Monday, October 13, 2014

Do not double? How to know if a coupon doubles using your Android or iPhone

Last week, I posted about contacting companies for free coupons.  One common trend when you receive coupons provided directly by a manufacturer, however, is the labeling "do not double."  This means, if you go to a grocery store that doubles coupons, that coupon should not be doubled.  This can certainly limit a coupon's usefulness, especially when there are other coupons out there that can be doubled just fine.

But there's a big secret among couponers:  just because the coupon says it won't double, doesn't mean it actually won't.  But how do you know?

Before I get started, please know that technically speaking, there is a way for a cashier to manually tell the system not to double a coupon, and it is completely within their right to do so if the coupon says it shouldn't be doubled.  I'd say 99% of the time, you're not going to get a cashier who is that much of a stickler in reading the fine print on every coupon, but some do and will.

The super-easy but almost ancient method of knowing if a coupon will double: UPC

Back in the day, coupons had UPC barcodes, similar to the barcodes you see on items you purchase. Most coupons today have what's called a Databar, which is a fancy, two-line barcode that contains a whole lot more information within it.  The Databar became the new standard because it's much harder to commit coupon fraud -- with UPCs, they were often coded in such a way that if you knew how to decode them, you could cheat the system and use the coupon on a completely different item.

At this point, you're unlikely to find a coupon with just a UPC, but you may find one with both a UPC and a Databar -- this is because coupon companies provided both options for a while during the transition.  If you have a coupon that contains both, and the cashier scans the UPC, knowing if it will double is simple.

Does the number associated with the UPC start with a 5?  It will double.
Does the number associated with the UPC start with a 9?  It will not.

Now, if it has both a UPC and a Databar, you don't know which one the cashier will end up scanning.  Most cashiers just start waving it over the lasers until something picks up.  It is technically possible that the Databar could be coded differently, so I'd recommend continuing on with this article and checking your Databar, too.

The easy way to know if a couple will double if you have an iPhone: Double Coupon Checker

Have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch?  Checking to see if your coupon will double is nearly as easy thanks to an app called Double Coupon Checker.  Simply scan your coupon using the app and it will give you a simple yes or no.  I'm not an iPhone user but I've heard nothing but great reviews on this app from fellow couponers.

The method to know if a coupon will double if you have an Android device:

So what do you do if you're like me and want to know if a coupon will double from your Android phone?  Until now, honestly, you were out of luck.  After I learned that Double Coupon Checker was only available for iOS devices, I searched high and low to try to find something similar for Android.  There was nothing.  I also couldn't find a single tutorial out there from a couponer as to how to make it work, and I'm a skilled Googler!  I asked my Facebook couponers group about it and they basically told me there was nothing I could do short of obtaining an iOS device or just crossing my fingers at checkout.

I'm not one to give up.

If I was an app developer, I'd make an app for you.  But I don't think my method is that terrible, especially once you get the hang of it -- it just has a couple more steps.

(It looks like there are a lot more steps below, but I'm breaking it down as much as I can here -- once you've done it, you'll realize it's really pretty quick!)

First, make sure you have Barcode Scanner installed.  It's a super-simple barcode scanner and it's capable of scanning Databars.

  1. Scan the coupon with the Barcode Scanner app.  Make sure you're in good light, as I've found the Databars can be a little tougher for the scanner to read compared to a standard UPC.  You'll get something that looks like this:



  2. Press and hold on top of the number to select it.  At the top you'll see options; use them to select all, and then copy the number.  You'll want all of it, including the info in parentheses.
  3. Come back here, in your browser, and head over to the Databar Coupon Decoder page.
  4. Scroll down to the first "Data" section.  Press and hold on the text entry field under where it says "Up to 70 digits," then select to paste your number into that field.  Then, press the "Go" button on your keyboard (where the enter key would usually be).
  5. It won't look like anything happened, but don't panic.  Start scrolling down the page.  You should notice that many of the data fields are now propagated with numbers from what you'd provided, like this:


    Here, you'll see it's identified the company, the save value (save $.75) and the primary purchase requirement (1 item).  Cool, huh?
  6. Scroll all the way down to the last set of fields, labeled "Optional Data Field 9."  The very last field says "Don't Multiply Flag" -- this is the one you need to look at.


    Is it blank like you see here in my screenshot?  The coupon will double.  The Databar has not been coded to prevent doubling.
    Is there a 1 in that little gray space before the "Choose one" dropdown?  The coupon will not double because it is coded to prevent doubling.
I can tell you, when you're trying to figure out whether buying a certain brand over another is worth it, knowing if a coupon will double or not can make a huge difference!  I also check if there's a chance the item can be free if the coupon doubles.  I have tested and confirmed that my Android method does work!

If you find this post helpful, and especially if you find my secret Android method helpful, please share with your friends!  I'd love to get the word out to other Android couponers that this is an option available to us, even though it takes just a little more work.

Monday, October 6, 2014

How to Contact Companies for Free Coupons (with list!)

You can get plenty of coupons either online or in your local paper.  But there's another way to get some great coupons, without spending money on ink or a newspaper -- simply ask for them!

I'd heard about companies giving out coupons before, but always thought it would take too much time.  But recently, in the name of science, I made a list of companies and spent about an hour contacting them, just to see what would one hour of my time could do.

I was pretty impressed.


These are all the coupons I received within the first week of requesting them.  There were many others that trickled in after the first week, but a good majority of the companies got right to sending them out to me.

It was so easy!  All I did was craft a basic form letter (if you're going to do this, I'd encourage you to write your own version):
I just wanted to thank you for having such delicious products! [insert specific sentence or two about their product and/or my experience with it here] 
Do you have any coupons available?  My family is on a really tight budget right now so anything that can make our favorite products more affordable would be very helpful!
Then I went to the website for each brand and found their contact page.  I filled out their form, submitted and crossed my fingers.  If I noticed their site offered printable coupons I'd alter my form letter to ask if they had any paper coupons available.

I did receive some rejection emails.  Also, weirdly enough, I got some rejections and then got some coupons a few days later anyway.  So just because they say they don't send coupons doesn't mean they won't -- you may be surprised.

Some companies love that you ask for coupons and actually encourage you to do it regularly.  Turkey Hill Dairy, for example, will send you an awesome packet full of coupons and let you know you can request another one every 30 days.  Every month!  Seriously, they're trying to fuel my ice cream habit, and they're winning.  I used 9 coupons -- combining all the ice cream coupons they sent me with a couple I printed out -- and stocked up during a good sale, getting them for $1 each.  I'm embarrassed to say we're already running low, so I may be contacting them for more coupons soon!

And some companies just love to prove how awesome they are.  Check out this package I got from Wholly Guacamole:


A hand-written note, a bag clip, a squishy stress avocado, some recipes and a coupon for free guacamole!  You bet I'm going to be buying a whole lot more of their stuff.  I love a company who appreciates their customers.

I realized in hindsight that I should have kept a better list of who sent me coupons.  That said, this list isn't complete.  But if you're looking for a good place to start, here are some companies who would love to hear from you:


One nice thing is that many of the coupons sent don't expire for a while.  Some don't have an expiration at all.  So you can hold onto them until you find a great sale with which to combine them.

I'd recommend making your own list, including companies whose products you use regularly and love.  Getting coupons for the things you're already going to buy is the best!  Go to their webpage and search for a "contact us" form.  Commonly, companies will put a link at the bottom of the page.

If you have any luck with other companies, please feel free to share in the comments to help other savvy shoppers!


Monday, September 29, 2014

7 Reasons Why Shopping at Aldi Isn't So Bad

If you've never checked out Aldi before, it's a discount supermarket chain where about 90% of the products are its own store brand.  It's very no-frills -- most items are displayed in boxes, you bag your own groceries, you bring your own bags or buy some of theirs, and you pay a quarter deposit to use a shopping cart, which you get back once you've returned it to the cart corral and connected it back to the other carts.  They also don't take credit cards -- it's cash or debit only.  They do all of this to help keep their costs low.

I don't have any issue with store brands.  I love shopping at Trader Joe's, which is a similar experience. (Side note: Many people will tell you that Trader Joe's and Aldi are owned by the same parent company, but that's not quite true.  There are two "Aldi" brands run by different parts of the same family.  Trader Joe's is run by a trust of the other Aldi brand.)

But I'm going to be honest; for the longest time, I did not want to step foot in Aldi.  My mom fell in love from the moment one was built in my hometown, but I was not impressed by the things she brought home.  Overly processed junk, I thought.  Full of chemicals and additives and nasty things that, while I grew up on and came out completely fine, I just didn't like putting in my body anymore.  I wrote it off as a case of "you get what you pay for."

That is, until my family was left without any income other than my husband's unemployment checks, which didn't even cover our bills.  When my new goal became "feed our family for as few dollars as humanly possible," I evaluated all of my options, Aldi being one of them.

The result?  It's not nearly as bad as I thought.  Here's why:
  1. They have the cheapest prices in town on basic staples.  Need milk, bread, butter or eggs?  Unless your supermarket's having an awesome sale, Aldi's prices are always lower.  Sometimes, the price beats even the best sale.  I'm pretty sure these items are loss leaders for them, ways to get you in the door so you'll hopefully buy more products.  My Aldi has signs saying they have the right to impose a limit of 5 items for bread, milk and eggs, though I've seen people coming out of the store with a cart literally full of milk or bread.  Don't ask me what they do with it all, but clearly they know the best place to shop.

  2. They have a good deal of natural food options for cheap.  In addition to those basic staples, Aldi has a growing natural foods line, including some organic products, at great prices.  I love their fruit pouches for my daughter -- they have nothing but fruit in them, and are only $1.99 for a 4-pack.  They also have nitrate-free deli meat, organic milk and soymilk, 100% juices, and all-natural almond butter, among other things.  They've even had grass-fed beef on occasion as a special buy.  This is a fairly new development in the world of Aldi, but a welcome one!

  3. Their produce section is small, but can't be beat.  You're not going to find exotic fruits and vegetables here, but for your most common produce items, particularly the ones in season, you can get great deals.  They have the cheapest banana prices anywhere, which is great for my Yonanas frozen fruit habit.  I usually buy romaine hearts here too -- they're super-easy to cut up real quick to create a green salad instead of spending more on the pre-cut stuff (which they also have, if you're looking for convenience).  They've also started carrying a few organic options.

  4. Their private brand is often another brand in disguise.  This is common among private labels, but sometimes you're buying the same product you'd get somewhere else, just with a different brand slapped on top of it.  Sometimes it's hard to find this information, because the brands don't want you to know, but one cool thing I learned is that you can look up the dairy code on a gallon of milk to figure out where it was produced.  The milk at my Aldi is from a local dairy, whose milk costs significantly more as a branded name in my regular supermarket.  (And happily, it's rBST-free!)  I've also noticed that Aldi carries several products that Trader Joe's also sells, but for less.  The nitrate-free deli meat is in a nearly identical package and tastes the same.  They also have one of my major Trader Joe's addictions during the fall as a seasonal item -- maple leaf cookies -- and they're even cheaper than the completely reasonable price at Trader Joe's.
      
  5. Their selection is constantly changing, and what's leaving can often be scored at a great deal.  Food-wise, Aldi tends to have a variety of seasonal products, occasional things they get from a name brand at a good deal, or things they're just trying out.  If the store needs to get rid of an item to make room for something new, the deals get even better.  I usually walk around my store whenever I go, looking for red price labels.  Red means it's marked down as clearance.  One time I got a package of hamburger buns for $0.25 because they just had too many, and then got my $.25 back as a rebate using Checkout 51.  And it's not just food -- Aldi also has a section of seasonal home goods.  For the past couple of weeks, they've had this Fisher-Price Infant to Toddler Swing on clearance for $4.99, because summer's over and they have to go.  It's $25 on Amazon.  If I was into reselling, I could make myself a good profit!

  6. You can get in and out quickly.  The store is on the smaller side and is easy to navigate.  Once you've been there a couple of times you know where everything is.  While they usually only have one or two cashiers operating at a time, they're speedy.  The products have barcodes all over them to help facilitate quicker scanning, and because you're doing the bagging, all they have to do is set it all in a cart for you.  All in all, it's way faster than a trip to my regular supermarket.  Time is money!

  7. Aldi pays its workers well.  Personally, I love supporting businesses that pay their employees reasonable wages.  That often doesn't happen with a discount chain (ahem, Walmart), but Aldi pays its employees well above minimum wage.  They do have to work for it -- with a small crew, employees have more responsibilities -- but at least they make a reasonable income.  I've noticed fairly low turnover at my store as well, so they must be doing something right!
With my husband's commute and work schedule, and my busy day working and chasing a toddler, I don't have as much time as I once did for carefully planning out my shopping list with coupons.  I'm finding that Aldi is doing a great job of helping me continue to keep my costs fairly low without quite as much effort.  I coupon for what I can, but rely on Aldi to help me save on many of the things my family needs every day without the clipping.  Plus, I can use Aldi's stable, low prices to determine whether or not a deal elsewhere is good or not worth the effort.

Are you an avid Aldi shopper or just thinking about giving it a go?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sensibly Earning -- and a life update

The past two months have been a complete whirlwind for my family and me, so I had to take an unexpected break from blogging.

My husband got two job offers in August, and after much stress and an almost relocation, he accepted a position with a company an hour and a half commute from home.

After the job offer situation was settled, we spent nearly two weeks traveling as a family, enjoying the last bits of summer.

And this month, we've been all about getting settled into our new weekday routine.  My husband started work after Labor Day and things are well, but him being gone 12 hours (or more) a day has been a major adjustment for our family!

Adding to the chaos, I also accepted a great opportunity in late July.  I now work from home, part-time, making my own hours.  Can it get any better?  I'm all about sensibly earning just as much as I am saving, so I wanted to share this with you!

Now, I know what you're thinking.  Am I selling something?  Because honestly, in my experience, it seems that about 90% of work-at-home moms are doing direct sales for some sort of product.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it's just not my thing.  I'm not a sales girl.  But I am a tech girl, and that's why I jumped on the opportunity to get involved with search engine evaluation.

Ever wonder how search engines can have such good results?  A lot of it is a smart algorithm, but some things just need human context.  That's where raters come in.  Personally I'm an ads assessor -- I review the pages that come up when you click on one of the sponsored links you see at the top of the results.  I look at what you searched for and determine how relevant that content is to what you wanted.

I work for Lionbridge, who contracts me out to one of the major search engines.  I'm an independent contractor, so I am responsible for withholding my own taxes.  But I can work whenever I'd like, in the range of 10-20 hours a week, so I can work when my daughter is napping or sleeping.  The pay is decent too -- far better than minimum wage.

The process to get the position is a little different than your typical job.  There is no interview.  Once they accept your online application, they provide you with access to a portal where you get the rating guidelines manual and some additional material to help you learn what you'd be doing.  After working through a series of 100 practice questions, you take a final exam using examples very similar to what you'd be judging.  It's open book, so you can look at your guidelines as much as you'd like.  So long as you pass, you're invited to begin work.

To remain in the program, there are some quality metrics that you have to maintain.  There's a target rate of judgments per hour, but it's totally attainable, especially once you get used to it.  There are random audits to help evaluate you, but there is a lot of feedback and plenty of opportunity to improve.  They also have weekly webinars you can attend where they talk about common areas of confusion.

Payment is a little different than your typical job as well, as it's only once a month.  It could be as long as 60 days before you see your first payment, depending on when you start, thanks to processing.  Payment is done via an international wire transfer into your bank account.  I know "international wire transfer" sounds like some crazy scam, but I assure you it's not -- Lionbridge's headquarters is just outside of the US, and it's basically like getting a direct deposit.  You'll just want to check into whether or not your bank may charge any fees.  Mine does not.

After doing this for nearly two months, I'm so thankful to have found such a perfect opportunity.  I'm providing some extra income for our family while also getting to stay home with my daughter.  If you factor in the amount we'd be paying for daycare if I was working a more traditional job, I'm really bringing in a lot!  It is sometimes a bit stressful for me because nearly all of my downtime is spent working, but it's worth the effort.  The job itself is fairly easy, and I love that there is zero work stress.

If you're interested in looking into it more, you can check out Lionbridge's job posting for Ads Assessor.  They also have other opportunities you can look into.

There are also other companies that conduct similar work.  I obviously don't have any personal experience with them, but you can find a lot of info with some Google searching.  So if Lionbridge doesn't work out for you, you could also search for opportunities from ZeroChaos, Appen Butler Hill, and iSoftStone.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Great Deal at Target This Week With In-Store Pickup!

I can't help but share this awesome deal at Target for this week!

Target is offering $10 off any order of $40 or more on their site using the in-store pickup option.  That alone is pretty awesome, but they also are offering some great gift card deals this week that make it even sweeter!

My daughter is typically in cloth diapers, but we're doing quite a bit of traveling in August and typically use disposables when we're away.  Target has two diaper deals this week:
  • Get a $20 gift card when you buy two giant packs of Pampers or Huggies, on sale for $34.99 each
  • Get a $10 gift card when you buy two bulk packs of Honest Company, BabyGanics or Up and Up diapers, on sale for $25.99 each
Today I ordered two boxes of The Honest Company diapers through target.com with the in-store pickup option.  That came to $51.98, but there was an instant $10 off for the in-store pickup promo, bringing me down to $41.98.  Then, the moment I picked it up, they emailed me a $10 gift card.  So it's like I paid $31.98 for both boxes.  Almost half off!  It's more diapers than we'll need but we'll just save them for another trip.

Don't have a kid in diapers?  There's another great gift card deal!  You can get a $10 gift card for buying any four of the following:

  • Laundry Detergent, on sale for $9.99 (including Tide 69-oz 36-load or 75-oz 48-load, Gain 100-oz 48- or 64-load, and select others)
  • Bounty Paper Towels, on sale for $8.99 (8-pk giant roll or Basic 12-pk big roll)
  • Charmin Bath Tissue, on sale for $12.99 (24-pk double plus or 12-pk mega plus)
  • Fabric Softener, on sale for $7.99 (select Bounce 200-ct sheets, Downy 120-load liquid, and select others)
  • Glad Trash Bags, on sale for $9.99 (select 45- to 106-ct 13 gallon or 34- or 36-ct 30 gallon)
I'm planning on using the $10 gift card today toward another in-store pickup, for the following:
  • 2x Charmin Bath Tissue ($12.99 each)
  • 2x Bounty Paper Towels ($8.99 each)
$43.96 before discounts, $33.96 after the instant $10 in-store pickup promo.  Then I get a $10 gift card on top of that, so it's like paying $23.96 for all four!  Again, this is nearly half price -- and no need for coupons!

You can get the deal on up to four transactions.

Placing and picking up my diaper order today was so easy!  I placed the order from my phone.  The site said it could take up to 4 hours to be ready, but within a half hour I received my email and text message letting me know I could drop by anytime for pickup.  I went to the service desk, they used my driver's license to look up my order, and brought it right out for me.  And as I mentioned, the $10 gift card showed up in my email almost immediately after I picked up the order.

Just a note, you can't use coupons on an online order, so you can't combine other deals here.  But these deals are so good, you don't need to!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Couponing Myths, Busted: You can't eat healthy and coupon

I think one of the top comments I get when talking about couponing is the thought that you can't both eat healthy and be a couponer.  Totally untrue!

Yes, it is far easier to get crazy deals on prepackaged items that are full of things you can't pronounce.  I got some Chex Mix last week for $.15 a bag -- that's not the type of deal you expect to get on, say, an avocado.  Grains and chemicals are cheap.  I try to balance things for our family, but given our lack of income right now, I do take advantage of some of those deals when I think the product isn't too toxic.

But couponing isn't an all-or-nothing thing.  You might not walk out of the grocery store having spent $5 on a cart full of groceries, but you can still save quite a bit!  Here are my biggest tips:

Look for store coupons
The local supermarkets here typically have store coupons in their weekly flyers.  They often send coupons in the mail as well.  The items could be anything, but here's where I typically find great coupons for meat, produce and dairy items.  Store coupons can also usually be combined with manufacturer's coupons, so if it is an item that happens to have a MC as well, you can save even more.  I also often get coupons at checkout for money off a minimum purchase -- like $10 off $50 -- that can be used for anything.

Couponing isn't just about food
Even if you buy nothing but farm fresh produce and meats for your family (hey, can I come over?), you can still save big on other essentials for your family.  Paper products, personal care products, and cleaning supplies very commonly have coupons and deals.  I think I have enough laundry detergent right now to get my family through the next year; nearly all of it was under $1 a bottle.  The key is to keep an eye on the sales and stock up on those supplies when they're at their cheapest.

Keep an eye on the deals
It's not uncommon to find some great deals on natural and organic products.  If you're checking into the deals each week, you'll find them.  Mambo Sprouts is a website that specializes in coupons on natural and organic products.  Hopster often has some too.  If you shop at Whole Foods, they also have a page with their own printable coupons.

Take advantage of moneymaking offers
This isn't something you can do at every store, but if you're lucky enough to shop somewhere that will allow you overage toward other items, that's a great way to save on things that don't typically have coupons.  ShopRite allows overage when it involves using an eCoupon.  Target also allows overage so long as you have another item to absorb the cost (they won't pay you cash at checkout).  I don't think my husband will ever run out of deodorant again, because there have been so many moneymaking deals lately, saving me $1-$2 every time I buy one.  It's free money!  If it's a product you won't use, donate it.

This week was one of my healthier shopping trips and I still saved a lot.  Of course, everyone's definition of healthy is a bit different, and this isn't meant to be the ideal trip by any means, but here's what it looked like:


(Yes, I know ramen noodles aren't healthy -- but they were for a delicious cabbage ramen salad I made today!)


  • 4x Maruchan ramen noodles, $.25 each
  • Quick Oats, on sale for $1.69
  • Slivered almonds, $2.69
  • Sesame seeds, $2.29
  • Chicken drumsticks, on sale for $1.19/lb ($5.74)
    • Store coupon for $.50 off/lb ($2.41)
    • Total: $3.33
  • Fresh dill, $.99
  • Scallions, $.50
  • Land O Lakes Soft Butter Spread, on sale for $1.88
    • $.55 MC (requested by mail), fully doubled
    • Total: $.78
  • Butter, on sale for $3.49
    • $1.50 store coupon 
    • Total: $1.99
  • Butterball Deli Turkey, on sale for $5.99/lb ($18.03)
    • Store coupon for $2 off/lb, up to 3 lbs ($6)
    • Total: $12.03
  • 4x Matlaw's Stuffed Clams, $4.99 each
    • 4x $4.99 printable MC
    • Total: Free
Other deals:
  • $3 off $35+ store coupon
Total: $24.49 (savings of $46.74)

As you can see, not everything I bought was on sale or had coupons, but I still saved 66% off my trip.  The free stuffed clams definitely helped, but I also got some great deals thanks to store coupons.  I came home with a lot of meat and seafood!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Couponing 101: Making the most of printable coupons; a how-to with tips and tricks

Even though I get the paper now, most of the coupons I use are printables -- meaning, I print them out from my computer.  Those with iPhones can even print coupons using the coupons.com app.  I love printable coupons because you can easily find what you need, when you need them, and without having to deal with other coupons you don't care about.  You can also easily obtain multiple coupons (more on that below).

Where to find printables:
The main sources for printable coupons are coupons.com, smartsource.com and redplum.com.  While you can get their coupons directly from their websites, there are also a lot of other places from which you can get them.  The coupon companies pay websites to refer people to print coupons as well.  They're the same, but there are some advantages to printing elsewhere:

MyPoints: This is one of my favorite places to print coupons because you actually get points for the coupons you print and redeem.  Points can be redeemed for gift cards.  It takes a while to add up, but considering the coupons are free to print and use, a little extra savings is just a bonus!  MyPoints has partnerships with Coupons.com and SmartSource.

LivingRichWithCoupons: This is the main site where I get my deals from, so it's often just convenient to print there.  They often provide links that will open the coupons page with the specific coupon you want already clipped.  Also, their tool allows you to easily change ZIP codes.  This is useful, because some coupons are only available under certain ZIPs.  When you're looking at a coupon match-up site and they reference a printable that's ZIP-specific, they'll provide the ZIP you need in parentheses next to the link.  LivingRichWithCoupons has partnerships with all the major coupon providers.

General Mills products have some additional resources for their printable coupons.  They usually have a lot of coupons available through Coupons.com, but if you go to one of their sites directly to print, those coupons are worth slightly more.  So a coupon for $.75 off Golden Grahams on Coupons.com would be $.85 off through one of General Mills' sites.  You have to be a member to print from one of their sites, but it's free.  I typically go to BettyCrocker.com -- the coupons are the same no matter which of their sites you go to.

You can also find an assortment of General Mills coupons at everydaysaver.com.  In some cases the deals are better on one of the General Mills sites, but some of the coupons they have are exclusive as well.

Multiple coupons:
One of the best advantages of using printable coupons is the fact that you can easily print out multiples.  With coupons from the paper, you either need multiple papers or another way to get additional inserts.  With nearly all printable coupon sites, there is a maximum of two prints per computer.  If you have multiple computers in your house, you can print two from each of them!  That's how I end up with four coupons for really good deals -- my husband and I each have our own computers, so I just hop on his to print the additional coupons out.  Once you've reached the limit on your device, it will usually tell you that on the website and simply won't let you print that coupon anymore.

I believe that you can get two additional prints from an iPhone with Coupons.com, but I don't have one to test that out.  Unfortunately the Android version of the app doesn't have the ability to actually print any of the coupons.

Please note that you should never copy a coupon.  There are specific codes on each coupon, and copying them is considered fraud.  There are also some additional features in place on the coupon that can make it obvious when it has been copied versus printed out legally.

Updates and Resets:
New coupons are released throughout the month, but the best time to find new ones is right when the month is switching.  The beginning of the month is a big time for new coupons.

From time to time, usually at the beginning of a new month with the big update, some coupons will "reset" -- meaning they basically get a new supply and if you previously reached your limit, you'll be able to print more again.  The big couponing sites usually tell you which coupons have reset.  You can also just check in to the printable coupon sites at the start of a new month to see if the site still claims your limit has been reached.

Tips for printing:
It's always a good idea to check out the coupon sites right when they've made their big update for the new month.  Printable coupons typically have limits -- once a certain number of people have printed them, they disappear.  This means that the good coupons that come out at the start of a month may go quickly!  If you see a really good coupon for something you'd buy regularly, it may be worth your while to go ahead and print it, even if you're not sure you'll use it.  At the start of July, I got 4 copies of a coupon for $1.50 off any Breyers, Magnum, Popsicle, Klondike or Fruttare product.  That's a great deal on a product that's super popular during this time of year and often has great sales -- the coupon was gone within 24 hours!

Ink can get really expensive quickly.  To help keep costs down, print in black-and-white only.  Unfortunately you can't change any settings before printing coupons -- it's a safeguard to help keep people from finding ways to print out more copies than they should -- but you can change the default settings on your computer to be grayscale.  Here's how to do it on a Windows computer.  Your coupons won't be as pretty, but who cares?

I try to maximize how I use my paper so I'm not overly wasteful.  With most of the sites, up to 3 coupons can fit on a page.  If I need to print multiples of a single coupon, I'll print one on one side, then flip the paper over and print on the other side too.  Just make sure you're not printing on the back side of the first coupon, because you need the coupons to be separate!  Sometimes if I needed to print two coupons I'll use the other side to print a single coupon as well.  Just make sure there will be enough room.  If you have any doubt that the coupon will fit without overlapping another coupon, don't do it!

When I can, I'll group like coupons together and cut multiple pages at once.  The coupon sites each seem to have a standard coupon size, so even if the coupons are for different items, they often line up just fine for cutting.  Just give yourself a little bit of a buffer around the coupons so you don't accidentally cut off some of the fine print on the side.

This week's deal:
I'm pretty stocked up on just about everything right now, so this week's shopping was just to pick up a few things that had really good sales.  All of my manufacturer's coupons for this trip were printed!  This was at ShopRite, as most of my trips are.  But don't fret if there's not a ShopRite near you -- you can get similar deals at many regional supermarkets.  Also, I'm planning a post soon to talk exclusively about my good friend Target!

I'm getting paid $.44 for this!  Don't mind the toddler hand; she was really excited to help me put things away!


  • 5x Golden Grahams on sale for $1.88 (had to buy in multiples of 3 -- the Reese's Puffs below is also part of the deal)
    • 4x $.85 printable MC (BettyCrocker.com), doubled
    • $.75 printable MC (Coupons.com), doubled
    • $.75 eCoupon
    • ($1/2 eCoupon pending -- have to call ShopRite because it didn't work)
    • ($.75 SavingStar rebate pending)
    • Total: -$1.40
  • Reese's Puffs, on sale for $1.88
    • $.60 printable MC (BettyCrocker.com) - didn't double?
    • $.50 eCoupon
    • ($.50 SavingStar rebate pending)
    • Total: $.28
  • 4x Sprout Organic Toddler Pouches, on sale for $1.39
    • 4x $.75 printable MC (Coupons.com), doubled to cost of item
    • Total: Free
  • BumbleBee Tuna, on sale for $.69
    • $.69 store coupon
    • Total: Free
  • Food Should Taste Good Chips, on sale for $2.00
    • $.75 printable MC (EverydaySaver.com), doubled
    • $.75 eCoupon
    • ($.75 SavingStar rebate pending)
    • Total: -$1.00
  • 3x candy bars (Hershey/Reese's), $.79 each
    • B2G1 Free eCoupon ($.79)
    • ($.79 SavingStar Friday Freebie rebate pending)
    • Total: $.79 ($.26/each)
  • Wasa Crackers, $1.99
    • $1 printable MC (Wasa's Facebook page)
    • ($1 Ibotta rebate pending)
    • Total: -$.01
  • Peaches, on sale $.99/lb ($1.93)
    • $.98 store coupon ($.50/lb)
    • Total: $.95
  • Sargento sliced provolone, on sale for $2.99
    • $.55 printable MC (SmartSource), doubled
    • Total: $1.89
  • Land O Lakes Eggs, on sale for $2.50
    • $1.51 store coupon
    • $.35 printable MC (Land O Lakes website)
    • Total: $.64
  • Bird's Eye Recipe Ready chopped onions, on sale for $.99
    • 2x $1 printable MC (SmartSource)
    • Total: -$.02
  • Klondike Bars, on sale for $1.88
    • $.89 store coupon
    • $1.50 printable MC (Coupons.com, no longer available)
    • Total: -$.51
Other deals:
  • $2 Catalina coupon from last week
Total out-of-pocket (before SavingStar and Ibotta rebates): $3.35
Total after rebates: -$.44



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Couponing 101: Organizing your coupons without going crazy

When I first started couponing, I didn't get the newspaper.  I stuck entirely to printable coupons.  I will say that couponing is entirely doable just with printables -- more and more companies are going with it now, and sometimes the printable coupons are better than the ones you get in the paper!

Printable coupons are great because you don't really have to think about organization.  For the most part you can just print out what you need, when you need them.  You might miss out on a few good coupons this way -- there are often limits on how many people can print a coupon -- but you can score plenty of deals without bothering to try printing things out in advance.

When I got the opportunity to get a year-long, Sunday-only newspaper subscription for $26, I couldn't resist getting in on the paper coupons too.  I knew I'd be able to save well over $26 a year with the additonal coupons I'd receive.  But once I had them, I couldn't figure out how to keep them sorted and organized without losing my mind!

I've seen people in the store with these beautiful binders full of carefully cut and sorted coupons, like it's some sort of Pinterest-worthy craft project.  Good for them.  My idea of a good time isn't spending an entire evening with a stack of coupon inserts and a paper cutter.  I tried cutting them all and trying to roughly sort them, but it took forever.  I knew there had to be a better way.

You want to know my secret?

Until I need them, I don't cut them at all.

Most coupon sites -- my favorite being Living Rich With Coupons -- will help you find a coupon by giving you the date and the insert to look through.  On Living Rich With Coupons they mention the date/insert when referring to coupons on the weekly match-ups, and they also provide that information in their free coupon database, where you can search for coupons for items you need that might not "match up" with a store sale.

Here's my expanding file folder:


You can get one of your own for super cheap.  Mine is huge because I once used it to organize references for my bachelor's thesis.

Here's my routine:

  1. The paper shows up.
  2. If I have time, I'll flip through the inserts just to see what's in there.
    1. Optional: If there's a coupon I'm 100% sure I'm going to use soon, I might clip it.
    2. Optional: Look at the dates on the coupons and find the latest date.  If you make a note of that on your file label you'll know when those inserts are ready to be recycled.
  3. I throw the inserts in one section of my file folder.
  4. I write the date on a post-it.  
    1. If you looked at the coupon dates and know the latest date in those inserts, you could add this to your label for easy purging later.
  5. Some day, probably when my folder's full because I'm incredibly lazy, I'll purge the old stuff and maybe move the new stuff forward.  
And when it's time to shop?
  1. I look at the deal sites to figure out what date and what insert I need to look at
    1. Hint: They're usually abbreviated.  SS = SmartSource, RP = RedPlum, P&G = Proctor and Gamble.
  2. I pull out that insert and quickly flip through until I find the coupon (or sometimes don't find the coupon if it's regional and I'm not in that region -- but given that my search is focused on just that insert, I can usually figure that out quickly and move on).
  3. I cut the coupon I need then put the insert back for another day.
It's simple, yet gives me exactly what I need.  Even if it's some wacky product I'm only buying because I'm getting paid for it, I'll have the coupon and it'll be relatively easy to find.  It takes so much less time to not bother with all the clipping!

Optional:
If you want to, clipping the coupons you know you'll use can be helpful.  To keep them organized I have this little coupon file, which fits in my bag and can come to the store with me, in case I stumble upon a good deal.  I also use it to hold the coupons I intend to use on my shopping trip -- I just put them all together in the front so they're ready to hand to the cashier in one big stack.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sensibly Extreme Couponing: grocery trip for the week of 6/8/14

Sorry for what appeared to be a bit of a hiatus!  I was originally planning on skipping any major shopping this week -- we'd spent a little money at a festival over the weekend and I wanted to cut back on spending this week, especially given that we have a pretty good food stockpile at this point.

However, when I saw the latest offer at ShopRite -- a $25 gift card when you spend $60 on certain brands -- I knew I had to work out something.

The deal sounds good by itself, right?  40% off is pretty sweet!  But with a few months of experience under my belt, I knew that this was even better.

Deals like this are often considered before coupons, and in ShopRite's case they pretty much always are.  So coupons don't count toward the $60.  Also, a secret among the ShopRite faithful is that in most cases, when earning a gift card or a Catalina coupon, the minimum you have to spend is "pre-Price Plus" pricing.  That means, if the sale item requires your Price Plus card to get the deal, the amount used toward that dollar threshold is the "shelf price" -- the price you would pay if you didn't have the card.

Considering all of this, I had a feeling there was a big deal to be had here.  Typically I take advantage of the deals that other people come up with -- there are a lot of brilliant couponers out there, and it saves me a ton of time!  But this week, the deal that my favorite site, Living Rich With Coupons, suggested involved some printable coupons that were no longer available and multiple paper coupons I didn't have.

My husband was kind enough to give me some extra time to do some number crunching this week, so I made myself a spreadsheet.  I listed out all the items in the deal I'd consider purchasing, their shelf prices, their sale prices, and the best coupon deal I could find on each.  Then I played around with items and quantities, keeping in mind that for printable coupons I'd only be able to print out 4, and eCoupons would only apply to one item, until I got myself over $60 for the shelf price and under $25 for the actual price paid.  The spreadsheet itself took a while but once everything was in there, it was pretty easy to figure it all out!

I will say I hit one snag at the store -- some of the sales did not require a Price Plus card, so that meant that the deal used the sale price toward the threshold.  So when I first checked out, I was unfortunately a few dollars short.  But thankfully I still had my spreadsheet, and was able to quickly and easily figure out exactly what I needed to get to reach the $60 and ran back to the store real quick after printing off one more coupon.  And it was still a money-making deal.  I was so happy!

The only thing I'm kicking myself for is not being more proactive last week when the Catalina machine didn't work at checkout.  I didn't worry about it because I wasn't planning on making a big trip this week, but had I gone to customer service, I likely could have had my $10 off $50 for this week.  I would have been able to use that store coupon as well, which would have made my whole trip a moneymaker!  Oh well.  The Catalina machine was broken at the first checkout I went to yesterday, but when I went back for my second quick purchase, I got all my coupons then.

Now that I have the $10 off $50 for next week, I'm determined to make a new spreadsheet for one of the other $25 back on $60 offers to try to get another deal.  They're good through next week.  The extra $10 should make it easier to make it into a moneymaker.  I can't say no to a cart of free stuff!

Here's what I got yesterday:
After rebates and gift cards, all of this cost me about $2!
And here's the breakdown:

For the $25 gift card on $60 of General Mills products:

  • 4x Honey Nut Cheerios on sale for $1.88 ($3.49 Pre-Price Plus)
    • 2x $1.10/2 printable MC
    • Total: $5.32 ($1.33 each)
  • 4x Cheerios on sale for $2.99
    • 4x $.75 printable MCs, doubled
    • Total: $5.96 ($1.49 each)
  • 3x Kix on sale for $1.88 ($3.69 PPP)
    • 3x $1 printable MCs
    • Total: $2.64 ($.88 each)
  • Cookie Crisp on sale for $1.88 ($3.79 PPP)
    • $1 printable MC
    • Total: $.88
  • Lucky Charms on sale for $3.99
    • $.60 printable MC, doubled
    • $.50 eCoupon
    • ($.50 SavingStar rebate pending)
    • Total: $1.79
  • Fiber One Brownies, on sale for $2.49 ($3.49 PPP)
    • $.50 printable MC, doubled
    • $.50 eCoupon
    • ($.50 SavingStar rebate pending)
    • Total: $.49
  • Nature Valley Granola Bars, on sale for $2.99
    • $.50 printable MC, doubled
    • $.50 eCoupon
    • ($.50 SavingStar rebate pending)
    • Total: $.99
  • 4x Green Giant Frozen Veggies, on sale 3 for $5
    • 4x $.40 printable MC, doubled
    • Total: $3.47 ($.87 each)
  • Toaster Strudel, on sale for $2.50
    • $.40 printable MC, doubled
    • Total: $1.70
Total "spent" toward this deal, using pre-Price Plus prices and sale prices before coupons: $60.42

Total actually spent out of pocket, after SavingStar rebates, to get the $25 gift card: $23.24
$1.76 moneymaker!

Other things I bought:
  • 2x Arm and Hammer detergent, on sale for $1.88
    • $3/2 coupon from the paper (6/8/14 SmartSource insert)
    • Total: $.76 ($.38 each)
  • Joy Ice Cream Cones, $.99
    • $.35 printable MC, doubled
    • $.35 eCoupon
    • Total: -$.06
  • Zatarain's Rice, on sale for $1.50
    • $.75 coupon from the paper (5/4/14 RedPlum insert)
    • Total: FREE
  • Horizon Mac and Cheese, $1.49
    • $.55 printable MC, doubled
    • $.55 eCoupon
    • Total: -$.16
  • Klondike Bars, on sale for $1.88
    • Store coupon to get one for $.99
    • $3/3 printable MC
    • Total: $1.75 ($.58/each)
  • Kandoo wipes, on sale for $.99
    • $1 printable MC
    • $.50 eCoupon
    • Total: -$.51
  • 4x Premier Protein bars, on sale for $1
    • $.50 printable MC, doubled
    • Total: FREE
  • Domino Sugar, store coupon for $.99
  • ShopRite Ketchup, store coupon for free
  • Yellow onions, store coupon for $.99
Total for everything, including tax and after SavingStar rebates: $27.02, plus $25 gift card!

I'm pretty proud of this deal because it's truly mine.  It took work to figure everything out (even though it didn't work out quite the way I thought it should have).  And once you factor in the gift card, the fact that everything here was just over $2 -- it was definitely worth my time!

Then I ran over to Stop & Shop and bought 4 Breyers Ice Cream for $5 (on sale 2/$6, $4 off instantly when you buy 4, plus a $3/3 coupon), because I have an ice cream problem.  I needed something to put in those free cones, right?


Monday, June 2, 2014

Sensibly Extreme Couponing: grocery trip for the week of 6/1/14

I decided to go shopping yesterday -- a Sunday -- to get it out of the way for the coming week.  Never again!  The good sale items were entirely wiped out.  I had everything carefully calculated to get over $50 before coupons so I could use my $10 off deal, and had to do all kinds of reconfiguration in the store to make sure I'd still be able to use it.

Then, just to make things even worse, the Catalina coupon machine at the register I chose was broken!  I didn't realize it until the cashier was handing me my receipt.  Thankfully I hadn't redeemed any deals that earned me a Catalina, but that means I didn't get next week's $10 off $50 coupon.  I probably could have asked them at customer service but I just wanted to get home.  I may stop by mid-week to see if I can grab the couple of freebie deals I wanted but couldn't get and see if the coupon prints then.  If not, I may be cutting back on shopping for a couple of weeks and living off of our stockpile.

So this week didn't save quite as much as I was hoping, but I made the most of it.  I ended up getting more ground beef than I was planning, and grabbed a couple of items I was going to hold off on but will be useful in a few weeks.  I needed less than $10 of extra items to reach $50 so it was worth the hassle.

My tip of the week: if you're planning to try to spend a certain amount to take advantage of a deal, come prepared with backup deals (and corresponding coupons)!  I ended up getting more ground beef than I was planning, and grabbed a couple of items I was going to hold off on but will use eventually (Coffee-Mate and Silk Almond Milk -- the expiration dates on both aren't for several months so they'll just hang out in my fridge for a bit!).

$75 worth of groceries for around $15 after rebates!
Here's the breakdown:

  • 6x Red Pack Diced Tomatoes, large cans, on sale for $1 each
    • 2x $.55/3 printable MCs, doubled
    • Total: $3.80 ($.63 each)
  • Mott's for Tots juice, on sale for $2.79
    • $1 eCoupon loaded to card
    • $1 printable MC
    • Total: $.79
  • 4x Horizon Macaroni and Cheese, $1.49 each
    • 4x $.55 printable MCs, doubled
    • Total: $1.56 ($.39/each)
  • 2x ShopRite Organic Pasta, on sale for $1.19 each
    • $1 eCoupon loaded to card
    • Total: $1.38 ($.69/each)
  • Tabasco Sauce, on sale for $.99
    • $.50 eCoupon loaded to card
    • $.55 printable MC, doubled to $.99
    • Total: -$.50
  • Haribo Gummy Bears, $1
    • $.30 eCoupon loaded to card
    • $.30 printable MC, doubled
    • Total: $.10
  • Hunt Tomato Paste, $.75
  • 6x Vintage Seltzer, $.50 each
    • $2/6 printable MC
    • Total: $1 ($.17 each)
  • 2x Green Giant Veggie Chips, on sale for $2.50 each
    • $.50/2 eCoupon loaded to card
    • 2x $.50 printable MCs, doubled
    • Total: $2.50 ($1.25 each)
  • Nature's Own Honey Wheat Bread, on sale for $2
    • $.55 MC from paper (5/4/14 SmartSource insert), doubled
    • Total: $.90
  • Ground beef, 4 pounds, on sale for $3.49/lb: $14.90
    • $1/lb store coupon
    • Total: $10.63
  • Russet Potatoes, 5 pounds, on sale for $1.99
    • $1 store coupon
    • Total: $.99
  • Silk Almond Milk, on sale for $2.99
    • $1 printable MC
    • Total: $1.99
  • Coffee-Mate, on sale for $1.66
    • $.50 printable MC, doubled
    • Total: $.66
  • ShopRite 18-pack large eggs, on sale for $1.99
    • $1 store coupon
    • Total: $.99
  • Blue Bunny Strawberry Crunch bars, on sale for $1.88
    • $1 printable MC
    • Total: $.88
Other deals:
  • $10 off $50+ that printed at checkout last week
  • $2 Catalina coupon from last week
Total Out of Pocket: $16.66 (including tax, deposits)

Cash Back:
  • $.25 Checkout 51 rebate on sliced bread
    • (Total cost of bread after rebate: $.65)
  • $.50 SavingStar rebate on Green Giant Veggie Chips
    • (Total cost after rebate: $1 each)
  • Friday Freebie SavingStar rebate on Hunts Tomato Paste ($.75)
Total After Cash Back: $15.16

It's not as great as what I was hoping for, but it's still right around $15, so I'm happy.  

I also went to Aldi to pick up some whole milk, mushrooms, and a watermelon.  They have watermelon for $3.99 right now -- ShopRite wanted nearly twice that much!  It definitely pays to shop around when it's not too inconvenient.

Friday, May 30, 2014

SavingStar vs Ibotta vs Checkout 51 vs Shopmium: rebate apps compared and explained

One of my favorite ways to make a good deal a great deal is by taking advantage of what I call my "cash back apps."  There are several mobile apps (some are also available on the web for those with uncooperative phones) that offer you cash back on select items you've already purchased.  They're kind of like coupons, except you buy the item first, then prove you bought it.

What's especially great about these apps is that they don't count as a coupon, meaning when you're at the store, you can use other coupons on the item and basically "stack" your deals.  In some cases, this could mean that you get an item free -- or even get paid to buy an item -- once you get your cash back.  And it's so easy!

Here's a quick overview of the major players in the rebate/cash back space:

SavingStar

SavingStar actually links up to your store's loyalty card.  You select which offers you are interested in redeeming by "activating" them.  There are no limits as to how many offers you activate, and no penalty if you don't actually redeem them.  The stores periodically report your purchases to SavingStar (takes anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks), and if you've purchased an item from one of your activated deals, they give you a credit for the amount.

Pros:
  • No app required -- while they have a mobile app that makes for easy activating of offers, you can also just as easily do it from their website.
  • No need to prove you purchased something.  The store does it for you!  SavingStar lets you know when they've processed something that earned you cash.
  • No minimum dollar amount to reach before cashing out
  • Multiple options for cashing out.  You can choose a bank deposit, PayPal, an Amazon gift card or a donation to American Forests if you'd like to give it to a cause instead.
  • You can also use their website to earn cash back from online shopping on select websites
Cons:
  • Limited stores. SavingStar only works with select supermarkets and drug stores that have loyalty cards.  You can find out which stores you have to choose from by entering your ZIP code.  SavingStar works with all the major supermarkets and drug stores in my area, but I really wish I could use it at Target.
  • Most offers rotate once a month.  There are occasional new offers that pop up during the month but most stick around.  That means you can only redeem them once during the month, and if you don't see anything you like, for the most part you're stuck.  The exceptions to this are the healthy offer of the week and Friday freebie.
My personal favorite part are the weekly rotating offers: the healthy offer of the week and the Friday Freebie.  The healthy offer changes every Tuesday and offers you a percentage off of a fruit or vegetable item.  Coupons for produce are not overly common, so this is a great way to get a deal on something truly good for you.  The Friday Freebie is an item that you can get completely refunded if you purchase it, and is only available from Friday-Sunday.  Usually the item's worth around $1 but hey, it's free!


Ibotta is considered the biggest app for getting cash back on items by scanning in your grocery receipt and the barcode from the eligible item.  They used to just be for grocery, but have recently expanded.  You can now earn rebates at many different types of stores, some online stores, and even a couple of restaurants (currently Chili's and Quiznos).

Note: If you sign up for Ibotta using one of the links in this article, you get the opportunity to earn a $2 bonus!

Pros:
  • There are updates to the offers every week.  Some stick around for a while, others don't, but you can expect to see new offers regularly.
  • They often have offers for generic items, like milk or bread, that you would commonly buy anyway.
  • There are bonuses you can earn for buying several items.  The bonuses vary and change regularly, but a common one is a $.50 bonus for redeeming the milk offer and two other offers.  So if you complete it, you earn the rebates for all three of those offers plus an addtional $.50.  There are also bonuses for completing a rebate every week for several weeks in a row -- the Steady Eddy bonus gets you $1 if you complete at least 1 rebate for 4 straight weeks.
Cons:
  • Only works at certain stores.  There are a decent variety of stores available for grocery, including most supermarkets, drug stores, Target and Walmart, but not smaller stores.
  • Some offers are only redeemable at certain stores.  It may be a product that you could buy elsewhere but the offer only applies if you buy it at the particular store.  These are called exclusive offers within the app.  
  • There is a $5 minimum to cash out.  This isn't terrible but if you go a few weeks without finding a rebate you want to redeem it can get a little frustrating to have some money just sitting there.
  • Multiple payout options but they're not very appealing.  PayPal is probably your best bet.  They also use a cash service called Venmo, and they offer a few different gift card offerings including Regal, Starbucks and iTunes.  I'm not sure why you would want to redeem for a gift card when you can just get cash through PayPal.
  • In order to get the rebate, you have to "unlock" it by completing certain tasks.  The tasks don't take long (watch a short video, take a quick poll, read a fact) but can be annoying.  Often it requires sharing the offer through Facebook, which I'm personally not a fan of because I don't like to spam my friends.  I get around this by posting it as a private post, so only I can see it.
  • You must use your mobile phone to redeem rebates.  There is no website component.

Checkout 51 is a newer app for getting cash back by uploading your grocery receipt.  It's similar to Ibotta but is more what they used to be -- primarily grocery offers only.

Pros:
  • You can submit a receipt from any store with Checkout 51.  Big supermarket, small local place -- they don't care.  So long as they can tell from your receipt that you purchased an eligible item, you're good to go.
  • The offers are updated once a week, on Thursdays.  Some offers stick around for multiple weeks but there's always a fresh selection.
  • There is very often a generic item, like milk, bread, or produce, among the week's list.
  • You can enter a sweepstakes every week just by submitting a receipt that totals over $60, even if you don't have any other offers to claim.
  • The offers they give you are somewhat personalized based on offers you've claimed in the past.
  • When you cash out, they send you an actual check.  No need to be signed up with PayPal or any other service.
  • Mobile phone problems?  You can also submit from their website and scan in your receipt.
Cons:
  • There is a $20 minimum to cash out.  This is the largest minimum of any of the services and can take a while to obtain.  Personally, I've yet to get there but am over halfway now.  This is by far the biggest negative of the service.
  • The list of offers isn't very big and there are often some odd items that aren't commonly purchased.  I've had an offer for a "vaginal odor treatment" for several weeks now.  Uh... no thanks.

Shopmium is the newest app for getting cash back and is similar to Ibotta and Checkout 51.  

Note: If you use referral code "GHAYAGWV" when you sign up for Shopmium, you get a free Lindt chocolate bar!  I didn't have a referral code when I signed up and missed out on my free chocolate -- I was so bummed when I found out!

Pros:
  • You can submit a receipt from any store, so long as they can tell from your receipt that you purchased an eligible item.
  • There is no minimum to cash out.  Once they've processed your claim they instantly send you the cash via PayPal.  You don't even have to request to cash out!
  • Mobile phone problems?  You can submit for some offers from their website and scan in your receipt.  Some offers are only available from the app, however.
  • Several of their offers tend to be for natural or organic products, which often don't see as many deals as their less-natural counterparts.
  • Sometimes they have multiple offers for the same product.  For example, they currently have offers for Chobani Simply 100 yogurt: $.30 off one, $.50 off two or $.75 off three.
Cons:
  • Shopmium has the fewest number of offers available of any of the options, and they don't rotate overly regularly.  I'm not sure if they have a schedule.  Most of the offers just say they're ongoing.
  • You sometimes have to watch a video before you can redeem an offer. 
  • PayPal is currently the only cash out method.
  • I've personally had issues trying to scan in my receipt with their app, so it's a little buggy.  Sometimes I'd get a black screen, and when I was trying to scan in a longer receipt with multiple pictures, it wasn't showing me the bottom part of the previous picture to know what section of the receipt they still needed.
So which one of these should you use?  If you're trying to save as much as you can, you should have all of them in your repertoire!  It can take a while to reach some of the cash out minimums, but it's worth it.  As you can see, each service has its own quirks.  Lately I've been a fan of SavingStar and Checkout 51, but I've found all four of the services to be useful to me.  Occasionally there are products available on more than one of the apps, so you can redeem them all and save even more!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sensibly Extreme Couponing: This week's grocery trip for under $15

Hey everyone!  This week I did some more stocking up at ShopRite to take advantage of another $10 off $50+ coupon as well as two $5 Catalina coupons I earned from previous weeks.  I couldn't let $20 go to waste!

Unfortunately I don't have a picture of my deals this week.  Hubby had 3(!) phone interviews today, plus the little one's schedule was way off from being sick -- by the time I made it out to the store and back, we had to rush for dinner and it wasn't until halfway through putting everything away that I realized I forgot to snap a quick picture of it all!  Hopefully you can trust me on this. :)

Here's what I brought home today:

  • ShopRite Apple Juice, on sale for $1.79
    • $.80 store coupon
    • Total: $.99
  • ShopRite Bleach, on sale for $1.59
  • 4x Horizon Macaroni and Cheese, $1.49 each
    • 4x $.55 printable MCs, doubled
    • Total: $1.56 ($.39/each)
  • Trix Cereal, on sale for $1.99
    • $.50 eCoupon loaded to card
    • $.60 printable MC, doubled
    • Total: $.29
  • 2x Straw packs, $1.18 ($.59/each)
  • Barilla Italian EntrĂ©e, on sale for $2.49
    • $.75 eCoupon loaded to card
    • $.75 printable MC, doubled
    • Total: $.24
  • Ziploc Freezer Bags, value size, on sale, 4 for $11.19
    • 2x $1/2 printable MC
    • Total: $9.19
  • Ziploc Sandwich Bags, $2.69
  • 4x Adirondack Seltzer, $2.20 ($.50/each plus $.20 deposit)
  • Green Giant Cheddar Veggie Puffs, on sale for $1.75
    • $.50 eCoupon loaded to card
    • Total: $1.25
  • Perdue Split Chicken Breast, on sale for $1.99/lb: $9.65
    • $1/lb store coupon: $4.85
    • Total: $4.80
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, $1.32
  • Lemon, $.66
  • Milky Way Ice Cream Bars, on sale for $3.50
    • $1.50 eCoupon loaded to card
    • $1 MC found in paper (5/18/14 RedPlum insert)
    • Total: $1
  • Trans-Ocean Imitation Crab Meat, on sale for $1.99
    • $.50 printable MC, doubled
    • Total: $.99
  • Listerine Naturals Mouthwash, on sale for $5.99
    • $1 MC found in paper (4/13/14 SmartSource insert)
    • Total: $4.99
Other deals:
  • $10 off $50+ coupon that printed at checkout last week
  • $5 Catalina coupon from last week
  • $5 Catalina coupon from two weeks ago
  • $1.45 in bottle returns
Total Out of Pocket: $14.86 (including tax)

Cash back:
  • $1 Checkout 51 rebate on Trans-Ocean Crab
    • (Total cost of crab after rebate: -$.01)
  • $5 SavingStar rebate on Ziploc bags (needed to spend $20 based on pre-Price Plus pricing)
    • (Total cost of Ziploc bags after rebate and $2 Catalina: $4.88 for 5 boxes)
  • $.50 SavingStar rebate on Trix Cereal
    • (Total cost of Trix after rebate: -$.21)
  • $.50 SavingStar rebate on Green Giant Veggie Puffs
    • (Total cost of Veggie Puffs after rebate: $.75)
Total After Cash Back: $7.86

Plus I got a $2 Catalina from buying 4 boxes of Ziploc bags, to use next week!  We use Ziploc bags a lot for freezing meat and produce so it was a great opportunity to stock up!

I also went to Aldi and got 2 loaves of whole wheat bread, a jar of salsa and some romaine hearts for $6.25.  Doesn't seem like nearly as good of a deal when you look at everything I got above, but they truly have the best prices in town on many of the essentials!

This week was a huge rebate week for me.  Later this week I'll go in-depth on the ways you can earn cash back for grocery shopping and just how easy it is to do.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Extreme Couponing Secrets: Take advantage of minimum purchase deals with coupon order

Each week, my ShopRite ad has a series of four store coupons.  They're not always things I'd like to purchase, but many of them are, and they're always really good deals -- often a discount of 50% or more.


 The only catch is the fine print:
"With this coupon and additional purchase of $15.00 or more (excluding fuel and items prohibited by law)"
 So for months, I didn't even bother to look at them.  The majority of my purchases at ShopRite were well under $15.

Then, a few weeks ago, a coupon printed at checkout to use the following week: $10 off a purchase of $50 or more.  What a great deal, but how was I going to get over $50?  It was hard enough getting over $15!

That's when I had an epiphany -- nowhere on the coupon does it say that it must be the cost after coupons. Could I still make it work?

The answer: definitely yes!

The trick:  Give them the price-qualifying coupons first.

When you're approaching a cashier with a giant stack of coupons, you may not be thinking about order.  The cashier may not really think about it either.  But in some cases, when there are requirements for the coupon to apply, it can make a huge difference.

In my last post, you may have noticed that I used one of those $10 off $50+ coupons for my $11 purchase.  They've been printing every week for me at checkout for a good month now.  The trick to using it was to make sure that I had at least $50 showing as the subtotal when I handed the cashier my stack of coupons, with that $10 off $50 coupon sitting right on top.  At ShopRite, the eCoupons loaded onto my card do come off immediately, so I had to take that into consideration, but I could leave all of my manufacturer's coupons and other store coupons out of the picture.  99.9% of the time, the cashier is going to scan those coupons from top to bottom.

Honestly, this is about the most complicated my shopping gets: figuring out whether or not I'm over $50.  I've tried using a calculator on my phone in the store, but what's actually worked out best for me is taking advantage of ShopRite's "Shop at Home" feature on their website.  My local ShopRite actually doesn't offer Shop at Home, but several of the surrounding stores do, and their prices are the same.  I just find the items I plan to purchase and add them to my cart.  That takes into consideration all the sale prices for that week.  Then all I have to do is deduct any eCoupons from that total, and make sure that it's over $50.

For the maximum savings, I try to plan my trip to as close to $50 as possible.  I just use Shop at Home for planning purposes, then go to the store to actually make the purchases.  If I'm cutting it really close to $50, I'll sometimes bring along a couple of coupons for candy bars that I could easily grab at checkout and add onto my order if my calculations are off.

When I don't have $50 of groceries that I need to purchase, that's where free products really come in handy.  In my shopping trip this week, I threw in several items that were free after coupons to make sure that my subtotal would be over $50.  That's a big reason why I saved so much -- there were so many free items added in that the $10 was actually a much bigger percentage off of my order.

I absolutely love this trick for making the most of store coupons.  You can bet that I'm checking those weekly coupons a whole lot more closely now!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sensibly Extreme Couponing: How I paid $11 for a cartload of groceries

Today the cashier at ShopRite applauded me as she handed me my receipt, announcing to the bagger and the customer behind me that I paid $11.22 and saved $91.63. That doesn't count the $5 Catalina coupon that printed at checkout for me to use next time I shop, or the 19 cents I'll be getting back from SavingStar.

I guess I qualify as an "Extreme Couponer" now, but honestly, I'm not crazy! You're not going to see me coming home with an entire car packed full of toilet paper; it's just not my style.

Here's what I don't do:

  • I don't buy coupons online.  I have a single set of coupons from my Sunday paper, and if the deal's really good I might ask a friend if they have a spare.  
  • I don't buy things that my family won't use, unless they are completely free or money-making deals and I can donate them to someone.
  • I don't do a lot of extra transactions to be able to use more coupons.  Sometimes I'll go through the checkout twice if it's a really good deal, or I'll stop back later in the week for more, but you won't see me going through the checkout five different times in the same day.  Who has time for that?
  • I don't avoid buying things that aren't on sale in a transaction just to make my savings look higher.  If my family needs something, I buy it.
Here's what I do:

  • I look up good deals that other people have posted online to save me time.
  • I will try a different brand for an item my family will use, or try a new product that I think we would like  
  • I will shop multiple stores for the best price (though most of the time, I only hit up one or two stores in a week)
  • I stock up on items that will last in my pantry or freezer if they are things that we use regularly.  I love stocking up on things like cereal and paper products when there are great sales so that I don't have to ever pay full price. But I have one storage shelf in my basement and that's it -- I'm not about to become a grocery hoarder!
  • I use internet coupons a ton and take advantage of being able to print multiple copies.

Here is a picture of what I bought today, minus a box of toothpicks that I hadn't noticed fell off the bench before I snapped the photo:

All these groceries for $11.22 thanks to sales and coupons!
Here's the breakdown of my trip to ShopRite today:
  • Beneful dog treats, on sale for $2.99
    • $1.75 eCoupon loaded onto my card
    • $1.75 Printable manufacturer's coupon (MC)
    • Total: -$0.51
  • 3x Bagel Thins, on sale 3 for $6
    • 3x $0.50 Printable MCs, each doubled
    • Total: $3 ($1 each)
  • Pork chops, on sale for $1.99/lb: $6.39
  • Chicken drumsticks, on sale for $1.29/lb: $11.20
  • Corn on the cob, on sale for $0.19/ear: $0.95
  • 2x Jennie-O Turkey Franks, on sale for $1.50/package
    • $0.55/2 eCoupon loaded onto my card
    • $0.55/2 Printable MC, doubled
    • Total: $1.35 ($.68 each)
  • 2x Safest Choice eggs, on sale for $1.99/dozen
    • 2x $0.75 Printable MCs, doubled
    • Total: $0.98 ($0.49 each)
  • 2x Birds Eye Recipe Ready Chopped Onions, on sale for $0.99
    • 2x $0.75 Printable MCs, doubled to cost of item
    • Total: FREE
  • Klondike Kandy Bars, on sale for $1.99
    • Store coupon for $1 off
    • $1 MC found in blinkie coupon dispenser in-store
    • Total: -$0.01
  • 4x Turkey Hill ice cream, on sale for $1.99
    • 4x $1 Printable MCs
    • Total: $3.96 ($0.99 each)
  • St. Ives Body Wash, on sale for $1.99
    • $1 eCoupon loaded onto my card
    • $1 MC found in paper (5/18/14 RedPlum insert)
    • Total: -$0.01
  • Suave lotion, on sale for $2.77
    • $1.50 eCoupon loaded onto my card
    • $1.50 MC found in paper (5/18/14 RedPlum insert)
    • Total: -$0.23
  • 2x Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant, on sale for $4.99
    • $4/2 eCoupon loaded onto my card
    • $4/2 MC found in paper (5/4/14 RedPlum insert)
    • Total: $1.98 ($0.99 each)
  • Diamond toothpicks, on sale for $0.69
Other deals:
  • $10 off $50+ store coupon that printed at checkout last week
  • $3 Catalina coupon from last week's shopping
  • $5 Catalina coupon from last week's shopping
I'm slightly confused because I get $11.74 when doing the math myself, so somehow I saved another $0.52 somewhere.  The cashier did have to enter some coupons manually so it's possible she mistyped (or maybe I just miscalculated).  I'll take it!

I also got a $5 Catalina coupon at checkout for buying the St. Ives body wash, Suave lotion and Dove antiperspirant.  It was a deal when you spent $15 on Unilever personal care products.  The $15 is determined before coupons and before any Price Plus Shopper's Club discounts, though, so I only spent $1.74 to get the $5 coupon!  I'll use it next week along with another $5 Catalina I have from last week's shopping trip (it couldn't be used this week because it has specific dates).

I'll be getting 20% back on my corn purchase as well, thanks to SavingStar (more info on SavingStar soon -- it's great!).

And another $10 off $50+ coupon printed at checkout for next week.  Woo hoo!

In the coming weeks, I'll be breaking down many of the little tips and tricks I've learned that help make shopping trips like this possible.  I promise, it's not hard!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Save instantly at Target with a rainy day Shopkick scavenger hunt

It was an awful, rainy morning. I'd been planning on taking the little one for a walk before the rain hit. We needed out. There were a couple of good deals I'd wanted to pick up at Target anyway, so I took the opportunity to go on a Shopkick scavenger hunt to earn us some cash toward our purchase!

(When I told my husband we were headed out on a scavenger hunt, he asked if that's what I was calling grocery shopping now. Ha!)

But no, really. Shopkick is a great, free app for iOS and Android that lets you earn gift cards. You earn "kicks" for entering certain stores, scanning certain items, and sometimes just for buying things with a linked credit card (Visa or Mastercard only right now, and only at certain stores). Target is a great place to use Shopkick because it has kicks for entering, usually has a bunch of items to scan, and you can instantly redeem 500 kicks for a $2 Target gift card.

When you walk into a store that offers walk-in kicks, you just need to open the app as you're entering the store. The app can detect that you're in the store -- I believe by an audio signal -- and should give you the points almost instantly.

Here's the screenshot from after I entered Target:



At the top, you can see I'm looking at Target under the stores. The number next to the walking person is how many kicks you'll get for walking in. Here it's showing zero because I already claimed my points before taking the screenshot (whoops). You can see that when I tap that little guy:



The number next to the barcode shows you how many points are available for scanning items. If you tap it, it will open up a special page that shows you just the scannable products:



Here you can see I've already scanned some from our successful scavenger hunt today.

Let's say I just found the Crystal Light in the store. If I tap it, I see this page, with a cute little ad and the opportunity to scan for kicks:



If I tap the button where it says "25 kicks" it will open up the scanner to scan the barcode. Once it scans, a blue bubble will pop up showing that you earned your kicks. If you scanned the wrong product, an error will appear to let you know and you can try again. After you get the kicks, an optional survey will appear. If you're not up for answering the survey, just hit the little arrow at the top left of the survey to back out of it. You'll still get the kicks for scanning, even if you don't answer the survey.

Unfortunately, just because an item shows up on the list doesn't mean that your store necessarily carries it. So you likely won't be able to scan every possible item. In a store like Target, though, you can usually find most of the products pretty easily. Today was great because several of the items were right next to each other on the shelf. There were 7 different varieties of Quaker Chewy bars available to scan, for example, and each earned 25 kicks. Almost 200 kicks, just like that. Easy!

Given that I had a toddler approaching her nap time, I didn't get around to checking for everything. But I managed to get myself up to 500 kicks, and redeemed my reward right in the store. I just tapped on the little person at the top left of the app to open the menu, and scrolled down to "Browse Rewards."



From here you can select what you'd like to spend your kicks on, assuming you have enough. If you tap on the Target gift card it'll open up your options for Target and allow you to purchase. Once you've purchased your gift card, you can access it under "My Rewards" in the app menu. When you tap on your gift card under My Rewards, a barcode will appear to show at the register, just like if you were redeeming a mobile coupon or Cartwheel offer (if you don't know about Cartwheel, no worries -- I'll fill you in soon!). The gift card will come off your order just like if you were holding an actual gift card.

Scavenger hunts with my little one aren't super exciting for her right now, but she likes going from aisle to aisle so she's pretty cool with it. When she gets a bit older I figure we can try to find the items together and she can help me scan them.

Another great place to rack up some kicks is the mall. Many stores in the mall offer walk-in kicks, so you just need to pop into the store real quick until it registers (or sometimes, if you're lucky, standing just outside the store will work too!). Once you've downloaded the app, you can scroll through the different stores to see which ones near you offer kicks.

I'll admit, I have had some occasional issues with the app. With my old phone, the app needed so much memory to run that it would basically freeze. I think they've made some improvements, but you're likely going to have the best luck with a newer device. I also had to temporarily uninstall it recently because it was eating up all of my battery. I suspect it was because I had the setting enabled for it to notify me when I was near someplace that offered kicks, so it was constantly accessing my GPS and running in the background. I've disabled that feature and haven't had too much trouble since. But for a free app, you really have nothing to lose in giving it a shot.

Check out this link to download Shopkick and go on your very own, free money scavenger hunt!