A Coupon Cheat Sheet
Earlier this week I offered some tips on how to use coupons. Yes, I was one of the many people out there that have never used coupons. I can proudly say that I used my first set to buy this week's groceries. I saved $4.50. Not bad for my first time, right? My goal is to get my weekly grocery bill for my family of four (minus one who does not yet eat solids) down from $170 to $100.
In the meantime I've compiled a cheat sheet for the coupon policies of different stores in our area. Here's what I found out:
Most grocery stores, including Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter, Shoppers Food Warehouse and Whole Foods, accept all manufacturers' coupons. Some do not take coupons printed from the Internet for free items. Stores like Giant, Safeway and even Whole Foods generate their own coupons. Many of them spit out when a customer presents their savings card with a purchase. I've just started paying attention to these coupons and they're not bad, offering at least $1 off certain items that I typically buy.
Many of the grocery stores will also double the value of coupons. Safeway and Giant, for example, will double any coupon that's under 50 cents. Harris Teeter will double the value of any coupons that are 99 cents and below. The store limits this practice to 20 coupons a day per customer.
Speaking of Harris Teeter, the store recently launched eVic, a free program that notifies customers via e-mail when an item you regularly buy goes on sale. The program requires you to have a VIC card and then once you sign up for e-Vic, you'll get an e-mail listing the deals every Wednesday. If you follow Coupon Mom's strategy, you then find and clip out coupons for the items that have gone on sale and get double savings.
Target and Wal-Mart accept manufacturer coupons but not competitor's coupons. Target also generates a good amount of their own coupons. You can print them out directly from Target's Web site and the store also sends coupons in the mail. I've even received just general "$10 off your next $50 purchase" type coupons from Target. Wal-Mart will honor a competitor's price on the same item if you bring in the advertisement for that competing price.
CVS generates its own coupons through its ExtraCare card, which is free to customers. You present the card every time you make a purchase and you'll get 2 percent of that purchase in the form of Extra Bucks, which is money you can spend in the store. For prescriptions, you get a whole Extra Buck for every two prescriptions filled by CVS. The store also accepts manufacturer coupons.
Now for the electronics stores. Circuit City does accept most competitors coupons, including those from Best Buy. A sales associate says it would be a case by case basis when it came to competitor coupons but 90 percent of the time they do accept them. Best Buy does not accept any competitors' coupons but they do generate their own that get sent to Rewards Zone cardholders, which is the store's free club card. Customers present the card with every purchase and collect points that then turn into a coupon down the road.
Because most coupons are specific to size, wholesale stores don't accept most standard manufacturer coupons because of the bulk size items that they sell. But they do produce their own. BJs Wholesale Club makes them available on their Web site for printout. And they're pretty substantial coupons, which I deem more than $1 off. Costco coupons come in the mail in a booklet twice a year. In between those booklets, different manufacturers and vendors will also send coupons directly to members.
So at which stores do you have the most success with coupons? Which stores need help when it comes to coupons? What's the best deal you've gotten using a coupon?
Shoppers Food Warehouse, by the way, has posed an interesting challenge to shoppers. Purchase your weekly groceries at a competing store and then purchase that same list of items at Shoppers. If your Shoppers bill is not lower, the store will double the difference back to you. I wrote in a recent post that Shoppers was no cheaper than Giant when I did a cost comparison. So this might be an interesting challenge. Send me an e-mail if you try this experiment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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