Thursday, July 8, 2010

Couponing 102

Since my last post on couponing, I've received some questions so I'm answering those on the ol' blog today. In addition, I'm going to go into more detail about one of my new favorite places - CVS Pharmacy - because I've saved a LOT of money there recently.

But first things first - the questions:

How many coupons/which ones should you clip?

Personally, I clip all of the coupons out of the newspaper each Sunday that are for products I know we'll need or use. For instance, I will clip all of the shampoo/styling product coupons even though they may be a more expensive brand that I would buy without a coupon because you just never know what will go on sale. The worst is when you get see a great sale at CVS or Walgreens in the Sunday paper that would have made a really sweet deal if only you had saved that coupon.

I also clip all laundry detergent coupons, toilet paper, all foods we eat regardless of brand, etc. If it's a really good coupon for something you use all the time (ie Gillette Clinical Strength deodorant is all my man will wear so it's a must have and is expensive) in the paper, you can either pick up a few extra copies at the store on Sunday or ask your parents and/or co-workers who you know don't clip coupons if you can have theirs. That's actually what I do so we get three sets of each coupon per week.

How do people get all kinds of stuff for almost free?

The trick to getting stuff for free or almost free is to either a) shop at a place that doubles coupons (none of those are in Waco but check your local market), b) find something on sale and then stack your coupon on top of it, or c) shop at stores that will allow you to stack their store coupons with manufacturer's coupons (ie Walgreens and Target), which will result in more savings automatically but is made even sweeter if the item is on sale.

Sometimes I just find coupons on that will automatically result in free items when shopping at Wal-Mart because their prices are generally the lowest. For instance, I had some $1/2 ($1 off 2 items) coupons for Taco Bell products. We use this taco seasoning ALL THE TIME and it's $0.50/packet at Wally World so I printed out two of the coupons and we got four packets of seasoning for free. It was sweet :-)

So how does all of this work in practice and not just theory?

The place I've actually saved the most money at recently is CVS Pharmacy. We live very close to both a Walgreens and a CVS so I hit each every week to pick up a few things. My best advice with couponing is to start small because it can be O-V-E-R-W-H-E-L-M-I-N-G. The easiest system to learn, in my opinion, is that of CVS so I'll start there...

Run, don't walk, to your local CVS and get an Extra Care Card. This card is needed to receive the weekly sale prices you'll find in your newspaper circular. It's free and will also allow you to begin receive Extra Care Bucks (ECB's) immediately. Be sure to scan your card at the coupon scanner when you enter the store each time you visit because it will spit out additional coupons.

ECB's are, basically, free money. Each week in the ad you'll find a number of items that are ECB deals. In addition, you'll receive 2% of your purchases back in ECB's per quarter automatically. Just prints out on the bottom of your receipt every 3 months.

For example, this week Pantene shampoo and conditioner (the family size) are on sale for $5.99 each and you also receive a $2.00 ECB with the purchase of one item (limit 2 per card). Last week when I was there I received a coupon out of the scanner for $2.00 off a Pantene product so even though I had a coupon for $1.00 off two ($1/2) Pantene items, I used the CVS coupon instead.

Also this week the Gillette Clinical Strength deodorant is on sale for $7.99 (only 5 cents more than the lowest price I've found, which is at Wal-Mart) and you get a $1.00 ECB (limit 2) with purchase. Couple this with the $3/1 and $2/1 ($3 off one items and $2 off one item) coupons I had in my stockpile and this also made for a sweet deal.

What made it even better was that I had in my coupon organizer $6.00 in ECB's from last week's purchases so the transaction looked something like this:

$5.99 x 2 = 11.98 - 2.00 (coupon) = 9.98
$7.99 x 2 = 15.98 - 5.00 (coupon) = 10.98

So that's $20.96 total but I still have $6.00 in ECB's from last week so once they're applied, it's only $14.96 for all four products. And I also now have an additional $6.00 in ECB's to use next week!

Truthfully, that's one of the more expensive transactions I make because the deodorant is pricey but it's a necessity at our house...

Some websites will recommend buying everything at CVS that offers an ECB; however, I don't subscribe to that theory because I don't see any reason to throw money at something my family won't use. I stick to things we will use and purchase some things without a coupon (ie $0.99 Puffs tissue) if it's a really good price.

For a more in-depth (and probably more coherent) look at how to begin shopping at CVS, check out this link. I found it really helpful when I was starting and am hoping you will as well.

Next week I'll chat about Walgreens :-)

In the meantime, we can all only hope to be as cool as Miss Priss is in this photo...


Natalie said...

You're just the best. Once that I start coupon shopping (soon!), I'll keep you apprised of my success! :)