hold for a few weeks!
So, now to cover my plans for CVS this weekend (I shop Saturdays after work) I am a very visual person so I had to get creative to figure this out because 2 rebates require that 40 be spent all in one transaction and the other is 50 in multiple transactions, I wanted to make sure I had the right items with the right rebates. Part of which I have already gotten so I needed to figure this all out…
So here is how I did it
I took post-its and wrote out each item and quantity, along with what the coupons that I will use on that product, this allowed me to manipulate them around to match the right items with the right rebate. I was then able to easily calculate my out of pocket for them as well! Each sheet of paper is a rebate except one which is on 2 sheets, so here is what I will get;
- (2) Oral-B spin brushes
- (2) Oral-B tooth brushes
- (1) Always panty liners
- (1) Tampax Pearl
- (1) Tampax Radiant
- (1) Venus Olay
- (1) Cover Girl Eye shadow
Spending $16 in ECB and $1.66 on a gift card getting back $15.00 ECB
- (2) Venus Olay
Pay $13.00 in ECB and $1.05 on a gift card getting back $10.00 ECB
- (1) Tide
- (2) Pampers
- (1) Bounty Paper Towels
- (1) Charmin
Spend $21.00 in ECB and $1.05 on a gift card
I will submit 3 rebates for $10.00 each which has me about $5.00 ahead and I can spend that money anywhere!
Lesson 14: Coupon Ethics
In light of some recent things that I am seeing in coupon brags and breakdowns I feel that I need to reiterate Coupon Ethics…
For reference I have 1 Extra Care Card, and until recently only got 1 paper per week with the occasional buying of a second if the grocery coupons were fitting to my family’s diet which is on the healthier side! So the stockpile you see me brag about was built on 1 Extra Care Card, One paper per week, plus Coupon Trains, and Random Acts of Kindness from other couponers!
I am working hard to set an example for David and when he is old enough teach him how to properly use coupons!
In the couponing world there are courtesies and ethics we follow to be respectful to other shoppers and each other. The do’s and don’ts are:
DON’T clear shelves! Just because you have 16 coupons for a sale item doesn’t mean you need to use all of them at once. The same sales and coupons normally come back around every three months.
DO leave some items on the shelves for other shoppers and couponers.
DON’T take inserts without paying for them. It is illegal for you to take extra inserts from the stores, newspaper machines or recycle bins. DO call your local news paper and see if they have any deals on Sunday only customers. You can also ask all you friends and family if they get the Sunday paper to save you the inserts. DON’T be rude, hostile or yell at store cashiers or store managers.
DO remember they are people too and they make mistakes like you do. Be assertive and explain courteously what the problem is and they will respond to you much better. Always keep your policies in your binder.
DON’T be inconsiderate of other shoppers.
Lesson:15 Coupon Scams
So after a link was posted to my personal Facebook page I felt it was important to point out the trusted sources of coupons. PLEASE avoid websites that ask you to pay for a service (Advance Grocery ) is on of these.
I get My coupons from:
- Swagbucks (you can sign up here through the blog and earn free gift cards for using your coupons and completing internet searches).
- Smart Source
- Red Plum
- Various Facebook fan pages
- News Paper
- In the mail
- as well as product websites (ie Reynolds Foil)
Please remember there is a limit to internet printables (IP’s) per computer
Also check your local grocery stores website for digital coupons that can be loaded to your club card.
I also use several apps for coupons on my phone
- Geo Coupons
- Savings Star
- Shop Kick