A good weekend for coupons

14 05 2009

Looks like it will be a good Sunday to buy an extra newspaper or two or three.

According to the folks over at thecouponclippers.com, there will be three nice-size inserts in this Sunday’s papers. Click here to check out the list to see what coupons you may be interested in. Then click on each of the inserts listed under May 17: Smart Source, Valassis and Proctor and Gamble.

By buying extra papers, you’ll be able to maximize your savings and add to your pantry stockpile when you  match your coupons to store sales.

 And, with my journalism roots, I can’t resist an opportunity to put in a plug to buy extra papers to boost those ever-shrinking circulation numbers at newspapers across the country. Click here, here and here for past posts on why I think newspapers are still a smart purchase.

A couple coupons that caught my eye for this weekend: 75 cents off 1 package of Breyers Yo Crunch 100-calorie packs of yogurt and 55 cents off 1 package of Nabisco Chips Ahoy cookies.

In double- and triple-coupon land where I live, those two coupons have huge potential.

And don’t forget about my shortcuts for clipping all those coupons from multiple papers. Click here to save yourself all kinds of time and aggravation.

One last remember:  Next Sunday, May 24, there will be no Sunday coupons because of Memorial Day weekend.


Clipless coupons = less paperwork

6 03 2009

At the end of a Sunday, when there are numerous coupon inserts in the newspaper, the idea of clipless coupons seems particularly enticing. No more stapling, clipping, sorting and filing. A couponer’s dream come true.

I’m not sure coupons will ever totally go paperless, but there are now a few services out there offering shoppers clipless coupons. I’m a little embarrassed to admit, I’ve been slow to sign up for these services. It has been on my list of things to do but never in a priority position.

No longer. I am now linked to shortcuts.com, cellfire.com and Lowe’s Foods e-Offers by InstaSave.

Here’s a run-down on each:

At shortcuts.com, which is a free service of aol.com, shoppers can link their loyalty cards and choose coupons they would like to use on future shopping trips. I currently have 11 coupons worth $8.55 loaded onto my Kroger card on products ranging from dog treats to yogurt. On the site, you can type in and print your own shopping list. The site also automatically tallies the money you save using shortcuts. Your savings prints out on your receipt, just as regular paper coupons do.

Here is a list of the stores across the country where you can use shortcuts.com coupons.

  • Kroger
  • Kroger Marketplace
  • Ralph’s
  • Gerbes
  • QFC
  • Hilander
  • Smith’s
  • Smith’s Marketplace
  • Baker’s
  • King Soopers
  • City Market
  • Pay Less
  • JayC
  • Dillon’s
  • Owen’s
  • Fry’s
  • Fry’s Marketplace
  • At cellfire.com, you can access coupons to Kroger and other groceries in the Kroger family through your customer loyalty card, much like at shortcuts.com. I currently have 14 offers saved on products ranging from brownie mixes to toilet paper.

    Other cellfire offers, however, are only available via your cell phone. So beware. While the coupons are free, you must have Internet access on your phone to use cellfire. So unless you are already paying for mobile Internet, I doubt cellfire would be worth your while. In the plus column, cellfire offers discounts on much more than groceries. It has coupons for restaurants, coffee shops, shoe stores, oil change businesses, even Sears. Text messages alert you to new deals. Or you can sign up for monthly newsletters that come to your email address.

    Not all cellfire deals are offered in all areas, but a nice feature on the site allows you to plug in your zip code to quickly find what deals are in your area. For instance, in North Carolina where I am,  the only deals available are from Kroger, Sears Portrait Studio, Caribou Coffee and 1-800-Flowers. To redeem an offer, you access it on your cell phone and then show it to the cashier.

    At Lowe’s Foods e-Offers by Instasave, the method of savings is similar to the other two programs. Unveiled in January, e-offers links your customer loyalty card to coupons you choose from the website.

    On my Lowe’s card, I currently have 26 “coupons” loaded. If I used all of them, I would save $18.10. I skipped coupons on baby products and medicines I knew I would never purchase. The site also offers a fairly comprehensive shopping list that you can print out. Items with e-coupons available are highlighted in red. I found it way more convenient than the shortcuts list that you have to create yourself. The site keeps a running total of your savings with e-coupons, which is identical to shortcuts.

     There are a few drawbacks to using e-coupons. As far as I can tell, e-coupons will not double or triple, at least not in my area of the country. In contrast, most traditional paper coupons routinely double. In North Carolina, Kroger stores double coupons up to 50 cents every day. Lowe’s Foods doubles coupons up to 99 cents every day. Another drawback is that these coupons can only be redeemed once. For instance, if there is an e-coupon for a box of brownie mix, it will only work on one box. If you buy two or three boxes, the savings will only be good on one. Additionally, the deals are only refreshed every few weeks, again limiting the amount you can save.

    There is also some discussion about whether these e-coupons can be used in conjunction with paper coupons. The Lowe’s e-offers site says that the clipless coupons “cannot be used in conjunction with printed coupons.” I could find nothing on the cellfire and shortcuts sites addressing this issue. 

    In reality, these clipless coupons do work along with standard coupons you get from newspaper inserts and other sources. It’s my understanding that the grocery stores’ computers do not stop the registers from taking a paper coupon and an e-coupon. In my view, I think it’s unrealistic to put the burden on the customer to remember which e-coupons he or she signed up for, possibly as long as two months ago. Plus, why would you use an e-coupon that saves you less when there is a paper coupon that will double or triple?  And will they offer customers the choice of opting out of using an e-coupon when the paper coupon is a better deal?

    The whole idea is to simplify the customer’s life, not complicate it.

    I am extremely ethical in my use of coupons, so I am hoping the grocery stores will clarify this issue as they fine-tune the use of e-coupons. I want to get the very best deal for my hard-earned dollar, but I also want to play by the rules.

    Please let me know what your experience has been with clipless coupons — good or bad.

    Do you know of any other retailers offering clipless coupons? I would love to compile a list.

    Keeping track of our grocery spending and savings

    22 01 2009

    Thanks to a coupon-cutting mother, it didn’t take me long as an adult to pick up my scissors and start clipping.

    But in the last couple years I have evolved from casual couponing to what I jokingly call robo couponing. I  buy extra Sunday newspapers for the coupons, print computer coupons and even swap coupons with friends and neighbors. I carry a two-inch thick three-ring binder filled with coupons, which are filed and categorized.

    Call me obsessed, but this year I want to document exactly how much money we save by clipping coupons. I know it’s a lot because our weekly spending on groceries, health and beauty items and cleaning supplies rarely, if ever, tops $50. 

    But for 2009, I am tracking our spending and savings at the grocery and drug stores on a computer spreadsheet. Last night, I entered the totals of all my January receipts to see how the first month of 2009 is shaping up.

    Here are the results:

    In 12 trips to the grocery and three trips to CVS, I have purchased $552.50 worth of food, dog food, health and beauty products, cleaning supplies and extra Sunday newspapers. That’s full price.

    I paid $105 out of pocket for a savings of 81 percent. I saved $177 by shopping store sales and I saved an additional $237 by using coupons. Another $33.50 in savings came from using gift cards that I earned through various promotions. That’s a total savings of $447.50 so far this year.

    My coupon savings so far are pretty high, thanks to a triple coupon promotion at Harris Teeter the first few days of the new year. And we are lucky to live in an area where three of the four major grocery chains double coupons every day. Two of those stores, Harris Teeter and Lowe’s Foods, double coupons valued up to 99 cents every day of the week. Kroger doubles coupons up to 50 cents.

    Stay tuned: I plan on posting an update at the end of each month this year to see the savings mount.