Saturday, October 31, 2009

Savvy How To: Rebate Savings (Part 2)

Savvy How To: 
The Rewards of Rebates (Part 2)

Grocer, retailer and manufacturer rebates are programs used to entice customers to buy merchandise at deep discounts. However, according to 40 percent to 60 percent of all rebates go unredeemed. Often, consumer purchases hinge on the idea of buying a product and in return getting some or all of their out-of-pocket expense back in hand. Yet millions of dollars in rebates are never even redeemed. So how do you make rebates work for you and get the most money from your purchase?

In order to truly save money playing the rebate game you'll need to understand the various types of rebates available.

Mail-In Rebates: These rebates account for the majority of rebates available in today's market. Redemption requires saving original receipts, cutting out product UPCs and filling out the fine print of rebate forms. Often times these rebate forms are available in-store, printed in coupon insert booklets or even available for download from your computer. Most forms of rebates, including mail-in offers, are a limit of one per household/address.

TMF, Cash Back Offers: Try Me FREE rebates are usually found as hangtag or peelie coupon offers attached to products in the store. While using coupons up front may lower the initial purchase price of these products, rebates typically deduct these savings from your rebate check. A form of mail-in rebates, TMF offers consumers the actual product purchase price, not including tax. This type of offer usually has the longest expiration date for mail-in completion.

Beer Rebates: A popular form of tearpad rebates found in-store are aptly named Beer Rebates. These rebates are literally found in the beer aisle of your local grocer or retailer. Offered by beer companies, these rebates can provide significant savings on a variety of foods and products available at most stores, and often regardless of brand. Several states, including Utah, limit beer companies by not requiring the purchase of alcohol for rebate redemption. Simply fill out the form, attach your receipt and lick the stamp! These rebates are a limit of one per household and do not typically require UPC barcodes be attached. If you're having trouble finding these forms, ask your butcher or even customer service for beer rebates that are currently available.

Online Rebates: Many retailers and manufacturers offer online rebate programs. Redemption policies vary, but often require logging in to manufacturer Web sites to enter a variety of receipt data to verify purchase. These are the simplest form of rebate as no UPC or forms are required - enter the requested information and get your money back relatively quickly. Another benefit of this type of program is that coupons can often be used in combination with these savings to reduce out-of-pocket expense with consumers benefiting from the extra windfall in savings. Predetermined rebate dollar amounts do not take coupons into account thus giving customers the full rebate offer regardless of additional savings.

If you're enticed by these money-saving rebates, be prepared to jump through a few hoops. The savings are significant but the redemption requirements can be as well. So, before you buy into these programs, you'll need to make sure it's worth the time and even the relatively small amount of money out of pocket for tax and postage.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Savvy How To: Rebate Savings (Part 1)

 Savvy How To: 
The Rewards of Rebates (Part 1)

Ahh, rebates and rewards - we love them and hate them all at the same time! It's oh so tempting to buy an advertised product when there is a rebate or reward incentive included in the price. And, while the theory of rebates is relatively simple: buy a product and in return get some of your out-of-pocket expense back, it's often trickier than it may appear. So how do you make rebates and rewards work for you and get the most money from your purchase?

In order to truly save money playing the rebate game, you'll need to understand the various types of rebates and rewards available. One form of rebate-style rewards can be found at the checkout counter. These reward programs like Catalinas and Register Rewards can often be lucrative in savings and even get you FREE products.

What is a Catalina? Yes, it is a kind of salad dressing, but it's also a form of an unadvertised checkout “reward rebate” coupon available at select grocers and retailers. These are typically manufacturer coupons that print out from a Catalina machine by the checkout register near the end of or after your purchase. When you buy a predetermined product or combination of products, the Catalina is triggered and prints out coupons. This predetermination is made by either manufacturers wanting you to buy their product or by the stores, tracking past purchases.

For example, if you always buy a specific brand of baby formula, a formula company competitor may offer a high value coupon in the hopes you would switch to their brand. Likewise, the store where you buy your formula might offer you a store brand coupon for the same reason. Catalina coupons are also associated with a wide variety of everyday products as an additional incentive for shoppers to purchase and save!

Many shoppers tend to throw all forms of Catalina coupons in the trash as soon as they print or just simply leave them at the register. Don't do it! These seemingly worthless scraps of paper are actually worth significantly more than you might assume.

Catalina Coupons Can Be:

1. A manufacturer's coupon similar to a coupon you would find in the Sunday newspaper. Using these coupons can greatly increase your purchase savings. Remember, these coupons can only typically be used at the store where the coupon actually printed. And, don't confuse these coupons with store coupons, as they cannot be used in combination with a Sunday insert coupon. Stores limit shoppers to one manufacturer coupon per product.

2. A cash coupon - for example a $5 coupon, good on your next shopping order - used just like cash. These coupons can be used on your next purchase of almost anything you want to buy (some exclusions may apply). Most Catalina cash coupons expire within two to four weeks of being issued.

3. A preview of a reward coupon that is up coming. This coupon gives dates, dollar amounts and product purchase specifics for an upcoming Catalina coupon promotion.

What are Register Rewards?: Register Rewards, a Walgreens rewards program, are very similar in relationship to Catalina Coupons. These coupon offers are not issued because of in-store savings card purchase tracking, but are similarly printed out when you buy a required number of pre-selected products. 

So how do you really make your rewards rewarding? Catalina and rewards type savings are good for use on future purchases. To fully extend your savings, those reward dollars should be stacked with additional "on sale" savings promotions. You're not really saving money if you use these cash coupons to buy items at regular retail prices. Significant savings are common with this type of in-store promotion if you spend your rewards wisely. Learning individual store redemption policies is also a must before jumping on these savings. Rewards can truly be rewarding in greatly extending your grocery budget when you make these programs work to their full potential.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Savvy How To: Warehouse Savings (Part 2)

 Savvy How To: 
Warehouse Shopping (Part 2)

There are many great buys to be found at wholesale/warehouse clubs. However, if you are expecting a significant discount on all offerings found there, be warned that those buckets, boxes and barrels of food may be deceiving. Last week I talked about some good buys, but here is a list of a few goodbye items I leave off my shopping list.


Cereal: Cereal is first on this list for a reason. Those 2- to 3-pound boxes of cereal may seem like a great way to stock up on your children's breakfast of choice, but you'll pay for it in the end. Simply watching sale ads at local grocers and retailers will regularly buy the most important meal of the day for a lot less money. Not only will store sales make this buy a goodbye at club stores, but add coupons into the mix and we're talking 70-80 percent savings overall! Coupon heavy items (items for which you can often find high-dollar value coupons in your Sunday newspaper) should be left out of your shopping cart at these stores.

Meat: While quality is top notch at these locations, prices usually aren't. Watch for seasonal meat sales at local grocers and stock your freezer while meat is at the lowest prices. You'll still get great quality but at a fraction of the price! Make sure if you intend to purchase bulk meats that you know how to properly store it all. Freezer bagging, sealing or having your butcher freezer wrap your meat for free (not available at warehouse locations) is a must!

Canned Goods: Can the canned goods, as you can get these items at local grocers and retailers at significantly lower prices if you watch sale fliers. Case Lot sales are an especially great way to save money on canned good purchases. Case Lot sales allow you to buy bulk goods at discounted rates. When you buy more than one of any given sale item, you begin to fill your pantry with a variety of goods for future use at that same discounted rate.

Paper Products: Toilet paper and paper towels aren't regularly found at “on-sale” prices in warehouse locations. If you're stocking up on 500 forks or Ziploc baggies using an in-store “Passport of Savings” type coupon then you may have found a deal. But, in general, paper goods are one of the trickiest purchases in warehouse stores. You'll need a calculator to determine price per roll or cup on this one. Know your price points first (the price you're willing to pay for products) before you stock up in this department.

Snack Foods: If you need a sugar fix, these stores should be at the top of your list. The 3 lb bags of Swedish Fish will satisfy any sweet tooth. But, have you ever noticed that those oversized bags of candy, snacks and chips disappear just as fast as the regular-sized bags? We'd all like to think we can stop at one handful, but even manufacturers know you can't eat just one of anything. Once that bag or box has been opened rationing has gone out the window. As another coupon heavy item, buy these treats in smaller boxes at lower prices and you'll find the portion control and savings a lot easier to swallow.

Unfamiliar Products/Brands: I always encourage bulk buys in an effort to save money, but buying brands or products you are unfamiliar with is risky business! That No. 10 can of soup mix that's new to your family could turn out to be a major flop. If no one will eat it, you've likely just wasted $10-$15. If you want to try a new product, think small. Buying these products in smaller package sizes reduces your financial loss when the kids turn up their noses.

If you're a club store fanatic and find the thrill of the hunt a habit too addicting to break, take stock of what you're buying. Make sure you use in-store coupons and watch for store price tag codes like “C” or prices that end with a penny at Sam's club or prices ending in $0.97 at Costco or with a * for discontinued items that may be offered at a deeper discount.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Savvy How To: Warehouse Savings (Part 1)

Savvy How To:
Warehouse Shopping (Part 1)

Saving money at warehouse/wholesale clubs like Costco or Sam's Club is another way shoppers can stretch grocery budgets. However, just because you can buy products in 25-pound increments doesn't mean you're always getting the best deal. And don't forget to add on that yearly membership fee. Memberships at one of these clubs can range from $50 to $100.

While many items are a good buy and definitely high quality, saving money at these clubs requires some skill in knowing what really is worth the money. I've heard many shoppers proclaim that they can't get out of these stores without spending at least $200 or more, so my first suggestion is to take a shopping list. Going to the store without a shopping list is akin to going to the store hungry: You always buy more than you needed or intended.

It's all too easy to be awed by the enormous wall of big-ticket items prominently displayed as you enter this concrete jungle. There is a reason why candy is next to the register and end caps. They're hoping you'll pick up one or two extra items you hadn't even realized you needed. The amount of snack food going out of these stores can be visually overwhelming at times. Also, if you're buying so much product that it expires before you can use it, then you're wasting money!

That's not to say there aren't great deals available at stores like Costco or Sam's Club. If you arm yourself with a steely resolve and a little price point know-how before you go, you can get some great deals.

Here are my “good buy” items, and next week I'll list my “goodbye” items:

Good buys

Dairy: Cheese, cheese sticks, milk, eggs and butter are just a few of the great dairy buys at wholesale clubs. Most dairy product prices are regularly lower than mainstream grocers and retailers.

Flowers: An odd one you might say. The prices and quality of flowers at wholesale clubs rival traditional florists. Most locations have the added advantage of selling flowers prepackaged and semi-arranged so you can simply drop them in the vase when you get home.

Gas: Watch your pumps everyone! One of the best and cheapest places to buy gas is at your local wholesale pump station. Because these in-house gas stations go through tremendous amounts of gasoline they are constantly re-ordering to keep up their supply. That usually means huge fuel discounts for stores and those savings trickle down to consumers.

Prescription/Nonprescription Drugs: Warehouse pricing on prescription and over-the-counter drugs often saves 40 percent to 50 percent over retail pharmacies. Just remember: That bottle of 1,000 Tylenol or the jumbo 2 pack of Neosporin do have expiration dates, so make sure your mega medicine purchase can be used before the product expires.

Electronics: While I'm far from an electronics guru, my own personal searches for prices on HDTVs, iPods, SD cards and even ink cartridges and other electronic fare have readily found prices at their lowest in warehouse clubs. That's doesn't mean you can't find lower prices available with the help of the Internet or holiday door busters, but spending hours of hunting likely won't save you too much overall. There is something to be said for the convenience of overall year-round low prices.

There are many great buys from wholesale vendors, but next week I'll let you know my “goodbye” products, items I leave off my club shopping list.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Savvy How To: Coupon Finds

Savvy How To:
Coupon Savings

Shoppers who use coupons and avidly watch sale promotions can save 50-80 percent over retail prices on a weekly basis at grocer and retailer locations nationwide. Shoppers find that using coupons enables them to get more bang for their buck at the store. In fact, savings can skyrocket when using these clipped coupons.

The majority of all coupons redeemed weekly come from Sunday newspaper inserts. There are three different inserts available to newspaper subscribers: Smart Source, Proctor & Gamble and Redplum. Each insert, or booklet as some call them, offer coupons from a variety of national or local manufacturers as a way to offer incentives for product trials or reward loyal consumers.

“Overall, 1.6 billion coupons were redeemed in the first half of 2009.” said Todd Hale, senior vice president of consumer and shopping insights for Nielsen. “More consumers are looking for value and lower prices as retailers and manufacturers are distributing more coupons and making it easier for consumers.”  It's clear from redemption statistics that shoppers are looking to coupons as a way to stretch their budget dollars further than ever before in the current economy.

Newspapers are adding to the savings as well. Multiple Sunday newspaper subscriptions are now being offered at great discounts, which enables bulk shopping with the added convenience of one-trip shopping. With coupon redemption values averaging $200 per newspaper each week, multiple copy subscription savings far outweigh delivery costs. Coupons are delivered to your front door with hundreds of dollars in savings waiting to be clipped and redeemed on your next shopping trip.

Other resources for coupon finds are also available in today's market. Online printable coupons are a great addition to your newspaper subscription and are readily accessible. Websites like offer tremendous value and convenience in at-home coupon printing. First-time users will need to download a coupon printer in order to gain access to these coupons. It's free, safe and easy to use. It does not install any form of spyware or adware or collect any personal information about you. As a general rule, printable coupon websites allow you to print only two like-coupons per offering, but do refresh coupon offers on a monthly basis.

Online printable coupons are also available from many manufacturer Web sites, as well as social media outlets like Facebook. Becoming a “fan” often has its advantages. Facebook manufacturer sites regularly offer registered fans targeted coupons and other promotions for customer loyalty. Not sure if a brand/product you love has a Facebook page? After registering for your own Facebook account, visit and search for a link by keyword or brand name, then reap the savings.

Another avenue for coupon savings can be found in store shopper card downloadable coupons. Websites like,, and Kroger affiliated grocery store websites like Smiths, Kroger and Fred Meyer offer users coupons that can be downloaded onto participating grocer in-store savings cards. Once you've registered your savings card number, simply load coupons from a pre-selected list, targeted by ZIP code, for desired products. With the swipe of your card, the coupons are deducted from your purchase total.

Adding coupons to your savings repertoire greatly enhances your ability to save time and money at grocers and retailers on a weekly basis.
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