Store Loyalty Cards

I used to be very selective with the stores that I got a loyalty card from, and for good reason.  Companies having my personal info just steps away from filling my mailbox with junk mail and my inbox with spam didn’t seem worth it to me.  Truthfully, from what I have seen, it seems like lots of stores have a loyalty card just to fit in with the other tons of stores with them.  They haven’t really offered too many benefits to signing up.  The way I see it, if a store is going to get all my info short of a blood sample, then they better be prepared to offer up something in return.  Then…I started couponing.

Now my key ring has around 20 different cards on it!  But now that I’m actually paying attention, alot of those emails that fill your inbox are about specials and sales, but here and there they will send awesome coupons that are only available to those who have their loyalty card, or those who have signed up to receive their emails.  A great example of this is, at CVS a few weeks ago, those who has signed up to get CVS emails got a coupon for a case of Pepsi for only $0.99!  Cases usually go for around $4 regular price.  Talk about an awesome deal!  So…if you don’t mind sorting through the “rough” to get to the “diamonds”, then  go ahead and sign up for the emails and the loyalty cards.  It really does pay off in the end.

Here are a few of my favorites that offer the really good rewards:

CVS

Staples

Best Buy

Sally Beauty Supply

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All moved in

We are finally moved into the new house and are sort of settled.  Except for, of course, those boxes that seem to linger filled with random, miscellaneous things that don’t really have a specific place.  The boxes are filled with things that you don’t really need on a daily basis, but you know that someday you will need them, and that possibility keeps me from throwing out things like picture hanging wire, and fishing line.  The truth is, everything in those boxes could be purchased for less than $5, so why can’t I just throw them out and free myself of the clutter?  When I think about it, I can imagine myself needing fishing line and instead of going to the miscellaneous box, I can see just getting in my car and going to buy more instead of even looking in the box.  Why?  Because the box always ends up in an inconvenient place and you forget about it…until the next time you move.

Back in Massachusetts, where I’m from, there are basements, which award you with one whole floor of storage space for things like these miscellaneous boxes.  Here, in Florida, there is no such space.  We have a garage, but our garage has our cars in it, so there isn’t a whole lot of room for boxes.  So, for now, my miscellaneous boxes are still sitting in my living room.   I look at them everyday, but just like moving, I dread opening them up and going through all that stuff because going through it would mean I’d have to find a home for all these orphaned items.  So instead they sit and taunt me from the corner.

Well, now that we’re all moved in, I can get back to blogging on a regular basis.  So, stay tuned for more of my crazy tales of attempting to save money.

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My first coupon funeral

Today, for the very first time, I had to clean the expired coupons out of my binder.  It was filled to the brim with great multiples of high value coupons just waiting for me to walk out of the store with a cart full of free stuff.  Only, for some, the deal never came.  Sniffle, sniffle.

Ok, I am fully aware of how cookoo I sound, but it’s really hard to throw away expired coupons.  Especially the really good ones, like $4 off this or that.  Man…that’s a killer.  Or even worse when I look at the flyers for the upcoming week and see an item on sale, only to realize that the coupon I had for that item just expired.  UGH!  Double killer!

As much as sending expired coupons to their final resting place kills me, there is a little ray of sunshine in this story of sorrow and loss.  Most CVS stores will honor expired coupons up to a month past their expiration date!  How sweet is that!  The only problem that presents is, what to do with all those expired coupons that I don’t want still hanging around all the good coupons and tempting me to use them at another store.  So, I did was pull a few of the expired ones for items that are regularly on sale at CVS and I put them in a special tab in my binder for CVS coupons.  That way, I know they are not to be used at any other store.  This 30 days past the expire date is kind of an unofficial policy at CVS which I think is kind of up to the managers discretion, so I wouldn’t go in to your CVS with a stack just yet.  You should probably give them a ring before you head out to save yourself the trouble, or so you can call another CVS close by to see if you can use them there.   I’m really lucky that the manager at my CVS is married to a couponer, so he tends to be really sympathetic to our cause.  CVS is a very coupon friendly store anyway, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a location nearby that’ll work with you.

Once your 30 days past the expire date has gone by, believe it or not, there is still life in those coupons.  US service members and their families that are stationed overseas are able to use coupons that have past their expiration date by 6 months at their on base commissary.

While in the Air Force, I met an amazing girl who quickly became one of my best friends.  We met in basic training and went to tech school together in Maryland.  After school she got stationed in New Mexico and I headed to North Carolina.  While she was at her first duty station, she fell in love and got married to a fellow airman.  Well, she ended her enlistment at the end of 4 years, but the man she married had plans to make the military his career and she soon found herself shipping out to Germany as an Air Force wife.  I am so happy to be able to give my expired coupons a second life by sending them out for her to use.  On the couponing forum site WeUseCoupons.com there is even a forum for commissary matchups!

If you have decided to start couponing and you find yourself up to your eyeballs in expired coupons, the Krazy Coupon Lady has set up an Overseas Coupon Program where she will ship out your expired coupons for you in one big bundle.  They will get distributed at on base commissaries and BX or PXs (BX=base exchange, Air Force store for all non food items, PX=Post exchange, ARMY store for all non food items).  You can find all the info, including rules to go by here: http://thekrazycouponlady.com/coupons-for-military/

I guess that softens the blow of getting rid of all those coupons.  Maybe I’ll survive afterall.

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Check Out Survival Tips

Well folks, we survived the move…barely.  Did I mention that there isn’t much I hate more than moving?  The up side is we moved into a home that I am absolutely in love with, and on our 2nd day in the house there was already a neighborhood kid that stopped by to introduce herself to the kids.  I just got internet hooked up in the house today, so I thought I’d follow up on my last post and give you the ins and outs of register check out with coupons.  Here is the much anticipated post…

When I get ready to check out at the register with my envelope of coupons in hand, it is super stressful.  I know it sounds strange that using coupons would make someone sweat, but when you plan out every purchase, cost of each item, clipping and sorting coupons to use for each item and total savings, that’s alot of time & energy to have invested in one thing.  Then to have all that control freak (did I just admit that?)  like energy handed over to a complete stranger and all that energy just creates a knot in your stomach as you await the grand total.   I think it’s the lack of control that causes the most stress for me when I check out at the store.  The register will give you more or less savings depending on the order to present items, coupons, and your loyalty card, sometimes it beeps for no reason, locks up, or requires manager approval, all very stressful things for someone who has planned out how each item will impact the overall purchase.

The cashier is another huge source of stress for me.  Choosing the wrong cashier can have a huge impact on your savings, and how you choose can also impact your stress level.  There are a bunch of reasons why you may run into a cashier that is less than pleasant with you when you come to their register with a stack of coupons.  A few of them could be:

  •  They are just having a bad day.  Yes, cashiers have bad days too
  • They are afraid of losing their jobs over a couponer scamming them
  • They take your savings personally on behalf of the company, feeling as if you are stealing from them.  Most do not know that the manufacturer reimburses the store the value of the coupon plus 8 cents.
  • people don’t tend to accept what they don’t understand
  • fear that you know the coupon policy better than they do
  • misconceptions about couponers
  • Bad couponers giving the rest of us a bad name

There’s a few things that I’ve learned through good and bad experiences that will help to make your transactions go (hopefully) more smoothly, & will make both you and the cashier happy.

  1. Come to the register prepared.  Did you bring your OCD?  Well if you didn’t, then you aren’t prepared. lol!  Have your coupons in order, have your transactions organized, know which purchases qualify for register rewards or other incentives.  After I make my list,  will get all my coupons together, separate them by paper clipped transaction and put them in an envelope labeled with the store name. While shopping, if you grab any items that aren’t on your list and you have a coupon in your binder for it, make sure you figure out which transaction it’ll be in, and add that coupon to your envelope in the right stack.  More on this in an upcoming post.
  2. Have a good attitude Coming to the register prepared also means coming with a good attitude.  People can sense frustration and when you’re stressed out.  They can also see it on your face if you’re anticipating a problem.  No one wants to deal with a grump, so don’t be one yourself.  The best way for me to do this is to leave the kids at home, if I can.  They just cause me so much stress when I’m in the store and I’m trying to calculate any last minute savings in my head, or if I’ve added unplanned items to my list.  Oh…and my kids never shut up. I don’t mean quality, what did you do at school type talking…no, I mean completely random, talking just to hear their own voices, unending quantity type talking. I want to duct tape their mouths closed when I have to shop with them.  I wonder if they have coupons for duct tape?
  3. Make a Friend Being helpful, sociable, chatty…these are all techniques (in couponing, yes, these are techniques) that I use to get the cashier on my side BEFORE I hand over the coupons.  If, during conversation, you have something in common, refer to that thing the next time you get them as a cashier.  Read the cashiers name tag, and call them by name…several times.  This lets them know that you took the time to recognize them as an individual and an actual person,  it gives them a personal connection to you, and it also burns their name into your memory if you have trouble with them.  If there’s a coupon or deal that they comment on that you have extras of, share.  They will never forget you, and it will pay off.
  4. Profile your Cashiers Ok, I know this sounds really bad, but it will make a huge difference in your ability to get through the check out drama free.  Most couponers will suggest going to a check out line with a young guy cashier because they don’t care about your coupons, or you, or anything but their date on Friday night.  This has actually been the opposite for me.  I’ve had more trouble going this route, so I have my own plan of attack.  I will walk by the open registers and quickly give a look to see if there is a cashier that I’ve successfully used coupons with before.  I will also be looking at how the other cashiers are interacting with their current customer.  If I’m out of luck finding a cashier I am familiar with, I will choose the cashier that I judge to be the friendliest.  I will also go to a man first, over a woman.  I don’t know what it is, but I think women are just so catty, and  I get alot of attitude from women cashiers.  It’s almost as if they are mad that I am saving so much money, why?  Because they have nothing else to be mad about at the moment.  Not that I’ve ever been in one of those moods.  Also, go with younger over older, just my experience. Anyway, after a really short amount of time, you’ll have your favorites and most likely one of them will be working at any given time.
  5. Be Nice, but Don’t be a Push Over You have to channel the inner mama lion when you head to the check out, but she doesn’t have to come out right at the get go.  You are using coupons for a reason, right?  I haven’t heard of one couponer who uses coupons only because they are available.  Everyone I’ve heard of who is a serious couponer has started or continued because of financial hardship, and having more mouths to feed than dollars to spend.  So, remember why you’re there.  Yes, you’re there to buy cereal, but you’re also there to feed your family.  There’s something primal about a mother using coupons to provide for her family.  That primal mama in me has come out on more than one occasion at the registers, leaving my kids embarrassed and hiding behind my cart but here’s the thing… you remember that old saying “You catch more flies with honey”?  Well, here’s my version, “You can use more coupons with a smile”.  Ok, that was stupid…but you get the point.  You have to know when to walk away…know when to hold em, know when to fold em.  AHHHH ok enough with the stupid cliches!  Can you tell it’s 1:30am?

So, folks the moral of the story is, don’t blog at 1:30 in the morning.  No, no, no…the moral is, learn from your experiences.  If you have a bad experience at the grocery store today, ask yourself what went wrong.  What could YOU change to make it go smoother next time.  Many times that will mean that you were either unprepared, or you just picked a bad egg for a cashier.  It’s all a learning experience.  Just remember, if a cashier won’t accept a coupon, you don’t have to buy the product…have them remove it from your bill.  If you know that coupon and the deal is legit but you just can’t make it work, just come back another time and choose someone else.

A super important side note:  I am a HUGE believer in letting management know when a cashier or other employee has been coupon friendly, or otherwise really good at their job.  I’m famous for asking employees where to find sale items, because I find that alot of the time they are put in a special promotional area, but that area isn’t usually consistent.  I find it easier and quicker to just ask instead of wandering the store for one missing item.  The employee that shows me to the item can make all the difference in my shopping experience vs the employee to doesn’t make eye contact and points in the general direction of about 100 other things.  The grocery store closest to me, Winn Dixie, always has a huge amount of floor staff, and more importantly, I’ve never met ONE that has hesitated to show me to an item that I couldn’t find.  Even if there were a store closer, I would still drive the extra distance to go to this particular store, it’s that good, and management should hear that a loyal couponer appreciates that about their store.  And even though it can be a bit of a pain, I will go online and answer every survey link that is given to me on my receipts.  Not only do most offer the opportunity to win money, but this is an opportunity to go above the manager and let the corporate know that cashiers that are educated about coupon policies, and make the check out experience a pleasant one can make or break your loyalty.  I always name the cashier that checked me out, and I will point out why I thought they were great, or what it was that made check out difficult.  Most managers genuinely appreciate feedback, and those who don’t well…that’s what the online survey part is for.

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Packing Day aka Losing My Mind Day

Today is normally the day I use to finalize my shopping list for my Sunday morning drug store shopping.  Usually I make a tentative list earlier in the week from the sale matchups on Saving Well Spending Less, because Ruth, the mom who runs the site, gets those matchups posted earlier than anyone else that I’ve found.  So I use Saturday to go over my tentative list, double check my calculations, and then I go to my binder to start pulling the coupons I need.  I start with my list for Walgreens and I pull all the coupons I need for that trip.  Then I put the list, and the coupons in an envelope that I label with the store name and I put it in my binder.  Then I do the same thing with the CVS list.  But, today…no list for me…sniffle, sniffle.  Today, I’m packing while hubby is at work, so we can move tomorrow.

We decided to go with Penske for the truck rental, and I’m really glad we did because when I went to pick up the truck this morning the lady at the counter really gave us the hook up.  We had needed to rent the truck for 3 days, returning it on Tuesday morning.  Well, the lady told me that because the office will be closed tomorrow, and then on Monday because of the holiday, we are getting those days for FREE!  I almost embarrassed myself and the kids by doing the happy dance right there in the office!  So, that little deal saved us about $150!  In the words of my little coupon buddy…JACKPOT!

So…this week the savings will have to wait.  I do have to tell you about an amazing coupon that my youngest daughter found while we were at Winn Dixie the other day.  We were waiting to talk to the Grocery Manager about my Magic Eraser special order and Maddie saw a display with a tear pad on it filled with coupons.  So she pointed it out, and when I looked I was so excited to see it was actually a coupon to save $2 on fresh meat!  It is super rare to find coupons for meat or produce so I was psyched!  The coupon states that you must buy 1 Kraft BBQ sauce, and 1 of three other items, Kraft Mayo, Miracle Whip, or A1 Sauce.  And the best part… all three of those items are BOGO at Winn Dixie this week!!  So I am going to save a ton on meat this week!

I bought a stand up freezer on Craigslist the other day for only $75, which we’ll put in the garage at the new house, so all this meat will fill that new freezer up pretty nicely!!  Can’t wait!  You can tell I’ve gotten old when I get excited about a coupon and a new freezer…(rolling eyes)

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OMG! I have to brag!

———————————————————————————————————————————————————–

ADDENDUM 5/17:

Ok world, I think I may have done something wrong.  I’m adding this note the day after my big haul that I got for free at Walmart because after doing a little more research, I have read alot of opinions on the web that say using 2 BOGO manufacturer coupons on 2 items is wrong because you have to purchase an item.

So here’s my opinion on the subject…Although I’ve read all the explanations on the subject, I’m not sure I agree.  I truly do not see how what I did was any different than using a BOGO coupon with a BOGO sale.  The manufacturer pays the store for the items regardless, so I don’t understand the difference.  It’s completely possible that I am just not getting it.  If anyone can break it down for me, that would be awesome, because I’m just not seeing it right now.

With that said, I used this combo using what I thought was good judgment based on what I knew to be true of the couponing “rules”.  Considering that it is the opinion of alot of my peers that it wasn’t legit, until I can find the info to back up my opinion, I won’t use this combo again. 

So, read the following post knowing that what I had done may or may not be considered a legit use of coupons, and you shouldn’t use this combo without knowing for sure.  There was no intentional coupon fraud, if that is in fact what happened.  The truth is, I was operating out of my best knowledge, which may have been wrong.

-Jen

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I went to Walmart with my little man aka my coupon buddy, and I cannot believe  how much I saved.  This is the most savings I have ever gotten since I started couponing almost 2 months ago.  Let me tell you what I bought…

Old Spice Body Wash in Assorted Scents: reg price $3.48 ea

I used 6 BOGO coupons on 6 bottles of body wash.

Total Regular Price: $3.48 x 6 =$20.88    Price Paid: FREE!

+

Right Guard Deodorant: reg price $3.47 ea

I used 8 BOGO coupons on 8 sticks of deodorant

Total Regular Price: $3.47 x 8 = $27.76  Price Paid: FREE!

+

Gillette Mach 3, 3 Pack of Razors: reg price: $6.87 ea.

I used 4 BOGO coupons on 4 packages of razors

Total regular price: $6.87 x 4= $27.48  Price Paid:  FREE!

I purchased $76.12 worth of products and only paid $5.57 in sales tax…and that’s it!

So how did I do it?  Many people don’t know that you can use 2 coupons when there is a BOGO sale, even though one of the items is free.  Well, it works the same when you have a BOGO coupon.  If you have 2 BOGO coupons, then you get both items free.  Or if there is a BOGO sale and you have a BOGO coupon, again, you get both items free.

Here’s an example of how I did it:

  +    =  FREE!

If you want to try to get a deal like this, the biggest thing you need to do before you even leave the house is, you’ve got to check your stores coupon policy.  Even better, you should go ahead and print it out to keep a copy on you when you go to the store trying to pull off a deal like this.  There are two reasons:

  • I’ve found the majority of cashiers have no clue what the coupon policy is.
  • This deal seems too good to be true, so usually the cashiers first instinct is to turn you down.

My favorite couponing website has a fantastic list of a bunch of store coupon policies, you can check to see if your store is in her list here.  If your store isn’t listed, just do a google search for “coupon policy” with the name of the store and you’ll get a ton of results.

You really need to go into the store confident when you plan on pulling off a deal like this.  If you are questioning the math behind it, there is no way a cashier is going to believe you when you explain that it is in the policy that a coupon can be used on a free item as part of a BOGO deal. The reason why using 2 BOGO deals is ethical, is not cheating, and is totally allowed is because:

  • The manufacturer will reimburse the store the full price plus 8 cents for each coupon
  • Coupons are a form of payment, much like a check

The cashier that rang me up today thought I had lost my mind.  She immediately bucked up and told me that I needed to actually “purchase” an item to get one free, in a not so nice tone.  I have to admit, it’s kind of hard to keep a calm and friendly when the person on the other side of the register is looking and talking to you like you are a crazy person or like you are trying to “steal” from the store.    But I have learned really quick that if you want to walk away with the deal, you HAVE to keep your cool.  So, the cashier tells me she’ll have to call a manager over, so I said ok with a smile.  When the manager came over, she explained the situation in her way, then I explained that I had told her that you can use a coupon on a free item.  He told her to ring me up and I WON! Woo hoo!  It’s super nerve wracking standing there, you against the register, the cashier, the manager…if I get out of the store with my planned savings I feel like I survived a mine field.

So the manager walked away and I basically walked the cashier through how to ring the transaction.  Then I tried to pay for it (just the tax), and the register beeps.  The transaction required a manager approval.  It was like…good god, don’t give them another reason to turn me down!  This has happened to me before, and it apparently happens when you have used coupons and saved more than 50%.  I swear it’s just a built in mechanism to make us couponers sweat just one more time before they take our money.

Well, after all the drama, I had a handful of coupons for Gilette Body wash, & Gilette Deodorant that would end up with 1 body wash at full price, 1 body wash for $1.27 and 4 deodorants for free.  I didn’t end up using them because Logan was losing his patience by the time I got to them on my list, but they were expiring on May 31st…so I asked the cashier if she had a man at home that uses Gilette?  She says that she does, so I handed her the coupons and taught her how to use them.  She lit up.  I had won her over.  The next time I have a deal like this I will be able to go to her and I know she’ll remember me. Not for the hassle, but for hooking her up with a bunch of free stuff!

The moral of the story is, it’s really important to take care of the people that take care of you.  My cashier didn’t give me a hard time purposely, the truth is, she didn’t know any better.  I cannot blame her for lack of education.  If her managers don’t make it a priority to train their cashiers in the coupon policy, I cannot blame them for not being familiar with it.  You have to always have a good attitude and always be willing to go above and beyond to be kind.  The fact of the matter is, cashiers are terrified by all the new extreme couponers out there with their binders walking around trying to get things for free.  They are afraid that someone is going to scam them and they will lose their jobs.  This is not exactly the best economy to lost your job in, so I can understand why they act the way they do…in general.  Every once in while you come across a grump that is just pissed that you’re getting stuff for free…so in my next post I will get into how to be a cashier profiler.  How to pick the cashier to ring your order with the least amount of headache…stay tuned.

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Moving sucks!

I am officially surrounded by cardboard boxes as far as the eye can see, in preparation for the big move into the new house this weekend.  Am I excited about the new house?  I sure am!  And am I excited about packing all our possessions into boxes to move them 7 minutes down the street…not so much.

I think the worst…well, one of the worst…parts of moving is the limbo land you are in when you are faced with the dilema of what to pack while you are still living in your current house.  For example, I got motivated and started packing up some of my kitchen stuff…then I realized how much I use those things that I had just packed.  Then I thought about it and I use everything in my house…so how on earth to I pack early to get a jump on the big move?  I think the answer is that I can’t.  So I decided to tackle some of the things that I can do that will help with the move, even if it isn’t packing.

The first thing I did was tackle the kids clothes.  UGH…what a nightmare.  Before we moved to Florida I had a dozen people in close vicinity that I could give my hand me downs, so I could hand over a grocery bag here and there as I came across clothes that no longer fit the kids.  Well, since moving here the kids have apparently done alot of growing and not giving a little away at a time like I used to has resulted in a big accumulation of clothes that don’t fit anymore.  I also noticed that when the girls were younger, my little one would accept hand me downs from my older daughter with no problems.  Well, now they have both adopted their own personal styles (opposites of course) and the hand me down train has come to a full stop!

After going through all the kids clothes I was able to fill 3 huge bins to the top and I decided I was going to attempt to make some money from these clothes, and if I couldn’t then I would donate them.  My first thought was ebay, but the truth is listing clothes is a big pain in the butt and I don’t feel like taking the pictures, loading them to the computer, then listing them….UGH!  Three bins worth of clothes would have me listing items on ebay till I’m old and grey.  So, then I remember hearing about a kids gently used clothing store here in FL that pays money on the spot for any clothes they choose to take to add to their inventory.  I found the closest location about an hour and 45 minutes away, which is quite a haul but I had to go to the Apple store to get some work done of my Mac anyway and that’s the closest location…so off to Orlando I went with Hubby driving and my little man in the backseat.

I guess this store is super picky about what they take because out of my 3 bins full of brand name, stainless, hole-less kids clothes, they only took 23 items which they gave me $37 for.  So, I am really happy I didn’t make the long drive just for this because I spent just as much in gas getting there as they gave me.  And in the end I wound up using the money they gave me to buy shorts and some summery tops for the kids.  So I walked away with $0 and an empty tank of gas.

So, what to do with the rest of the clothes…I plan to bring them to a traditional consignment shop here in town to see if I can make any money off them there.  That way, whatever clothes don’t sell they will donate for me.  Now…if I can just find the time to get there…

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