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Let’s Shop With Coupons!
So now that you know which couponing store and day to shop, it’s time to go shop with coupons! At this point you may be asking, “but how do I start? I can’t just go to the store blindly looking around with a bunch of coupons.” Well, technically you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The first thing to do is:
Plan Your Trip
Usually I like to plan what I’m going to go buy either the night before my trip or the morning of, depending of when exactly I plan on going and how much time I have. This part really can be relatively simple, it just takes a little organization just like everything else.
If you have been following my recommendations thus far, you have chosen a good couponing website to help you. So in my case, I would be going to KCL, clicking on the store I plan on shopping at, and browsing through their ad match-ups and featured deals. (You can read more about KCL in this post). I suggest either writing down all the steps of the deal in a little spiral notebook or print them off so it is easy for you to reference while in the store. Occasionally you may need to make adjustments that I talk about below. I give a couple of concrete examples below.
So I have decided to go to Target and purchase the two deals shown above. One of these deals happens to be a moneymaker, woot! So what that means is that since I will be receiving a $5 gift card back on the clearance Covergirl powder, I am actually making $1.08 on my transaction as a final cost. And since I plan on using a $5 gift card I already have on this transaction, it means my out of pocket cost is actually negative $1.08. But of course I can’t expect the store to pay me $1.08 at the register and so I am using that overage towards my out of pocket cost on the Olay cream deal. So my final cost for both deals will be $8.18. Assuming I have been rolling my register rewards from trip to trip, I already have two $5 gift cards that I will apply to these transactions and expect to receive two $5 gift cards back, making my actual out of pocket cost $8.18. If I am not rolling any register rewards on this transaction, my actual out of pocket cost at the register will be $18.18. (You can see why I prefer to roll register rewards in this manner).
Clip Your Coupons
So now that I’ve chosen my deals to shop, all I have to do is clip and gather the relevant coupons and register rewards to apply to the transaction. So in the two deals above I need to print out 4 coupons for covergirl powder from coupons.com. (Do remember that you can only print 2 coupons per computer, so I will have to print the Covergirl coupons from 2 separate computers). I also need to clip out two Olay coupons from the PG 5/29 circular and add the Olay cartwheel offer to my cartwheel app. Plus I plan on rolling my gift cards, so I will collect two $5 gift cards (or one $10 gift card) to use towards my transaction. Now I have everything gathered, and I’m ready to go to the store!
Shopping at the Store
When it comes to actually shopping at the store, this part is pretty straightforward. Obviously you want to go to the store you have chosen where these deals apply. In my case in the example above, I am heading to Target. I go and find 4 clearance Covergirl powders listed at $2.98/piece and 2 Olay age defying creams listed at $9.59/piece. Now all I have to do is head to the register with my coupons in hand. Since this is a fairly simple transaction, I’m not worried about holding people up at the register. Once everything is scanned by the cashier, I hand them my coupons, gift cards, and cartwheel barcode to scan. Finally, since this is Target, I decide to pay with my REDcard, taking an extra 5% off my purchase. So I walk out of the store with 4 Covergirl powders, 2 Olay age defying creams, with only $7.77 out of my pocket, and having received two $5 gift cards back at the register.
When handing any coupons to the cashier, it is good to hand them manufacturer coupons first, store coupons second, and any register rewards last. Occasionally this will affect how your transaction is discounted and if they weren’t scanned in the correct order your final cost may differ from what you calculated. Don’t worry too much about this, but it is a good rule of thumb to follow.
Also, if you have a very large and complicated transaction which sometimes happens, it is good to shop a low traffic times. Inform the cashier when you approach and let them determine the best way to check you out. Don’t be that person that holds up the 1 open line with 10 people behind you. Try to be as courteous as possible to your fellow shoppers.
Encountering Road Blocks
Sometimes our couponing trips just don’t go as we planned. My personal strategy in these situations – forget it and move on. It’s not the end of the world if we don’t score every deal. In fact it’s kind of the point when it comes to fast couponing. Don’t sit there and waste time trying to make something work that may not be worth it.
One example may be that the items are out of stock at the store. I mentioned earlier that you can get a raincheck for sale items that are out of stock, and you are totally within your rights to do so. But actually using the raincheck will take more time. Not only do you have to make a second trip to the store, but you have to make sure you come back when the item is in stock and your coupons are still valid. Unless the deal just can’t be beat in any other possible way, then personally I just say forget it and move to the next deal on your list. Usually there will be other deals later, sometimes even better. And if you’re finding that most of your deals are out of stock, then you may need to reconsider your chosen couponing day.
Sometimes it may just be that the certain scent or flavor you would prefer is out of stock. It’s easy enough to purchase another scent within the same deal and exchange it on your next trip or at a later time that is convenient to you (though be sure that the normal price for both is also the same so that you don’t end up spending more money on your exchange). A good example of this is diapers. If you are shopping for your own little one, you may be needing a size 3 or up, but the store only has newborn and size 1 in stock. Go ahead and get the ones still available in the store, and exchange for the size you need at a later trip when they are in stock.
Another example may be that the price of the item is different than you planned on. This does happen occasionally, especially on clearance items or items that do not have an advertised sales price. The reason for this is that different states and regions may price regular priced items differently based on their market. On regular priced items, I have found price differences within two different stores in the same cities, but their markets were completely different. If you find that one store you shop at tends to be cheaper than same one a few streets over, then I would definitely consider shopping at the cheaper store as much as possible because you want to use your coupons on the cheapest item it will allow you to. But if you encounter a price difference, just make a quick recalculation and determine if the deal is still worth it. (If you have a written or printed detailed list of the deals like I suggest above, it’s easy enough to recalculate using the calculator on your phone). In my example above, I may find that the Covergirl powder isn’t on clearance at all. Since there is a considerable price difference between the clearance and regular priced powder, I would just leave it and move on.
Lastly, you may encounter problems at the register. The most common one I encounter is the coupon isn’t scanning. I don’t know why, but sometimes they just don’t get accepted by the register. Make sure that the item you are purchasing is clearly within the parameters of the coupon and you should be able to discuss with the cashier about entering it in manually. And of course it is always a good idea to be well versed in the lingo and have a copy of the store’s coupon policy so that if the cashier is not familiar with the policy, you can nicely bring it out and explain it to them. I once had a cashier tell me that “one coupon per purchase” meant that I could not use more than 1 of the same manufacturer’s coupon in my transaction, even though I had one coupon per item. I actually got into an argument with her (don’t do that) trying to explain that a purchase was referring to each individual item and not the transaction as a whole. The cashier was simply unfamiliar with the lingo. If you get into a situation with a cashier, attempt to be as patient as possible, and if it just isn’t working out, then just leave it be. You can always make a return later if need be.