Couponing Basics

Here is the ultimate goal of "extreme" (but not crazy!) couponing: combine store sales, store coupons, manufacturer coupons, and store rewards to get multiple discounts off each product. A good deal is combining at least 2 of those.

Store sales: Usually run weekly, and are usually advertised in a store flyer. The drugstores all run their weekly sales Sunday-Saturday. Big Y does Thursday-Wednesday, and Stop & Shop goes from Friday-Thursday (just to make our lives difficult.) Some sales run all month long. These might be featured in a weekly flyer, but the fine print will state how long they run.

Store coupons: Can be found in a number of places, different for each store. I will explain where to get them in each store’s FAQ. Store coupons can only be used in the issuing store, unless you find a place that accepts competitor coupons. (I don’t think any of my Top 5 do.) However, what makes them awesome is that they can be combined ("stacked") with manufacturer coupons to score multiple discounts. (Note – some store coupons will state that they are "Manufacturer Coupons" at the top. However, if they can only be redeemed at a specific retailer, then you can still stack them!)

Manufacturer coupons: The coupons you get in the Sunday paper, and most of the ones you can print online. They are not limited to any one retailer, and they include directions in the fine print for the retailer to redeem them.

Store Rewards: Each store has their own rewards program, but they all function essentially the same. I’ll explain more about the fine print on each of these within each store’s FAQ.
Rite-Aid: +UP Rewards
CVS: ExtraCare Bucks (ECBs)
Walgreens: Register Rewards (RRs)
Grocery Stores: Catalinas

Here’s how they work – you buy a product that is advertised as printing a store reward.

At checkout, a coupon will automatically print that you can use like cash (with some restrictions) on your next purchase. So you pay for the item up front, but then get a reward back that you can "roll," or use to pay for future items, which will hopefully print out their own rewards, which you roll forward…

Let’s use the Walgreen’s Listerine promotion above as an example. Right off the bat, we’re getting 2 discounts – a sale, and a RR. If you have a $1 Listerine coupon, the deal gets even better. (hypothetical example only!)
Listerine mouthwash
Mfg coupon
You pay:
Register Rewards
Net price

That is how you get items for free, or even moneymakers! Here’s an example of how a moneymaker might look: (hypothetical example only!)
Colgate toothpaste
Mfg coupon
CVS store coupon
You pay:
ExtraCare Bucks
Net price

You pay $0.77 out of pocket (oop), and get back a $1.00 reward. You essentially got paid $0.23 to take that tube of toothpaste out of the store. Sometimes, the combination of sale prices and coupons even mean that you pay $0 out of pocket.

That’s the miracle of couponing, and also what makes it so time-consuming. You have to know, at all times, what coupons you have and what’s on sale, so that you can match-up to get the best deals. Luckily, there are wonderful, maybe slightly crazy people out there who create lists each week that lay out all the matchups for you. Two of my favorites are Maven of Savin’ and Common Sense With Money. I will also attempt to post matchups each week, although mine are going to be just the highlights – the best and most useful deals. My main goal, of course, being to make things easier and less-crazy for you. :-)