Video: Rolling ECBs and RRs

I know that when you first start off shopping at CVS and Walgreens, learning how to “roll” Extra Care Bucks (ECBs) and Register Rewards (RRs) can get kind of confusing.

My sister-in-law sent me this great little video clip from a local Chicago station here where a reporter did a small “rolling” shopping trip series. I thought it might help you see a little on how it all works.

I’m hoping to get in a series here soon explaining it all and showing you a few trips I’ll make on how to start out. I’ve been waiting for the weather to warm up some because let me tell you, it’s not fun to shop when it’s 12 degrees and it’s almost considered a “heat wave.” :) But I promise I’ll get one going here soon. So stay tuned and check out the video for a little help in the meantime.

Also, I wrote up a posting on Register Rewards, Extra Care Bucks and Stacking Coupons. I’m hoping that will offer a little more help, as well.

Thanks for sharing the video, Jodi!

Couponing Basics: How To Organize Coupons

First, there is no right or wrong way to organize coupons. The only right way, is the one that works for you. There are several methods for organizing coupons, but here are the Top 3 that I’ve seen:

(Photo from Super Jenn)

1) Coupon Binder – This is some form of zippered/closed binder that they put “baseball card sleeves” in to hold the coupons. The coupons are “clipped” and folded into the slots of the sleeves so that you can just flip through your coupons page by page. To see how to organize one, Super Jenn has a posting HERE.

(Photo from Money Saving Mom)

2) Coupon Box – This is some form of box where the “clipped” coupons are usually kept in some type of labeled envelope system. If you go with this method, I’d highly advise a box with a secure lid! Usually, when they shop, the box is put in the child seat of the cart for easy access.

3) Coupon Insert Method – This is where the coupon inserts from the Sunday paper are kept intact, and either not clipped or partially clipped, and filed by week. Usually an expandable file folder that has tabs for labeling is used.

I currently use the Coupon Insert Method. Now you may ask, if you don’t clip all the coupons, how can you possible use them? Good question! It’s important to know what coupons are out, so each Sunday, I’ll flip through all my inserts to see what I think I might need. I clip those right away. I then label each insert with that week’s date, so this Sunday’s inserts would be 7/12/09 SS, 7/12/09 RP and/or 7/12/09 P&G, if there was one. I’ll then file them under July. It looks something like this:

(Photo from Coupon Geek) :)

The coupons that I clip, I put into a mini-expandable file coupon holder that fits nicely in my purse so I always have the ones I think I’ll need with me. It looks something like this:

(Photo from Coupon Geek) :)

Typically blogs will list where you can find the coupon needed for a deal. They say something like, “Use the $1/1 from the 7/12 Smart Source.” I’ll then go to the 7/12Smart Source insert, find the coupon and clip it. It saves me from having to clip out all those coupons, but I still have them handy in case I can get a good deal on something.

The disadvantage to this method is that you don’t have all your coupons with you when you shop. But I look at it this way, while I may miss out on a clearanced item or two; it also prevents me from “impulse shopping” and buying something that’s not on my list. I can always jot down the deal and take a chance at picking it up later in the week if I’m out again.

Now, if you make up your shopping list and you are buying, say Skippy Peanut Butter and Hunt’s Ketchup, you can go to one of the coupon databases out there and see if a coupon exists for those products. My favorite one to use is Coupon Mom. You’ll need to register, but it’s free and easy to use. Just sign-in, choose grocery coupon database and then your state. I always sort it alphabetically. For these items, I’d look for Skippy and Hunt’s. If they are listed, you’ll need to see what insert they are in. For example, the Skippy Peanut Butter says 6/14SS, I’d then go hunt down my Smart Source insert from 6/14 and clip it.

Like I said, there’s no one right way to organize coupons. You may even switch over time. I’ve tried all of them! Personally, I hate cutting out coupons and I have little spare time, so that’s why I stick with the coupon insert method now.

Always keep in mind; coupons are “regional,” meaning some areas/states get some we don’t. So you may see some listed on blogs that aren’t going to be in your inserts.

Couponing Basics: Where to Find Coupons

So you’ve been bit by the couponing bug and now you want to find even more coupons, but you don’t know where to look. Here are the top places to find coupons:

1) Sunday Newspapers – These are the biggest sources of coupons. To find additional copies, check recycling bins or ask your family/friends if they are using theirs. There are anywhere from none to three inserts per paper. For a preview of upcoming coupons, you can check Sunday Coupon Preview.

2) Mail – You can sign-up for coupons from Red Plum here. You can also check out their printable coupons, too.

3) Free Samples – Signing up for free samples is a great way to get some higher dollar coupons. I’d advise creating a separate email address for “freebies.”

4) In-Store – You can often find coupons called “blinkies,” which are the little machines that spit out coupons by the products they are for. There are also “tear-pads,”as well. You can sometimes even find “peelies” right on the products themselves.

5) Printable Sites – Some of the big printable sites are, RedPlum, Coupon Network and Smart Source. These coupons rotate week after week and usually have maximum printings that when the limit is reached, they are pulled off the site. So if you see one you think you might need, you should print it. (You can usually print two per computer.) Other sites are for eCoupons are Saving Star and Cellfire.

6) Blogs – Blogs are a great place to find coupons. I stumble upon several at my fellow blogger’s sites throughout the week. I compile them throughout the week and post them on Mondays.

7) Search Engines – If you are looking for a specific coupon, just type the brand name followed by the word coupon and you might be able to find one that way.

8) Join Groups/Surveys – There are some groups you can sign-up for that will offer/mail you coupons from time-to-time. Some are:
Vocal Point
Shoppers Voice
Recycle Bank

9) Manufacturers Websites – More and more manufacturers are hosting coupons on their own sites now. If you use a lot of a particular item/brand, check their website to see if they offer coupons. If they don’t, email/mail them and request some.

10) Magazines – By far, the magazine with the most coupons lately has been All You magazine, which you can only get by subscription or at Wal-Mart. The price of the magazine is well worth the coupons inside. Make sure you check your magazines to see if there are some inside.

11) Free Periodicals – Some stores will have local newsbooks that have local area coupons inside. (For Chicago, try Chicago Parent and Family Time)

12) Forums – There are several great forums out there to check into. The top ones I’ve found are WeUseCoupons, HotCouponWorld and AFullCup. You have to register at each of them, but it’s free.

13) Store Websites – Make sure you sign-up for your local store’s loyalty programs and register at their websites so you can get emailed coupons. You can add eCoupons to your card through Saving Star and Cellfire.

14) Phone Book – Don’t forget to check your phone book for coupons for your local area businesses.

15) Entertainment Books – The Entertainment books have coupons for restaurants, entertainment, retail stores, etc.

Here are a list of common sites that regularly offer coupons:
Coupon Network
Smart Source
Very Best Baking – Nestle
Family Cents
Eat Better America
Box Tops for Education
Red Plum
Target Coupon Generator
Saving Star

Couponing Basics: Understanding BOGO Coupons and BOGO Sales

BOGO (Buy-One-Get-One) coupons and sales are the still the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around as a couponer. And that’s mostly because they are almost too good to be true sometimes! :) Now keep in mind, it’s always up to the stores on what their policies are on handling coupons. But here is how they generally work:

BOGO Coupon By Itself (or a BOGO sale item by itself) – If you use a BOGO coupon by itself, you’ll pay full price for one item and get the other one for FREE.

Coupons on BOGO Sale Items – If your store is running a BOGO sale on an item, you can use TWO coupons, one for each item, even though one item was technically free. The reason for this is because the sale is offered by the store and the coupons are re-imbursed by the Manufacturers.

BOGO Coupons w/ BOGO Sale Items – This is like winning the lotto. You get BOTH items for FREE. Why? The store will give you one for FREE with the sale and the manufacturer will re-imburse them for the value of the coupon. (Check your store for policy on this.)

The best way to use BOGOs? Shop with a friend and split the bill! (unless you personally need two of one item.) This is especially helpful if you only have one set of coupons to use.

Always keep in mind that you have to pay tax on the free item. Like they always say, nothing in life is free. :)

Hope this helps!

Couponing Basics: Using Register Rewards and Catalinas at Other Stores

Some of you may be hestitant to grab the great deals at Walgreens because you don’t shop there enough to use the Register Rewards that help you technically get your deals for free or money-makers. (Or you have enough toothbrushes, toothpaste, air fresheners and shampoo to give one to your entire town!)

Well, here’s great news for you: Register Rewards can be used at other stores that accept Competitor’s coupons! (Check your store’s policy to see if they will take them.) This also works with store Catalinas!

Why would they take them? Most Register Rewards/Catalinas will say “Manufacturer’s Coupon” on the top. This means that the stores can mail them into the specified manufacturers and get their money back.

I’ve found out that my CVS, Jewel and Dominick’s will take these. (I haven’t checked with Target/Wal-Mart yet.) So I figure out which store has the best overall deals and use them there. This week, it’s Jewel! I can run the Huggies deal at Walgreens, get the Register Rewards and then go and buy up some super discounted items at Jewel! In the end, I’ll still get a great price on diapers, I can still mail my receipts into Caregiver’s Marketplace AND I get groceries for next to nothing out-of-pocket. (I’ve got enough stockpile in most of my household items right now.)

This is how I keep my grocery AND household costs down. Just make sure two things: Do those Register Rewards/Catalinas say Manufacturer’s Coupon on the top and will your stores accept them?

Also, make sure you are really using them to their best potential—basically you need to figure out what will give you the most groceries/household items that you REALLY need for the smallest out-of-pocket cost. It’s great to get a lot of “freebies,” but if you don’t really need them and are paying more for groceries, it’s not a deal. Free isn’t always free. :) (And remember…you still have to pay tax on “freebies.”)

Hope this helps! I’ll be putting up more Couponing Basics as time permits!

(Confused by “Coupon Lingo?” Click here for the explanations.)

Note: I do still pick up freebies often so I can donate to charities or help out my family members. I just have to make sure I am providing for my family first. In the end, you’ll figure how to “run the deals” so that you can do both!