When I posted about how to save money on Toilet Paper, I promised to talk a bit about strategies to use when taking advantage of what I call “Manufacturer” Deals. These are sales that require one to buy a certain dollar amount or a certain number of product to receive some form of money back.
I specifically wanted to explain what I feel is a very counter intuitive, but simple, strategy that is used by couponers to get the most out of these deals. The same simple strategy works on all the manufacture deals, in all their varieties, but you’ll want to scroll to the bottom for additional information.
Buy so that your total before coupons is as close to the offer’s requirement as possible and use multiple coupons to lower the price you actually pay at the check out. Watch for high dollar coupons on low-priced products to help boost your amount to the requirement without actually spending very much. Take advantage of multiple offers, if possible.
It’s simple, right? You’re wondering what is so counter intuitive? I’m telling you that this is one of those concepts that is so simple but that I see people make “mistakes” on all the time. It’s kind of like “buy low, sell high” in the stock market.
Example: Store “Rebate”
Let’s crunch some numbers on the CVS ad I posted under Toilet Paper, and let’s pretend you want to buy Charmin. This is a “no brainer” when the numbers are crunched. Remember, though, some deals will show absolutely dramatic results, others will just save you some money. This one does not save a dramatic amount of money, but it’s an easy one to start with. Here’s the full ad:
Obviously, the better offer is to buy $30.00 worth of products and get $10.00 back, a savings of 33% rather than the $20.00, get $5.00 back, a savings of only 25%.
But notice: Charmin is $9.99. Three rolls is $29.97, not $30.00!
Some stores “ignore” this small deficit (CVS is usually one) at the check out, but most don’t. (You can always ask but the clerk generally won’t know, or you can go ahead and buy, and have the clerk cancel it out if it does not generate the reward.)
What most people do:
Buy four packages of Charmin at $9.99, use one coupons for 25 cents they’ve pulled from their paper. Total is $39.96, minus 25 cents for the coupon plus $10.00 back. That’s four packages for $29.71. Each package is $7.43. There are 20 double rolls in each package, so each of these double rolls is 37 cents. My target price is about 30 cents for a double roll so this price doesn’t make the cut for me.
What you should do:
Remember the strategy! Get close to the offer amount and use multiple coupons. Watch for other products that help to boost your amount to the requirement.
Buy three packages of Charmin at $9.99, use three 25 cent off coupons, and buy one Dawn for 99 cents, and use a 25 cent off coupon. Now the total is $30.96, minus a dollar for the coupons plus $10.00 back. That’s three packages and the Dawn for a total of $19.96. The Dawn is 75 cents, not a bad price and everyone uses some dish detergent. The Charmin price is $6.32 per package, 31 cents a roll. That’s a bit closer to my target pricing, and close enough for me to buy. But wait: There’s more…
Also remember “Take advantage of multiple offers, if possible.”
Sign up for CVS offers under their Extra Care card – you will regularly get coupons emailed to you (or get them printed out on your receipt or from their coupon machine.) Many of these coupons are for $ off of a certain amount of $’s spent – usually $5.00 to $10.00 off of a spend amount of $15.00 – $40.00. Use one of these coupons on your TP to lower the cost even more on the above deal.
The toilet paper then, with the commonly issued CVS coupon of $5.00 back if you spend $30.00 coupon from CVS looks like the above: I’ve spent $30.96, minus the five dollar coupon, a dollar for the coupons and $10.00 back. Three packages and the Dawn for a total of $14.96. The Charmin comes out to $4.73 a package, almost half price. That’s 24 cents a roll. Now, I’m happy.
Of course, I’d be even happier if the rebate for $10.00 off $30.00 from P & G was available in my area, and would have only spent $4.96 total – and sometimes they are available. That’s why one needs a coupon matching site.
Say you don’t need any Dawn? Buy it anyway because this will get you the best deal and eventually you will use it. This is one of the counter intuitive parts – sometimes the offer will include a product you WON’T use but that has a high dollar coupon and will get you to you amount by either spending nothing or by spending very little. Buy it to reach your goal and give away or donate it. (More on this at the bottom of the page, under “Buying Products to Reach an Amount.” More on CVS shopping at “Shopping at CVS“.)
What is the difference in Pricing:
I know this Charmin example is not particularly a particularly dramatic one, but it is a savings, and so often savings is about saving a bit here and a bit there. If I were able to buy equal amounts, say 80 rolls (four packages) full price at Amazon would be $83.48, CVS would be $55.26, the first scenario, I’d pay $29.96 and under the second scenario, I’d pay $25.28, and the “Wait there’s more” scenario: $18.92. If I were lucky and there was a rebate running, I’d buy the same amount of toilet paper for pennies. You choose what you pay with a bit of diligence and the right offers. These small savings add up over the course of the year, especially when multiplied over many products lines.
That’s just all too much to think about!
Then don’t: just go to a coupon matching site and they’ll tell when the deal is coming up, and most likely tell you a “scenario” of what to buy to get the best deal.
Example, Manufacturers Rebate:
Let’s look at a P & G manufacturer offer for our second example, their current offer, “The Road to Glory.” First of all, I have no stores that I shop at in my area that are participating, something that’s never happened before (you can bet I’ll be calling or emailing Rainbow and Cub to find out why!) I’ll have to use a coupon matching site that’s unfamiliar to me from another area of the country so you can see how the deals are worked.
This particular offer requires you to buy everything at once from one participating store, although there many offers that will let you buy from anywhere and/or over a period of time.
What most people do:
See this advertised in their store ad in a box with a few items. They’ll buy $30.00 worth of things they think they’ll use in the near future and send in for the rebate by email or snail mail. They will save $10.00 with the rebate and a bit more if any of the items are actually on sale.
What you should do:
Remember your strategy here – buy products using coupons! Take advantage of multiple offers.
Leverage this rebate with the sales offer from your store, manufacturer’s coupons, and “store” coupons from the store’s ads or coupon books. Buy for the best pricing (most of these products don’t expire or have extremely long expiration dates) and not necessarily for items you need immediately.
Find the rebate offer online, read the conditions, products, etc. This offer allows you to enter in a zip code to find participating stores. Check the coupon matching sites for that store – almost every store has an enthusiastic person or group who run sites like this and will list the products with prices and the coupons available. The coupons may be from the paper, printable, or transferable to your phone or store card. Check their best deal scenarios or figure out your own.
What’s the difference in Pricing?
Hard to say with so many variables, but with a $10.00 rebate and coupons it will be dramatic! Depending on store sales and available coupons, it is not at all unusual to get the whole $30.00 worth of products close to free, or even to get a bit back. (Couponers refer to getting more back than you spend as “money makers.”)
Meijars Madness, a coupon site devoted to that store has worked out a scenario getting multiple products for around $5.00 on this P&G Offer. Notice it gives a deal and tells what coupons to use, including a clickable store coupon that stacks with the manufacturer’s coupons.
Another example of a Manufacturer’s Rebate:
Here is an example of a coupon matching site for Publix Grocery, I Heart Publix and their matching coupons for a Pfizer rebate. This site doesn’t give a scenario, but notice it does give upcoming STORE coupons, something a shopper might use to their advantage and other wise not known about:
Obviously, if you were to attempt to track down all the available offers in your area and all the available coupons, and then come up with the best deals, it is going to take some time. I rely heavily on my favorite coupon site in my area, and mention them all the time. (And no, I am in no way affiliated with them!)
Example: Multiple Similar Products:
Here’s an ad from Walgreens, showing several different cold products for sale. Doesn’t look like that great of a deal? Scroll down and see.
What most people do:
Frankly, most probably wait until they are sick and then look for whatever is on sale, or they maybe even just ask someone to pick up their favorite brand and pay full price on it.
What you should do:
Remember the strategy – although there is no $ amount that needs to be met, the scenario below uses multiple coupons and offers.
If you’re brand loyal, fine, but look for sales before you need the product! If not, keep your eye out for really good opportunities to combine sales, money back in store credits, coupons and rebates!
How much do you save?
Robitussin is normally $10.99 (online price) so the difference is $32.97 – $8.97 for a total savings of $24.00. It has a long expiration date and should be fine in your cupboard for a long time.
Here’s the scenario and available coupons put together by Pocket Your Dollars for this ad:
Example: Catalina Deals
Catalinas are little slips of paper that print off with your receipt and generated by buying certain products or combinations of products. Although not officially Catalinas, sometimes the same type of offers are printed on the bottom of your receipt. It is always worthwhile to look at these. Generally, they expire and can be used for money off your next visit, with some limitations. Now and then they may be for a free product.
These are often not advertised, and if not, the only way to find out about them is to either accidentally buy something that triggers the Catalina (or a notice of the upcoming Catalina) to print or to read about them on a Coupon Matching site.
What most people do:
Buy their products, blissfully unaware that they are missing opportunities and then don’t look at the papers that come with the receipt.
What you should do:
Remember your strategy: Combine coupons with Catalinas to reduce the cost to you.
Check your coupon matching site and store ads for Catalina offers, buy the appropriate amount/kind of products and use coupons on them, if available. Always look at your receipt and any paper work that spits out.
How much can you save?
I often get products for a very low cost or for free. Here’s an example from Pocket Your Dollars of an unadvertised Catalina combined with an in store coupon. Now, I’m not judging here, but I would never buy these bars, so remember this is just an example. I do use a catatlina strategy like this often when buying vanilla – McCormicks puts one out once or twice a year.
Free Product Offers
Guys, this is 2014 – while most of us are aware of offers that come by now and then that require one to save UPCs and send them in, most free product offers are much easier.
There are a myriad of offers constantly streaming around us –
Peelies/hangtags: often found on one product with instructions on how to get another product for free or lesser cost; a hangtag on pasta might say buy two pastas, get a dollar off olive oil. A peelie on taco shells might say buy two, get a pound of hamburger for free.
Strategy: Be aware of these before you go into the store so you can have the right coupons to use! While most stores won’t let you use an additional coupon on the “free” product, you can use them on the products you are paying for. Your coupon matching sites will be aware of these.
Clubs: One signs up on a site for a card or a “membership” and when one buys so much product, they get something for free or something back. Two examples: L’Oreal has a Gold Reward club for their Preference Hair Dye – enter in UPC codes online and every time you buy five a coupon is sent out for a free box; CVS has a beauty club that gives $5.00 back for every $50.00 spent.
Leverage these by buying sale priced products with coupons!
Further Reading and other helps
Use a Coupon Matching Site
Who has time to track down deals? Take advantage of the legwork that a coupon matching site does…it’s like having your own personal shopper whispering in your ear. They’ll tell you what offers are on the table, what to buy and when/where to buy it. I can guarantee you that no matter how long you’ve been shopping, they will find offers and deals that you would have otherwise missed.
Identify the Manufacturer Deal
The key to recognizing these offers is the “money” back. It doesn’t matter if the “deal” is offered by the store or the manufacturer, if it is for a single product, brand, or a grouping of disparate items, all of these offer something back to the consumer.
It also doesn’t matter what is offered back, the key to recognizing these deals is that something is going to be coming back to you that can be spent like money or is “free” to you. There will be restrictions and dead lines, so you will need to be aware of them.
What Will You Get Back?
- Gift Card: by mail from the manufacturer itself, generally Visa cards, which can be used anywhere. (They have to be activated in a certain amount of time or they are no good.)
- Catalinas: a slip of paper that prints with your receipt (and sometimes printed instead on the receipt itself) allowing $ off on a future visit to the store) They are only accepted, generally, at the same store and have an expiration date, but can be used on any product, even though it may have the manufacturer’s brand on the top – they spend like money but cannot buy certain things.
- Store rebates: which are things like Extrabucks from CVS or Register Rewards from Walgreens, which are used like money at the store later. Generally, there are some restrictions on what they can be spent on, and at Walgreens if a Register Reward is used t pay for a product which will normally generate another Register Reward, a new Register Reward won’t generate.
- Store Gift Cards: Generally these are offered if you buy a certain number of products. Although it might not say so, these are almost always manufacturer groupings. I see this mostly at Target.
- Product: There are many types of offers stores and manufacturers may make to consumers that will generate “free” products, sometimes related to the manufacturer and sometimes not. Generally, the same strategy applies for these smaller offerings, but one needs to be very aware any restrictions and deadlines. I use my coupon matching site to make me aware of these offers.
- Know the offer: Read the fine print and follow the instructions and deadlines.
- Buy: You’ll need to buy the “right” products! Make sure you have the right sizes and types to use/generate the offer. Often it is the buying of the product that generates the form one needs, which will print out for you at a check out. Make sure these print out properly and your clerk gives it to you. Go to customer service is something goes awry and explain nicely what happened.
- Follow up: Do the legwork. Save or cut out UPC symbols if required. Keep your receipts.
- Restrictions/deadlines: Manufacturers know that offers generate sales because consumers love a great deal. If you miss the deadlines, you’ve just bought product and given the manufacturer a deal!
- Store Policy: Your store may have restrictions on the number of same coupons used or types of coupons. They may not have enough product and some will allow you to call ahead and reserve.
- One will almost ALWAYS need multiple coupons to take best advantage of these types of deals. Papers are cheap, and generally one or two coupons used “pay” for the price of the paper.
- Look at the Sunday Coupon Preview on Thursdays to see what is coming out in your paper. Buy multiple papers if there are coupons you want.
- Get extra papers delivered.
- Ask friends/relatives/coworkers to give you inserts.
- Pick up inserts in places where the public reads the paper; libraries, coffee shops, etc. Extreme couponers dumpster dive, steal papers, go through the neighbor’s garbage – NOT recommended!
- Order coupons – this is especially cost-effective if you look ahead at I heart CVS or I heart Wags for upcoming sales.
- Check your Coupon Matching sites! They will list what paper coupons to use and give links for coupons to print or load to your phone or store card.
Don’t use coupons or don’t have any?
This simple shift in the way you think about how you take advantage of these deals will still save you some money with basically no effort on your part.
Buying Products to Reach an Amount
I wanted to comment a bit more on the strategy: Buy so that your total before coupons is as close to the offer’s requirement as possible and use multiple coupons to lower the price you actually pay at the check out. Watch for high dollar coupons on low-priced products to help boost your amount to the requirement without actually spending very much. Take advantage of multiple offers, if possible.
I’m no “extreme couponer” but I did notice the strategy was used often to attain free products in the show. When you see couponers showing off an array of odd products exclaiming “I got all this for free” it is likely they are following this strategy. The ‘normal’ person’s reaction is “wouldn’t it be cheaper to just buy the one thing you needed rather than all that crap you will never use.”
I’ll illustrate with CVS and their offers for Extra Care Bucks (ECBS) which work just like these Manufacturer Deals. CVS often gives coupons for $ off if you buy $ worth of products. Let’s say you have a $10.00 off coupon if you buy $30.00 worth of product. Here’s an example of applying the strategy: You wish to buy L’Oreal Hair Dye, on sale it is six dollars and if you buy three you get $5.00 off. You have three coupons for $1.00 off. Your hair dye will be $18.00, minus $5.00, minus $3.00, for a total of $8.00. You’re not getting to $30.00 mark so you can’t use the ECB offer.
Remember the strategy!
Because you want your hair dye for free, you look around for other products that fit the strategy. If you buy a bottle of Dulcolax for $12.99, there is a rebate, which makes this product free. Even better there is a $3.00 off coupon, so you’re spending $9.99 on it.
Now you’re up to $30.99 for a total at the cash register, you use $6.00 in coupons, get the $5.00 off, and pay $19.99, plus $1.39 tax. You send in for the rebate (49 cents) so your out of pocket totals $21.87. You get a $10.00 ECB from CVS and a $12.99 check from Dulcolax, and your hair dye is free and you’re ahead by about a buck.
The point here is that you didn’t really need the Dulcolax, but hopefully can donate it or give it to someone who does. It was merely a means to apply the strategy and boost your spending amount to the $30.00 mark so you could get the $10.00 back from CVS and not have to pay for the hair dye.
This is the same strategy used in working the Manufacturer’s Deals. (For more at shopping at CVS, see my post “Shopping at CVS.”)
What have I left out?
This is an essentially easy subject, but one with a lot of variables to keep track of and remember! What can you add that I’ve missed?