Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is an Overage?

An overage is when the product you have is a price that is lower than your coupon.

Colgate toothpaste
Regular price: $2.39
Sale price: 99 cents (and you even price matched!)
You have a coupon for: $1.50
You have an overage of 51 cents per toothpaste you purchase.

This means that the coupon can be accepted (some stores say "yes" to the overage), some say "no" to the overage, but will accept the coupon UP TO the value of the sale price (example: 99 cents will be written on the coupon to show that you got the toothpaste for 99 cents, it's still "free" to you, but you don't get the difference). Some stores won't accept the coupon at all.

The BEST store for accepting overages is Walmart.

The best time to have an overage, is when you can get enough of one coupon to get the product overage and use the overage towards your other cart purchases (items that are more difficult for finding coupons and discounts for- like fresh produce, meat, eggs, etc).

Check a "coupon policy" for each store in order to find the specific way that overages are dealt with.

When IS it a Good Time to Use a Coupon?

The best time to use a coupon is when there is a sale. You will get more "bang for your buck" and save more money.

The next best time, is if you need the item (example: toilet paper) and it's a critical low time in the house, you can't wait for the next sale cycle in the store... make your own "sale" by using the coupon. At least you are still saving "something" and not paying full price.

The best time to try a "new" product on the shelves is when you have a coupon! When a new product comes out, product taste testing in stores or demonstrations for a products effectiveness are usually performed. This is also when they hand out coupons (sometimes) and this is when you will find the product on special (sometimes). Use the coupon (watch for Smart Source, Red Plum, etc for "new" products about to hit the shelves, and have your coupon ready for when it arrives in stores).
This is when to buy a product, on sale with your coupon, when it's new. Then, if you don't like it; it's not as big a ding to your pocket-book!

"Yeah, but you really don't use that!"

The number one mistake, in my humble opinion, is buying something you don't use just because you have a coupon.

It's not saving you money if you are spending money on an item that you don't use!

Your real savings come when you use a coupon on an item that you do use in your household!

You get a coupon for Fruit Roll Ups. You don't buy them because you prefer your kids to have a real piece of fruit with their lunches, not a pre packaged (etc) snack. But, you have a 50 cents off coupon, and they are on sale this week for $1.47. You get the box for 93 cents. Are you really getting a good deal if you are compromising your shopping list and nutrition of your kids, if you purchase this item? Would you be better off buying the fruit that you normally purchase (and it happens to cost more this week because you are comparing the sale of the Fruit Roll Ups versus the fresh apples during the mid-winter)... it's tempting. But don't give in. You'll feel better in the end knowing that you stuck through and sent the kids with something you feel good about.

(Nothing against Fruit Roll Ups, it was just an example!)
The same could be said of sugary cereals, pre packaged meals, meal starters, etc.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to make a Shopping Trip plan: (to start your stock pile and maintain it)

Step one:
Organizing your coupons (this is made easier in a binder format, but you can use what works best for you). This will familiarize you with the coupons you have on hand (it will also give you an idea what coupons you should be trading for and watching the stores and inserts for).

Step two:
Make a list of things you need (you may mentally know the typical items like bread, butter, cheese, eggs, milk and hamburger; but write them all down for now).
Put down a list of things you are starting to run low on, but have another week left on (for example: you check your dish soap and note that it's got enough to last another week and you aren't at critical yet), write that down anyhow.
Make note of things you generally have to buy “all the time” like toilet paper.

Step three:
Collect your tools... your highlighter, pen and paper.

Step four:
Gather all the flyers that you have available, even stores you don't shop at.

Step five:
Go through each flyer, carefully. COMPARE each pack of toilet paper with the next store, see who has the best deal for the money you have and DON'T FORGET: you have coupons! Check for the item (say it's Royale Toilet paper on sale for $4.97 at Foodland, you have a $1 off coupon- you COMPARE the other flyers and what other coupons you have, and find the best deal that fits your needs; if you don't like Royale, don't buy it just because you have a coupon!)

Step six:
Write down the store that you are “shopping” at by flyer... at the top of your page. Under that, write down each item you want, the price (if the store makes a mistake at the till you need to know!!), quantities you want, if you have a coupon make an indication of that on the line as well.
Now, when you are checking out, it will be much easier for the cashier to price match all your items from each flyer at a time. And, not miss a coupon!

The Shopping Trip!

This is the part of the coupon experience that newbie coupon users either love, or hate. It can make a seasoned coupon user excited, or even fill with a bit of dread when we don't see our favourite cashier working.
This is the part of coupon use that shows your pay off! This is like the big exam at the end of a lot of study and paper work. The preparation that you have gone through for the past weeks, or days, is about to show through. The more time that you put into gathering coupons and trading, will be brought front and centre to show how organized and efficient at saving you really are, deep down. (and you will improve even more over time, with more practice)

You CAN do this!

Deep breath... enter store with coupon binder (or other) in hand. Bring your shopping list, flyers and your highlighter.

Get shopping! It takes time, even the seasoned coupon user and price matcher, takes time in the store.
Here's some reasons why:
1. We need to check our products. If the flyer states a certain item, we need to have “that” item in our cart (especially if price matching).

2. Check for clearance and in-store sales that aren't advertised. Manager's blow outs, etc. You can use a coupon with this, and get even bigger savings!

3. Watch the cashier as she/he rings each item through. This is not a time to chat, it's a time to focus. You need to be watching for prices that ring in incorrectly (then SCOP would apply), and to make sure that every coupon is accounted for.

4. If you aren't clear on something that is rang in, ASK! It is your money, you aren't given a set time limit at the check out; ask the cashier for clarity.

5. Be patient with the cashier, even if she/he isn't excited about the prospect of a stack of coupons and price-matches coming down the conveyor.

6. Ask for assistance if you need it from a manager; if a coupon is being rejected patiently ask why, if it's a written or new policy; something that you can see for yourself or have a copy of to take home and share with others (because you will share your experience with other people, it happens!) and get the information straight from the management if you can. If you can't, get the management's contact information and make arrangements to contact them at a later date/time.

7. If you have time, check your receipt before leaving the store. This takes time, but not too long... basically you know how many coupons you used... just count that number up and check your total number of items when you had multiples ring in. (it's easy to miss a multiple). Get it fixed before leaving the store. If you don't have time, check as soon as you get home.

8. Repeat steps 1-8 as often as you wish!

How to handle the Impatient Customer Behind you in Line!

You have just entered new territory and you are nervous, anxious and excited. You want to use the big stack of coupons you have collected, you have price matched every item in your cart and you are organized for the cashier to ring you through efficiently and as fast as it is reasonable to.

Then it hits you... the sigh.

The breath of the customer behind you and the sound of grief from an impatient shopper hangs behind you like the stench of your husband after a night of too much chili. It just stinks and it's so uncomfortable!

What do you do? Do you dare speak? Make some lame small talk that serves to just make you more anxious because now you can actually SEE in their facial expression their exasperated look and their eyes rolling skyward!

Well... you kill them with kindness is what you do! In most, not all, circumstances this will be enough to make the person ease up on their “attitude” towards your thrifty shopping trip.
This is not a guarantee, but it's worth trying.

Take note of what they have in their cart or on the conveyor belt behind your shopping items.
Do you see ANYTHING that you have a coupon for? A bag of Pampers, a jug of juice, a loaf of bread a tube of toothpaste? Anything. Now, look quick for that item in your binder, (this is why you carry your extra coupons with you, and keep things organized!)... get out the coupon and offer the little piece of savings to the customer behind you.

It doesn't happen too often that you have an impatient customer behind you. But being prepared is easy when you have a few extra coupons!
I just offer the coupon by saying, “hey, I have a coupon for .... (handing it to them) would you like to save some money on that today?” I have been turned down, but that is super rare.

I like to “gift” my extra coupons to people in stores as well. This makes some people's day, because they just came for what they could afford; and let's face it, a lot of us have been in the circumstance where we only had “just enough” for that trip to the store, and nothing extra. It's nice to come home with change in your pocket, especially when you saved with a coupon.

I will just randomly notice the contents of a cart, and the person shopping... get out the coupon... and by this time,they may have noticed my binder (because it's big!) and stands out from the crowd, and I present them with something “off” their purchase in their cart.

It makes them smile. It makes me feel good, and it's such a simple act of kindness. In the coupon world, we call these RAOK. Random Acts of Kindess. It's a great way to make your day, and someone else's just a bit brighter! Who knew a coupon could do, so much!

Just Where do You get ALL those Coupons!?

Step one:
Patiently await the arrival of your Smart Source, Red Plum and Brand Saver newspaper inserts. This is more difficult for some of us then we care to elaborate on.
Clip coupons, all of them, from the above flyers. Even if you won't use them personally, you will want to have a stash for trading (and gifting) on hand.

Step two:
This is not a step that all coupon users use, but I can safely assume that more use this method than do not.
Get yourself into the online community of trading. There are several great sites, some are better than others for ease of use; but generally they are an important part of being a coupon user.

Step three:
Trade! Set up trades in person, online and within your work or social groups. Every coupon user has a coupon that they “wish” they could find, and alternatively have a coupon they are usually ready to trade for that wish list coupon.

Step four:
While in stores (shopping, window shopping, etc) notice the tear off pads. Take a coupon for later use if you don't need it now, the coupons will be gone by the time you do need it. Remember, you may not need every coupon personally, but you may find someone who needs it and wants to trade you for something you want.
(example: Pantene products are on a coupon for $1 off until the end of December, 2011. You don't use Pantene at all, but know that I do. You contact me, making me aware of the coupon you just found and offering to trade it for a coupon that you are looking for. You may see my trade list online (something we'll discuss later) or, you may just know I use that product. You get the cheese coupon you have been wanting from me (example) for the Pantene coupon! We both save on our next shopping trip.)

Step five:
Talk to your friends, family, fellow co-workers and class mates to see if they use coupons, if they happen to get any that they won't be using, then just to kindly pass them on to you.
(example: Your neighbour down the street is seen recycling their cereal boxes every week faithly to keep the planet green, but doesn't cut the $5 off Skinny Cow coupons that are inside! Besides thinking that they didn't notice the coupon, you could ask them if you could have the coupons and if they will be getting more, to just let you know so you can pick them up! Offer to do all the cutting and recycle the boxes too, to save the neighbour time for their kindness. (Maybe even offer them an ice cream sandwich when you do pick them up with their coupon!)

Step six:
Print-at-home coupons... remember to go online and print coupons that you plan to use.

Step seven:
Sign up with flyers by email (some stores offer exclusive online coupons for e-flyer customers)

Step eight:
Sign up with online coupon companies. (a list will be provided with your class materials)...
(examples:,,, etc)

Step nine:
Sign up with P&G Brandsaver. They provide coupons (they send you, similar to and they send out product samples twice per year (spring and fall usually). These samples go VERY quickly. You need to sign up and request them as soon as you see the email in your email box. Don't put it off, or the samples will be gone! (samples vary person to person, but could be personal care products (shampoo, razors, teeth whitening, floss, toothpaste) or even pringles chip samples!)

Step ten:
Repeat steps 1-10 for maximum savings potential!

Price Matching

Price matching is a process which usually involves flyers, sales and coupons. A "price match" is when a store offers (for example) a sale on an item.

Whether an item is either sold out or it's just more convenient to shop all in one place, price matching saves money!

Take your local flyers (generally the flyers have to be within a radius of the store you are price matching too; you can't expect a store to price match with a store hours away if it's a speciality store)...

So, look at your flyers... here's a sample list:

Store: Rexall/Pharma Plus
Sale items: Campbell's condensed soups
Sale price: 49 cents per can
Sale: August 27 to August 31, 2011

I only find the one item at Pharma Plus on sale, so I circle it on my flyers, write it on a list (this is going to keep you organized when you are at the check out).

I move on to my next flyer(s) and follow the same example (writing on a piece of paper the name of the store, the item and it's price. Also, if I have a coupon to use with the price match, and the quantity.

Then I proceed to a store that price matches. Walmart is by far the leader in this area, they accept more coupon types (printables, internet (mail to you), manufacturer, off the packages and even competitors own coupons!); so in my example, I will be "shopping" at Walmart.

I pick up each item on my list, I am sure to put aside the coupon that I am using and mark the list with a highlighter in case there is a change (something the store doesn't carry, a brand difference, they are sold out, etc) because if I want the item, I will have to go to the original flyer and that store to purchase it.

I take my flyers, (this is VERY important, you MUST have proof that there is an advertised sale; the ad MUST be current as well); I put the items on the conveyor belt and proceed with the price matching.

Here's the way I do it:
I let the cashier know that I will be price matching a substantial amount of products today, and using a hefty amount of coupons as well. This gives her/him a chance to put up a "please use other checkout" if they feel it will add less pressure to them as they concentrate. (A practice which is highly commendable at Walmart that not all cashiers do, but should consider).

I take the items for each flyer and try to have them on the belt in the order to save flipping back and forth through flyers. Example: all the Pharma Plus sale related items together, so all the Campbell's soup would be together, not just all over on the conveyor belt.

An organized shopper makes for a less impatient cashier... in most cases.

Move from one flyer to the next. Don't forget your coupons with each purchase! That will save the cashier from having to look over your hefty list of items now in bags... and try to remember if she rang that item in or not.

Final Word About Price Matching:

The item you are matching should be the same brand, size, type, colour, etc. specified in the ad.

IF you find that a store is out of an item that you are wanting (for example, Walmart is sold out of 24x 500ml Nestle Pure Life water and you are price matching it for $2.44 at Pharma Plus; Walmart MAY (this is NOT a guarantee) choose to sell you the 12x 500mL water (same brand) for $1.22 to make up for the short fall in their stocks).

This happened to me last week when I was in the Walmart store. I bought the 12 packs for the $1.22 price because Walmart was sold out of the 24 packs (which I was going to price match to $2.44 each.

They did not have to do this. I didn't ask, nor did I even think that was an option.

Apparently, Walmart is for serving the customer and keeping the business. I was impressed with that.

Rain Checks

A "Rain Check" is basically a piece of paper allowing you to purchase a sale item at a later date because the store has run short of supply.

A typical rain check is dated and has an expiry date (maybe weeks or month), quantity of the item you want to purchase, a size, brand and store where it the rain check is valid. It will also have a signature from a department or store manager, or other authorized employee.

Metro runs a sale on chicken leg 1/4's for $1.49/lb. They run out of the chicken and offer rain checks to customers who ask for them.

The rain check will only be valid at Metro, by the expiry date, on the exact item and for the exact quantity specified. You cannot purchase chicken at the sale price (after the sale is over) without your rain check. You will have to give Metro the rain check, you can only use it once; even if you only buy 3 items and the rain check said you can have 6. All 6 must be purchased at the same time. You cannot exceed the 6 (example) that is specified on the rain check, you can only have the maximum.

Some stores have an idea when the "truck will be in" with the next shipment, while other stores may offer just a general "sometime next week." Either way, the rain check will be good for a length of time, just don't forget to use it!

There are the few stores in our midst that do not issue a rain check for items in their stores. This is inconvenient for the customer and frustrating. It's just their policy. The only thing you can do (besides not going back to check) is to ask when they expect a new shipment with your desired sale items on it to arrive.

Can I Use A Coupon With A Rain Check?

Yes. A coupon and rain check are two very different pieces of paper. One is a discounted price for a specific item that is kept until you are ready to redeem it. The other is a piece of paper entitling you to a sale priced item that the store ran short of during their sale. There is no reason that a rain check and coupon can't be used together.