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Today’s Top Coupons: Get Ready for Back-To-School Bargains!

It’s time for Back-To-School Bargains to start showing up in ads, even though “Back-To-School” will probably mean a lot of different things for kids this year.  Whether they go to school or learn from home, though, kids are still kids and kids gotta snack!

Today’s Top Coupons!

 

Save $1/2 General Mills Cheerios Cereals (exp. 7/18)

Save $1/2 General Mills Chex Cereals (exp. 7/18)

General Mills cereals are currently on sale at Kroger under the Buy 5, Save $5 banner.  Sale price is $1.79 each.  Buy 5 and they’re $1.59 each.  Use this coupon and the price drops to $1.09 for each 8.9-12oz. box.

 

Chips Ahoy!  Nothing goes better with one of those little cartons of milk than Chips Ahoy! cookies.  If they’re learning from home this year, go ahead and give them a glass of milk.  They won’t even notice if you set it down next to a plate of Oreo cookies.

$.75/2 Nabisco Cookie or Cracker Products 3.5 oz + (8/8/20)

Chips Ahoy! cookies are on sale at Kroger this week for 2 for $5.  Use this coupon and they’re just $2.13.

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Meat Prices Breaking Your Budget? Try These 5 Foods Instead!

As meat prices continue to rise it’s almost impossible to put even a simple meal of Manwich and french fries on the table. Even ground beef is sky high these days. How do you serve your family a nutritious meal without breaking your budget? Here are five foods you can serve that are just as tasty, and even a little healthier.

Eggs

Using eggs as a substitute for meat doesn’t mean you have to serve scrambled eggs for dinner. There are lots of things you can do with eggs. Make deviled eggs. Put boiled eggs in a salad. Make egg salad sandwiches. Add an egg to your fried rice. Make an omelette or quiche. Just one egg has 6 grams of protein.

Get Egg Coupons Here

chicken of the sea tuna coupons

Fish

Yes, tuna counts! So far, tuna prices seem to be unaffected. A 12 oz. can of Chicken of the Sea tuna runs around $3 to $4 and it contains 11 grams of protein. Add tuna to your salad or make tuna salad sandwiches. Whip up a hearty tuna casserole or just stir a can of tuna into your kids’ mac & cheese.

Get Chicken of the Sea Coupons Here

Beans

Ah, beans, beans, the magical fruit. But let’s not forget how nutritious those little guys are. One cup of beans has 8 grams of protein! If your family cringes at the thought of a simple bean soup for dinner, try sprinkling garbanzo beans on a salad or make a batch of humus. Even chili without the meat is delicious and baked beans aren’t just a side dish.

Get Bush’s Baked Beans Coupons Here

Almonds

Almonds? Who wants to eat a handful of nuts for dinner, right? Wrong! One ounce of almonds has 11 grams of protein. Just 23 almonds covers your recommended daily amount of protein. Sprinkle them over your salad. Have them for a snack on Meatless Monday. Add them to your banana bread. Put them in your smoothie.

Yogurt

Did you know there are 85 grams of protein in a cup of yogurt? If meat prices are busting your budget, try adding yogurt to your breakfast menu instead of bacon. Substitute plain yogurt for half the mayonnaise in your salad dressings. Add it to your smoothies. Top it with granola for a tasty snack or hearty breakfast.

Get Yogurt Coupons Here

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Flipz Pretzels Coupon Deal Just $.49 at Kroger

Flipz Pretzels Coupon Deal

This Flipz Pretzels Coupon Deal is too good to pass up.  Get Flipz Pretzels for just $0.49 at Kroger right now and stock up your snack cupboard.  And, you can bet your boots I’m stocked up on these coupons.  Whether they’re the milk chocolate dipped or the white chocolate fudge, please do not stand in my way!

Here’s how the Flipz Pretzels coupon deal works

Regular price is $3.49 for the 7.5 oz bag.  On sale until 7/10/20

Currently on sale at Kroger for $1.99 when you buy 6 or more qualifying products

We have a Smartsource coupon for an additional savings of $.75 per bag, which brings the price down to $1.24 each.

Find Flipz Pretzel Coupons In Our Shop!

Then, submit to Ibotta for an additional $.75 off (up to 5 bags) and your final price is just $.49!

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Combat Rising Grocery Prices During The Pandemic

rising grocery prices during covid 19

If it’s been a while since you ventured into your local grocery store, prepare yourself.  You’re in for a shock.  And I’m not talking about the empty shelves and plexiglass barriers.  I’m talking about sticker shock.  Everybody’s talking about how you can protect yourself and your loved ones from Coronavirus.  What we need to talk about today is how to beat rising grocery prices during the pandemic and how to protect your wallet.

Here’s What’s Getting More Expensive

Brace yourself, this isn’t pretty.  Grocery prices aren’t just gradually increasing, they’re racing through the stratosphere.  According to a May 14, 2020 article at CNN on the grocery index:

  • Egg prices shot up 16.1% last month
  • Milk, bread and juice prices rose 1.5%, 3.7% and 3.8%, respectively
  • Fruit prices were up 1.5%, led by apples (4.9%) and oranges (5.6%)
  • Chicken shot up 5.8%, fresh fish soared 4.2%, and hot dogs got 5.7% more expensive

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This ground beef at Kroger?  It used to be around $14.00.  The price has increased by 34%!  And it’s only 73% lean!

rising grocery prices during the pandemic

How To Beat Rising Grocery Prices During The Pandemic

Change the way you look at your shopping list

Be prepared to shop for substitutions for items on your list.  Many of the items you regularly buy will be out of stock, now.  For example, people all across America have decided to use their time during lockdown learning to bake bread.  Good luck to you if you like to keep a few packets of yeast in your pantry, you won’t find it anywhere.

Many of the items you regularly buy will be more expensive, too.  For example, my family likes to keep those Knorr Pasta Sides on hand and they’re usually priced at 10 for $10 at my local Kroger.  These days, they’re $1.25, which makes them not such a bargain anymore.

Go ahead and make your shopping list like you always have but look at it as more of a “Want” list instead of a “Need” list.  You are not going to find everything you have on your list and if you do, it’s definitely going to be more expensive.

Change your family’s eating habits

Like I said, most of the things you normally put on your shopping list are going to be a bit more expensive.  I’d like to be able to say, “Buy THIS instead of THAT” but you just don’t know what’s going to be in stock and at what price these days.

Instead, look around at what’s in stock at a price you can afford and work it into your family’s meal plan.  Grocery stores are set up so that the most popular items are at eye level and that’s where are the empty spaces are.  Look around and you’ll find lots of inexpensive alternatives.

Change the way you plan your meals

Maybe it’s time to forget about Taco Tuesday and the family feast on Sunday.  These days you can’t be inflexible in your meal plans because that taco seasoning is probably out of stock and… have you seen the price for a roast lately?!  If you want to save money you have to be willing to pivot on a dime.  Focus on just feeding your family a healthy, nutritious meal that won’t bust your budget.

Be prepared to shop

If you normally shop the perimeter, now’s the time to branch out and explore the rest of the store.  For example, my family likes a particular brand of frozen orange chicken.  The last time I shopped it was out of stock but as I was exploring the store I found the same item in two other locations – in stock!

The price on chicken these days is outrageous.  That big yellow sticker might quickly put an end to your plans to make chicken pot pies for dinner.  Explore the frozen food aisle.  You might find plenty of stock on Marie Calendar’s chicken pot pies and they’re were cheaper than if you bought all the ingredients and made them yourself.

Start using grocery coupons

Reports vary but the average consumer can expect to save 25 – 35% when they use grocery coupons.  With the right coupons and a well-planned trip you can save 50 – 75% or more.  (Here’s an example of how we saved 83% with coupons!)

I know, I know… You don’t have time to look for coupons and sort coupons and clip coupons and I agree.  These are very stressful times we’re living in and everyone’s schedule has been hijacked.

But the fact is, each one of those little coupons means you’re spending less money at the grocery store.  They add up.  And saving money on staples means you have the money you need to pay for things like meat, eggs, and milk.

If lack of time prevents you from being able to put a nutritious meal in front of your family, let a coupon clipping service do the work for you.  Visit The Happy Couponer Marketplace where you’ll find coupon clippers from all over the United States, ready and willing to help you combat those rising grocery prices during the pandemic.

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How To Choose The Best Coupon Clipping Services

how to choose the best coupon clipping services

 

When you’re looking for the best coupon clipping services, why stop with just one or two?  You’ll find dozens, right here under one roof, when you visit The Happy Couponer Marketplace!

We’re All Here for YOU!

The Happy Couponer Marketplace is an organization of dozens of nation-wide coupon clipping services with the largest selection of manufacturer’ grocery coupons on the Internet.  Our sellers are located all across the United States, in every major marketing area.  If you’re looking for those hard-to-find high-value regional coupons you’ll definitely find them here.  And, whether you order from one seller or multiple sellers, your coupons will all ship directly to your door.

How Do You Choose the Best Coupon Clipping Services?

You really don’t have to choose – we’ve already hand-picked the best of the bunch for you!

It’s hard to choose the ‘best’ coupon clipping services because we think every one of our clippers is ‘The Best.’  Each of our vendors must comply with our strict guidelines to provide fast, accurate shipping and stellar customer service.  We closely monitor each and every order that comes across the site to make sure all customer orders are filled accurately and promptly.  Sellers who don’t live up to our own high standards are swiftly removed from the site.

Our sellers are also completely transparent.  When you view their individual listings you’ll find everything you need to know.  They tell you how many coupons you’re going to get, the expiration date on those coupons, the Sunday coupon insert they came from, and if those coupons have any limitations for use.

And best of all – you’ll find no hidden shipping or handling fees at check-out!

Our Same-Day Shipping Policy

All orders placed by 1 pm EST Mon-Fri are guaranteed to ship the same day.  Orders placed after the cut-off times are guaranteed to ship on the next USPS business day, excluding Sundays and holidays.  And shipping is always free!

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Sunday Coupon Inserts for Sale

Sunday coupon inserts for sale at The Happy Couponer Marketplace

If you’re looking for Sunday coupon inserts for sale, you’ve come to the right place.  Forget about buying all those extra newspapers.  Each week you’ll find the newest Smartsource, RetailMeNot and P&G inserts right here at THCM days before you even get your Sunday paper.

Sunday Coupon Inserts for Sale

How much money do you spend buying extra Sunday newspapers every week just so you can get the inserts?  If you’re buying more than 2 papers a week you’re wasting your money.  You could be buying whole inserts in bulk quantities at a fraction of the cost.

You’ll find the most recent whole Sunday coupon inserts, every week.  If you frequently buy whole inserts you’ll want to bookmark that page now so you can always find what you’re looking for.

When do we list the new coupon inserts?

We have several vendors who regularly have Sunday coupon inserts for sale.  Each vendor has his own source, so their new listings are posted at different times.  Generally, RetailMeNot inserts start rolling in to the site on Wednesday afternoon.  Smartsource and P&G inserts start showing up on Friday.  If you don’t see what you’re looking for, keep checking back.

How many coupon inserts can you buy?

Our vendors sell inserts in a variety of popular lot sizes, ranging from 3-5 of each to 25, 50 or more.  At The Happy Couponer Marketplace we have no order limits, so order as many as you like.

Same Day Shipping!

All orders placed by 1 pm EST Mon-Fri are guaranteed to ship the same day.  Orders received after those cut-off times are guaranteed to ship the business next day, excluding Sundays and holidays.

Always Free Shipping!

Even if you order hundreds of Sunday coupon inserts each week, shipping is always free.  Many of our vendors also ship via USPS Priority Mail and provide you with a tracking number!

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49 Things To Do With Lucky Charms Cereal!

lucky charms coupons

You remember Lucky Charms Cereal, right?  Of course you do.  They’re magically delicious!  But who knew there were so many things you could do with Lucky Charms cereal?  Aside from the obvious, dumping it in a bowl and dousing it with milk.

If you’ve been on the fence about picking up some of our $.75/1 General Mills Cereal coupons, hesitate no more.  Sure, it’s a great deal to get $.75 off a box of cereal or $1.50 if your store doubles.  But maybe you’re thinking you don’t need 10 or 15 boxes of cereal right now.

Let me assure you – Yes.  Yes you do!

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and we’re already thinking about Irish-themed parties.  What’s more Irish than Lucky Charms Cereal?  (If you said, ‘Green beer’, we agree, but this is a family website so let’s keep that to ourselves.)

Lucky Charms Trivia

Did you know that the marshmallows in Lucky Charms are meant to represent Lucky the Leprechaun’s magical charms?

  1. Hearts – power to bring things to life
  2. Shooting Stars – power to fly
  3. Horseshoes – power to speed things up
  4. Clovers – luck, but you will never know what kind of luck you’ll get
  5. Blue Moons – power of invisibility
  6. Rainbows – instantaneous travel from place to place
  7. Balloons – power to make things float
  8. Hourglass – power to control time

And here’s another interesting bit of trivia:  The creator of Lucky Charms  came up with the idea after a visit to the grocery store in which he decided to mix Cheerios with bits of Brach’s Circus Peanuts!

Another Inspiring Pinterest Board!

In honor of this festive holiday we scoured Pinterest to find some ideas for things you could do with Lucky Charms cereal.  We found 49 without even breaking a sweat, so we put together a board just for you.

 

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Buy Sunday Newspaper Coupons Instead of Sunday Newspapers!

couponing tips how many sunday newspapers do you buy

How many Sunday papers do you buy every week?  If the answer is more than “one” you’re probably wasting money.  You could be getting all the Sunday newspaper coupons you want at a fraction of the cost!

How many Sunday papers do you buy?

We know a few couponers who actually buy 20 Sunday papers a week.  At $3.00 per paper that’s $60 they’re spending every week just to get the coupons.

Chances are those same couponers only use a small fraction of the coupons in those inserts.  Let’s face it, this time of year there’s at least five or six cold medicine coupons in every issue.  How many bottles of cold medicine are you really going to buy?  When you pay for 20 newspapers at a time, every coupon you don’t use greatly decreases the value of the coupons you do use.  Some weeks it’s possible you’ll spend more money on newspapers than you save using the few coupons you find.

Buy Sunday Newspaper Coupons Instead of Sunday Newspapers

How many Sunday papers should you buy?

At most you should only buy one Sunday paper, and that’s not even a couponing necessity.  Your favorite coupon blogger probably publishes a list of upcoming coupons somewhere on his or her blog a few days before the inserts are available.  And that’s not a necessity either, because …

You can find all the Sunday newspaper coupons you want at The Happy Couponer Marketplace!

Browse our clipped coupons and you’ll find all of the same coupons you see in your own Sunday paper.  You’ll also find all of those hard-to-find, high-value regional coupons that are not in your own Sunday paper.

Now you can buy bulk quantities of only the coupons you really want at a fraction of the price you were paying for all those Sunday papers.  They’ll be clipped, organized, and shipped directly to your door.  In some cases you may even have them before your Sunday paper arrives!

 

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Your Best Source for P&G Coupons

get p&g coupons at The Happy Couponer Marketplace

No P & G inserts in your Sunday paper, again?  Of course, we think the best source for P & G coupons is The Happy Couponer Marketplace, but read on and we’ll give you a few other sources.

Every month we cross our fingers only to be disappointed when the P&G coupons are missing from our Sunday newspaper – again.  Apparently, we live in one of the marketing areas that P&G deems ‘unworthy’.  That, combined with the fact that our local newspaper orders too few inserts every week, means we rarely see the P&G insert.  If you’re on the ‘unworthy’ list too, read on and we’ll tell you where to find them.

Where to find those elusive P&G coupons

Print them at the P&G website – If you have the paper and ink to spare, then you can print P&G coupons at their website.  Unfortunately, you’re limited to one print per coupon.

Print them at Coupons.com – You can also print a limited number of P&G coupons at Coupons.com.  You’ll only see the coupons that are available for your marketing region.  If you change your zip code then you might be able to find those elusive regionals you’re looking for.

Drive across town – We live in a large city with several zip codes.  Twenty miles away, on the other side of town, the P&G insert is included in the Sunday paper.  If you’re up for a Sunday drive then check the newspapers in surrounding cities to see if they’re on the ‘Worthy’ list.

Buy P&G coupons online at The Happy Couponer Marketplace

The best place to get your P&G coupons is The Happy Couponer Marketplace. Browse our site and you’ll find the largest selection of manufacturers’ grocery coupons on the Internet.  Buy clipped coupons or whole inserts and have them shipped directly to your home.  Shipping is always free and you’ll find no hidden fees at checkout.

Browse our large selection of P&G clipped coupons

Don’t Bother Contacting P&G

Don’t bother trying to contact P&G.  Maybe there aren’t enough couponers in your area to warrant printing all those coupons.  Maybe their products are already popular in your area and they’d rather drive sales in a new region.  For whatever reason, they have decided that they don’t want their coupons to be circulated in your marketing area and nothing will change their mind.

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Take the 52-Week Savings Challenge!

Every December I find myself wishing I’d been a little more frugal throughout the year. I look back at Christmas and think about all the gifts I didn’t buy and all the cookies I didn’t bake because the money ran out before I got to the end of the list.

Don’t get me wrong, we had plenty of Christmas cookies and everybody enjoyed their gifts. We even put together a big donation for the food pantry.

But I just always want to do more. I want to give cookies to everybody in our neighborhood and give presents to people I don’t even know – just because it’s Christmas. I want more lights and decorations and lots and lots of bows and tinsel.

As a couponer you’re probably thinking you already do everything you can to save money. You spend hours clipping and scanning the ads and a few hours more scanning the shelves for the best bargains. And it’s true – as couponers we do already have a leg up on everyone else when it comes to saving money.

But everybody gets in a rut. It’s human nature. You think you’re doing everything you can simply because you don’t know of anything else you can do so you just keep plugging along, patting yourself on the back, and at the end of the year you’re in the same boat you were in last year – wishing you had just a few dollars more for Christmas.  

Take the 52 Week Challenge

What would you do if you had an extra $1,378 on December 1, 2015? That’s about 4 times what I spent on Christmas this year so I know I’d be over the moon, but what about you? Think about it…

You’d be able to pay cash for Christmas and you wouldn’t get all those depressing credit card bills in January. Maybe that extra $1,378 could pay for a trip to Grandma’s house for the holidays or you could use it to take the kids to Disney World. Or maybe that’s just the cushion you need to allow you to help give someone else a brighter Christmas.

Seriously, what would you do if an extra $1,378 showed up in your wallet on December 1, 2015?

Here’s how to get it – painlessly!

Start today – right now – before you even finish reading this. Get yourself a big envelope, or open up a savings account or set up a Paypal account if you have to, and put $10 in it – now. Why $10? Because if you want to have $1,378 on December 1, 2015, you need to catch up. And in the grand scheme of things $10 is almost nothing these days so just do it. Do. It. NOW!

Now, every week for the next 48 weeks you’re going to make another deposit into your envelope or account, based on the amounts in this chart:

Now, think about it…

Your first deposit was $10. You next deposit is only $5, then $6 the next week, then $7, and so on. You won’t have to deposit $10 again for another 6 weeks and by then you won’t even notice it.

The most you’ll ever have to deposit is $52 on the last week. That’s only $7.43 a day for that week and you probably spend that much on coffee and danish every morning or fast food for dinner or pay-per-view movies or something else you don’t really need.

And by the time you get to that last week you’re already going to be in another rut only now it’ll be a good rut – a savings rut – so you’ll probably be thinking, “Jeez – this is so easy I should have doubled my deposit every week and I’d have $2,756!”

Let’s get started!

Just like going to the gym or going on a diet, it’s always easier if you do it with a friend so you can help each other over the humps. I’m going to track my progress here every week to help keep you motivated so keep checking back.

Today – $10… Next Christmas? $1,378!

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CVS: What's the Big Deal about ExtraBucks Rewards?

cvs extrabuck rewardsNow, let’s get to the real question in C.S’s email: What’s the big deal about CVS extrabuck rewards?

What are extrabuck rewards?

Extrabuck rewards are money that you earn when you purchase promotional items at CVS. The promotions change from week to week and you can find them listed in the regular weekly CVS ad. You’ll also see them prominently displayed on the shelf tags. Here’s an example from an upcoming CVS ad: Softsoap body wash 15-18 oz. – on sale for 2/$6 with card. When you buy TWO (2) you earn $4 in extrabuck rewards.  When you go through the checkout and present your CVS Rewards card you’ll be credited with $2 in extrabuck rewards. These EBRs are uploaded to your card – NOT paid out in cash or credit on your purchases – and they stay on your card for 4 weeks. Every time you shop and purchase the required promotional items you accumulate more EBRs. You can then use these EBRs to pay for future purchases. So you could, for example, rack up $20 in extrabuck rewards and go on a $20 shopping spree at CVS.

What’s the big deal about extrabuck rewards?

There are a couple of reasons everyone gets so excited about EBRs: 

  1. You can use manufacturer’s coupons to lower the promotion price even more and still earn EBRs. So, in that Softsoap example, without a coupon your cost is $3 per bottle (or $6 total) and you earn $4 in EBRs. But, if you use two (2) of the current manufacturer’s coupons ($.75/1 any Softsoap brand Body Wash (12 oz. or larger) (2/8/2014) you’d lower your price to $2.25 per bottle (or $4.50 total) and still earn $4 EBRs. For most people, this is a pretty great deal. You spend $4.50, you get 2 bottles of body wash and you get $4 back. For others, like us here at The Happy Couponer, it’s not such a great deal, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
  2. Many people get excited about EBRs because they look at it like it’s free money and the more they can accumulate, the better. 

Extrabuck Rewards: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Erica at ICVS.com does an excellent job of explaining all the little details about EBRs, what they are, how to get them and how to use them. She says it better than we ever could, so we’ll let you get the details from her. 

What We Like About Extrabuck Rewards

EBRs are another way of saving money. If you shop at CVS on a regular basis, and we do, then those EBRs add up. They’re like Target gift cards or Ibotta and Checkout51 offers – They don’t save you money on THIS shopping trip but they will on the next.

What We Don’t Like About Extrabuck Rewards

  1. The promotional prices aren’t always the best deal in the marketplace, but they look good because you earn EBRs.
  2. EBRs can only be used on a future purchase. If you’re an experienced shopper then you’ll know how to put together multiple transactions and roll your rewards over to the last transaction to get a super-amazing deal, but not everyone has that kind of time and energy to invest.
  3. The required amount to purchase to earn EBRs is calculated before coupons, and it often forces you to buy more than you want. For example, you may be required to purchase $12 worth of XYZ product and that product is priced at $3.99 each, so you’re forced to actually buy four if you want to earn the EBRs, and maybe even more if you use a coupon. 

What We Hate About Extrabuck Rewards and Why You Need to Be Careful!

What we really hate about EBRs is that they can be so enticing! “Wow! I can earn $12 if I just buy four of these? Load up the cart, baby!”  We have two perfectly healthy adults and two perfectly healthy children living in this house and a few months ago we caught ourselves getting ready to pay $36 for a bunch of Benefiber just because we would have earned $30 in extrabuck rewards. 

  • First of all, it would have cost us $36 out-of-pocket to earn $30 we could only spend on a future purchase.
  • Second, we don’t even need Benefiber!

We see coupon bloggers every day telling their readers about these great “CVS Moneymakers,” but in our mind, they’re misleading their readers. In some cases, if you have the right product at the right price with the right coupon and the right EBR reward then yes, it might be a moneymaker.  But to us, a “moneymaker” means you can actually walk out of the store with more cash than you walked in with or you can walk out with totally free product without paying a single cent out of your pocket. So, to answer your question, C.S., people get excited when they see something that’s 2/$6 and they only have a coupon for $.50 off because they’ll probably earn an extrabuck reward or two when they purchase that item. 

But let’s be careful out there! Assuming it’s a good deal:

  1. Make sure you will either use or donate the item
  2. Make sure you can afford to pay the out-of-pocket expense
  3. Make sure you plan to return to CVS in the future or have another transaction lined up so you can use those EBRs. 

Remember, CVS extrabuck rewards and similar programs at other stores are just a promotional gimmick used to get you into the store so you’ll spend money. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If the company wasn’t making a profit off those extrabuck rewards they wouldn’t be passing them out like lollipops at the doctor’s office.

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How to Stop Saving Money and Start Reducing Your Spending

save-money-with-couponsTake a close look at your grocery spending over the last two or three months. Are you spending lots of time and energy clipping coupons so you can “save money” but still spending the same amount at the grocery store every week? If so, then you’re doing something wrong. There’s no question about it – Yes, you can save money when you use coupons. But what are you doing with the money you save? There’s a big difference between “saving money” and “reducing your spending.” Are you really saving it or are you just spending it on more stuff?

What it means to “Save”

You walk into the grocery store and pick up a box of cake mix that costs $1.25. You hand the cashier a coupon for 25 cents off and you pay only $1. That means you spent 25 cents less, but it doesn’t actually mean you “saved” 25 cents. The definition of “save” is, “To keep and store for future use” and this is where a lot of couponers make a big mistake…

They’re dazzled by the word “Save”

How many times have you seen a sign that says, “You SAVE $.25!” and thought to yourself, “Wow! If I buy 10 of these cake mixes I’ll save $2.50!” But you really won’t “save” anything. In fact, you’re probably spending money you didn’t plan on spending simply because you think you’re “saving.” You may even be buying something you don’t need just to “save” a few bucks, or after you’ve “saved” that $2.50 you turn around and spend it on something else you never planned to buy. So you never really saved $2.50 at all.

That $2.50 you saved is only imaginary money unless you can put it in your real wallet to keep for future use.

What it means to “Reduce Your Spending”

Over the last 8 months we’ve actually reduced our grocery spending by 60 percent – every week. That means we no longer spend $150-$200 every week at the grocery store. In fact, some weeks we don’t even go to the grocery store. Now, when we average it out, we’re spending $60-$70 a week. We’re not just saving money, we’ve actually reduced our spending every week. 

How to Stop Saving Money and Start Reducing Your Spending

Set a Budget for Groceries

When we first started couponing we’d come home with bags and bags of groceries. As our stockpile grew we’d pat each other on the back and shout, “Look how much we got and look how much we saved!” It was only at the end of the month, when the bills started rolling in, that we realized we’d spent a lot of money just so we could see a big number in the “Savings” column on our grocery receipts. Now, we set a limit on our weekly spending. Before we head to the store we know how much we’re going to spend and exactly what we’re going to spend it on. The key here is to stop thinking that you’re going to “save money” when you use coupons and start thinking that you’re going to “get more for the money you spend” when you use coupons. And as you gain experience your money will go even further.

Shop with a List

Before we head to the store we create a detailed shopping list. Our list includes:

  • The items we’re going to buy with coupons
  • The number of each item we’re going to buy with coupons
  • The items we’re going to buy without coupons

When we create this list we have our store’s ad in front of us, along with all of our coupons so we can calculate the exact cost of everything as we go. Then, we juggle our needs, the items on our list and the number of each item until everything we want to buy fits within our budget.

Know your prices

Stores and manufacturers know they’re going to get your attention with those big, bold SAVE! signs. They know the only thing you’re going to look at is how much you save. But you need to look at how much you’re going to have to spend. If you spend $2 for a bottle of dish detergent because the sign says you’re saving $.50 and you can get that same detergent at another store for the regular price of $1, then how much have you really saved? Nothing. In fact, you’ve spent $1 more than you need to. Know the regular prices for the staple items you buy on a regular basis so you know if you’re really “saving money.”

Know Your Needs

When you see a sweet deal on toilet paper you’re tempted to pick up enough to last for a year – and that’s great. By all means – do it! BUT… Remember, it doesn’t matter how much you save. What matters most is how much you spend.  Do you need to buy a year’s worth right this minute: Every product goes on sale 3 or 4 times a year. Maybe you only really need enough to last until the next big sale. Do you have room in the budget: If you’re over-spending when you take advantage of these great deals then you’re going to need to cut back somewhere else. Otherwise you’re not really reducing your spending at all. Can you make room in the budget: We talk a lot about learning how to Think Outside the Box here at The Happy Couponer. If you want to take advantage of that great deal, take a look at your list and see where you can make some changes. For example, when we had the opportunity to pick up Betty Crocker cake mixes for 25 cents each we jumped on it with both feet . We picked up 30 cake mixes that week because we knew we could use them to make cookies, donuts and other desserts – things we could now remove from our shopping list because we got such a great deal on the cake mixes. Now, instead of spending $4 for a package of donuts, we just open up one of our 25 cent cake mixes and make our own donuts. If your goal is to reduce the amount of money you spend at the grocery store then it only makes sense to focus on how much you’re spending – NOT how much you’re saving.

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Jessica's Kroger Haul for 2/1/2014

Told Ya So DanceWe were definitely doing the Happy Dance when we unpacked all those shopping bags yesterday.  It was our biggest Kroger Haul ever:  A total of $477.87 worth of groceries for just $161.50! But what really made it a great haul (and what really had us doing the “Told ya so dance” was the 65 bags of FREE Bird’s Eye Recipe Ready Frozen Vegetables we picked up.  Yeah, that’s right I said, “FREE!”   Total retail on the vegetables alone was $140.  Sale price was $96.85.  But we paid “0” dollars.  We got ’em FREE!

Watch the video and then we’ll tell you how we did it!

Remember how we kept telling you about that $.75 cent coupon we had and how it would actually be more valuable than the $1 coupon everybody was looking for?  Especially if your store doubles?  And remember how we told you to get a bunch of ’em and keep ’em handy because those darn vegetables were going to go on sale? Well, we waited until the last minute to use ’em in case somebody wanted to order ’em.  They expired at midnight last night and since we still had a bunch on hand we decided to go shopping. It took a little bit of planning to put the transactions together but it was worth it.  Here’s what we had to work with:

  • Our Kroger store only allows a maximum of 5 like coupons in 1 transaction
  • The vegetables had to be purchased in mix-and-match multiples of six.  (The sale price was $1.99.  If you purchased 6 participating items – mix-and-match allowed – you saved an additional 50 cents per package, making them $1.49.)

We went to 2 different Kroger stores.  At the first store we only picked up the vegetables and some Dole Fruit Smoothie Shakers because we just wanted to make sure it would work. At this first store we made six transactions, each consisting of:

  • 5 packages of Bird’s Eye Recipe Ready Frozen Vegetables – Sale price $1.99 – Buy 6 Save $3 price $1.49
  • 1 Dole Fruit Smoothie Shaker (also included in the Buy 6 Save $3 Deal – on sale for $1.99, and if you had 6 participating items they were only $1.50  Our coupon was for $.50/1, which doubled to $1, making these $.50 each.

So we picked up 5 packages of vegetables and 1 Dole Fruit Smoothie Shaker for $.50.  And we did it 6 times at the first Kroger store!

What if you don’t like Dole Fruit Smoothie Shakers?

Like I said, this trip took a little planning.  We knew we wanted the vegetables.  We knew we could only purchase 5 packages in each transaction.  And we knew we’d need to pick up one other item that was included in the Buy 6 Save $3 deal. In two of our transactions we picked up a $.65 can of tomatoes that was included in the deal.  That made our sixth item so we could get the sale price on the vegetables. We also had some of the Hungry Jack Hash Brown coupons with us.  The Hash Browns were on sale for $.99, our coupon was for $.50/1 – which makes them FREE – and they were also included in the Buy 6 Save $3 deal.  Unfortunately, they were out of stock at both stores so we had to improvise with some canned tomatoes.

What’s the takeaway here?

Always be prepared – We knew this coupon was out there, we knew we had plenty on hand and we knew this product would eventually go on sale before that coupon expired.  If it’s a product you use all the time – grab plenty of coupons as soon as you see them in print and hang on to them until the product goes on sale.  Even if it doesn’t go on sale before the coupon expires you can still use the coupons to pick up some additional savings. Sometimes smaller is better – There were two coupons out there for the Bird’s Eye vegetables.  One was for $1 off and the other was for $.75 off.  While everybody was frantically searching for the $1 coupon, we knew the $.75 coupon was a better deal because it would double to $1.50.  Sure, Walmart had those vegies on sale for a buck – for one week only – and that made the $1 coupon a great coupon – for one week only.  But from the time our $.75 coupon was printed until its expiration date those vegies were on sale for $1.49 almost every week at at least one store in our area. The more you plan, the more you save – We spent about 3 hours planning this shopping trip.  That included making our shopping list, breaking up the transactions and clipping all the coupons.   Two hours went into the trip to the first Kroger store.  While we were there we cruised the aisles looking at sale prices.  Then we went home and stashed our first 30 bags of vegies and put together our transactions and coupons for the second Kroger store where we did most of our shopping.  Three hours of work for $316.37 worth of FREE groceries?  Yeah – it was definitely worth it!

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10 Simple Steps to Writing the Ultimate Coupon Shopping List

10 Simple Steps to Writing the Ultimate Coupon Shopping ListIn our guest blog post at CouponsDaily.com last week, Jessica explained the importance of making two shopping lists – one for your stockpile coupon items and one for your “regular” and non-coupon purchases. Since that article was published we’ve been flooded with email, all saying the same thing: It makes sense, but HOW do you do it? So today, we’re gonna break it down into 10 easy steps. This example we’re using is an actual list we used just a few weeks ago.  We didn’t make up products and coupon values just so we’d have something to show you.  So yeah, this works. Of course, our real first step is always to study the ads and do the coupon matchups, but doesn’t everybody already do that?  So let’s get right to the actual shopping lists! Colgate toothpaste – On sale 10/$10 (Free with coupon) Coupon – $.50/1 any Colgate Toothpaste (3.5 oz or larger, excludes 1.8 oz, 2.8 oz bonus, .75 oz and .85 oz trial)(3/8/2014) – Doubles to $1 Want to purchase: 24 Manufacturer limitations: Only 4 like coupons per transaction Store limitations: Must by multiples of 10 qualifying items to get the sale price – Limit of 5 like coupons per transaction First, we look at how many we want to purchase. In this case it’s 24. We based this number on our household usage.  Because the manufacturer limits us to 4 like coupons per transaction, that means we’re going to have to perform 6 transactions to get the full 24 tubes of toothpaste.

Step #1: Set up six individual shopping lists and put 4 tubes of toothpaste on each one.

(Remember: We need to buy 10 participating 10/$10 items to get that sale price, so we’re going to need to add 6 more participating items to each transaction.) Maruchan noodles – regular price $.99 (Free with coupon) Want to purchase: 25 Coupon: $.50/1 Maruchan Noodles – Doubles to $1 Manufacturer limitations: None Store limitations: Only 5 like coupons per transaction We want to buy 25 of the Maruchans and we can only use 5 like coupons per transaction.

Step #2: Add 5 Maruchan noodles to the first 5 transactions.

Skinny Cow Candy – Buy 3 get a Catalina coupon for $3 off your next purchase (Avg. price: $3 each) Coupon:  $1/1 box Skinny Cow Candy (4.65-6 oz) Want to purchase: 18 Manufacturer limitations: None Store limitations: Only 5 like coupons per transaction We could buy 5 boxes in each transaction but we get that Catalina coupon every time we buy 3. We want to buy in multiples of 3 so we get that Catalina coupon and we’re going to use those coupons to help pay for our final transaction. Note: We already know we’re going to end up with $18 in Catalina coupons to help pay for our final transaction. Yayyyy!

Step #3: Put 3 boxes of Skinny Cow Candy on each of the six shopping lists.

Hungry Jack Hash Brown Potatoes – On sale 10/$10 (Free with coupon) Coupon: $.50/1 any Hungry Jack Hasbrown Potatoes – Doubles to $1 Want to purchase: ??? (We don’t really care because they’re free!) Manufacturer limitations: None Store limitations: Only 5 like coupons per transaction We still need 6 items in the 10/$10 sale in each of our 6 transactions, but we can only use 5 like coupons per transaction.

Step #4: Add 5 Hungry Jack Hashbrowns to each of our 6 transactions for a total of 30 boxes.

Remember: We need to buy 10 participating 10/$10 items to get that sale price. We have 4 toothpastes and 5 hashbrowns, so we’re still going to need to add 1 more participating items to each transaction.

Step #5: Choose that 10th item carefully.

To take advantage of the 10/$10 pricing you only need one more item. Either add one participating non-coupon item from your “regular” shopping list, or choose an item that you don’t have to buy 2 or 3 of in order to get the coupon savings. Bird’s Eye Recipe Ready Frozen Vegetables – On sale Buy 6 Save $3 for total of $1.49 each (Free with coupon) Coupon: $.75/1 Bird’s Eye Recipe Ready Frozen Vegetables – Doubles to $1.50 Want to purchase: 30 Manufacturer limitations: None Store limitations: Must buy multiples of 6 qualifying items to get the sale price – Limit of 5 like coupons per transaction We want 30 and we can only use 5 like coupons in a transaction, so this one’s easy.

Step #6: Add 5 bags of Bird’s Eye Vegetables to each of our 6 transactions.

However, we still need to add one more item that’s included in the Buy 6 Save $3 deal or we don’t get these free. Sooooo… Dole Fruit Smoothie Shakers – On sale Buy 6 Save $3 for totoal of $1.50 each ($.50 with coupon) Coupon: $.50/1 any Dole Smoothie Shaker  – Doubles to $1 Manufacturer limitations: Only 4 like coupons per transaction Store limitations: Must buy multiples of 6 qualifying items to get the sale price – Limit of 5 like coupons per transaction We’re just buying these to make up that 6th item in each transaction. They’re only $.50 with our coupon and we like ’em, so this works for us.

Step #7: Add 1 Dole Fruit Smoothie Shaker to each of our 6 transactions.

Step #8: Make your “regular” shopping list

Label this list Transaction #7. This list is all your non-coupon items, like fresh meat, fresh produce, fresh baked goods, etc. It also includes those items you only buy once or twice a year – like spices, or some of those heavy duty cleaning supplies – or holiday items or new products you want to try. You’ll be surprised at how small this list becomes after just a couple of months of savvy “stockpile” shopping!

Right now, your shopping lists should look like this:

How to Make Your Coupon Shopping List

Step #9: Organize your coupons

Before you even leave the house, separate your coupons and use a paper clip to attach them to each transaction. You’ve already planned out exactly how many of each item you’re going to buy, so sort your coupons at home where you don’t have any distractions. To help organize your coupons and make your shopping trip a real breeze, check out Jessica’s Kroger Haul Video for one of her Secret Shopping Tips.

Step #10: Checkout time!

Pay for your first 6 transactions first. If you’ve done your homework, you should already be able to tell how much this is going to cost. In our case, we knew each transaction would cost approximately $9 for the Skinny Cow Candy, $.50 for the Dole Fruit Smoothie Shaker and approximately $1 for the extra item we had to buy to make up the 10 items for the 10/$10 sale. That’s a total of $10.50 for each of the first 6 transactions. Don’t forget, we also got a $3 Catalina coupon from each of those transactions, for a total of $18. Now pay for Transaction #7 and use those Catalina Coupons. Depending on how much you spend for this transaction you could conceivable walk out of the store with two carts full of groceries for $66! At the very least, when you add all your receipts together, you’ll finally see that huge savings percentage like those extreme couponers get on TV.

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How to Save More Money With Coupons – Let's Talk!

Would you be surprised to learn that 43% of American shoppers are happy to save 25% or less at the grocery store? We were, and our first thoughts were, “Good lord! Somebody needs to talk to these people!” And you know what? If you want to save more than 25% on your grocers – a LOT more – that’s exactly what you need to do – Talk about it! It’s not a typo. That 43% number is an official statistic published by RetailMeNot, the largest digital coupon site in the U.S. According to their polls, 92% of American consumers use coupons, yet a whopping 43% of those coupon users are happy when they save 43% or less on their coupon purchases. How to save money with couponsWe wondered why so many would be happy saving so little and suddenly it came to us: Most people don’t really understand how to use coupons. They clip a few here, clip a few there, but they’re not really into it. If they trip over a coupon they can use, yay! If not, they don’t even think about the possibility that there might be a coupon out there somewhere that would save them some money. And yeah, they’re happy that their efforts were rewarded with a $5 savings at the check-out stand, but they’d be just as happy if they only saved $3, and if they saved nothing at all they wouldn’t even notice. Let’s face it, it takes a lot of time and energy to really save money with coupons. It’s an expenditure that most people aren’t willing to make. Everybody’s busy with work and kids and life in general so you really have to be committed to couponing if you want to see more than a 25% savings.

And what’s the best way to stay committed to a goal? Talk about it!

Think about it. When you’re trying to lose weight or stop smoking the first thing the experts tell you to do is tell everybody you’re on a diet or you’ve smoked your last cigarette. Telling everyone around you that you’re trying to achieve some specific goal accomplishes two things:

  • Everyone around you joins in to support your efforts
  • You work even harder because you’d feel like an idiot if you didn’t achieve your goal

So what’s the best way to join the 57% of Americans who are saving 60, 70 and 80% a week – every week – at the grocery store? Talk about it!  Tell your friends and family members how much you saved at the grocery store this week with coupons – even if it was only $5. Take some of those free cookies you got last week into the office and pass ’em around. Won’t you be surprised when one of your co-workers pipes up and says, “I saved $100 with coupons last week. I’ve been using coupons for years. Let’s get together and start a coupon club!” Your Aunt Mary will offer to give you her Sunday coupon inserts. Your mother might chime in with some shopping tips. And your neighbor, who’s also secretly been couponing for years, might offer to be your shopping buddy so you can both bring home bigger and better stockpile hauls. When you start talking about couponing you’ll be even more motivated to see just how much you can save with coupons because everyone around you will be boosting your excitement. It won’t take long before you’ll wonder why you were ever one of the 43% who were happy to just save 25% or less.

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Have You Checked Out The Dollar Store Lately?

Are you shopping at your local dollar storeLast night, thanks to Sherrisa and Natasha, we had one of those smack your head moments.  We’ve been so caught up in trying to build up our stockpile before our local Kroger store stopped doubling coupons that we forgot all about how much money we save when we shop at the various dollar stores in our area.  But these two ladies reminded us and now we’re reminding YOU! Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar stores all accept manufacturer’s coupons.  They generally don’t give you any overage or cash back, but they also don’t have any limits – unless the coupon itself has limits.  Most will also allow you to stack a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon.  (Yes.  The dollar stores do have their own coupons from time to time.) There’s one drawback to shopping at dollar stores:  You can’t always get what you want.  Stock and selection varies from store to store.  The Dollar Tree on one side of town might have Purex No Sort in stock but The Dollar Tree on the other side of town might not have any variety of Purex at all. But, you can also find some pretty awesome deals.  We recently found a few jars of the new JIF chocolate spreads for a buck apiece and we have a few $1 coupons so we got ’em for free.

Here’s a few tips for shopping the dollar stores:

Familiarize yourself with the store Like any other store, you’ll find more and better bargains when you familiarize yourself with the store.  Don’t ever expect to save a bundle at any store on your first visit.  Study their shelf tags.  Look for the Clearance aisle.  Compare dollar store prices with the other guy’s prices.

Bring along your binder

If you normally only carry the coupons you plan to use you’ll miss some great deals at the dollar store because their stock and brand selection changes so frequently.  Bring your whole binder along and spend some time browsing.  You never know when you’re going to trip over a whole shelf of Tide marked down to a buck.

Keep the ad

Here’s one lesson we learned the hard way:  All dollar stores are not created equally.  A few months ago Dollar General had a big ad with dozens of in-store coupons in the Sunday paper.   And Dollar General let’s you stack coupons, so we were looking at some pretty awesome savings.  BUT… When we went into our local Dollar General to pick up a few extra ads, they didn’t know what we were talking about.  We visited 4 Dollar Generals that day and only 1 had the ad.  Yes, they all honored the coupons even though they weren’t even aware of the ad. Every dollar store is different so if you have a few in your area, spend some time scoping them out.      

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Are You Making This Huge Mistake With Your Coupons?

Be PreparedEvery day we clip thousands of coupons and we see so many people making the same mistake, over and over again. We know exactly what you’re doing because we used to do it, too. Every Sunday morning Mary sits down with the ads from her Sunday paper and plans out her weekly shopping list. She then turns to her favorite coupon clipping service – The Happy Couponer – and orders up 2 coupons for this and 2 coupons for that, may 3 of this one and oh wait, I only need 1 of those this week… Before she clicks the Paypal button, Mary leaves us a little note in her shopping cart:

Please, please PLEASE ship my coupons today. My ad expires on Wednesday!

But Mary must have forgotten that we don’t ship coupons on Sunday.  The Post Office isn’t open on Sunday therefore we couldn’t ship her coupons on Sunday even if we wanted to.  She’ll have to wait until Monday and that means she might not get her coupons in time to hit that big sale. [box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Mary could save herself so much stress and worry if she’d only plan ahead and order her coupons when they first become available instead of waiting until the products go on sale.[/box] In every household there are certain items you purchase on a regular basis. Whether you shop weekly or shop to build a stockpile, it only makes sense to always have coupons on hand for these staples. You never know when you’re going to trip over a great sale, and even if the product isn’t on sale you’ll still save money when you use the coupon. It’s also safe to assume that almost every product you have a coupon for will go on sale before that coupon expires. So if you’re thinking, “Wow! That’s a great coupon, but I’m not going to waste money ordering it right now. What if XYZ product doesn’t go on sale?” then you’re thinking wrong. It’s almost a sure thing that it will go on sale and you’ll miss out on the deal because you waited too long to order your coupons. But even if XYZ product doesn’t go on sale before the coupon expires, you’re going to need to buy it anyway. It might have cost you a few cents to order that coupon, but having it handy when you need it will save you a few bucks. Plan Ahead and Be Prepared! [box type=”tick” border=”full”]If you see a coupon for a product you know you’re going to need to buy sometime before the coupon expires, order it now and put it in your binder.[/box] [box type=”tick” border=”full”]Almost every product in the store goes on sale 4-6 times a year. Order enough coupons to meet your needs until the next sale.[/box]  

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How do I find out about grocery store deals in my city?

Dog on GoogleAt least once a week we think, “Man! Wouldn’t it be great to live in XYZ City? Their grocery store is having a Triple Coupon Event this week!” We try to alert you when we see these announcements but there’s no way we can keep up with every sale in every grocery store in the country. But you can. Here’s how! Use Google to Find the Best Bloggers There are thousands of bloggers all over the country who cover grocery store, pharmacy and department store deals. Some also cover online shopping deals, freebie offers, giveaways, and frugal living advice. Somewhere out there is a blogger who covers exactly what you’re looking for, you just need to find her. And that’s where Google comes in. Just go to your Google search bar and type in whatever it is you’re looking for. If you’re looking for deals at a specific store, go to your Google search bar and type: Name of store, followed by the word “deals” followed by your city or state. For example, “Target deals Columbus Ohio” If you’re looking for deals on a certain product, type in the name of the product, the word “deal” or “sale” the name of your city or state. The general date also helps narrow down your search. For example, “Pampers deals Columbus Ohio 1/5/2014” In most cases the first few listings you’ll see will be store or manufacturer listings. Scroll down the page though and even go to the second or third page, and you’ll start seeing all the different blogs pop up. Don’t stop at the first blog you see – check out three or four or five. Read some of the posts, bookmark them and come back a few times, heck – subscribe to their newsletters and see just how informed they really are. Before you know it you’ll have all the information you need to shop and save money at any store in your marketing area.

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You don’t need coupons to start saving money at the grocery store

If you’ve been clipping your little heart out, don’t worry. We’re not going to tell you you’re wasting time. But if you’re hestitant about using coupons – and many people are – we’re going to tell you how you can start saving money without all that clipping and sorting. And once you do – you’ll happily jump into couponing with both feet!

Now, prepare yourself. Don’t reach for that mouse so you can click away. But…

The secret word is: Budget.

Here’s what you’re doing wrong

We know. You’ve been putting off couponing because you think it’s going to take a lot of time and effort, and in the beginning it does. But we’re not here to talk about couponing (yet…) Let’s talk about one easy little step you can take to start saving money.

Way back before we started couponing we’d just go to the grocery store every week and pick up whatever we needed. Most weeks we spent around $200 – sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on what was on sale and what caught our eye that week. But we never actually set out on our shopping trip with the thought: This week we’re only going to spend $200.

But shopping like that inevitably causes two problems:

  • You have a week every month or so where you only have $100 bucks to spend at the grocery store so you have to cut back to balonga sandwiches and meatloaf.
  • You and your family feel deprived because you couldn’t buy everything you wanted that week.

When that happens, you tell yourself “I’m going to set up a budget so this never happens again” – and we all know how well that works. The next week, when you have money again, you go right back to your same old shopping habits and forget all about that lousy week they just had, living on mac & cheese and ramen noodles.

Start small and take baby steps

The mistake most people make with budgeting is that they try to reach their goal in one giant step. It’s like trying to lose weight. If you tell yourself you’re going to lose 50 pounds this month you’re only setting yourself up for failure.

The best way to achieve any goal is to break it down into small, manageable, bite-size pieces.

This week, when you go to the grocery store, give yourself a strict spending limit and make it small, so it’s hardly noticeable. For example, if you typically spend around $200, tell yourself you’re only going to spend $195 – period. Not around $195, but $195 exactly – no more.

It’s easy to reduce your grocery spending by 5 bucks without feeling the pinch when you open the cupboard. You skip one package of cookies and give the kids a banana instead. You take a pass on that top-shelf pasta sauce that makes you feel like a gourmet chef and reach for the Prego or Ragu instead. Anyone can shave $5 without blinking an eye.

Now saving $5 this week may not seem like much but here’s what happens:

  • You gain a sense of achievement
  • You realize that it’s possible to set a goal and reach it
  • You start wondering how much more you could save now that you see how easy it is

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time

Right now reducing your grocery spending looks like a huge task. That’s why it’s important to start small and get some wins under your belt. If you typically spend around $200 a week, tell yourself this week you’re only going to spend $200 – period. Next week limit yourself to just $195. The week after that set your limit at $190.

Eventually, though, unless you change some habits, you’re going to reach a point where you do feel like you’re depriving yourself and your family. But by the time that happens you’re going to be hooked. You’re going to start looking for ways you can still provide the same tasty meals, treats and snacks and still keep decreasing your spending.

When you reach that point, come back here and we’ll tell you how to start using coupons!

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Couponing Tip: Three tips to help you save even more

So you’ve been diligently clipping your coupons and you’ve cut your grocery bill in half.  Good for you.  Give yourself a pat on the back, or treat yourself to a new pair of shoes.  But it’s a new year, a time for setting new goals.  What if you could save even more?  Because you can, you know.  You can always spend even less than you’re spending now.  Here’s how!

Adjust your spending limit

Maybe you think you’ve already cut your spending to the bone, but when’s the last time you really tested your limit?  If, in the past, you spent $200 a week on groceries and now, with coupons, you’ve cut it down to $100, why stop there?  Set yourself a new limit of $95 and see what happens.

Learn how to cook

Jessica and I are both chefs – she cooks and I bake.  Even though we both know our way around a kitchen with our eyes closed we still catch ourselves putting processed foods into the shopping cart.

Do you have any idea how easy it is to whip up a banana cream pie on the fly from stuff you already have in the pantry?  We’ve made donuts from Betty Crocker Cake Mix.

And if you think about it, that means we can also make them from scratch from staples we already have in the cupboard because somebody somewhere had to make those biscuits and cake mixes from basic ingredients.

When you buy any kind of processed food you’re spending extra money to have someone else prepare that food for you.  Learn how to make it yourself and you’ll see a significant savings.  (Not to mention it’ll probably taste better!)  Here’s a link to free cookbooks for your Kindle at Amazon.  They’re FREE.  Load ’em up and start cooking!

Think outside the box

A few months ago we went through the checkout line with 50 packages of Maruchan noodles because they were free when we used our coupons.  People looked at us like we were crazy.  Do we actually eat Maruchan noodles every week?  Of course not.

But we do use the noodles (without all that salty seasoning) to make tasty pasta dishes like spaghetti and meatballs or sesame chicken pasta salad.  Pasta is pasta no matter how it’s shaped.

And because we bought the Maruchans – which were free – we didn’t have to buy pasta.

Learn to recognize a great deal when you see it – like the Maruchans – and then think outside the box to see how many different ways you can put it to use.

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Couponing Tip: You’re Missing Big Savings if you Don’t Subscribe and Open Your Email!

A couple of days ago Jessica got an email from CVS with a 20% discount on her next shopping trip. When she mentioned it in her CVS Haul video we immediately received feedback from a couple of our readers: How do we get that 20% discount? The answer’s easy – First you have to subscribe, and then you have to open the email.

The benefits of subscribing to newsletters

Almost every blog or website offers a free newsletter these days – including the websites of all your favorite brands and products.

Most of these newsletters – especially those of manufacturers – are professionally researched and written.

These newsletters generally over-deliver on helpful product advice because the sender knows you’re only going to open the first two or three emails and if you don’t find them helpful you’ll never open any more.

In order to ensure you keep opening their emails and maybe even spread the word to your friends, most blogs and websites – even the big-name manufacturers – include special “Subscriber ONLY” offers on a regular basis. The only way you will see these offers is if you subscribe to the newsletter and then open it when it arrives. 

Whose newsletter should you subscribe to?

  • Every blog you read
  • Every store you shop
  • All of your favorite name-brand manufacturers – Pillsbury, Kellogg’s, Nestle’s, Hershey – the list is endless
  • All of your favorite products

Note:  In almost every case, when you initially subscribe you’ll be sent a confirmation email and asked to click a link to confirm your subscription.  Do This!  This is a legal step required of the newsletter publisher.  If you don’t confirm your subscription they can be held accountable if you complain.  So, to protect themselves, they won’t send their newsletter until you confirm your subscription.

Use your real email address

I see free offers all day, every day, and they generally want your email address. I also see bloggers all day, every day, recommending that you set up a second email account strictly for collecting all these free offers so you don’t clutter up your regular email inbox.

That’s all well and good, but that initial freebie is just the tip of the iceberg. If you never open another email from that sender again you’re missing out on some great “Subscriber Only” offers – like that 20% discount Jessica got a couple of days ago.

Note: If you change your email address either update it with the sender or resubscribe with your new address. 

Check your spam folder

The one Internet rule you can always count on is: Everything changes… all the time. Your email provider is constantly update their email system, changing programming and filters. Sometimes these changes affect the emails you receive. Emails you’ve been opening for months suddenly go straight to your spam folder.

Check your spam folder on a regular basis. If emails you want are going into spam, open them up and send them to your inbox, and then add them to your contact or white list.

Open and READ the email

Of course, you’ll never see those “Subscriber Only” special offers if you never open and never really READ the emails. We include some type of access to free coupons in almost every newsletter we send – and we send at least one every day. Yet rarely do we ever have a subscriber use one of the coupon codes we send out or take advantage of the free coupons we offer for something as simple as sharing an email.

A lot of our customers would never have to pay to use our clipping service ever again if they opened and really read their emails. We subscribe to dozens of newsletters and we open and read every one. If it contains something of interest, great. If it doesn’t, it just takes one mouse click to delete it and move on.

But you’ll never hear us complaining because someone got a 20% discount in their email and we didn’t. If we’re not already a subscriber you can bet your boots we will be – and we’ll open and read the newsletters!

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Be Careful When Redeeming Your Walgreen's Balance Rewards

Walgreen's Balance RewardsThere’s no doubt about it, Balance Rewards are a super incentive to spend your money at Walgreen’s. I mean, they’re basically paying you to shop, right? Now, everybody knows how to earn those balance rewards. It’s easy. You just buy stuff. But here’s something you probably didn’t know about redeeming them:

You can not earn points and redeem points in the same transaction.

In other words – You can’t use your existing Rewards points to earn more Rewards points.  So let’s say you walk into Walgreen’s with 30,000 points on your card, which equals $35. You decide to buy $30 worth of mix and match vitamins because this week Walgreen will give you 10,000 Rewards points for each $30 vitamin purchase. AND… you want to use the points you already have on your card to make the purchase. In this scenario it would seem that you’d leave the store with 15,000 points on your card and $30 worth of vitamins that didn’t cost you a cent. But that’s not the way it works. Under Walgreen’s Balance Rewards policy you can not redeem points and earn points in the same transaction.

You Have Two Options

Before cashing you out the cashier will ask you if you want to redeem your Rewards points. If you say yes – The cashier will apply any or all of you points toward your purchase and you’ll forfeit the points you could have earned with that purchase. If you say no – You’ll pay the cashier with cash and your card will be credited with any new Rewards points your earned in this transaction.

Two More Reasons To Be Cautious with Balance Rewards

Don’t get dazzled by Rewards points. First, we’ve talked before about those bloggers who tell you about “moneymakers.” (Read our post: Two Coupon Blogs We Don’t Like and Why we Don’t Like ‘Em.) If you have to spend $20 to earn 2,000 Rewards points, then you’ve still had to spend money out of your own pocket. Yes, you “earned” the equivalent of $2 but you can only spend it in that store – at some date in the future. You are not going to walk out of that store with the item and $3.02 cash in your pocket.  Second – There’s a reason stores offer you reward “points” instead of dollars. That big, flashy “1,000 POINTS!” sign gets your attention way better than it would if it said, “$1.” Just look at all those zeroes! How many times have you purchased something you don’t really need or want (sometimes at an outrageously high price) because you saw all those zeroes and thought, “Wow! I’ll make 1,000 points just for buying this little doo-dad? I’ll take 10!”  It’s only when you get home that you realize you just shelled out $60 – right out of your wallet – and you made a measly $10 that you can only use on your next purchase in that same store.

Remember:

  • You have to spend real money to earn Balance Rewards
  • 1,000 Balance Rewards only equals $1
  • Any points you earn on this purchase can only be used on your next purchase (which means you have to come back again and spend more money – get it?)

So let’s be careful out there.  We’re all for these rewards points and we use them ourselves.  Just be aware that they’re not actually a “reward” for shopping in the store, they’re a promotional gimmick used by the stores to increase sales.  If those reward points weren’t bringing in more money for the store they wouldn’t be passing them out.  And that “more money” is coming out of your pocket, so spend it wisely.  

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Jessica's Kroger Haul for January 18, 2014

Jessica's Kroger HaulToday, Jessica used 4 transactions to bring home a super Kroger Haul. Here’s how it broke down in terms of dollars: Retail value: $237.03 Manufacturer’s coupon savings: $49.53 Bonus coupons: $36.49 Loyalty card and 10/$10 savings: $53.28 Total saved: $139.30 Total spent: $97.73 69% savings Watch to see how she splits her transactions to take advantage of the 10 for $10 deals. She also has to work around Kroger’s limit of 5 like coupons per transaction and some of the coupons with their own special limitations. You’ll also see her use a lot of the fun printable coupons we share in our Top 5 “Just Because” Printable Coupon posts! And even experienced couponers make mistakes! Jessica’s strategy included being able to get a $3 Catalina coupon for Skinny Cow purchases and she was going to roll three Catalina’s over to use in her fourth transaction. But we all know what happens to the best laid plans…

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CVS: Why We Shop There and Why We Blog About It

cvs extrabuck rewardsA couple of days ago we received an email from C.S. who’s been with us from the very beginning. We thought C.S. Had a couple of good questions that everyone might like answered so, instead of doing that email thing we decided to answer it right here on the blog.

First, the question:

How does the CVS bucks program work? You keep praising CVS – when I see something 2/$6 and there is only 1.00 or .50 coupon, I’m not sure why people are excited. Could you explain how the CVS bucks program works? I really appreciate all your time! You 2 R AMAYZING!! Thank you for all you do for all of us!

Well, C.S. – We think you’re pretty amazing, too! Especially since you put up with so many of our shenanigans! So we’re going to try to answer your questions.

Why We Shop At CVS

If we turn one way when we leave our house there’s a CVS and a Walgreen’s, right across the street from each other, about a mile away. If we turn the other way, there’s a CVS and a Walgreen’s, right across the street from each other, about two miles away. So why do we shop at CVS more often than Walgreen’s? We shop more at CVS (compared to Walgreen’s) because we’re more comfortable with CVS so it just seems like we always end up there. It’s like our favorite Kroger store on Eakin Rd. here in Columbus. There are a few dozen Kroger stores in the area and we’ve shopped at most of them, but when it comes time to do the real shopping where we pay attention to sales and coupons we choose the store we’re most comfortable with. We know the layout, we know the employees, we know when they put out new stock and change the unadvertised specials and we know the best low-traffic times to shop in that particular store.

Why We Blog About CVS

We blog about CVS because you, our readers, ask us to. While you don’t see many comments on this blog (yet!) we can tell by the number of page-views which posts you find most helpful and our CVS posts are always big hits. We also blog about CVS (and Walgreen’s and Target, and now Ibotta and Checkout51) because we want you to understand you have lots of options for reducing your grocery bill. We get emails every day from people who’ve never clipped a coupon in their life and suddenly, their financial circumstances have changed and they need help. And we also blog about CVS extrabuck rewards because it gives us a chance to show you, our reader, how you can combine in-store promotions with manufacturer’s coupons for additional savings. In the beginning we, too, thought it was a waste of time to chase after those $1 CVS extrabuck rewards or that measly little 50 cents you get for scanning a dozen eggs into your Ibotta app, but it all adds up, and eventually it adds up BIG TIME. So, you see, C.S., we’re really not praising CVS, we’re just letting you know what’s out there, giving you some options for saving. In fact, in this next post, “CVS: What’s the Big Deal about ExtraBuck Rewards?” we’re going to tell you why we’re against the whole reward points thing, no matter what store you’re shopping in.