My Precious Pennies

I will be AWAY until late February as we do this moving thing...again.

Ginger from Attention Target Shoppers & Tricia from 1stopmom
will be holding down the fort in the meantime - thank you so much, ladies!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Coupon Counselor: Couponing Techniques

This week we will be covering some couponing techniques that will sure to be useful on your shopping trips. If you're new to the Coupon Counselor series, be sure to check out some of our past sessions:
  • The Basics: This was the first installment of the Coupon Counselor, and covers all basic and general questions regarding couponing.
  • Couponing Dictionary: You will need to refer back to this for definitions and abbreviations that I tend to use.
  • Coupon Systems: An overview of the coupon systems out there, and how to find the one that works for you.
  • Prepping for coupons: how to efficiently plan (and carry out) your shopping trip.
In the coming weeks, we will start to move from the basics and get to more specific topics:
  • Troubleshooting Coupons: what to do when stores refuse coupons.
  • The CVS Handbook: how to work the ECB system
  • The WAGs Handbook: we'll cover the ESR rebates and register rewards
  • The Couponer's Bible: items that you should never pay for, never spend more than $1 on, or should never "buy" unless they're moneymakers!

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the giveaway rules and terms. Please follow directions or your entry will NOT be counted.

Prize: Over $300 in money-saving coupons!

To enter: Leave a comment with one of your couponing techniques. It must be an unique tip - it cannot be something that I've talked about already. If someone else beat you to the punch and posted your technique idea, then just think of another one!

Giveaway ends: Tuesday 12/02/08 at 10:00 PM CST. The lucky winner will be drawn from the valid entries via and will have 48 hours to get in touch with me, or else a new winner will be drawn.

PLEASE be sure to read the giveaway rules and terms.

Today we are talking about Couponing Techniques to get the most out of your properly prepared shopping trip with your organized coupon system:
Coupon Combinations or "stacking"
"Stacking" refers to combining manufacturer's coupons with store coupons, and/or with store promotions and sales. MOST stores will accept a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon for the same item. Stacking is most commonly done at CVS or Walgreens, but I have also done it at Toys r Us.

For the most part, you can combine a B1G1 coupon with a store B1G1 sale to get both items for free. You will still be responsible for tax. I have successfully done this at CVS, Walgreens, and Kmart. Be sure to read the fine print on the coupon though - most coupons have a price limit, so if you end up getting an item above that limit you will have to pay the difference.

You can also use 2 coupons during a B1G1 store promotion. You are purchasing two items, and thus you are entitled to use two coupons. It just so happens that the store is picking up the tab on one of the items.

Another combination is to use a B1G1 coupon and a $ off coupon. Again, you are purchasing 2 items so you are entitled to use 2 coupons. The logic is that you buy item A and item B. The B1G1 coupon allows you to get item B for free. This leaves item A for you to use the $ off coupon on. A rule of thumb is one coupon per item. Your item count should never exceed your manufacturer's coupon count (store coupons are a different story).

Since $/$$ coupons are store coupons, you can combine them with manufacturer's coupons to maximize your savings. However, some coupons state that your total must be AFTER all promotions and coupons (*coughWAGScough*), so be sure to read the fine print. Most stores (like CVS or Toys r Us) will go off whatever the subtotal amount is when the $/$$ coupon is scanned, so it's important to get your coupon handing-off order straight.

How to turn over your precious coupons
The most nerve wrecking part of every couponer's trip (veteran or newbie) is the dreaded check-out. Will my coupons work? Did I get the right thing? Is the cashier a jerk? You can avoid most of the stress by being organized and approaching the check-out process with a plan.
  1. Have EVERYTHING ready. You should have a neat stack of the coupons you're going to use, in the order you're using them in. Have your store loyalty card out and ready, on top of your coupon stack. Behind your coupons, you should have your payment method ready. The way I see it, the cashier has to do some extra legwork on my behalf since I have so many coupons - I need to try and make it as simple as possible for them. No matter how efficient I am, the line always builds behind me just because it takes more time to scan more items (read: coupons), so the least that I can do is to make sure that I am READY. Cashiers appreciate this so much - I've actually had some tell me that they're thankful that I have everything ready, and it's awesome. They really don't mind the coupons...they just hate the mess and chaos that comes with it if the customer is not prepared.
  2. Try not to dump all your items on the counter. I tend to line them up so the cashier scans certain items first. These items are perhaps questionably priced. It's easier to modify a transaction in the beginning, and you are more attentive at the start anyway. I've noticed when I didn't just dump everything out of shopping basket, clerks are less likely to go through my bag again to make sure I bought the item.
  3. Double check the subtotal and item prices BEFORE handing over your coupons. Often times, once a coupon is scanned, you lose it. Either it's a one-time use coupon, or the clerk threw it into the drawer. Whatever the reason, it's always easier to make changes BEFORE coupons are introduced.
  4. Hand your coupons over ONE at a time and tell the cashier what it's for. Don't just slap your mountain of coupons on the counter, because then they will spread the entire pile out and start scanning at random. You don't want that. So in order to control the chaos, just hand over one at a time. When one is scanned, hand over another and say what's it for. I've found that it's a time-saver, since the cashier won't be standing there staring at the coupon trying to figure it out. Some of them will still do that, but generally speaking it has helped me save time and sanity at check-out.
  5. ALWAYS HAND OVER THE STORE $/$$ COUPON FIRST. Certain coupons state specifically that the subtotal amount will be after all coupons and promotions, but for coupons that do NOT have this restriction, the system will take whatever subtotal amount when the coupon is scanned, so it is important to hand over your $/$$ first before any other money-saving coupons are introduced.
  6. Hand over other store coupons. Store coupons can be combined with manufacturer's coupons, but with some store coupons the system will beep if there's overage. I don't exactly understand why (they don't either), but I'm guessing it's maybe something tied into the fact that it's a store coupon. Also, most store coupons are widely available in an ad, or the store would be willing to work with you if it's an unique coupon. I consider store coupons to be less valuable than manufacturer's coupons, and thus I fork them over first.
  7. Bid farewell to your manufacturer's coupons. Again, hand them over one at a time, and make sure that the savings ring up before they move onto the next one. At least once a week they wave the scanner gun at the coupon and thinks it scanned, but it actually didn't.
  8. Don't be surprised if your total is more than you expected. When I first started, I was always surprised that my total was so high. The culprit is TAX. There are ways that you can figure out how much tax that you're going to pay, but it's rather pointless. So just give yourself a $3 margin, and don't be surprised if your grand total is higher than you expected. Once you check your receipt, chances are things will be fine.
  9. Always look over your receipt BEFORE you leave the parking lot. Gas is cheaper these days, but you definitely don't want to have to return at a later time to fix a couponing issue. The clerk that helped you is still at the store, and still remembers you and your transactions. Take advantage of that.
When/where to use your precious coupons
I touched on this last week in the preparation discussion, but I am willing to discuss it again since it seems to be a major concern for a lot of people. Honestly, I really do not understand why. Coupons come around again, and so do sales. It is OKAY if you miss out on coupon and sale combination. It's alright to buy the item on sale or for a rebate if you don't have a coupon.

Couponing isn't easy, especially when you're starting out. Don't make it harder on yourself trying to figure out when or where to use it. Just find the coupon, find the sale, and GO!

How to play the rebate game and moneymaking items
This month I have received $12.75 in rebate checks, but I only spent $7.52 buying the required products. Not only did I make a small $5.23 profit, but I also got the items for free. I love rebates.

The trick to making rebates a moneymaker is to only buy the product when it's on sale, or with a coupon - preferably both. I received a $3.99 check from the Zout rebate, but I bought it when it was on a B1G1 sale for $3.99. I had a $0.55/1 coupon, so my total was $3.76 with tax for TWO bottles.

I won't lie to won't get rich playing the rebate game. $5.23 isn't a lot, but every bit helps - not to mention that we've gotten some fine products that we otherwise would not have bought. If you're going to play the rebate game, make sure that you read the fine print on the rebate form. Some won't accept a mailing label and everything has to be written by hand. But I've had a few where I was to fill out a form online and print it out. Also make a copy of the rebate form and your receipt - if you're given a choice, always send them a copy of the receipt and keep the original for yourself.

Moneymakers are similar to rebates, but without the wait. Moneymakers happen when you combine a coupon with a sale. Moneymakers NEVER mean money back in your hands - the system will beep if you do not have another item to swallow the difference. Most of the time it either means extra "change" to go towards your subtotal, or a return in the form of store credit (ECBs or RRs) that is greater than what you paid.

Be sure to come back next week for a guide on how to handle issues with coupons! We're going to be troubleshoot common couponing issues, so be sure to join us so you'll know what to do the next time someone denies your coupon!


Sandy said...

I have a photo album that I use. But I am thinking of going to the envelope method.

How is the baby girl this week? Any weight gain?

Bryce & Cortney Alvord said...

I figure out i'm going to buy and how many transactions it going to take before I go to the store so I can make sure I get my RR. Sometimes if you use too many RR they don't print out and they you run into problems. Then I put the coupons for each transaction in envelopes label Tran #1...While I'm shopping if their out of something I pull the coupon out of the envelope so I don't accidently give it to the cashier. I'm still learning but that's what works best for me right now.

Toni said...

Hello, I just came to your site from 1StopMom. She has you on her Meet My Friends Monday. You have a great site. I look forward to future visits!

Momstart said...

You can stack coupons at Albertsons, they take competitor coupons too. I use a plastic organizer that I got in the office section at Target for four dollars

Amber R said...

I always jot down the price of my item on my list and try to compare as the items scan so that I can easily catch items that do not scan right. It also helps write down what coupons you will be using before you go in so that you can compare the receipt at the end. I have had several transactions fixed because I had notes.

The Lady Riposter said...

Here's a technique I tried when I was new to couponing. I didn't have very many coupons so I put them in an accordion file and then logged each coupon in a spreadsheet. That was when I was in the stores I didn't have to dig through the folder to find out if I had a coupon for whatever item I was looking at, I could just look at my list.

Of course now that I've been doing it for a while I have way too many coupons to do that, but I also have a system where they're more visible (coupon binder). It worked well for me when I was getting the hang of things, though.

dicity said...

At Safeway, always wait until all your items are rung up before you swipe your club card. If you swipe it early, you may not reach the dollar limit for Safeway deals.


Iris Jarfree said...

At Walmart & CVS they have scanners on a few of the aisles where you can check the price of your items. I always do this so that I know the price will be what I'm expecting when I get to the checkout. Unfortunately, produce does not have barcodes on it.
I'm new to couponing, etc. so I love your advice.

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