Our First Couponing Weekend

by Kevin on February 4, 2009

I mentioned on Sunday that we were going to experiment with getting the Sunday paper for coupons alone. I’ve heard a lot about clipping coupons and saving money at drug stores like CVS and Walgreens. We set out with a plan that if this didn’t work after about a month or so we would stop. We would be out roughly $8 in newspaper costs, plus any premium we pay to buy an item at a drug store that might be less elsewhere (Wal-Mart, Target, generic at Publix, etc.).

We got up on Sunday after not having that great of a night’s sleep and decided to sleep in and skip church. After we eventually got up I went online, visited Hot Coupon World (which despite the quirky name seems to be the best free place to find out about all of the deals), and made a list.

I broke up my list by store, and then by what sort of deal the store was offering. For example, Walgreen’s has something called the Easy Saver Program. It is a monthly deal booklet and it offers some items for free after rebate. The monthly book is full of coupons. Any rebate you claim can be added to a Walgreen’s Gift Card and they will add 10%. So if you get a rebate of $3 and choose to put it on the gift card, you end up with $3.30.

But Walgreen’s also has a weekly flyer that goes in all of the papers. Each month you’ll have four sets of deals (weekly flyers) as well as the monthly deal book. CVS is set up in a very similar fashion.

This may seem unimportant at the surface, but the people at Hot Coupon World are able to get their hands on the upcoming weekly flyers ads several weeks in advance. When I checked on Sunday they had not only this week’s ad, but next week’s, the week after, and pretty much all of March. Some of the ads aren’t scanned in, but the deals are listed. You can use this information to plan ahead and know what is coming up. You may see a coupon in your paper that is completely useless this week, but in two weeks there is a Buy 1 Get 1 Free (also known as BOGO) offer where you can save some real money.

Walgreens:

  • Tide $13.99 – $3 Easy Saver rebate
  • 3/$1 hosiery (regularly 2/$1)
  • Walgreen’s reusable shopping bag 3/$1 (regularly $1/each)
  • Oral B replacement toothbrush for electric on sale for $17.99 – $3 monthly coupon) = $14.99 (regularly $20-22)
  • Sponges x2 $3.79 – $0.75 manufacturer’s coupon (mfc) BOGO = $3.04 for two
  • Loreal makeup products BOGO $10.49
  • Pert shampoo $3.49 – $1.50 monthly – $1 coupon
  • Softsoap body wash $4.49 – $1 coupon
  • Total on receipt: $53.30 w/tax
  • Walgreen’s Gift card previous balance $6.21
  • Out of Pocket (OOP) $47.09

At first it seems like wow, we spent a lot of money. Let’s run down what we bought. Was it worth it? I wasn’t expecting to buy the Tide, but I asked my wife and she said we usually pay around $13-14 for it, so a $3 rebate is roughly 20% off. I’m okay with that. We had been meaning to buy reusable bags to take to the grocery store and things like that so we don’t have to use plastic or paper bags.

We weren’t planning on buying the replacement toothbrush heads as my wife recently purchased some, but as I noted above they are regularly $20+ for 3. The ones we bought had been marked down and we saved a solid 25% off of the regular price.

We needed sponges and were able to pair a manufacturer’s coupon for 75 cents off of two with a buy one get one free deal.

The Loreal makeup products were priced higher at Walgreen’s than they are at Target. My wife said she could normally get them for $8 each. But! Since it was a BOGO deal, instead of paying $16 or so for two we ended up paying $10.49 for two. We still saved money. Alas, after we got home I discovered a $2 Loreal coupon that we missed in the paper. Better luck next time.

CVS:

We didn’t get as much as we had planned at CVS, but at least we got to sign up for their Extra Care card and get started. We were only able to do the buy 2 Dove products, get $2 in ECB (Extra Care Bucks that can be used on your next purchase within 30 days). We spent $11.46 after tax and got $2 in ECB. We planned to also buy 3 Brita pitcher filters that were on sale as well and use a $1 printable coupon. Normally the filters are $18-20 at Wal-Mart. The deal was $17.99 plus $5 in ECB. Add in the coupon and they would cost us $16.99 and we would have $5 extra to spend on our next trip. But they were sold out of filters. Boo.

Apparently occasionally you use your Extra Care card an extra coupon or discount prints off at the bottom of the receipt. These can range to coupons for specific products to overall money off if you spend a certain amount. We got the coveted $4 off when you spend $20 coupon to use by the end of March.

I think the key for our first try is we didn’t buy anything that we wouldn’t normally buy. Buying products you never intend to use is just a waste of money. I’ll be writing more in the future as I gain more experience in this area of frugality.

Does anyone else play the drug store game?

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Philip February 4, 2009 at 8:49 am

No I have not done it, and I think my sentiment towards it is about the same as yours. It would be nice to get close to the deals that you see some people getting. When someone buys $100 worth of stuff for 5 bucks makes it tempting to try it myself.

I will follow and see what you do this month to decide if I want to start trying to mess with it.

Jenna February 4, 2009 at 9:00 am

The first shopping trip is always the most expensive.

I just do CVS and have had really good success — we now get all of our personal and cleaning products from there. The key is to look at the ads ahead of time and plan out your trip.

Also- keep to a budget. I try to spend less than $10/week out of pocket.

Shanna February 4, 2009 at 9:21 am

I, too, shop at CVS and Walgreen’s. Most of the time I do very well and save quite a bit of money (every now and then I goof and spend more than intended), but as Jenna said, you really have to study the weekly ads and monthly Easy Saver catalog (Walgreen’s) and the weekly ads and monthly ECB (extra care bucks) flyer [CVS]. Since you are so new to this shopping concept, I would recommend you visit Crystal at http://www.moneysavingmom.com for a good overview on how to do the “drugstore game” type of shopping. I use my drugstore purchases to stock up on items that I know I will use at some time in the future, even if I don’t need them right this minute. I have a space set aside to store these extras (toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, conditioner, razors and extra blades, soap & body wash, make-up, etc., etc.), so when we run out of an item, I only have to ‘shop’ my storage space. I have also been able to purchase or get nearly free several items that I personally wouldn’t use but I can donate them to my local ministry center to help those in need. Sometimes $25 can go further by getting a lot of usable items at a terrific discount than by just giving a cash donation. It takes time, but anything worthwhile takes time.

Amphritrite February 4, 2009 at 10:51 am

Hello 🙂 Congrats on your first forray into the mess. It sounds like you’ve got a decent plan on getting started!

I’m a stockpiler, a coupon-clipper, AND a drug-store game player.

Here’s a few tips:

– Take a deep breath and don’t go too hard, too fast. Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to hit all the “deals”.

– Set a budget. My DSG budget (as in, extra I can spend), is about $10 each month to take care of OOP. Since getting my gift cards, I haven’t needed to spent the $10, but who knows…I might need it someday.

– Keep an eye on the blogs! As mentioned above, moneysavingmom is an awesome one. There’s also one out there called “I <3 Wags” with some awesome rundowns, pictures, and total counts for walgreens-specific runs.

– Even if you don’t plan on going shopping one week, remember to pick up your newspapers. I buy three each week (if it’s a 4 or 5 circular weekend, I might buy four). You won’t often USE the coupons for several weeks.

– Finally, stay AWAY from the processed food coupons unless it’s something your family uses. Do not be tempted to purchase foods that are awful for you just because you can get them free or almost free. Maintain a healthy diet.

I’ll keep an eye on you 🙂 If there are any coupons your family could really use from past newspapers, drop me a line, and I’ll see if I still have them in my circulars (since I’m only one person, I often have random extra coupons).

Lisa February 4, 2009 at 11:00 am

OOO! I was excited to read this. I too, just bought my first Sunday paper for coupons, grabbed out all the flyers, and planned my shopping week on Sunday. I shopped at Walgreens the first time the other day, and before coupons it was almost $70. After the flyer coupons, AND manufacturer coupons for many of the same products, I walked out spending only $35. I was so proud of myself! I did the same at Pathmark, and netted myself $80 in savings. Now I didn’t just have the Sunday coupons, but also scrambled all over the web to find coupons for things that were on sale, that I could use. This is my new hobby now. I bought my family of 3 enough for two weeks (plus some almost free toiletries bargains for surplus) for $91. It usually costs close to $200.

Good luck! Sounds like we’re both on the fast track to saving some money! 🙂

Start-Up February 4, 2009 at 12:32 pm

In addition to moneysavingmom, I also recommend http://www.thethriftymama.com

both sites list the weekly and monthly deals for CVS and Walgreens. You’d be amazed at how many deals they find with no money out of pocket

Stephanie PTY February 4, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I seek out the completely free-after-rebate items at Walgreens, and I only get the things that I will actually use. Right now, I don’t want to stock up on much of anything, since I know I’ll be moving within the next year (hopefully)… and I don’t want to have to move any more stuff than I have to! Once I move, I’ll get more into things like the drugstore game.

Kevin February 5, 2009 at 8:38 am

Everyone: Thanks for all the great comments! Our next planned purchase is the 3 pack Brita filters (if they get them in stock). They are $17.99. I have $2 ECB and a “get $4 coupon in mail with $20 purchase”. I plan to get CVS cottonballs ($1.99) + some small piece of candy to get my total over $20. Should be interesting. Really hope that have it in stock. Anyone know what to do if the item is never in stock? Is there such a thing as a rain check?

@Philip: I’ll try to regularly update how much we’ve spent total and keep you all updated on our progress.

@Jenna: I plan to get even more organized because I just noticed on the forums that they have the ad scans for like all of March (how is that possible?). Going to use that to plan everything out.

@Shanna: Thanks for the tips!

@Amphritrite: The OOP is the concern. It definitely takes some time to build up your giftcard/ECB balances. A little bit of initial investment to get started, etc.

@Lisa: Should be interesting to see how we both progress.

@Startup: Thanks for the links.

@Stephanie: Good thinking with moving costs 🙂

Lisa February 5, 2009 at 9:51 am

Kevin,

I just ran to Foodtown to pick up some pasta sauce and the Colgate toothpaste that was on sale. The sauce was.74 and the Colgate was .88. The Colgate was completely out, and the cashier actually told me to go up to the courtesy desk and get a rain check. It never even occurred to me. Best of all, I have some $1 off coupons for regular Colgate, so I’ll go in next week when they replenish. 🙂

I also read on another board that CVS and Walgreens both do rain checks as well. Not sure if all stores do, but hey, it’s worth asking!

Amphritrite February 5, 2009 at 11:45 am

Kevin,

Regarding the “never in stock” issue… It’s a good idea when you play the DSG to come up with a contingency plan. SOME really nice stores will give you a raincheck on the price, but rarely do they give you the ECBs (CVS) or RRs/ESRs (Walgreens) that go with it. Walgreens seems to be especially…well…asinine about it.

Also, keep in mind that Wags is rumored to be shutting down the ESR/RR program at the end of the month; don’t get too ahead of yourself this month.

Epicview February 18, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Hi Kevin,

I just saw this deal at CVS. Buy a Green Dot Prepaid card for $9.95 and get a $10 credit when shopping at a participating store by 3/20/09. Seems like you can get some cash back when combined with the rebates, sales and ECBs. I’ve posted the link at my website. http://tinyurl.com/fbd-tendollarsfree
Hope you find it useful.

Epicview February 18, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Update on CVS Green Dot Prepaid card deal. $9.95 is just the ACTIVATION FEE! You have to add more of your own money to have any credit on it. Plus there is a $4/month maintenance fee. Sorry for referring such a bad deal.

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