Category Archives: Smart Shopping

Coupon Policies

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Kroger Coupon Policy

“Internet Coupon Policy ALL Banner Stores!!

We only accept printable coupons if they scan properly at checkout.We do not accept “FREE product” printable coupons, with no purchase requirement. Buy-one-get-one-free coupons and other values that have a purchase requirement are acceptable but will be MUCH less common than traditional value-off coupons.

We do not accept coupons for more than about 75% of a product’s value without advance notice. Legitimate PAH coupons will not be for a high value relative to the cost of the item. For example, a $2 off coupon will be acceptable for a product that normally sells for $5 or more, but a $2 off printable coupon for a product that sells for $2.25 is unlikely to be legitimate.

Coupons will be rejected if they appear out of proportion or blurry, or are obvious duplicates. Legitimate PAH coupons are never copied, sold or traded. Nearly all coupons are “non-transferable” meaning they should not be photocopied or scanned and distributed to others.Coupons will be rejected if they appear to have been altered in any way.

Double Coupons: Manufacturer coupons of $.50 or less will be “Doubled”. Manufacturer coupons over $.51 will be redeemed at face value. This Does Not apply to “Free”, Kroger, Retail Food Store coupons, Electronic Coupons on the Kroger Plus Card or items prohibited by law.

Pharmacy Coupons: Does accept Competitor Pharmacy Coupons. Cannot use LCM or Competitor Coupons in conjunction with the $4 Generic Program.

General Coupon Policy: Limit one (1) manufacturer coupon per item purchased. Limit one (1) store coupon per item purchased. One (1) manufacturer and One (1) store coupon can be used on the same item. Coupons cannot be used on “Free” items. Does Not accept coupons that are expired. Amount refunded cannot exceed the cost of the item. The store manager has the right to accept, decline, or limit the use of ANY coupon upon view. The store manager has the right to limit the Quantity of coupons/items used/purchased in a single transaction, by a single customer, or in a single day Customer is responsible for tax on all items even “Free” items.”

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Walmart recently released a new coupon policy that is friendlier to couponers.  You can print an official copy here.

Walmart accepts the following coupons:

-Manufacturer’s coupons

-Print-at-home internet coupons with a valid expiration date and scannable bar code

-Competitor’s coupons that feature a specific item for a specific price (price matching)

-Soft drink container caps

-Catalina Manufacturer’s coupons (this includes Walgreens Register Rewards)

Walmart does NOT accept:

-Print-at-home internet coupons for free items

-Competitor coupons for dollars/cents or percentage off, BOGO, and double/triple value coupons

Guidelines:

-Only one coupon per item is permitted

-Coupons must have an expiration date

-Coupons MAY exceed the price of the item and OVERAGE is allowed!

The following must have Customer Service approval:

-40 or more coupons

-Any coupon over $20

-$50 or more in coupons in one transaction

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Target Stores Coupon Policy

Coupons are a great way to save even more when shopping with us, and it’s easy to use them at our stores.

•    Target accepts one manufacturer coupon and one Target coupon for the same item (unless prohibited)

•    Super Target coupons can be used in any Target store if the store carries the item

•    We gladly accept valid internet coupons

Because of the variety of coupons available to our guests, we do have some guidelines for how coupons can be redeemed at Target.

When accepting coupons, we use the following guidelines:

•    We accept two kinds of coupons: Target-issued coupons and manufacturer-issued.

•    We’ll accept one Target coupon and one manufacturer coupon for the same item, unless either coupon prohibits it.

•    Coupon amount may be reduced if it exceeds the value of the item after other discounts or coupons are applied.

•   BOGO coupons can not be combined (you can not use 2 BOGO coupons on two items to get both free).

•    We can’t give cash back if the face value of a coupon is greater than the purchase value of the item.

•    We can’t accept coupons from other retailers, or coupons for products not carried in our stores.

•    We do not accept internet coupons for free items with no purchase requirements.

•    All valid coupons should be presented to the cashier while you’re checking out

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Official Dollar General Coupon Policy

Dollar General is pleased to accept Manufacturer’s Coupons and Dollar General Store Coupons at any of our more than 9,000 stores.  These coupons come from a variety of sources, including, but not limited to, newspapers, magazines, print-at-home (internet), direct mail, product packaging, and in-store coupon boxes.

Our coupon requirements are as follows:

Dollar General will accept coupons, including Internet Coupons, provided they meet these requirements:

1.     Coupons must be original (no photocopies)

2.     Coupons must have a scan-able barcode

3.     Coupons must have an expiration date

4.     Coupons may be used only on products sold at Dollar General, and must match exactly to the item as it is packaged and sold at Dollar General.

5.     Coupons must clearly say “Manufacturers Coupon” or “Dollar General Store Coupon”

Dollar General will NOT accept the following:

1.     Manufacturer’s coupons that do not scan, or Dollar General Store Coupons with an invalid promotional code

2.     Expired Coupons

3.     Coupons for products not sold at Dollar General

4.     FREE Item coupon if printed from the Internet, unless a purchase is required (example: a “buy one, get one free” is acceptable).

5.     Coupons from other retailers or coupons that may be used only at other retailers

In addition, unless the coupons state otherwise, you may use multiple coupons in one transaction. You may also use a Dollar General coupon along with a Manufacturer’s coupon for the same item, as long as neither coupon states otherwise.

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Official Rite-Aid Coupon Policy (printable)

Rite-Aid gladly accepts the following coupon types as detailed below:

COUPON TYPES:

Manufacturer Coupons

·         Manufacturer coupons are found in newspapers, magazines and even affixed to products. The UPC on these coupons begins with a “5.”

Rite Aid Manufacturer Coupons

·         Rite Aid Manufacturer coupons generally appear in our weekly circular, on our website and are sent to customers via e-mail. These coupons are labeled “manufacturer coupon” and have a UPC that begins with “49.”

Rite Aid Valuable Coupons

·         Rite Aid coupons are labeled “variable coupon” and have a UPC that begins with “48.”

Internet/Print at Home coupons

·         Rite Aid will accept Internet/print at home coupons up to the equivalent value of $5.00 off.

·         A Rite Aid coupon (with the Rite Aid logo) is NOT considered an Internet coupon (even if printed off the Internet) and is therefore not subject to the $5.00 maximum.

+UP Reward Coupons

·         +UP Reward coupons are special coupons earned by a customer in a prior purchase that can be used for any non-prescription purchase with a small number of exclusions that are listed on the +UP coupon. Multiple +UP coupons can be used (subject to the printed exclusions) up to the amount of purchase before sales tax.

Buy One, Get One Free

·         We accept Buy One, Get One Free Coupons, however only one coupon can be used for each pair of items purchased. A customer can use one “cents off” coupon in conjunction with the item they are purchasing on a Buy One Get One Free promotion (or Buy One Get One Free coupon), although the value of the cent off coupon cannot exceed the selling price of the item.   Buy One, Get One Fee coupons cannot be used in conjunction with a Buy One, Get One Free promotion.

Total Purchase Coupons

·         Rite Aid may feature total purchase coupons which discount the total purchase amount based upon meeting specific requirements. For example, $5 off a $25 purchase price threshold coupon.

·         These coupons are accepted under the following conditions:

o   The coupon is valid and in date; only one total purchase coupon per transaction.

o   Total purchase equals or exceeds $25 before tax (before any coupons are applied).

o   Coupons for individual items can also be used including another “48″ coupon that is tied to an item in the transaction.

o   Provided the total of items purchased is equal to or greater than the purchase requirement, other coupons can be used in conjunction with the total purchase coupon.

ACCEPTANCE GUIDELINES:

General Guidelines:

·         Coupons must be valid and in date; Coupons cannot be exchanged for cash.

·         Register will validate coupon through scanning or keyed entry of the coupon UPC number.

·         In the event that any item’s selling price is less than the value of the coupon, Rite Aid will accept the coupon in exchange for the selling price of the item. Coupon redemption can never exceed the selling price of an item and no cash back is allowed.

·         When making a return for a product that had a coupon attached, Rite Aid cannot refund cash for the value of the coupon and cannot return the coupon that was used.

·         Rite Aid reserves the right to not accept any coupon where the validity or the coupon cannot be established.

Multiple Coupons

·         More than one coupon can be used on the purchase of a single item under the following conditions:

·         All coupons match the item being purchased.

·         The total of the coupons is equal to or less than the selling price of the item before sales       tax.

·         No more than one “48″ Rite Aid valuable coupon, one “49″ Rir, eAid Manufacturer coupon, and one “5″ manufacturer coupon can be used on a single item.

·         Rite Aid may accept up to 4 identical coupons for multiple qualifying items as long as there is sufficient stock to satisfy other customers within the store manager’s sole discretion.

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Unofficial CVS Coupon Policy

CVS does not have an “official” coupon policy, but most stores are very coupon-friendly.

CVS stores accept the following types of coupons:

1. Manufacturer Coupons (this includes both coupons from newspapers / magazines / other print sources ans well as manufacturer online printable coupons)

2. Store Coupons (including email coupons, mailers, Facebook, & coupons from the CRT machine)

3. Competitor coupons that SCAN (they do not, however, accept any other type of competitor coupon)

4. Extra Care Bucks (These print at the bottom of your receipt and occasionally from the CRT machine)

CVS allows a shopper to use one manufacturer and one store coupon per item. Extra Care Bucks are not considered coupons.

CVS does not allow overages. If there is an overage, the CVS register will beep.  Some cashiers will change the amount while others will push it through.

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Official Walgreens Coupon Policy

As a customer-focused retailer, Walgreens encourages the use of coupons by our customers in our retail stores, in accordance with the following guidelines.

Guidelines:

General

  • All valid coupons should be presented to the cashier at the time of checkout.
  • Walgreens does not accept expired coupons.
  • Coupons and their face value cannot be exchanged for cash or gift cards.
  • Competitor coupons are not accepted at Walgreens.
  • Walgreens cannot accept coupons for items not carried in our stores.
  • The number of manufacturer coupons, including Register RewardsTM manufacturer coupons, may not exceed the number of items in the transaction. The total value of the coupons may not exceed the value of the transaction. Sales tax must be paid, if required by state law.
  • Any coupon offer not covered in these guidelines will be accepted at the discretion of Walgreens management.

Sale Items

  • Walgreens will accept manufacturer coupons for an item that is on sale.
  • In the event that any item’s selling price is less than the value of the coupon, Walgreens will only accept the coupon in exchange for the selling price of the item. Coupon redemption can never exceed the selling price of an item and no cash back is ever provided in exchange for any coupons.

Multiple Coupons

  • When purchasing a single item, Walgreens accepts one manufacturer coupon and applicable Walgreens coupon(s) for the purchase of a single item, unless prohibited by either coupon offer.
  • The coupon amount must be reduced if it exceeds the value of the item after other discounts or coupons are applied. (For example, a $5.00 coupon for a $4.99 item will result in a $4.99 coupon value).
  • When purchasing multiple items, Walgreens accepts multiple identical coupons for multiple qualifying items as long as there is sufficient stock to satisfy other customers, unless a limit is specified. Management reserves the right to limit the quantity of items purchased.

Buy One, Get One Free Coupons

  • When items are featured in a Buy One, Get One Free promotion, up to two coupons can be used against the items being purchased, as long as the net price does not go below zero for the items being purchased.
  • Sales tax must be paid for any Buy One, Get One Free coupon offers, if required by applicable state laws.

Internet/Print at Home Coupons

  • Walgreens accepts valid internet/print at home coupons.

Register RewardsTM coupons

Earning Register RewardsTM

  • Register RewardsTM will only print for in-stock merchandise during the promotional period.
  • Register RewardsTM can only be earned for eligible items. No substitutions.
  • There is a limit of one Register RewardsTM (RR) printed per offer per customer per transaction.
  • Customers redeeming a Register RewardsTM against the same offer may not receive another RR.

Redeeming Register RewardsTM

  • Customers redeeming a Register RewardsTM against the same offer may not receive another RR.
  • Refer to Register RewardsTM coupon for expiration date.
  • The RR coupon value cannot exceed the total purchase amount. No cash back and no cash value for RR coupon.
  • The number of manufacturer coupons, including RR manufacturer coupons, must not exceed the number of items in the transaction.
  • Register RewardsTM must be forfeited if the qualifying merchandise is returned.
  • Register RewardsTM cannot be used toward the purchase of gift cards and pre-paid cards.
  • Register RewardsTM can be redeemed for eligible items only. Ineligible items include but are not limited to:
    • Prescriptions
    • Tobacco products
    • Alcoholic beverages
    • Dairy products
    • Lottery tickets
    • Money orders/transfers
    • Transportation passes
    • Special event/entertainment tickets or passes
    • Postage stamps
    • Gift cards/phone cards/prepaid/Green DotTM cards
    • Prescription Savings Club” memberships
    • Health care services, including immunizations
    • Any items prohibited by law
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Extreme Couponing- Step 8: Taking it to the Next Level

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Congratulations!  If you have made it this far and followed along each week of this couponing series, then I have great news:  You are officially no longer a beginner!  All this crazy couponing stuff that seemed so complicated and overwhelming at the beginning should be starting to come a lot easier and more naturally now.  You are probably starting to get pretty good at finding deals all on your own, and you may even be offering tips to your own friends and family who are wondering how it’s done.

(If you are new to my blog or new to couponing, I strongly recommend that you start with Step 1 before reading any further.  It will all make a lot more sense that way!)

From now until eternity, your weekly “assignment” will be pretty much the same:  grocery shopping, drugstore shopping, maintaining your stockpile, and keeping your coupons organized.   As long as you stay committed to doing these things, you will probably continue to see your weekly and monthly out-of-pocket expenses drop while your average percentage of savings increases.  Now that you are no longer a “beginner,” there are a few more things to keep in mind in order to take your couponing to the next level:

  1. Non-sale items will kill your percentages. You probably won’t be able to avoid having to pay full-price for things every once in a while, but to see savings above 70% at the grocery store, almost everything you buy will have to be on sale or bought with coupons.  This is why stockpiling is so important–buy as much as possible when it is at it’s cheapest, and there will be fewer things you have to pay full price for.
  2. Change the way you plan your meals. This is a hard one, especially if you are a decide-what-you-want-to-eat-make-a-list-and-then-shop kind-of person.  In fact, I still struggle with meal planning, and find that most of our meals these days are planned about 5 minutes in advance. If you are a planner, then try to plan your meals for the week around what is on sale or already in your stockpile, thereby minimizing the number of non-sale items you need each week.
  3. Work the drugstores. It takes practice and planning to get really good at drugstore shopping, but the savings you can find there will make such a difference to your overall bottom line.  Not only is it possible to save 90% or more on all your family’s toiletries and health-care items, you can also use your drugstore dollars to buy always-needed grocery staples (like eggs, milk, butter, and bread) that don’t often go on sale.
  4. Take advantage of seasonal sales. Back-to-school time is an incredible time to stock up on office and craft supplies (not to mention school supplies) for the whole year.  After-holiday sales are also a great time to get what you need for next year at rock-bottom prices.  Planning ahead will save you money in the long run!
  5. Stay organized. A little bit of effort each week to keep your coupons and stockpile organized will save you much aggravation and help keep you motivated to continue saving money.  Setting a regular shopping schedule can also help.  The more couponing becomes just a natural extension of your day-to-day life (and less of an “effort), the easier it will be to continue.
  6. Don’t burn out. Deals come and go, and there will always be more.  Don’t kill yourself trying to keep up on every deal or hit every store every week.  You will end up with way too much stuff, and you will be exhausted and frantic from fighting a losing battle.  Don’t freak out or feel like you’ve somehow failed if you do have to spend a little more an item.  Find a few great websites or blogs (like mine!) to keep up on, but don’t waste hours each day trying to find every deal.  Successful couponing is a cumulative process, not an instant fix.  Figure out how much time you have to spend each week on searching the net, gathering coupons, and shopping, and then stick to that time limit.
  7. Share the wealth.  Extreme couponing puts you into a unique position of being able to get a lot of stuff–food, toiletries, medications–for very little money.  You will probably even find that you end up with more than you need, but there are many, many people and organizations that could use those items.  I strongly encourage you to find places to donate your extras items.  Shelters, food pantries, or charities are all great options, but there are many other ways to give as well.

So even though you probably don’t need it, I am going to give you one more assignment, but one that you can continue to repeat each week, until it becomes like second-nature.

week 8 (and beyond) assignment:

  1. Make your list, gather your coupons, and go grocery shopping according to the guidelines from week three.  .
  2. Make your list, gather your coupons, and go drugstore shopping according to the guidelines from weeks 5, 6, and 7.  Again, you may want to pick a set day to do your drugstore shopping–Sunday is usually best to make sure the deals are still available.  Be sure to plan your transactions in advance, and watch your OOP costs.
  3. Keep your stockpile organized. Maintain your system when you put your groceries away.  A little effort each week can save you a lot of hassle and a big mess later on.
  4. Keep your coupons organized.

And that’s it.  If, after all this, you are still struggling, I encourage you to go back and re-read the series from the beginning.  There may be something you missed the first time around that will all become a lot clearer upon review.  If you have any specific questions or comments feel free to post them below.  I read each and every comment I receive, and I make every effort to respond and answer questions as best I can.

Extreme Couponing- Step 7: Rite-Aid

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Rite Aid is a great place to get some terrific deals. They have several great ways to really help you cut your out-of-pocket cost on your everyday essential items. It can get a little complicated, but if you take the time to understand and use their programs, you will be astonished at how much money you can truly save.

Single Check Rebate

The Single Check Rebate Program allows you to get an actual check back from items you purchase every week that qualify. You can find the qualifying products in the weekly ad or on-line. There is also a booklet featuring the monthly SCR at the front of the store next to the weekly ad.

The amount of the rebate varies per item(s), but it will always let you know the amount it the ad or booklet. After you purchase these products, hold on to your receipt. You will need to enter in to the system (on-line) to get credit.

These rebate offers tend to run monthly- but do not necessary line up with the calendar month. So like with any rebate- make sure you know the exact date the offer begins and ends.

You will first need to set up an account HERE. It is free and easy. Once you set up your account you then just follow the online prompts and enter in the requested information from the receipt. The great thing is that the system checks the entire receipt(s) and you may have rebates that you were unaware existed.

Here is the catch- you can only request ONE Single Check Rebate Check per month- so you can enter your receipts as you go, but make sure that you do not actually click on the “Request Check” button until you are sure you will have no other receipts to enter for that time period.

The cool thing about this program, unlike Walgreens Register Rewards or CVS Extra Care Bucks that are only good for redemption at the given store, Rite-Aid actually sends you a check that you can cash/ deposit at your bank.

ALSO: I want to mention that Rite Aid does impose limits on products that qualify for the Single Check Rebate . For example if Huggies Diapers are on Single Check Rebate (limit 1)- it means that you will only get reimbursed for one pack even if you buy more. The weekly ad will tell you what the limit is for any given product

Rite Aid Video Values

Another cool thing that Rite Aid is their Video Values or AdPerks Program (aka Rite Aid Video Values). You watch short videos (usually a minute or under) and then when the video is over you have to enter the special code given within 20 seconds. For every video you watch, you will earn a Rite Aid store coupon for the that product (featured in the video) PLUS you will earn credits towards a $5/$20 Rite Aid store coupon. You can create an account and start earning your coupons HERE.

The great thing about the coupons you earn, is that, since they are store coupons, you can combine them with manufacturer coupons for extra savings.

Rite Aid $/$ Coupons

It seems that Rite Aid is always releasing a $/$ coupon on-line. (for example $5/$20). Always keep an eye out for these, I will always post a link if I know of one.

Rite Aid: Gift Card for Pharmacy Transfer

Always check your Rite Aid weekly ad. More often than not, you will find coupons for transferring your prescriptions, unlike most places that only allow you to transfer one per customer- Rite Aid allows you to transfer 2. So you can earn TWO $25 Gift Cards or $50.

Rite Aid Weekly Ad

Make sure you also check the weekly ad for in-store coupons. These flyers come in your Sunday Paper or can be picked up at the front of the store, unlike Walgreen’s, you can not access and print these coupons on-line. Since they are Store Coupons you can stack them with manufacturer coupons for extra savings.

Rite Aid Wellness+ Program

If you haven’t joined already, enroll online now to start saving money and earning points towards bigger rewards. If you already have your card, you just need to activate your wellness+ online account to fully enjoy all the benefits of wellness+, starting with a coupon good for $5 off your next purchase of $25 (while available)

Plus you earn points every time you shop- even on non-prescription purchases (like cosmetics, diapers, pet care, etc) and you earn 25 points for every prescription you purchase. You collect these points to redeem for rewards like a member discounts, shopping passes, free health screenings and more.

PLUS, ENJOY EVERYDAY BENEFITS, INCLUDING:

-Members-only sale pricing throughout the store

-10% off Rite Aid Brand products every day

-24/7 exclusive access to a pharmacist when you call

It is free to sign up. (Or you can sign-up at your local Rite Aid Store Register)

Up+ Rewards Program

The Up+ Rewards are similar to the Walgreen’s Register Rewards Program. Every week select products can earn Rewards. Typically it is one per customer unless otherwise stated. Once you purchase the eligible product(s), the reward(s) will print out on the bottom of your receipt. You can use these rewards on a future purchase.

In order to qualify for the Up+ Rewards you will need to have a Wellness Card and present it before making the purchase. The great part about this program as there is currently no limited to the number of Up+Rewards you can redeem in a purchase so long as pre-tax total is greater the redeemable reward amount.

You can not retain any left over value…so for example if your total purchase is $1.75 and you use a $2 Up+ Reward, you will not be able to retain the $.25. Also, the are not transferable and they do expire.

Getting the Most Savings

Personally, I think that the Rite Aid programs can probably wind up saving you the MOST amount of money. Especially on things like diapers and formula. Diapers are often on Single Check Rebate and Formula is a high-priced item that will get you up to the $20 or $25 mark quickly so you can use those $/$ Coupons.

For example: If Similac Formula is priced at $23.49 a can, you can use a $5/20 Rite Coupon, along with a $5 Similac Rebate Check and you have saved $10 on your formula cost.

Here is another example. Let’s say that Prilosec OTC is priced at $25.00 this week and has a SCR amount of $6.00. Let’s say there is also a $3/1 Manufacturer Coupon available and you have a $5/$20 Rite Aid Store Coupon. Total Initial OOP $17, but then you submit for the $6 SCR and your Actual OOP is $11! You paid $11 for a $25 Medication! That is over half off.

Also, to make the most of your $/$ you will have to do multiple transactions. Usually, stores do not have a problem with this as long as you aren’t doing a dozen different transactions and they are not busy. Just simply ask if it will be a problem to do multiple transactions before you get started.

Now you will have to sit down and really map out your deals, but with a little strategic thinking you can really save big at Rite Aid. Happy Shopping!

week 7 assignment:

  1. Make your list, gather your coupons, and go grocery shopping according to the guidelines from week three.  By now your stockpile should be getting fuller.  You can still feel free to stock up on any item that you use regularly, so long as it is on sale for at least 50% off, but you may want to start getting a little more selective with your shopping, focus only on the very best deals or the things you really need.  If you feel very motivated, you can repeat this process for multiple stores.  Again, the more stores you shop at, the faster you will build up your stockpile since different stores have different sale cycles.
  2. Keep your stockpile organized. You worked so hard to get your stockpile set up; reward yourself this week by taking care to maintain your system when you put your groceries away.  A little effort each week can save you a lot of hassle and a big mess later on.
  3. Check out Rite-Aid.com. Create an account, learn to navigate the site, and start earning video values rewards.
  4. Go on a field trip to Rite-Aid. Consider it a dry run.  Go to whichever store you plan to shop at most often, and pop in for a quick visit and tour, and to sign up for a Rite-Aid card, if you don’t have one already.  It may sound silly, but trust me, it helps (a lot!) to know where things are.  There is a lot to keep track of on a high-savings shopping trip–your shopping list, your coupons, unplanned for in-store coupons, unadvertised specials and clearance items (not to mention your kids, if you are forced to drag them along!)–and you will save yourself a lot of aggravation and time by knowing where to find things.  Make a mental note of the food section, the baby aisle, the supplement, shaving, eye care, oral care, and hair care areas, which are all sections you will probably need to find frequently.
  5. Make your list. For making your Rite-Aid list, I recommend http://www.savingwellspendingless.com/Here are some guidelines to go by:
    1. Check ALL items that are free or less than free after Video Values, SCRs and UpRewards.
    2. Check any other items that you want or need.  Look for savings of 70% or more after coupons and ECBs.
    3. Print your list.
  6. Create your Transaction Scenarios. Rite-Aid has even more variables to saving than either Walgreens or CVS, so for your first week, I wouldn’t recommend doing more than about 2 or 3 items or more than 1 or 2 transactions.  Once you have printed your list, play with the different items to come up with a way to spend the least amount of OOP money.
  7. Go shopping. Again, I try to always do my drugstore shopping on Sundays, the day the sale starts.  Some weeks it doesn’t matter, but when there is a really hot deal going on the stores can sell out quickly and it is frustrating to spend a lot of time creating your scenario, only to have it all fall apart because one of the items you’ve planned for is gone.

Can you believe there’s only one week left?

Stay tuned for next week’s assignment and, as always, please post any questions or comments you may have below.  I do read all my comments, and I make an effort to respond and answer questions as best I can.  If you have a specific Rite-Aid question, I will try to find the answer for you, or perhaps another reader will be able to help as well.

Extreme Couponing- Step 6: CVS

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Now that you have gotten your feet wet with drugstore shopping, you are probably anxious for more!  After tackling Walgreens and trying to wade through all those crazy rules, you will be relieved to know that CVS, for the most part, is a lot more straightforward.

(If you are new to my blog or new to couponing, I strongly recommend that you start with Step 1 before reading any further.  It will all make a lot more sense that way!)

Like Walgreens, CVS features a variety of sale specials each week that will earn you ExtraCare Bucks (ECBs) to be used on other items.   Most weeks there are at least one or two items that are free after ECBs.  The nice thing about ECBs is that they are much less restrictive than the RRs at Walgreens.  However, in order to participate in the ECBs program, you must sign up for an ExtraCare card.  It is free to sign up, but it allows CVS to put limits on the number of items you can buy to earn ECBs.  (If there is no CVS in your area, I apologize.  We will be covering Rite-Aid next week.  In the meantime I still encourage you to read this week’s post, since next week will continue to build on this week, as well as participate in the non-CVS related part of the assignment below.  Or, if you prefer, you can skip ahead to next week’s lesson.)


As I explained last week, drugstore shopping is a little more complicated than grocery shopping because you usually need to plan multiple transactions in order to maximize your savings and minimize your OOP (out-of-pocket) costs.

Cheryl, of Simply CVS shares some of her vast knowledge on getting started at CVS.  If you have a CVS in your area and would like to get serious about  saving money there, you should definitely her website Simply CVS.

Here is what Cheryl had to say:

 1. Sign up for a CVS Extra Care Card. The card is necessary to receive sale prices and to participate in the CVS extra care buck program. You can either do this online at CVS.com and they will mail the card within two weeks, or you can pick up a form and a card at any CVS store and start saving the same day.

a. As soon as you get the card register it online with an email address and you will receive a $4 off a total purchase of $20 or more coupon in your email. You will then receive emails throughout the year, often with coupons.

2. Extra Care Bucks, or commonly known as extra bucks, are the basis for the large savings possible for shopping at CVS. Extra bucks are coupons received at the end of the receipt and are like extra “bucks” when shopping at CVS (they must be used with the card they were issued for). There are a few restrictions for what they can be used on: stamps, alcohol, prescriptions, tax and tobacco all the ones I know of. Extra bucks can be used on other extra buck deals and even on the same deal if the limit is more than one. Extra bucks are earned in three different ways and usually expire within 30 days.

a. Quarterly extra bucks are issued four times a year and are calculated on the shopper’s spending. Two percent of the amount spent on most items is earned in extra bucks (some restrictions apply). This is after coupon price—the total paid on the receipt. They are also issued in 50 cent increments so the shopper must spend $25 to get any quarterly extra bucks and then it increases in $25 spending increments or $.50 in extra bucks.

b. Quarterly extra bucks are earned for prescriptions filled. Along with the 2% quarterly extra bucks, shoppers receive $1 for every two prescriptions filled.

c. Weekly deal extra bucks are issued immediately when a shopper buys an advertised “extra buck” item. These range from “free after extra buck items” like “buy Toothpaste @ $2.99 get $2.99 extra bucks back” to “buy $15 worth of products listed and receive $5 extra bucks back.” There are limits, usually one or two, for weekly extra buck deals.

3. Manufacturer coupons and CVS coupons can be combined. CVS accepts manufacturer coupons (including internet printables if they will scan) as well as issues their own coupons. CVS coupons are emailed, sent in the mail, found in various publications or tear pads, issued at the Kiosk where shoppers can scan their cards, and printed at the end of receipts. You can use one CVS coupon and one manufacturer coupon per product. Extra bucks do not count as coupons so can be used on top of these. It is actually possible to “make money” shopping at CVS by using CVS and manufacturer coupons to pay for an item that will issue more extra bucks back than cash used to pay for the product. CVS also often issues total order coupons such as $5 off a total order of $30—the $30 is pre-coupon price.

4. Numerous transactions are helpful in spending the least out-of-pocket cash. Using extra bucks on other extra buck earning deals is commonly referred to as “rolling extra bucks.” The beauty of rolling extra bucks is it helps you spend less out-of-pocket cash. You can check out numerous times each week, using the extra bucks earned from transaction #1 on transaction #2 and so on. This is also the way to keep the expense down from week to week. As you continue to shop at CVS your extra bucks will slowly build up and you will be able to virtually keep spending the same extra bucks over and over again, because each time you use them on new extra buck deals you receive more with a later expiration date.

5. CVS issues rain checks for most advertised deals. If an advertised item is out of stock, and the ad does not state no rain checks issued, CVS will issue a rain check for the sale price AND the extra buck amount, if one is included, to be used by the customer when the store is restocked.

a. CVS rain checks never expire.

b. The Extra Bucks will be printed manually by the cashier after the purchase is made.

c. Rain Checks are great to save for when a great coupon comes out for the product, you have extra bucks expiring and there is no current sale that interests you or to have when you get a $5/30 to help you get up to the $30 total needed to use the coupon.

Your assignments are probably starting to seem a little repetitive, and there is a reason for that:  successful coupon shopping requires consistency and follow-through.  If you are serious about it (which, if you’ve made it this far, you probably are), you will need to get used to setting aside a certain amount of time each week for gathering coupons, organizing your coupons and stockpile, making your lists, and shopping.

week 6 assignment:

  1. Make your list, gather your coupons, and go grocery shopping according to the guidelines from week three.  Like last week, since right now you are working on your stockpile, feel free to stock up on any item that you use regularly, so long as it is on sale for at least 50% off.  Eventually you will be able to get more selective with your shopping and focus only on the very best deals, but at the beginning 50% is a great goal to shoot for.  If you feel very motivated, you can repeat this process for multiple stores.  Again, the more stores you shop at, the faster you will build up your stockpile since different stores have different sale cycles.
  2. Keep your stockpile organized. You worked so hard last week to get your stockpile set up; reward yourself this week by taking care to maintain your system when you put your groceries away.  A little effort each week can save you a lot of hassle and a big mess later on.
  3. Go on a field trip to CVS. Consider it a dry run.  Go to whichever store you plan to shop at most often, and pop in for a quick visit and tour, and to sign up for a CVS card, if you don’t have one already.  It may sound silly, but trust me, it helps (a lot!) to know where things are.  There is a lot to keep track of on a high-savings shopping trip–your shopping list, your coupons, unplanned for in-store coupons, unadvertised specials, clearance items (not to mention your kids, if you are forced to drag them along!)–and you will save yourself a lot of aggravation and time by knowing where to find things.  Make a mental note of the food section, the baby aisle, the supplement, shaving, eye care, oral care, and hair care areas, which are all sections you will probably need to find frequently.  Also check if there is a special clearance section somewhere (usually hidden near the back of the store), and determine where the in-store coupon machine is located.  If there are more than one stores of the same chain nearby, do this for all the stores you plan to use, as the layout can vary from store to store.
  4. Make your list. For making your CVS list, I highly recommend http://www.savingwellspendingless.com/ Here are some guidelines to go by:
    1. Check ALL items that are free or less than free after coupons and ECBs.
    2. Check any other items that you want or need.  Look for savings of 70% or more after coupons and ECBs.
    3. Print your list.
  5. Create your Transaction Scenarios. Once again, for your first week, I wouldn’t recommend doing more than about 4 or 5 items or more than 2 or 3 transactions.  Once you have printed your list, play with the different items to come up with a way to spend the least amount of OOP money.  Like Walgreens, the goal is to earn ECBs on your first transaction that can then be spent on your next transaction, and so on.  Always try to start with one or two items that are free or less than free after coupons and ECBs.  Save your last transaction for sale items that don’t produce any ECBs or any other needed items on your list.  Be sure when you create your scenarios that you write down how many of each item to purchase, which coupons to use, your estimated total after coupons, and how many ECBs you will be getting back.  ECBs are usually good for about a month, so you can save them for your next trip as well.
  6. Go shopping.  The first thing you should do when you walk in the store is scan your card at the in-store coupon machine to see what comes out.  Be sure to scan multiple times, until the screen reads “no more coupons available today.  While you are shopping, take note of any items that match up to those coupons.  Sometimes there are freebie deals to be had!  Once you’ve gathered your items, take a few minutes before checking out to organize your coupons and your items into transaction piles. Be sure to politely tell the cashier you will need to do several transactions, and be willing to get back in line if there are a lot of people in the store.    Unlike Walgreens, your ECBs will print at the bottom of your receipt.  (If you are using the ECB for your next transaction, you will have to tear it off.)  Finally, be sure to check that all your ECBs print and match up to the scenarios you have prepared.

And that is another week down–only 2 more to go!

Stay tuned for next week’s assignment and, as always, please post any questions or comments you may have below.  I do read all my comments, and I make an effort to respond and answer questions as best I can

Extreme Couponing- Step 5: Walgreens

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Up to this point, our main focus has been on grocery store savings, and hopefully by now, with several weeks’ practice, you feel like you have a firm grasp on the process of making your list, gathering your coupons, and tackling the store.  Your pantry stockpile is filling up nicely, and you’re not only starting to understand the process, you also understand the theory behind the process.

(If you are new to my blog or new to couponing, I strongly recommend that you start with Step 1 before reading any further.  It will all make a lot more sense that way!)

It is now time to take your coupon shopping to the next level and start to tackle the drugstores.  Because this is the baby-steps coupon program, we are going to take it slow, and start with just one.  This week our focus will be on Walgreens.

Drugstore shopping is a little more complicated than grocery shopping.  It requires a lot more planning and forethought, since not only do you have to make your list and gather your coupons, you also need to plan your multiple transactions in order to maximize your savings and minimize your OOP (out-of-pocket) costs.  In the case of Walgreens, there are also a lot more “rules” to remember.  It can be a little overwhelming at first, but it is also a lot of fun.  And the rewards are incredible.  Whereas a really, really good trip to the grocery store will mean a savings of maybe 70%, a really, really good trip to the drugstore can mean a savings of 90% or more.

You have now had 3 good weeks of practice at grocery shopping with coupons.  Your stockpile should be filling up nicely and your list of needed non-sale items should be starting to shrink considerably.  This week you are going to continue grocery shopping and building your stockpile, following the shopping guidelines from the previous two weeks, and then try your hand at drugstore shopping.

week 5 assignment:

  1. Make your list, gather your coupons, and go grocery shopping according to the guidelines from week three. Like last week, since right now you are working on your stockpile, feel free to stock up on any item that you use regularly, so long as it is on sale for at least 50% off.  Eventually you will be able to get more selective with your shopping and focus only on the very best deals, but at the beginning 50% is a great goal to shoot for.  If you feel very motivated, you can repeat this process for multiple stores.  Again, the more stores you shop at, the faster you will build up your stockpile since different stores have different sale cycles.
  2. Keep your stockpile organized. You worked so hard last week to get your stockpile set up; reward yourself this week by taking care to maintain your system when you put your groceries away.  A little effort each week can save you a lot of hassle and a big mess later on.
  3. Go on a field trip to your closest Walgreens store. Consider it a dry run.  Go to whichever store you plan to shop at most often, and pop in for a quick visit and tour.  It may sound silly, but trust me, it helps (a lot!) to know where things are.  There is a lot to keep track of on a high-savings shopping trip–your shopping list, your coupons, unplanned for in-store coupons, unadvertised specials; clearance items (not to mention your kids, if you are forced to drag them along!)–and you will save yourself a lot of aggravation and time by knowing where to find things.  Make a mental note of the food section, the baby aisle, the supplements, shaving, eye care, oral care, and hair care areas, which are all sections you will probably need to find frequently.  Also check if there is a special clearance section somewhere (usually hidden near the back of the store).
  4. Learn the rules. Print a copy of the Walgreens coupon policy, and be sure to keep it handy Coupon book.  Here are the Walgreens “rules” you will need to know:
    1. You must have at least as many items as coupons used in a transaction. Register Rewards (RRs) are considered coupons.  Thus, if you are planning to use 5 coupons and 2 RRs in a single transaction, you must purchase 7 separate items.  If you were only planning on buying the 5 items you had coupons for, you will need 2 small “filler” items in order to use your RRs.  I usually find good fillers (like $0.05 pencils) in the clearance section.
    2. Most Walgreens registers will not accept a coupon that has a higher value than the item being purchased. Even though this shouldn’t make a difference to the store (since they are reimbursed by the manufacturer), for now when this issue arises, the cashier or manager will have to either manually push the coupon through (unlikely) or change the price of the sale item to match the coupon value so that it is still free, but not a moneymaker.   Hopefully Walgreens corporate will find a way to resolve this issue.
    3. When “stacking” a Walgreens store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon, always hand the cashier the store coupon first.  Depending on the item, sometimes the register will not accept a store coupon after a manufacturer’s coupon has been used, so it is just a good general rule of thumb to follow.
    4. There are restrictions on which items you can purchase with your RRs. For example, RRs are also not valid for purchasing milk.
    5. Register Rewards cannot be used to pay sales tax, and you MUST use the full amount of the RR.  If something is $0.99 before tax and you have a RR for $1, it will not work, even if your total after tax is $1.07.  In this case, you would have to use a small filler (like a $0.05 pencil) to make it work, and your total OOP cost would be approximately $0.12 (the cost of the pencil + tax).
    6. Most items will allow only 1 RR per transaction, and that RR cannot be used to purchase the same item. If you want to purchase multiples of an item, you will have to do them all in separate transactions that are alternated with other items.
  5. Make your list. I highly recommend using http://www.savingwellspendingless.com/, to make your drugstore lists.  They are straightforward and easy to follow, highlight the week’s best deals at the top of the list, and have a nice printable option.   While you are just getting started, here are some guidelines to follow:
    1. Check ALL items that are free or less than free after coupons and Register Rewards.
    2. Check any other items that you want or need that are a savings of 70% or more after coupons and Register Rewards.
    3. Print your list.
  6. Create your Transaction Scenarios. For your first week, I wouldn’t recommend doing more than about 4 or 5 items or more than 2 or 3 transactions.  Once you have printed your list, play with the different items to come up with a way to spend the least amount of OOP money.  The goal is to earn RRs on your first transaction that can then be spent on your next transaction, and so on.  Always try to start with one or two items that are free or less than free after coupons & register rewards. Save your last transaction for sale items that don’t produce any RRs or any other needed items on your list.  Be sure when you create your scenarios that you write down how many of each item to purchase, which coupons to use, your estimated total after coupons, and how many RRs you will be getting back.
  7. Go shopping.  Drugstore shopping is great to do on Sundays, the day the sale starts.  Some weeks it doesn’t matter, but when there is a really hot deal going on the stores can sell out quickly and it is frustrating to spend a lot of time creating your scenario, only to have it all fall apart because one of the items you’ve planned for is gone.  Once you’ve gathered your items, take a few minutes before checking out to organize your coupons and your items into transaction piles. Be sure to politely tell the cashier you will need to do several transactions, and be willing to get back in line if there are a lot of people in the store.  Pay close attention as you check out to make sure your totals are similar to what you had anticipated on your scenarios, as well as to make sure that your RRs print out.  (RRs will print out on a separate Catelina machine located next to the register.  If for some reason a RR doesn’t print, be sure to point it out right away.  The cashier will probably have to get the manager.  RRs can fail to print for a variety of reasons–the machine is offline, out of ink, turned off, or gets tricked because you paid with a RR that was the same amount as the one that is supposed to print. In all of these cases, the manager should be able to issue you a new one or give you the same amount in cash.)

And that’s this week’s assignment. Compared to last week, it probably seems like a lot, and after reading this tutorial you may be hesitant to venture into the drugstore realm. I promise that the savings you find will make it worth the effort!  Coupon shopping does take some time at first, but it does get faster and easier as time goes on.

Stay tuned for next week’s assignment and, as always, please post any questions or comments you may have below.  I do read all my comments, and I make an effort to respond and answer questions as best I can.

Extreme Couponing- Step 4: Creating a Stockpile

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By now you should be starting to feel pretty confident about your coupon skills.  You’ve created a system for organizing your coupons, you’ve mastered the process of making your shopping list, and you are even getting good at filling your cart with sale items, and then making sure they ring up correctly.  You’re starting to save a lot of money on your grocery bill, and you like it.  You may even be surprised at how fun and addicting using coupons can be.

(If you are new to my blog or new to couponing, I strongly recommend that you start with Step 1 before reading any further.  It will all make a lot more sense that way!)

Up to this point, we have mainly focused on the “how” of using coupons–how to get organized, how to make your list, how to shop, how to check-out.  It has all been very practical, step-by-step advice on the physical process of saving money with coupons.  But in order to take your coupon savings to the next level, you have to also understand the “why.”  Delving into the “why” too soon can just be confusing, too much information all at once.  But now that you’ve got the basics down pat, I think you’re ready to delve in a little further.

Saving signficant money with coupons happens only when you change your whole way of thinking.  Most people, (including me, pre-coupons), simply make a list of what they need before going to the store, and then buy what’s on the list, regardless of whether it is on sale.  Savvier shoppers may try to pick the cheapest brand, or even make an impulse buy on a sale item, but the general process is the same.

Coupon shopping is completely different.  The goal is to buy as few “needed” items as possible, while mostly just stocking up on the items that are on sale.  The key is to stock up when items are at their lowest price.  Done cumulatively and consistently, week after week, you will soon have a well-stocked and pleasantly varied pantry of food to choose from.  As your stockpile grows, you will find that your list of “needed” items goes down each week, resulting in lower and lower grocery bills each week.

After 2 weeks of coupon shopping, you may even have managed to get your stockpile off to a good start.  This week you are going to keep working on building that stockpile, following the shopping guidelines from last week, as well as work on creating a functional stockpile somewhere in your home.

week 4 assignment:

  1. Make your list, gather your coupons, and go shopping according to the guidelines from week three.  Since right now you are working on your stockpile, feel free to stock up on any item that you use regularly, so long as it is on sale for at least 50% off.  Eventually you will be able to get more selective with your shopping and focus only on the very best deals, but at the beginning 50% is a great goal to shoot for.  If you feel very motivated, you can repeat this process for multiple stores.  The more stores you shop at, the faster you will build up your stockpile since different stores have different sale cycles.
  2. Create your stockpile pantry. Spend an afternoon reorganizing your pantry in a way that makes sense to you.  Be sure to put the newest items in the back so that you use up the older products first.  It is much easier to stay organized if you start organized, so before your pile of food becomes completely overwhelming in the next month or two, I highly recommend giving some thought to your system.  Make your food items easy to spot and grab so that when you are planning your meals, you have no trouble finding an item.  If you don’t have a pantry, try to make space somewhere else.  Is there some space elsewhere in the house you can clear out, perhaps in the garage or a closet in an unused bedroom?  Don’t be afraid to get creative!  Trust me, you’ll need the space.
  3. Do some research on stockpiling & the “why” of couponing. There are a lot of great couponing websites & blogs out there, and I have tried to sift through them to find you some great articles that explain sales cycles and stockpiling better than I could.  Read as many or as few as you like, or just keep this list handy to refer back to later.
    1. How to Create a Stockpile (with video) from LivingWellSpendingLess.com
    2. Guide to Sales Cycles for Rock Bottom Prices from GroceryCouponGuide.com.
    3. Stockpiling: Making a Plan from PassionforSavings.com
    4. How Understanding Store Sales Cycles Leads to Huge Savings from PayLessforFood.com

And that’s it for this week:  shop, stockpile, research.  It might seem like a small assignment, but be prepared to spend several hours preparing your list, gathering your coupons, and doing your shopping (especially if you decide to go to more than one store), and depending on how organized you already are, getting your stockpile in order may be a challenge.

Stay tuned for next week’s assignment and, as always, please post any questions or comments you may have below.  I do read all my comments, and I make an effort to respond and answer questions as best I can.

Coupon Lingo

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If you are brand new to coupons, you may feel like you’ve entered a whole new world, complete with it’s own language.  Fear not!  Here is a list of common coupon terms, explanations, & acronyms to help you decipher the codes and navigate this money-saving adventure.


$/$$-dollars off when you buy x amount of dollars

$/x-dollars off when you buy x number of items

Blinkies-In-store Smart Source coupons (come from little machine next to product)

BOGO/B1G1-Buy one, get one free

Catalina-coupon printed from a special machine at the register after a purchase; usually handed to you with your receipt.

CNP-Coupon Near Product–usually a coupon found in the store next to the product.

Competitor’s Coupon-A store coupon from one store that is used at a competing store.

Double Coupon-Coupon that the store doubles in value.

ECBs-Extra Care Bucks (from CVS stores)

FAR-Free After Rebate

GM-General Mills (newspaper insert)

IP-Internet Printable

K-Kellogg’s (newspaper insert)

MFR or MQ-Manufacturer’s Coupon

MIR-Mail In Rebate

OOP-Out of Pocket

P&G-Proctor & Gamble (newspaper insert)

Peelie-A coupon attached to a product that you can use immediately

Q-Coupon

RP-Red Plum (newspaper insert)

RR-Register Rewards (from Walgreens stores)

SCR-Single Check Rebate (rebate system at Rite-Aid)

SS-Smart Source (newspaper insert)

Stack-to use multiple coupons for a single item.  At most stores you may use 1 store coupon and 1 manufacturer’s coupon per item.

Store Coupon or SQ-a coupon published by a specific store to be used at that store.

Tear Pad-a stack or pad of coupons or rebates located near a product in the store

UP+-Up Reward (Rite Aid Stores)

WYB-When You Buy