Sunday, February 14, 2010

How "Couponing" Works

I've been sharing on here quite a bit lately about my new found hobby - coupons. It's amazing the money I've been able to save my family and how much I have stocked up right now. Granted, I am in no way an expert. Let's make sure that's clear. But I'll share what I do in order to help out anyone who wants to get started. I am also NOT a hard-core coupon gal. But I'm doing what I can and it's adding up.

Last month I shared how I was becoming a "coupon queen" and I shared how I bought a huge amount of items - including fresh vegetables - for only $31.70 out of pocket (OOP).

My store of choice is Shaw's for a couple of reasons. While overall their prices are the highest I've found in a grocery store, they have amazing "loss leaders." That's when they have items marked way below cost in order to lure customers in to their store. Most folks will go in for those items but also pick up more groceries negating the savings of only buying loss leaders.

When I drive the hour to my "local" Shaw's, I go with a plan. I am only buying loss leaders and those items I have coupons for. This past week I hadn't planned to go. However, the last time I went I earned a $5 coupon (I'll explain how next) and it expired on Tuesday so I needed to head down.

Here is how the deals broke down:

  • 2 bags of Hearts of Romaine lettuce - these were buy one get one free
  • 1 bottle of V8 Fusion juice - I had a $0.75 coupon for this. Shaw's doubles their coupons so I saved $1.50 on this purchase - added the savings of having a Shaw's card & instead of paying $3.99 for this, I paid $2.19. I bought this at Shaw's simply because I had the coupon even though it was not on sale.
  • 3 boxes of Cheerios - these were on sale for $1.99 each plus I had a coupon for $1/3 boxes
  • 3 boxes of Trix cereal - same as the Cheerios
  • 3 bags of Gold Fish crackers - these were on sale for $1 each. I had two coupons for $0.75 each which doubled to $1.50 each. That meant I received these three bags for free!
  • 2 Thomas the Tank Engine Pez dispensers - simply because my boys were being great & I hadn't seen them before - they were $0.99 each. 
So at the register I used the $5 Shaw's coupon I had earned earlier, the $0.75 V8 coupon, two $0.75 Goldfish coupons, and two $1/3 boxes of Cheerios/Trix coupon. 

My savings broke down like this: 
  • My "preferred savings" was $14.76 (which means this is what I saved simply by having a free Shaw's card). 
  • Manufacturing coupons = $9.25 (including doubling those under $1 & the $5 coupon)
  • Store coupons = $2.25 (not sure which one this went to but most likely the lettuce BOGO)
My total savings was $26.26 & I paid a mere $12.85 OOP

So how did I earn that $5 coupon? On occasion Shaw's has "catalina deals." They are simply called that because that is the name of the machine that prints them. I'm sure many of you have gone to a grocery store & along with your receipt you are handed some store coupons that can be used on your next visit. I typically ignored these in the past. Now I know how to make sure I earn the ones I want.

In the Sunday paper coupon inserts a few weeks ago there was a one page ad that said "Save $5 off your next order when spending $20 at Shaw's." There were also a list of products that qualified. Among them were Hunt's spaghetti sauce, David sunflower seeds, Pam cooking spray, and Banquet Chicken Nuggets among others but those were the ones I knew we would use. 

Here's some key things to know. When it says "spend xyz money to get back xyz money" this is on presale prices. I was looking to get enough products that equaled $20 before any sale prices. This is a huge key that I never realized. Most products included in a "cat" deal are also on sale. So subtract that to figure out your OOP cost. Of course, you also want coupons for any of these items to bring your cost down even more and specifically ones below a $1 simply because Shaw's automatically doubles them. Does that make sense?

It's also important to pay attention at the register. I have gone in twice and had my cat coupons not print. Once I had to go to the service desk to fix it. They generated a one for more. This was important to me since it was a $10 cat coupon! The second time it happened I had done a number of them in a row & they simply handed me one I had already used. 

Which brings me to my next point...if you are doing a cat deal... you can and should - do multiple transactions or scenarios. Do your best one first (i.e. the least expensive) and save your most expensive for later on. In the post I had shared earlier with my multiple transactions, that is why I did five different transactions. I rolled my cat coupons to the next one - all allowed in most stores. 

I hope that helps explain it some. Please leave questions & I'll do my best to help you out. And lastly, my favorite place to find out what the upcoming deals are and what transactions will net me the biggest savings is called Hot Coupon World. Check it out.

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