Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Crafter Turned Couponer

I haven't been spending that much time putting cards together although I have cut out a bunch of Cricut images to glue together for some therapeutic productivity considering my current job situation (or lack thereof).  I won't get into that right now, but let's just say that from midnight to about 2:00am on Sunday, I couldn't sleep because I was thinking that I never thought I'd be turning 29 and being where I am at the moment.  But of course, there are many things that come as a surprise including the fact that I never thought I'd be a couponer, but I think that's what I am nowadays!

When I was a kid, I remember seeing my mom look through the circulars every Sunday night when we got the newspaper and watching her clip coupons.  I didn't quite understand why it was worth the time considering some coupons had such low values.  Was it really worth the effort to save $0.50?  The only times I used coupons was when Michaels or AC Moore had a 50% off that I could use on a craft product!  With sales and coupons at craft stores, I could really save dollars on just one item.  I considered supermarkets to be completely different though.  Before I got married, I said to my mom that I would definitely shop sales for groceries, but I claimed that couponing wouldn't be worth it.  Boy, have I had to eat my words as of late!

Earlier in the year, I really got into buying nail polish after purchasing two different colors for my brother's wedding and Howard's sister's wedding.  It was fun to "accessorize" my fingernails and toenails considering I don't really wear jewelry or accessories other than my engagement ring, wedding ring, and watch.  Having only a handful of colors wasn't enough, so I started scouring the pages of drugstore ads to see when they were having sales on nail polish that I could buy to have more variety.  My first nail polish haul was at CVS when they had a sale on Sally Hansen polishes AND a deal to get ExtraBucks (EB or, as most people refer to it online and on social media, ECB).  That trip is what ignited the flame for my passion for saving money!

If you don't know what ExtraBucks are, it's actually pretty easy to understand.  Most drugstores have a loyalty program with rewards to get customers to return to the store time and time again.  For example, Walgreens has Register Rewards and Balance Rewards while RiteAid has +UP Rewards.  I've found that the CVS rewards are the easiest ones for me to understand (plus, the stores I frequent are much nicer because of their employees and the fact that they actually have stock available!).  In the ad, you will see that if you buy a certain product or a certain amount of a particular brand, you will get ExtraBucks Rewards in return.  They print at the bottom of your receipt, and you can use them right away or up to a month after that initial transaction.  That meant that after buying some nail polish, I could use the money I got back to buy even more nail polish!

After having ExtraBucks for some time, however, I learned online that the best thing to do with them was to "roll" them.  That means that if I received $3 ECB from buying toothpaste, the following week, I'd look for another deal where I could use the previously earned ECB to buy something else that would give me some ECB back.  It was the best way to buy nail polish and other makeup items especially since those are considered luxury items.  It's even BETTER when you can reduce your out of pocket (OOP) expense by using CVS coupons and manufacturer's coupons!  And then it just made sense that I should be using my energy to coupon to buy necessities!  Clearly, my "I'm-never-going-to-use-coupons" statement to my mom was made before my husband and I had rent and bills of our own to pay!

It took me about a year to come to my senses that there is absolutely no need not to save money on necessities especially since Howard and I are going to constantly need the same basics over and over again.  You'll see that some couponers caption or tag their pictures with #whypaymore because seriously, WHY PAY MORE?!?  There really is so much more to get into when it comes to couponing, but there are many people online who have spent tons of time compiling how to guides for newbie couponers.  I read a bunch of them, which is what really got me interested to save as much money as possible.  I might end up writing more couponing posts in the future, but for right now, here are the tips that I read on blogs that I follow and some others that I feel are important when it comes to shopping specifically at CVS:
  1. Get an ExtraCare card and scan it at the redbox every single time that you can to have coupons printed out for you.  I envy those who work right by a CVS and scan their cards almost on a daily basis even if they don't go to the store to make any purchases!  Also, be sure to keep scanning until the redbox says there are no more coupons to be printed.  Sometimes I have coupons print even after the third scan!  Also, don't forget to sign up for an online account and link your ExtraCare card.  You won't regret it!  CVS often emails coupons for $5 off $15 or $6 off $30 in beauty products.  You also get Beauty Bucks, which is $5 for every $50 you spend on what they put in the beauty category (cosmetics, hair care, skin care).  Lastly, they randomly send out FREE MONEY.  Yesterday I got $3 just because it was my birthday, but then today I along with many others got $3 just because!  It's funny because I was explaining to Howard that I can get more excited about getting one of those emails inviting me to buy something at CVS as opposed to someone just handing me $3 in cash.  It's basically "forcing" me to spend it in the same way a gift card can sometimes be more fun than just getting cash! 
  2. Stack coupons!  On one item, you are allowed to use a manufacturer's coupon AND a CVS coupon.  If I want to buy lotion, I can use a $2 off lotion coupon that came from the redbox or from the bottom of my receipt along with a $1 manufacturer's coupon.  This really helps bring your out of pocket cost really low, which means that it's possible to get "free" products from the store with coupons and ECB deals.
  3. At this point, it hasn't been worth it for us to buy the Sunday newspaper for coupons though I did get a stack, I think, from my sister-in-law when I posted on Facebook asking for coupon inserts if people weren't using them.  There are actually websites that post what coupons will be in those inserts, so a quick skim can let you know if it's worth picking up a paper.  However, I've had success just printing coupons online.  I look through what's available on coupons.com and a few other sites, and in other situations, I just Google "[product name] coupon" and see what comes up.  There are people who go to stores and grab tons of coupons from tearpads and blinkies and steal peelies from products (yes, I consider it stealing when you take coupons off a product when you don't actually buy it), but there's nothing really available in my area.  Just take note that most of the time, there's a limit to how many coupons you can print from your computer (usually 2).  Thankfully, I can just send the link to Howard to print from his computer if I need more than that.
  4. One of the tips that works the BEST for me is checking out Instagram!  Since I'm focusing on CVS, I'll do a search for #CVS and see what other people have purchased and what coupons they used to save.  This seems to work a lot better for me than following the tens and thousands of blogs out there that post the deals.  I know that Instagram is up to date, so I don't have to worry about weeding through old blog posts on websites for deals that have long since passed.  It was through Instagram that I realized I could use my $1 off GoldEmblem juice coupons from the redbox on carbonated drinks and get them for free!  It was also from Instagram that I found out that I should save my $1 CVS cotton product coupons to use the following week on cotton balls because they were on sale for $1!  I wouldn't have known those things if I wasn't always checking the hashtag.
  5. Only buy what you need and will use.  I admit it's pretty easy to look at other people's hauls and want to do the same especially when they only spend pennies.  However, many of them aren't really possible because they use multiple ExtraCare cards (I have mine, and very rarely Howard will use his) and have stacks of coupons from friends, purchasing multiple newspapers, or dumpster diving.  They end up having stockpiles similar to what can be seen on TLC's show Extreme Couponing.  I am happy to have some reserves on hand, but my goal isn't to have a ton of stuff  because we don't have the storage space for it and because there's only two of us and we don't go through as much product as a family of four would.  I do have a few extras so that in case of an emergency (ex. like when people needed things after Hurricane Sandy last October) or if there's a collection for donated items at my old school, we have some toothpaste and toothbrushes to give.  I'm also going to be rolling ECBs to get "free" products so that my family members can have them as well.  But other than that, I think that doing this and storing tons of stuff can be close to hoarding.  I can see how it can be addicting.
Of course, considering all this talk about coupons, I just have to share my latest shopping trip because it was the first time where all I had to pay was the tax!  In fact, you can see that I had some overage from my coupons, so my subtotal was actually a negative value.  Take a look!

Here you can see what I actually purchased for my $2.74.  It's really so much fun to coupon because the Maybelline nail polish that I've been eyeing for some time was $4.29, and I paid less for so much more!

This was an "easy" trip in that I did have $25 ECB from my last trip to spend along with some extra CVS deals including (a) $6 off $30 beauty, (b) $3.00 ECB for my birthday, and (c) $5 Beauty Bucks.  I don't typically break down my purchases the way people on Instagram do it, but I figured for this one, it will be worth it since it's the beginning of the week and there's time for others to score some of these deals too.

7UP soda
This is an easy deal because you can see it in the ad itself.  The soda (7UP, A&W, Canada Dry, Sunkist) is on sale for $0.99, but when you scan your card at the redbox, you get another $0.30 coupon making it only $0.69 (not including deposit depending on your state).  Considering we've purchased these bottles for $1, getting it for less made it a good deal.  The only soda we typically have in the apartment is cans of ginger ale for the times I might feel nauseous, but other than that, we only splurge on drinking it if we happen to have pizza.  You can't have pizza without a fizzy drink!

DAWN dishwashing detergent
The sale in the ad is also really simple to understand.  Just buy 3 bottles of Dawn dishwashing liquid for $3 and get $1 back in ECB.  We've been using Palmolive lately because it's usually cheaper, but Dawn is still the best for cutting through any grease or buildup on pots and pans.  At my store, they had the regular blue one along with the green one and Olay pink one that I purchased.

COLGATE travel-friendly toothpaste and mouthwash
There are two separate ECB deals for Colgate this week.  The first one is one that I've done before.  Those little tubes of travel-friendly toothpaste come in a 4-pack for $3.59.  This week, if you buy any Colgate Multi-Pack toothpaste or toothbrush, you get $3.00 back in ECB and the travel-friendly multi-pack is included!  That's one of the things I would not have known had I not checked Instagram a few weeks ago.  It's kind of like paying only $0.59 for it.  The limit is 2, so since I had plenty of ECB to spend, I bought both meaning I was able to earn $6 in ECB.

The other Colgate deal was on Colgate Total or Total Advanced toothpaste (4-4.2 oz), Total rinse (250 ml, which means the 8 oz bottles), and the 360 Floss-Tip toothbrush.  You can buy any 2 for $5.98 and get $3 in ECB.  I know there were $2 coupons on this recently, but I didn't have them, so I printed out two coupons online for $1.10 off the mouthwash.  This brought my total down to $3.78, but I still got $3 back in ECB.  If you had the $2 coupons, the OOP expense would have only been $1.98, making this a "money maker."

This deal worked out beautifully for me though because when I scanned my card at the redbox upon entering the store, I got a $2 off $10 oral care coupon, so I was able to use that CVS coupon for these purchases!  Hooray!

NIVEA body wash and body lotion
Howard and I have been using body wash lately because we tend to go through bars of soap really quickly.  The Nivea body wash is on sale this week (and next week too!) for $4.  That alone is a good deal since the normal price here is $6.49.  Online you can find a coupon for $1 off Nivea body wash (even though the coupon says "Redeemable at Walmart," it's actually a manufacturer's coupon and it prints with the phrase "Redeemable at your local supercenter").  I also had a CVS coupon for $2 off $8 for body wash or bar soap, so I picked up another bottle.

This week there's also an ECB deal with Nivea.  When you spend $10, you get $3 back, so I picked up a bottle of lotion because we're almost out of the one bottle of Lubriderm I have!  The lotion is on sale for $6 when it's normally $8.49.  Online there's a coupon for $2 off body lotion, so score there as well!  After all the coupons, it cost $8 out of pocket with $3 back in ECB to take home what would have cost $21.47 if I decided to go to the store and buy those things full price.

CVS eye makeup remover
Though there weren't any ECB deals with this, there was a sale for buy one get one 50% off.  I'm down to half a bottle of my RiteAid makeup remover, and then I'm done, so I knew I needed to get some more soon.  Each bottle was $5.99, which meant it cost about $9 for both bottles.  The reason why this was an especially good deal was because I had the $6 off $30 coupon off of beauty products.  The $14 from Nivea and the $9 from this meant that I had $23 spent on beauty products.  I would have purchased two more bottles, but they were out of stock, and I also went to ask the manager if they had any more.  I still needed $7 more to use the coupon, which was basically like paying $1 more for stuff I was going to buy anyway and choosing $6 of stuff for free!

MAYBELLINE eyeliner and nail polish
The $6 off $30 coupon is why I bought these two items.  I chose Maybelline because there's an ECB to get $3 back when you spend $10.  This was already my contingency plan (Howard thought it was funny that I said I had a contingency plan for a trip to CVS!) because I've been wanting the polka dots nail polish in "Clearly Spotted" since I first saw it!  But spending $4.29 was much too much especially since I have plenty of polish now.  This was the perfect opportunity to get it for free with that coupon!  But I still didn't have enough so I needed to choose another product.  I happened to have a CVS coupon for $2 off any eyeliner, eye shadow, or mascara, so I looked at their options and picked up the least expensive eyeliner that was available, which was $6.49.

With the sales and coupons used, I was able to make my subtotal negative, so it helped chip away at some of the tax.  That's also why I love CVS because they allow overages!  I did use up all my previously earned ExtraBucks, but I also got $16 back.  With the random $3 they emailed to me today, I now have $19 for my next trip to do it all over again!  This is definitely something that is worth learning and mastering.  I've been posting some of my purchases on Instagram and getting some others interested, so I'm hoping this LONG blog post provided some clarification.

Mom, I take it back.  I love couponing!

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