Let me begin by saying that I am NOT an extreme couponer. I don’t stockpile 200 individual servings of Ramen noodles and 40 boxes of cereal. I don’t have 100 tubes of toothpaste, or even 50. However, as a teacher, I have found that devoting an hour a week to couponing makes the best use of my pay possible. Teachers don’t choose their profession for the money, or haven’t you heard? Many of the friends have asked me how I do my couponing and get such good deals. This is just an introduction to show you.
For starters, I don’t coupon very much for food. Several reasons: a) food expires, b) it’s just my husband and I, and 3) a lot of what I eat doesn’t have a coupon. I shop at Kroger and they have a shopper’s card and an App that I use. I can download coupons directly to my card using my App and, as a regular customer, they will send me coupons to use on stuff I buy that are just good for their store. I definitely wouldn’t shop at my local grocery store that starts with “Market” because their food is so high that by the time they put it on ‘sale’ it’s the price of everyone else’s every day. Just a tip…
The main places that I use my coupon ninja skills are Walgreens and CVS. The people at my local Wal-Mart are grouchy and look at me as if I’m trying to pull one over on them if I try to coupon there. Unlike the majority of their clientele, I’m wearing shoes and have had a bath, so I think they should give me the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, both Walgreens and CVS have free customer rewards card that you can put on your key chain. If you don’t have these, that’s the first step. Get them!
There is a great website for newbies to go: www.krazycouponlady.com. You can choose the store and she will tell you what coupons to match to what deal, when the coupons came out, websites you can print from, etc. I still use this from time to time, but now that I’ve done my transactions so many times, I can generally look at an ad and see what’s worthwhile. Check this out on Saturday night while you’re lying in bed. I don’t bother to print coupons. I know some people do, but my printer is older than Moses and uses a bunch of ink. In what I saved in the coupon, I lost in the ink. I find the ones that come in the paper sufficient, but that’s your call.
On Sundays, I get both a Beaumont Enterprise AND a Houston Chronicle. Why? Because Houston covers a greater area, the coupons are the same as those from Beaumont, plus additional ones that our paper doesn’t offer. Yes, it’s $3.00 a paper, but you will more than get your money back. I only get 1 of each. Like I said, I’m not all ‘extreme’. Most people will find that if they get a local paper and one from the nearest largest city, they will have a good selection of coupons. Here’s what I’ve amassed just using two papers a week:
Sunday morning with breakfast, I spread out my Walgreen’s and CVS ads and see what looks good. Here’s what I’m looking for: 1) on sale, 2) I have a coupon for the item and 3) even better, I get ‘register rewards’ or ‘points’ when I purchase it. Never, never, never buy something with a coupon UNLESS it’s also on sale and/or you get ‘register rewards’ or ‘points’. That’s the best way to get the most out of your money. I make a list that I STICK TO, and attach the coupons, register rewards I previously earned, etc. to the back of the list. The reason I say ‘stick to your list’ is because you are going there to get deals. If you want to leisure shop another time, have at it. The goal is to see how much you can get for the least amount of money.
CVS is the easiest to coupon at, in my opinion. When you enter the store, scan your card at the kiosk and that will give you extra store coupons and sales that you won’t find in the paper that are usually good for 2 weeks. When you check out, they will scan your card and after checkout, if you’re owed any ‘register rewards’ they will print at the end of your receipt. You will usually have 3 weeks to use them before they expire, so don’t let that happen (I did that once and lost $12 in bucks. I was not a happy camper). They also keep track of your purchases and every 3 months, you get a % back of all your purchases. This will print like a ‘register reward’. You can also go online at www.cvs.com and join their ‘Beauty Club’. You get $5 register rewards for every $50 spent cumulatively in the store. These add up quick and will also print on the end of your receipt. In the CVS ad, they will clearly state how many register rewards can be earned per household for items. Be sure and check this when making your list. They call their register rewards ‘extrabucks’.
One thing I like about CVS is that you can use coupons on Buy One/Get One deals. For example, an ad says that if you buy 1 bottle of Pantene, you get 1 free, and you have 2 coupons, each for $1 off one bottle, you can use both coupons. I also like that they give you a % back and they keep up with your spending for more register rewards. They are also pretty clean, nice and will do whatever they can to help you. For more info on their policies, you can look at the Krazy Coupon Lady site and she goes into more detail. On the picture above, there were $3 off 1 eye care coupons in the paper. You purchase 2 papers, so you got 2 of them. If you did this deal for CVS, you would buy 2 eye solutions, pay $20.00 before coupons, $14.00 after coupons and receive a $5 extrabuck printed on your receipt for future use. That would make each bottle $4.50 each.
Walgreens also has good deals, but can be a little confusing. They DO NOT allow coupons on BOGO unless it’s just for 1 item. Same example above on the Pantene, you’d only be able to use 1 of those coupons. They have an App where you can send store coupons directly to your card which keeps you from having to cut them out of the ad. They do not have a kiosk with extra deals, and do not give you a % back. Their register rewards print separate from your receipt so you’ll have to keep up with them. These register rewards usually last 2 weeks before they expire. The good thing, they give you ‘points’ that stay on your card when you buy certain items listed in the ad. You can accumulate these points as long as you want and they never expire. You can’t earn and ‘spend’ points on the same transaction, so there’s that. You have to pick and choose. If I were a newbie, I’d try CVS first because it’s more user-friendly. Once you get used to the process, Walgreens has excellent deals if you know their system. Krazy Coupon Lady is also good to look at these policies. Walgreens does have EXCELLENT school supply sales beginning in July.
On the picture above, using the same $3 off 1 coupon on eye solution, you would buy 2 and pay $18.00 prior to coupons, $12.00 after coupons because we had 2 at $3 off each, and receive $2.00 in register rewards credited to your card. This would make the items $5 each. CVS had the better sale….see how that works?
At first, it will seem that you spend a bit of money. Just remember that if you turn around and use those register rewards, you get your money back and it goes toward another item. Essentially, if you were clever enough, you could use register rewards to get stuff that gave you register rewards to get stuff that gave you register rewards, etc.
Remember, it’s just a game and a fun way to stretch that dollar. My last advice, don’t buy stuff you don’t need just because it’s ‘free’. Unless you plan on donating it or know someone who could use it, it’s just going to take up storage space and eventually expire or be discarded. Make sure you’re buying what your family will use and that hour a week you spend will be well worth the $.